Friday, February 29, 2008

Strange Maps is a really cool website. They have one up today on the relative prominence of the names of states that appear in country music songs. As you might have guessed, the big two are Tennessee and Texas.
The Iraqis are going to hang Chemical Ali. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. If I were the hangman I'd set the drop for about fifteen feet.

The Prince Harry in Afghanistan story is being played up big here. As a good American, I'm a republican with a small r, though there are many systems of government much more obnoxious than democratic constitutional monarchies. Still, I have to give the guy some credit, since he didn't have to go out there if he didn't want to; he's shown an admirable sense of duty. Now that his presence is known, of course, they're going to have to pull him out, since he's now the Taliban and Al Qaeda's number one target, a magnet for terrorist attacks.

ETA set off a small bomb--three kilos of amonal--last night at Socialist headquarters in the Bilbao suburb of Derio; material damage was done, but fortunately no one got hurt.

The five leading candidates on each party's list for Barcelona (Carmen Chacon of the PSC, Josep Antoni Duran Lleida for CiU, Joan Ridao of ERC, Dolors Nadal of the PP, and Joan Herrera of ICV) are going to debate tonight on TV3 at 10 PM; I'll try to blog at least some of it.

Socialist former prime minister Felipe Gonzalez called Rajoy "a lazy imbecile." I never cease to be amazed by the things Spanish politicians call one another. During the first Zap-Rajoy debate they called one another liars about twenty times, and on the stump they accuse one another of being unpatriotic patsies of terrorists or reactionary anti-democratic Fascists. American politics can get pretty nasty, but Bush and Obama and McCain and Kerry don't talk like that. One reason they don't talk like that is that they accept that their opponent is basically honest and operating in good faith.

Inflation for the year ending in February was 4.4%. La Vanguardia ran a list of economic statistics: Unemployment is 8.6%. The trade deficit is €22.2 billion. 2007 GDP was €1.05 trillion, or about $1.6 trillion; the national debt is €379 billion, or 32.6% of GDP. The 2007 budget surplus was 2.2%.

Meanwhile, Spanish stock market heavyweight Telefonica was the most profitable telecoms operator in the world last year, with total profits above €9 billion.

Spain's highways are the most dangerous in Western Europe, with 7 deaths per billion vehicle-kilometers traveled. That's worse than everybody but Hungary and Slovenia, at over 8 deaths / bn. vehicle-km. The rest of the list: Portugal 7; Italy and Czech Republic 6; Belgium and Norway 5; Austria 4; Israel, Finland, Germany, and Ireland 3; France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Sweden 2. That's right, our roads are three-and-a-half times as dangerous as England's.

Water is becoming an issue, with the long drought and the ban on lawn-watering, car-washing, and pool-refilling. Now they're reporting that the equivalent of 8% of Barcelona's daily water use is wasted through leaks in the system. La Vanguardia is mad at the Montilla administration for not having bothered to do anything about this until they had to contract out for water to be brought in by tanker. Meanwhile, Rajoy has brought up the damn water plan again as a campaign issue. He says if he gets elected there will be enough water for everybody. Yeah, well, if I get elected there will be free beer for everybody.

The damn bus drivers are going out on strike all next week, thereby snarling up the city the week before the general election. The municipal bus company says that meeting the strikers' demands would cost €35 million a year, and the only way they can get those funds is by tapping into tax money or raising ticket prices.

La Vanguardia has given pages three and four of their international section to Alarmist Andy Robinson again. Andy's all worked up over the Arctic ice melting, and charges that the evil oil companies are behind it because it'll be easier to drill for petroleum if there's not any ice. He says, "This new struggle for energy resources is reminiscent of the infamous struggle for Africa in the 19th century." Uh, Andy, the problem with Africa is that there were already people living there who were brought under European control against their will. How many people live on the Arctic pack ice?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Weird verdict from the National Court. 30 Islamists were charged in 2004 with planning to truck-bomb, guess what, the National Court building. They were acquitted on insufficient evidence of conspiring to blow up the Court, but 20 of them were convicted on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization.

There's really very little lethal violence in Spain, despite the high property crime rate. Murders are unusual, and in a country of 45 million people, any murder story is news in every Spanish media outlet. Compare that with the US, where if you live in Kansas City you only hear about your local murder cases. A large percentage of murders in Spain are domestic violence, and that means men killing women most of the time. The media has dubbed it "sexist violence," which I'm not sure I agree with. From what I've read and seen, violent people, the great majority of whom are men, will attack anybody around them who's weaker than they are, whether a man, a woman, or a child.

So we had four domestic murders on the same day yesterday, in Madrid, Valencia, Cadiz, and Valladolid. That's very unusual. In every case, the man involved had a long record of violence.

The type of murder that is increasing in Spain is gang killings, normally in fighting between Latin American gangs. This didn't exist in Spain until about five years ago. Over the weekend a young Venezuelan was stabbed to death in Rubí in a gang fight; every weekend a couple of gang-bangers wind up in the hospital, lucky to still be alive. There are also occasional organized-crime killings, not as many as you would think, what with the Eastern European crime syndicates moving in.

The African boat people continue to arrive: 130 reached Tenerife today. We have no idea of how many boat people die en route, but some estimates say that for every one who arrives, one dies at sea of hunger, thirst, exposure, or drowning.

The European Commission hit Microsoft with an €899 million fine ($1.35 billion: the euro hit $1.50 today), for antitrust violations. Seems they ruled back in 2004 that Microsoft had to share information about how to make other operating systems work together with Microsoft systems, and Microsoft failed to comply. Good. Fine 'em till it hurts enough to make them change their practices. Monopolies interfere with market freedom just as much as excessive regulation does.

The Bank of Spain, meanwhile, issued another warning about an economic slowdown, with household spending, consumer confidence, new car registrations, new employee contracts, and housing starts all way down. It blames "tension in the international financial markets."

Barcelona is the fifth most visited city in Europe, after London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid. The three top tourist nationalities are the British, the Italians, and the Americans; Americans are about tenth in the rankings of tourists in all of Spain. When they come over here, though, it's mostly for cultural tourism, rather than hitting the beaches and the discos, since we have those at home. So the Yanks go to the big cities and not the beach towns, as all the Germans and Dutch do. This is mostly because the Americans who come to Europe are middle-class, well-paid college graduates--traveling to Europe is expensive, and you don't do it unless you know enough to want to see something different from America.

Tourism is what Barcelona lives on, folks. Get used to it, because there's going to be more. I find it interesting that some of the people who bitch about all the tourists, and some of the people who want more airline flights and trade fairs and hotel rooms, are one and the same.

Campaign update: Both sides are still trying to spin the debate, as expected. No new promises so far today.

The Spanish media is still having a national orgasm over Javier Bardem's and Pau Gasol's successes in the United States. Geez, guys, Bardem won best supporting actor and Gasol is the third best player on his team. National pride is nice, but let's not overdo it, OK?

Sports update: Barcelona, on a hot streak, plays slumpìng Valencia tonignt at home in the first leg of the Cup semifinals. Ronaldinho will be on the bench; they're saving him for the League and the Champions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Drudge Report story on the Clinton campaign's spreading a photo of Obama in native African dress in Kenya, supposedly to make voters think he's a Muslim, has hit the news big in Spain. Since there's an image involved, a photograph, Spaniards can relate to it much better than they can to just plain old words. Remember, Europeans judge us on images for many reasons; one is that their journalists aren't familiar with American history and culture, and another is that said journalists don't really know English that well.

Zap has a new promise: the state will fund a day-care center for children under three at any workplace where six or more people request it.

There's a new study saying that anti-depressants don't work any better than placebos; I'm pretty sure that they do in my case.

Spain's high-school dropout rate is 30%, second worst in the European Union after Portugal. The Socialist education program places all the kids (some of whom would formerly either have left school at 14 or gone on to vocational schools) in academic high schools. So they're mixing the ones who want to be there with the ones who don't, and that's a recipe for disaster. No wonder nearly a third of them drop out.

Go back to the old elitist way. Let them drop out at 14 if they want to, and reduce the working age to 14 for at least some jobs. Of course, provide vocational-technical schools for the non-academic people who actually want to get some useful skills. And leave the academic high schools to potential university students. Everyone will be much happier.

Average Spanish household expenses rose by 6.3% in 2007 to nearly €4000. Inflation is hitting the voters in the pocketbook, and Rajoy is right to stress it in his campaign.

Second house prices look to be well on their way to crashing and burning in Spain; there are reports that real estate prices are down 30% in Spain's Mediterranean beach towns, and it's still hard to find buyers.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the murders of eight Spanish tourists last year in Yemen. Nobody is surprised.
Debate post-mortem: The Spanish press is emphasizing that nobody said anything new and that both sides were on the attack. La Vanguardia's reporter agrees with me: he thinks Rajoy won on points but didn't deliver the necessary knockout. Everybody pretty much agrees on the hot buttons that both tried to push repeatedly: Zap the March 11 bombing, the Iraq war, social spending, and the PP's aggressive anti-Zap campaigning, and Rajoy inflation, housing, immigration, the Catalan statute, and Zap's negotiations with ETA.

More than 13 million people watched the debate; it drew a 59% audience share.

The scientifically-done surveys all gave Zap a solid but not overwhelming victory: Antena 3 had Zap 45%-Rajoy 39%, Tele 5 had Zap 50%-Rajoy 34%, Cuatro had Zap 45%-Rajoy 33%, and La Sexta had Zap 46%-Rajoy 31%. El Pais's survey was the closest, Zap 46%-Rajoy 42%.

El Pais also gave what was for me a surprising gender breakdown: Men said Zap won, 64%-36%, while women gave Zap a much closer 52%-48% victory. That's the opposite of the American pattern, where men are considerably more conservative than women.

One thing to keep in mind is that everybody who said Rajoy won will vote for the PP, while some of the people who said Zap won will vote for the Communists or a regional nationalist party.

The self-selected, non-scientific polls done by the newspaper websites pretty much reflect the political makeup of each paper's readers.

El Mundo has Rajoy 61%-Zap 39%; ABC has Rajoy 52%-Zap 48%; and La Razon has Rajoy 61%-Zap 39%. Meanwhile, El Pais has Zap 57%-Rajoy 36%; La Vanguardia has Zap 62%-Rajoy 35%; and El Periodico has Zap 74%-Rajoy 26%. The figures from the two Catalan papers show how unpopular Rajoy and the PP are in Catalonia.

Prediction: This debate won't affect voter intention too much, since neither candidate scored a knockout blow. I don't think either of them convinced anyone who wasn't already backing him. I'm still guessing that the PP is going to do better than expected in the ballot boxes, but Rajoy is going to need a clear win in the next debate, along with some solid campaigning.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Round Five: The future.

Rajoy: Biggest challenge to Spain is globalization. Housing biggest individual challenge to Spaniards, because house prices have risen so much under Zap. Socialists have done nothing useful, their Ministry of Housing is a joke. Zap says he has built more subsidized housing, but the real challenge is education and research. He shouldn't have mentioned that. He keeps talking up government spending a lot, bragging about subsidies.

Rajoy comes back pounding on inflation and the increase in housing prices. He's turned the debate to what he wants to talk about. Now he's slamming Zap on the lousy state of education, kids who should fail passing and lack of discipline and bad test scores. Zap's gone back to the number of scholarships he's funded. Now he's brought up climate change. Seems emissions went up under the PP. He wants to subsidize alternative energy.

Rajoy's gone back to housing prices. He said the PP ratified the Kyoto protocol and that Zap can't keep emissions down, either. Now he's blaming Zap for forest fires. Zap's come back with more climate change and he's trying to talk up his education policy again, which I wouldn't do. He bashed Rajoy for bashing the PSOE's pet performers. Rajoy's gone after Zap for neglecting the victims of terrorism, and he's gone after him for insulting PP voters. Zap's comeback: You insulted Serrat first, and Javier Bardem is a lefty.

Round Five to Rajoy on points.

Closing statements: Rajoy's is memorized. He's sounding a little Obamaish, "hope, all together, etc." He's for families and employment, as well as freedom and pride in being Spanish. "We can do it if you want us to walk together." Zap's is too. He's mentioned Iraq again, more pensions, higher minimum wage, and he promises equality between men and women and full employment. Peace yes, illegal wars no. Oh, God, he closed out with "Good night and good luck": loses points for that.

Closing statement to Zap, just barely.

Overall evaluation: Rajoy gets the win, but it wasn't anywhere near a knockout, which is what he needed.
Round Four: "Institutional policy": regional nationalisms and the like. Rajoy is starting off on the Spanish nationalist flank, saying that Zap has pitted communities against one another. Attacks the Catalan statute. Says that all Spaniards should have the same rights. Zap says it wasn't us, it was you, who caused the interregional strife. Zap's attacking the old PP water plan for some reason. Now Zap's defending the Catalan statute, which won't play in Toledo.

Rajoy said kids in Catalonia can't study in Spanish, always a vote getter. He's back on the damn water plan, and now he's accusing Zap of dividing the Spaniards again. "You have no idea of what Spain is." He quotes several Socialist leaders on this. Geez. Now Zap's on the water plan again. He's trying to defend the Catalan statute again; if I were him I wouldn't mention that. Rajoy's bashing the statute now. And now he's brought up the Catalan Tripartite alliance and the Pact del Tinell, the anti-PP alliance in Catalonia.

Zap: You're the ones causing discord and strife, saying Spain is breaking up. He's trying to appeal to the Socialist base in Andalusia and Catalonia, talking up those statutes. "We like dialogue and democracy," implying the PP doesn't. Rajoy's comeback: You're the antidemocratic ones, trying to shut us out. Zap: We're pluralist, you're not.

Round Four to Rajoy on points.
Round Three: Crime and terrorism. Rajoy is all over Zap on negotiations with ETA. He says the PP didn't do so while they were in power. Zap brought up 3-11 and said that his government had reduced the number of terrorism deaths. He claims he never used terrorism as a political issue and called Rajoy immoral. He's back on March 11, rubbing in the PP's great error. Now Rajoy's on the defensive and he's angry. He's brushed off 3-11 and is back on ETA, saying Zap is wishy-washy and has let the terrorists blackmail him.

Zap's back on 3-11 again, using very strong words, saying the PP had lied to the people. Rajoy's pounding on ETA and made the mistake of referring to 3-11 himself. He says he could not support Zap's antiterrorist policy and that Zap had repeatedly lied both to him, personally, and to the citizens. Zap's talking numbers, saying he had hired more police, and he keeps bringing up March 11. Zap's attacking Rajoy on foreign policy: "You sent troops to Bush's war." Rajoy: You want them to vote for you over the same things as before, Bush, 3-11, Iraq. Should not have said that. "You, Castro, and Chavez, that's your foreign policy." Zap says now Spain's image is one of peace, solidarity, and cooperation.

Round Three to Zap, who landed a couple of punches.
Round two: Social problems. Rajoy says the problem is the immigrants using public services. More stats. Spain takes more immigrants than anyone but the US. He's slammed Zap for his illegal immigrant amnesty. Zap's comeback: He says he's created more scholarships, has passed a law on gender equality and one subsidizing families with dependents, has raised pensions and the minimum wage, is subsidizing apartments for young people.

Rajoy's not going to give up on immigration, and he's accused Zap about lying on the scholarship thing. Rajoy: Order and control. Zap: You don't care about social problems. The PSOE is the party of individual rights, divorce, etc. He mentioned abortion, not a good move. Rajoy: The PSOE overturned our education law and now the system sucks, and we did increase pensions. Zap's interrupting him, doesn't look good. Now he's blaming the PP for immigration, saying their policies forced him into the amnesty. Rajoy: You failed on immigration and education. He's attacking Zap on the historical memory law and the Alliance of Civilizations. Zap fired back saying Rajoy was heartless.

Round Two to Rajoy on points. He's got Zap on the defensive.
Time for the big debate. How exciting.

Rajoy is taller than Zap. He's also got a phony smile that he's not very good at; he really isn't a handsome man. He's gone with the red tie and the blue suit, while Zap's gone with the blue tie and the gray suit.

The moderator is droning on and on in that ineffably Spanish way of using lots of large words to say nothing. Here we go, finally. Rajoy started off his opening statement; it's memorized. He's going straignt on the attack: the economy, housing, immigration, and took a whack at Zap's antiterrorist record, saying he'd negotiated with ETA on his own.

Zap's opening up now, claiming that he's done a hell of a job, so good that Spain's economy is bigger than Italy's, which it isn't. He slammed the PP's job in the opposition, saying Rajoy had attacked him personally and had used terrorism for political reasons.

Topic number one: the economy and jobs. Rajoy's quoting stats--boring. Now he's hammering on inflation and unemployment, which have increased under the Zap regime. It's a good argument. Zap's comeback: Growth and job creation are up, and the economic slowdown isn't his fault, but he's on the defensive. He used the words "redistribute wealth," not a good sign. Now he's taken credit for the budget surplus, which is fair enough.

Zap slammed him for using ETA politically again. Rajoy had a chart he used badly. He's got more stats, which aren't going to go over well. Now he's on the trade deficit. Zap's attacking the PP's record during its time in office, not a great idea, and he's got his own charts. He let loose a good low blow, blaming the PP for the alleged "price roundup" during the transition to the euro, which didn't happen.

Rajoy's now slamming the PSOE's record under Gonzalez, when unemployment was 22%. And he is leaning very hard on inflation. Zap's response: It's the fault of the world economy. He's attacked the PP's liberalization of the labor market way back when. Now he's talking about his four hundred euro tax, and saying Bush did the same thing; Rajoy's come back saying he never thought Zap would praise Bush. Inflation, inflation, inflation. Zap's talking about growth, growth, growth.

First round to Rajoy on points.
So tonight's the first big Zap-Rajoy debate, and Iberian Notes will be liveblogging it from its comfortable sofa while trying to keep various cats from sitting on its keyboard. I'm betting on Rajoy.

The big front-page story in every Spanish paper is that Mr. Limousine Communist, Javier Bardem, won the best supporting actor at the Academy Awards. Just another sign of Spain's superiority-inferiority complex regarding the US: Bardem never shuts up about how much he hates America, but he's thrilled to get American recognition. And the same with the Spanish papers, which are vicariously enjoying Bardem's success as if it were theirs, too.

By the way, he pussed out and failed to call Bush a mass murderer during his acceptance speech.

Get this. They had to close down the maternity ward at the Josep Trueta hospital in Girona because of a respiratory virus going around that has affected at least three newborns. The National Health, which I had always had a good opinion of, has suffered an alarming drop in quality.

Speaking of incompetence, they had two sinkholes open up in the middle of a street in the Zona Franca, where they're tunnelling out the future metro line 9, and traffic's going to be screwed up there for the rest of the week. Good thing nobody was killed. Somebody has been doing an incredibly lame-ass job on research into Barcelona's subsoil, since they've had multiple cave-ins on the metro expansion, the commuter train system, and the AVE.

Spain is again Europe's most visited country, leading the EU 27 in total overnight stays in hotels. Tourism is our bread and butter, people, whether we like it or not. Spain is never going to be anybody's R&D headquarters, or the home of quality manufacturing, or a hotbed of globalized trade. It's Europe's Florida, and Florida is doing quite well, thank you.

So the Guardia Civil busted nine more Internet kiddie porn perverts. Jesus. Which sewer do all these sickos crawl out of?

On Saturday the ETA tried to assassinate some police officers; they planted a bomb with five kilos of cloratite at a TV transmitter near Bilbao, and called the cops. The bomb was set to explode when first touched, and fortunately they used a robot to approach it rather than a person, so nobody got killed.

Latest campaign promise: Economics minister Pedro Solbes says the government will take care of getting people's mortgages extended so their monthly payments will be lower, at no charge to anybody but the taxpayers.

Some guy got pulled over by the cops in Santander on Saturday night; he tried to get away, and nearly ran over the arresting officers, who pulled a gun and made him stop. He tested positive for methamphetamines, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, and cannabis. That's a lot of drugs. I can't believe the guy could even sit still, much less drive straight. They sentenced him to eight months in jail, which will be suspended, of course. In America they'd lock his ass up for a good long time.

Over the weekend more than 140 illegal immigrants in two cayucos washed up on the Canary Islands, as the boat people continue their exodus from West Africa.
Quite a night in the Spanish football first division. Barça beat the crap out of Levante, 5-1, on goals by Xavi, Messi, and a hat-trick by Eto'o. Ronaldinho looked pretty good; he might be on the way back. Iniesta had another excellent game, and Bojan made a nice goal-scoring pass. Yeah, Levante sucks, they're buried in last place and by far the worst team in the league, but Barcelona showed what it can do. Zambrotta was the only Barça player who wasn't in top shape; he'd better play better than this or I vote we get rid of him.

And they narrowed Real Madrid's lead to two points with thirteen games to go, so suddenly it's a horse race and Barça controls its own destiny, since they still have to play Real Madrid at the Bernabeu with those three points up for grabs.

Madrid choked big-time at home. They didn't play well, creating only four opportunities in the whole game, and they lost to Getafe 0-1, especially embarrassing since Getafe is a low-rent team from suburban Madrid. The American equivalent would be New York losing to Jersey City.

And even more embarrassing: Madrid "scored a goal," but the linesman had blown offsides, so it didn't count; only Raul and Guti noticed for Real, while all the others jumped all over one another to celebrate. Unfortunately for Madrid, the Getafe goalie, Pato Abbondanzieri or however you spell his name, was quick on the uptake, placed the ball, booted it down the field, and it was a five-on-two fast break for Getafe. And they converted it, and it was goodnight, Nurse.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Several Cuban dissidents were freed by the Communist dictatorship last week after many years and much suffering in prison. Four of them were exiled to Spain; this piece of news got a mention in the Spanish papers on Thursday.

However, the Spanish press--and I checked La Vanguardia, El Periodico, El Mundo, El Pais, and Publico--didn't bother reporting on the dissidents' press conference, which was held right here in Barcelona.

The Daily Telegraph did. Check out the photograph of the man showing the bone that Castro's torturers broke, and then denied him medical treatment for. What a disgrace.

Oh, yeah, Raul got elected president. Unanimously. Of course, he was the only candidate.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Interior minister Perez Rubalcaba announced today that he believes that ETA will attempt a bombing sometime before the March 9 election. He has put the security forces on maximum anti-terrorist alert level, and is not ruling out the possibility of an Islamist terror attack, either.

I will point out that the last time we had a general election in Spain Al Qaeda blew up three trains and killed 191 people three days before; the citizenry reacted by voting out the tough-on-Islamism PP and installing Zap, who instantly did what the terrorists wanted and withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq; Al Qaeda learned that massive terrorist attacks work in Spain; and we know that Zap's gesture did not give Spain an insurance policy against further Islamic attacks.

The European Commission predicts that Spain's GDP will increase by 2.7% this year, while inflation will be 3.7%, meaning we're facing a slight real decline in household income. Eurozone countries are expected to grow at a 1.8% rate, and the EU as a whole by 2%. Consumer confidence in Spain is down, household spending has plateaued, and savings are up. The real estate market is way down, and the construction sector has greatly slowed, meaning higher unemployment. Good sign: Capital goods investment was 8.6% in the fourth quarter of 2007. Also, with less household spending, the trade deficit will get smaller, as much of Spain's imports are consumer goods.

More complaining about Barcelona's El Prat airport: Iberia has made an offer for its competitor Spanair, which is owned by SAS. If the sale goes through, Iberia will control about 50% of all passenger traffic, and 70% of domestic passenger traffic, at El Prat. La Vanguardia says, "If Iberia buys Spanair, the subordination of El Prat to Madrid Barajas, where the ex-monopoly has centralized its intercontinental flights, will be almost absolute, since the ex-monopoly has made it clear on many occasions that its priority is to strengthen Madrid's infrastructure."

People, it's the market. There will only be more flights in and out of Barcelona if Barcelona can provide more passengers for them. If not, then not. Enough whining about Madrid being favored.

Catalan premier Montilla says that if the Iberia purchase goes through, he'll challenge it on antitrust grounds. Fair enough, that's what the competition tribunal is there for, but they're going to lose because Iberia isn't stopping (and can't stop) any other airline from introducing passenger routes to compete with it.

The Spanish election campaign officially begins tonight at midnight, though of course everyone's been campaigning for months. The PSOE's slogan, along with a picture of Rajoy, Zaplana, and Acebes dressed up like the mobsters in Reservoir Dogs, is "If you don't go (to vote), they'll come back." This means that they're running a purely negative campaign, that they believe the PP is most vulnerable over the March 11 bombing and the Iraq war and so they're going to run against that again, and that they think that Socialist turnout will be low, so they're focusing on bringing out their own grass roots instead of trying to win votes in the center.

CiU's running a negative campaign, too, with the slogan, "They'll respect Catalonia (if we win)." Their newspaper ads have fuzzy photos of Zap along with a bunch of his quotations promising things he didn't do, which I suppose means that Zap is not sufficiently respectful. What I'd like to know is how exactly CiU plans to force everyone to "respect Catalonia," whatever that means.

I'm going to take a fairly wild guess here: I think the PP is going to do better than expected. Zap's not very popular, he hasn't really changed things very much, they're running a negative campaign, turnout is going to be low, and the Catalans are really pissed off at the Socialists. The PP's biggest problem is Rajoy's negatives, which are very high.

By the way, thanks to Gates of Vienna for linking to us; they have a piece over there on the Spanish election.

They did another international educational study, this time called Perls, analyzing ten-year-olds' reading comprehension. Russia and Hong Kong scored at the top, over 560 points; Italy, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Flanders, and Denmark scored between about 544 and 552; the US scored 540, and England 538, followed by Scotland and France in the 520s, then Poland, then Spain at 514. The average of the 39 countries surveyed was 510; Wallonia and Norway both scored below 500, with Morocco and South Africa way down there in the low 300s.

The percentage of students with a "low or very low" level of reading comprehension was: 7% in Hong Kong, 8% in the Netherlands, 13% in Germany, 18% in the United States, 22% in England, 24% in France, 28% in Spain, 33% in Norway, and an appalling 91% in Morocco.

The United States scored considerably better than I'd expected; the English, French, and Spanish have one more reason now to stop thinking we're all stupid. I imagine these results are a product of the great improvement in school choice and the proliferation of standardized tests. Yeah, I know the teachers "teach to the test," but at least they're teaching something, and teaching to the test doesn't work if the kids don't already know how to read.

Speaking of thinking we're all stupid, check out this rather patronizing quote from La Vanguardia on Pau Gasol's reception in Los Angeles:

Surprise. At almost ten thousand kilometers away from Barcelona, and despite the stereotypes about the geographical ignorance of the Americans, they know us. "At the front door of the arena," explained Mata (a Catalan in LA who showed up with a Catalan flag), "the security guard asked me, 'Is that a Basque or a Catalan flag?'"

Oh, yeah, you remember the "United States Threatens Earth" headline in Publico a few days ago? Turns out they blew up the satellite as planned, with no problems. By the way, despite the alarmism of professional alarmists, no one has ever been injured, much less killed, by space junk falling to earth, and they figure it's a million-to-one chance: that you're much more likely to be struck by lightning than hit by space junk.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The high-speed train (AVE) between Barcelona and Madrid entered service this morning. Remains to be seen whether this will help or hurt Zap in the election. La Vanguardia has a piece complaining about the years-long delay of the AVE (they have a point, though the blame rests equally on the central government, the Generalitat, and the municipalities) and on the fact that the system is centered in Madrid (what do they expect? Madrid is, like, in the center). La Vangua demands AVE routes from Barcelona to the French border, and from Barcelona to Valencia. It claims that the French don't want to extend their line to the Spanish border because they fear that Barcelona would take over too much business and influence from southern French cities like Montpellier and Toulouse. I doubt it. I think they have other priorities within France.

A bunch of student wannabe radical Cataloonies disrupted a speech by PP candidate Dolors Nadal at the Pompeu Fabra university here in Barcelona, screaming "Fascists get out!". Says Pilar Rahola:

Let's make this clear. Francoism made everyone who confronted it appear to be good. However, in the basket there were apples that were as rotten as Francoism itself, and the fact that they were persecuted does not make them freedom fighters. The Stalinists, for example, who had repressed and murdered their political adversaries, became epic victims through the Francoist repression. But, nevertheless, they were victimizers too. The same thing is true with the extremists in the Catalanist struggle. They were persecuted by the dictatorship, but they were not all democrats. Today, looking at these young barbarians, I remember the most fundamental thing: no people, no cause, no flag is immune to Fascist temptations. Denying this is a form of justifying it.

The Zap-Rajoy debates are set for February 25 and March 3. Zap should never have agreed to this. Rajoy can clean him up in a one-on-one debate, and that should result in an electoral bounce for the PP that the PSOE won't have enough time to fight back against.

There is speculation going around, probably started by the PP, saying that the PSOE and CiU will cut a deal after the election, in which CiU will join a coalition government in Madrid in exchange for the Socialists' dumping Montilla as Catalan premier, to be replaced by Artur Mas. Montilla has strongly denied it.

The Mataró police chief lost his license for eight months for drunk driving. What I want to know is why he's still the Mataró police chief.

Good news for folks interested in Catalonia: They've put the whole Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana on the Internet for free. It also includes a Catalan dictionary. The website runs really slowly, though. As far as I can tell, you can only search, you can't browse. Another problem: It was last updated in 1989. Still, if you're looking for information about Catalan or Spanish history, literature, politics, and the like, this is a welcome addition.

They rounded up 26 more Internet kiddie-porn pervs here in Spain. It seems like they round up another bunch of these guys every week. Is Spain that full of pedophiles? It can't be any worse here than in other Western countries, but you never hear about this stuff happening in other places. Maybe the Spanish cops put a higher priority on child pornography than other countries do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The big news over here this morning is that Fidel Castro has decided not to "run for reelection," and so a new president of Cuba named Raul will succeed him on Sunday. I'm not sure what difference this makes, since Raul isn't going to change any of Fidel's methods. Raul's not going to begin a transition to democracy, and if anybody in Cuba thinks differently they're going to find themselves in jail. He's had two years to consolidate himself in power, and there are no signs of any liberalization.

This leads to the slightly paranoid question of whether Fidel is still actually alive, or if he's been either dead or a vegetable the last couple of years. We haven't seen anything of him but videotapes, remember. I doubt that such a cover-up could actually be kept under wraps; somebody would blab. They might be able to carry off such a coverup with only ten or so people in the know, except that one of those ten people would be Hugo Chavez and there's no way he'd ever keep quiet about anything.

Spain's reaction has been what you'd expect: they hope for democratic progress and some sort of transition, but as long as Zap is in power they're not actually going to do anything about it.

Let's hope the extremist fringe among the Miami Cubans doesn't try anything dumb.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Quick campaign promise update: Zap's promise to teach everybody English will require hiring 20,000 native speakers for the public schools, so this is good for us folks in the ESL business. He's also going to send thousands of Spanish teachers to England and Ireland for courses, so that's good news for you ESL folks up north. Assuming, of course, that Zap actually 1) gets elected and 2) keeps his promise.

Meanwhile, Rajoy has promised to increase state spending on sports, which is a bunch of crap if he's talking about spectator sports, which should be 100% private sector. If he means building swimming pools and gyms and soccer fields, and encouraging amateur leagues, so that ordinary citizens can actually play sports, then that's another thing.
Spain, as one might expect, is against the Kosovar declaration of independence, in opposition to the other large EU countries and the US. Spain has lined up with such world powers as Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Spanish foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos said, "The Spanish government will not recognize this unilateral declaration because we consider that it does not respect international law." He added, "We have always defended international law. We did it when we decided to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and we will do it now when the question is secession from a state."

The Cataloonies, of course, are in favor of anything resembling secession, because that is exactly what they want to do here. TV3's coverage is very pro-Kosovar, and if you can read Catalan, check out all the comments on their website, nearly all of which are pro-secession. (There are a couple of whackjob Serbian fanatics among the commenters.)

Interestingly, nobody has mentioned the American flags being flown by the Kosovar pro-secession demonstrators. But Joan Puigcercós, ERC's`pathologically Cataloony hitman, called President Bush's recognition of Kosovo "a lesson in democracy for Spain." Quite a change; that's the first time I've ever seen such a rabid Cataloony say anything pro-American, much less pro-Bush.

Somebody leaked an internal security report to El Pais, who happily printed it on their front page, since it declares that the Spanish police have basically crushed ETA and thereby makes Zap look good since he's in charge. I imagine the report is 100% correct, but I also imagine that the link was purposely timed by pro-Zap elements within the interior ministry for a mere three weeks before the elections.

Says the report: ETA is so weakened that it has had to abandon the cell system. Formerly there were recruiting, logistical, material, shelter, training, and operational cells, but now the leadership only trusts a small group of fanatics, who are responsible for all these tasks. ETA is no longer capable of finding shelter for its terrorists after they pull a job, and so they are easily traced by the police. The organization has little or no structure left in France. The hard-core leaders in charge are facing a loss of support, and use the threat of violence to keep lesser members and sympathizers in line. There are some 560 ETA members in prison in Spain.

La Vanguardia ran an election survey yesterday showing the PSOE with a small but significant lead, contradicting the most recent CIS survey showing a dead heat. According to La Vangua, the PSOE would get 43.1% of the vote and 165 seats to the PP's 39.1% and 152 seats. CiU would get 10 seats, the PNV 6, ERC 5, the Communists 5, and others 7. 176 seats are needed for a majority; according to these figures, a PSOE-CiU coalition would need only one more vote, which they can probably get from the Canaries Coalition or one of the other tiny parties. Or the Commies.

Zap promised that within ten years all Spanish young people will know English. Hell, they don't even know proper Spanish.

Sports update: Barcelona won last night, 1-2, in Zaragoza, on a goal by Henry and a questionable penalty converted by Ronaldinho. Madrid got beat by Betis, so Barcelona is only five points back with fourteen games to play. No other teams are in contention for the League title, and Barça is still alive in both the Spanish Cup and the Champions' League. On Wednesday they play Celtic in Glasgow.
I found this Council on Foreign Relations survey of Spain between Franco's death in 1975 and the last Felipe González administration in about 1994. It's a very good political, economic, and foreign policy summary of what happened during those years from a liberal American perspective. It's not too long, just over 100 pages, and it's titled The New Spain: From Isolation to Influence.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I figured out how to make the archives work. Took me a while.
Check out what the pro-Zap, "Fuck Bush" rag Publico has up today.

The headline is, "United States Threatens Earth," followed by, "An American spy satellite the size of a bus will crash into our planet on March 6. The fuel it is transporting is very toxic to humans. The US will try to destroy it before it enters into contact with any populated zones. This is not a movie."

Of the 29 comments, two are reasonable, twelve are off-topic, five are anti-Publico ("Is this a newspaper or a comic book?", "My ten-year-old daughter can write better"), and ten are obnoxiously anti-American. Check some of them out:

The USA is a danger to the planet both actively and passively. It starts illegal wars, massacres civilians, creates prisons without legal guarantees, manipulates elections in other countries, overthrows governments that it doesn't like, dedicates itself to deteriorating the ecosystem irreversibly...and now, "by accident," it threatens us with its space junk, which in addition is toxic.

Knowing what the Americans are like, I wouldn't be surprised if the next possibly black president ends up like JFK...And of course the US wants to recover it, of course, who knows what kind of shit it contains.

The US is so fucking disgusting! Too bad it won't fall on the White House! Now Dan Brown can write another book!!!! We'll see it from the positive side! God, what an awful country!

The US is a threat to the rest of the world? We've all known that for a long time.

When will we have a UNITED EUROPE? Together we can free ourselves from these people (BUSH, and a few others from the same photo). When they don't destroy us with WARS, they invent something to screw over humanity. It's their nature.

Who are they going to send to destroy their spy satellite? Bruce Willis?...Who cares if Hillary...Obama...Republicans or Democrats win? The USA's policies are worse than their movies.

Nobody relates it to China's antisatellite text last year or Putin's demand to prohibit anti-satellite systems? This is a military test, the Cold War for control of outer space has begun.

When China destroyed a satellite with a missile, it caught the Yankees with their pants down. They scare me with their invention that they have to blow up one of their satellites, why did it fail on them. And these people don't give a damn who their shit (excuse me) that they put up there falls on. What they are trying to do is catch up to the Third World technologically, which already has an advantage over them. Indian and Pakistani computer technicians, now Chinese too. Of course the fuel is nuclear. Dirty and harmful to life. They're arrogant bullies, who think they're the greatest thing in creation. Lord, forgive them, but I never will.

Want to see a few comments on waterboarding, which the United States used three times on three top terrorists, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and thousands of times on its own soldiers as part of training?

Bush should include himself on the list of most wanted terrorists.

Bush and his friend Aznar should be interrogated with this "method," I'm sure that in ten minutes they would admit all the crimes they have committed against humanity. Every day I am more sure that the majority of countries and international bodies are run by the psychopaths most dangerous to humanity.

Bush is the biggest son of a bitch that the United States has given birth to. Chavez is right to confront him and call him the devil, though the devil is much more worthy than Bush.

If we use this system on Bush maybe he'll tell us what really happened with the Twin Towers and the WTC.

I'd love to beat the shit out of Bush. Bush, you're a pig.

What can you expect from that NEOFASCIST?...You only have to inform yourself about Bush's grandfather's activities during the Second World War. Today in the USA there are 800!!! concentration camps, empty but ready to be used. It's a question of time...more and more greater restrictions on freedom and more media censorship.

There was also a long comment about Israel and the Zionists that didn't make much sense so I haven't reproduced it.

How about some comments on the Northern Illinois University shooting?

Every day we wake up with a similar story from the US, armed psychopaths who murder massively in schools, all a product of that warlike society full of weapons. This is the exemplary democracy that Aznar proposes for us.

If the rulers use torture, if they cause violence in half the world, their society will be the reflection of their insanity, ignominy, and failure as human beings.

Let's think a minute. What psychopath commits suicide? We know the MK-Ultra mental control program was used on many people. Now the Monarch program is even stronger and more diabolical. I remember that in the Virginia massacre there were many witnesses that didn't fit in with the official version. Doesn't it seem like a coincidence that, now that the army is more present in the streets of the USA, and there are people protesting, that these things happen? Reed the laws that the little king Bush has passed with the approval of the Congress and the Senate. And they want to go farther!

I don't care if they all put on jockstraps and have a civil war and all kill each other. I'd be thrilled if there were none left.

Reality is always better than fiction. The US exports the most powerful weapon it has internally: Imperial violence. So this shouldn't horrorize the world.

He who sows tempests...The USA is an insane country, there is no doubt.

You'd be surprised how many people around here obsess over the United States all the time. All these quotes are up on Publico's website today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Latest election survey: The PP has cut back the Socialists' lead, according to the most recent poll taken by the CIS, the government polling agency, and why we need one I don't know. It's PSOE 40.2% and 155-163 seats, to PP 38.7% and 153-157 seats. Zap has lost his advantage, and the race is now too close to call. News: The Socialists in Catalonia have collapsed, from 37% of the vote to 27% in only three months. The blackout and the Great Transport Snafu have hurt them badly.

Among the smaller parties, CiU would get 10 seats, the PNV 7, ERC 6, IU 5 or 6, the BNG 2, CC 1 or 2, EA 1, and NB 1. 176 seats are needed for a majority in the Congress of Deputies. These results would leave the Socialist-Communist-ERC Catalan Tripartite with only 173 seats at the most, not enough to put them over. A PSOE-CiU-PNV coalition would have between 172 and 180 seats, and might have to sign on IU as well in an "everybody against the PP" government. Even in the best-case scenario, a (highly unlikely) PP-CiU-PNV coalition would get only 174 seats, not enough.

Official figures: Inflation between January 2007 and 2008 increased by 4.3%, the highest rate since 1995. In 1996, by the way, Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez lost the general election. Voters don't like inflation.

Tragedy in Illinois: Five killed and sixteen wounded in a shooting at Northern Illinois University near Chicago.

Of the first 43 comments on La Vanguardia's website, 32 were more or less reasonable, including of course the posts in favor of more gun control in the US. Eleven of them were not reasonable. Here they are:

How strange that all the mass killers in the USA end up committing suicide. Here in Spain we put them in jail. The Yankees are quick on the trigger.

This is no more than the dark, sinister trend that the Americans have brought with them for many years: murdering, killing, jailing, torturing, and creating and fomenting fictitious wars over the whole planet. The US must be the place with most terrorists and psychopaths per square meter, legal and illegal, from the state or the street, but in the US terror never goes out of fashion. That's the way they are!

We'll see what happens when the thousands of alienated mercenaries sent to the confines of the USA empire come home. That will be genuinely American terrorism.

The American Constitution, such an ancient document that it still includes laws in favor of slavery, should not be a reference in any society today. The love of the American constitution is part of the lie that you have sold yourselves. God Bless America!!! (sic)

Let's remember that a firearm has only one purpose...a society protected by impunity in their use is a society of terror...and though it existed before, Bush's oppressive and paranoid policies are bad for his citizens' health.

The United States is a puerile country of degenerates. I often wonder why we try to copy them. They're pathetic.

In the United States (what a decadent country!) this kind of accidents have been trendy for too long. It has become fashionable to murder in schools or universities. What is happening is proportionately caused by the industrial quantities of violent degenerates and psychopathic ex-soldiers that exist in that country. Besides, they make it easier than any other place in the world to have firearms. No comment. (sic)

The US is Paradise for violent people, and the biggest nest of psychopaths and extreme degenerates. Not surprising, since it is currently the country that uses state terrorism with the most vehemence, and in the end everyone gets what he deserves.

The Americans have a degenerate society. It is capitalism, let's see who is most powerful, let's see who can get more profits out of everyone else no matter how. The result is a broad base of a frustrated society anxious for revenge.

I've already said it many times, they're all crazy.

Money doesn't even mean that they have fewer illiterate or malnourished people than Cuba.

Thanks for the sympathy and the high regard for the lives of others!

So today TV3 kicks off its afternoon news with a story on how concerned parents and teachers are about--get this--American pro wrestling on TV. (For some reason, they call it "pressing catch" over here. I have absolutely no idea why.) Seems that some idiot kids have been imitating the pro wrestlers, so everybody panic.

Tney don't get pro wrestling over here; as a non-fan, I have to say I really don't get it myself. You have to look at it as what it is: theater. Everything happens according to a script, and the characters (the good guy, the bad guy, the bad guy's evil minions) and their motives (revenge, loyalty, determination) are archetypal. The characters are placed in a situation in which there's a winner and a loser, while actually doing complicated acrobatics, and the whole thing is played as way-over-the-top camp. You're not supposed to take it seriously, and they announce on the program that you shouldn't try this yourself at home. Anyway, it's certainly no worse than the violent Japanese TV cartoons they show in Spain.

And let's not come down too hard on the Americans here; Mexican pro wrestling is even cheesier.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A paragraph from today's La Vanguardia, on the 50,000 attendees at the mobile phone trade fair in town right now:

Taxi drivers, who are not always good sources of information, in this case have a good X-ray of the fair visitors. Of course, they live off fairs and the business they bring, and those who come here in search of shopping and fun.

"The people who come to the Bread & Butter (fashion show) go out to discos. Dancing, drinking, and partying to the max. The Construmat (construction) people like to go whoring. They're the ones who we make the most money from thanks to the commissions we get from the brothels, above all those on the Castelldefels highway. The Alimentaria (food) people too, but not as much. They waste too much time in restaurants. And the ones at the mobile phones fair are the most bourgeois (pijo). I just took four of them over to the Sagrada Familia. It was 11 PM and I told them it was closed, but they didn't care. I showed them cards from some girlie bars on Calle Siguès, but they weren't interested."
I hate squatters.

They painted graffiti all over my street last night, including such socially advanced slogans as "One squat closed down, eight cops crippled," "Closing down squats = riots," "Cops get out," "Burn down Barcelona," "Death to capitalism," and, on the Caixa de Manlleu branch office, "Speculators! Rob this bank!"

So the City Hall streets brigade is out this morning painting over all that crap.

These squatters are middle-class punks playing revolutionary, and when they get out of control, somebody gets hurt, like the policeman they put in a coma last year when they smashed him in the head with a rock.

Terrorist update: The Basque regional police arrested three Islamists in Vitoria last night on suspicion of recruiting jihadis, raising money, and spreading propaganda among the local Muslims.

Meanwhile, the banned ETA-front party Batasuna called a general strike today in Vizcaya province, and they are holding illegal demos that have not yet turned into riots. Thirteen people have been arrested so far for blocking traffic. Good. Why don't they do that more often? Of course, the majority of Basque workers are not following the strike.

Speaking of strikes, today the public school teachers are out, and I can't figure out why. It has something to do with "defending public education," but for the life of me I don't get what they're all mad about. Probably it has something to do with making them responsible for their work.

This, of course, is a big mess because the teachers' unions told parents to keep their kids at home today. That means everybody who has kids needs to find some way to take care of them while working today.

Major difference between the US and Spain: From what I know, in the US labor-management negotiations are tried first, and then if they can't make a deal they go on strike. In Spain, first they go on strike, and then they negotiate, and then they go on strike again, and so on.

The wave of strikes, of course, was timed to come right before the election, on the logic that you're more likely to get what you want from the government if you put pressure on it when election time comes around, expecially if your strike seriously inconveniences the citizens in general.

Zap did an interview with pro-Socialist talk-show host Iñaki Gabilondo last night on Cuatro, the TV station owned by Prisa. Zap didn't say much of anything, but right after the interview ended, Gabilondo asked Zap off the air what the Socialists' surveys predicted. This was a much more interesting question than any of those he asked during the interview. Anyway, somebody left a microphone on, and everybody heard Zap's response, "Fine, but it helps us if there is tension." That is, he's in favor of open political conflict with the PP in order to stir up the citizens and make them angry in order to bring out the Socialist vote. Major case of foot-in-mouth disease. That's our Zap.

Official figures: Spain's GDP growth in 2007 was 3.8%, which is pretty good though it does show a slowdown in the fourth quarter. The National Statistics Bureau predicts slower growth in the next couple of quarters, but nothing near a recession.

That dope Joan Saura told El Periodico that the speed limit "in the entire United States, even in the desert" was 90 kph, or 55 mph. Uh, actually, no, they changed that law back in 1987, and there are places where it is 80 mph, or 130 kph. For a while in the '90s Montana had a "reasonable and prudent" speed limit on the Interstate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Development minister Maleni Alvarez announced that the Barcelona-Madrid AVE (high-speed train) will enter service on February 20, nineteen days before the general election. A round-trip BCN-Madrid ticket will cost €163. This had better be true, because if it's not it will make everyone in Barcelona even less trustful of the Socialists. There's still anger over last summer's Great Barcelona Blackout and this winter's Great Transport Snafu, and the lousy government response to them.

Campaign promise update: Zap promised to give monthly checks of €300-500 to 400,000 poor families with children; he also promised to bring dental care for children between 7 and 12 under National Health coverage. The PP promised to bring dental care for everybody under the National Health, starting with children and old folks, within eight years.

A bunch of student wannabe radicals screaming "Terrorist!" and "Fascist!" tried to attack the Basque PP leader, Maria San Gil, who spoke at the University of Santiago, and managed to get into it with her bodyguards and the police detail. Of course, no arrests were made. I hate these stupid punks who interfere with other people's freedom of speech.

The level of confrontation in Spanish politics is extremely high, unthinkable even in the United States. It's not at all unusual for Spanish politicians to call one another anti-democratic fascists or supporters of terrorism, and even normally responsible people like Pere Macias of CiU accuse their opponents of trying to start another civil war.

(By the way, don't ask me how I know, but I have reliable firsthand information that Pere Macias is a complete asshole in his personal life. On the other hand, Jordi Portabella of ERC is a good guy even though he is a political idiot.)

The European Union is going to require that foreigners entering be fingerprinted, exactly as in the US. I remember the hooting and hollering about the right to privacy and the repressive police state that went on over here when the Americans established the fingerprinting requirement; interesting that there isn't any of it when Europe does the same. Oh, by the way, I'm in favor of the measure, of course.

The bus drivers' strike yesterday jammed up the city even worse than expected, since they got together and blocked off the Via Laietana between 1 and 3 PM, thereby depriving the citizens of their right to use the public highway that their taxes pay for. No arrests were made, of course, though they came close to getting into it with the cops, and witnesses report skirmishes and several injuries. The drivers say they'll strike between March 3 and 7, and they'll go out every Thursday until their demands are met.

The doctors also struck yesterday because they claim to be overworked (which they are), and so 25,000 patients' appointments had to be rescheduled. That's the way to reduce overcrowding.

El Pais reports that Spanish consumers failed to pay back €11.5 billion worth of debt in 2007, a 40% increase over the previous year.

As you know, McCain and Obama went three-for-three yesterday, though the Democratic race is wide-open until Texas and Ohio vote. Mike Huckabee needs to do what Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani did: sit down, shut up, and get behind the party's candidate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You'll want to check out this excellent special report from the Economist on the American South. Europeans especially might be interested in a friendly but critical review of what's going on down there. (Note: Click "next page" at the bottom for more stories; there are about eight.)

I'm from a Southern family but spent most of my childhood in the North and Midwest, so I've always been ambivalent about the South, and when we lived in Dallas for a couple of years I was out and out hostile. I still can't stand a lot of things about that city. I can really do without the guns and Jesus stuff that's so common down South.

One of the interesting quotes in the report, though, is from a Northerner in Atlanta who suspects that many of the things he likes about the South (I assume he means that the people tend to be friendlier and more honest, and that the lifestyle is more relaxed) are partially due to the religious conservatism of many Southerners. I also thought the joke, "You might be a redneck if you have six patents and they all feature the words "hunting dog" in the disclosure documents," was pretty good.

The nasty racism that I remember in East Texas seems to be way down twenty-five years later, since a lot of the old racist folks have died off and the younger ones are comparatively free of that particular sin.

I hate Southern cooking, by the way, except for Louisiana food, which doesn't have much to do with what they eat in the rest of the South. Too greasy and too sweet. Being a vegetarian doesn't help; they can screw up vegetables quite easily. Note that in the report, Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, and KFC are named as successful Southern restaurant chains. Coincidentally, they're also the top three restaurant chains on my "Do Not Want" list.
The bus drivers are out on strike today, and there will be no service until 5 PM. Also, the doctors at the National Health general-practice clinics (CAPs) are out on strike today, 8 AM to 8 PM. They have a legitimate complaint: they're overworked and underfunded. But denying people medical help for a day isn't the way to change things. Meanwhile, 51,000 people in Spain are awaiting elective surgery. And, to top it off, the public school teachers are going out on Thursday, the 14th.

Of course, they picked the best day possible for a transport strike, since 50,000 people are in town for the mobile-phone trade fair and convention. Some hotels, meanwhile, have tripled their prices. This makes our city look real good in their eyes, and they'll want to come back!

Campaign promise update: Rajoy said he'd hire 30,000 new cops. Rubalcaba said Zap would hire 15,000 new cops to add to the 15,000 they already claim to have hired.

Zap claimed he'd never smoked a joint. I don't know whether the admission will help him or hurt him.

That loudmouthed idiot Pere Macias (of the normally responsible CiU) said that the PP's proposal that all students in Spain should study at least partly in Spanish "might cause a civil war during the next generation." Spanish rule of politics Number One: When in doubt, make catastrophic predictions to frighten the voters.

You probably remember that the PSOE did an excellent propaganda job several years ago when the oil tanker Prestige sank off the coast of Galicia and caused a medium-sized oil spill. Though the ship wasn't Spanish, and the Aznar government had no responsibility for the fact that it sank where it did, the Socialists managed to blame the PP for the accident.

Now it looks like the PP has a chance to turn the tables. A ship called the New Flame, that got stuck off Gibraltar seven months ago, has started leaking oil, which has covered the harbor of Algeciras, including the beaches. Zap's response? Complain to the British ambassador. It seems to me that the Zap administration is directly responsible, since they did nothing to get the ship safely to shore. I would absolutely hammer Zap's eco-credentials over this one.

Spanish troops killed a man in Afghanistan: a car refused to stop at a roadblock, and they fired at it and killed him. Good. They did their job. Now let's see if the Spaniah press reacts as it would if it had been an American platoon. I bet they don't.

They're having a big fashion show in Madrid. What made the international news was that they dismissed three models for being too anorexic. I don't know, they all look pretty anorexic to me.
The American primary elections are at the center of international news in Spain. The Hillary-Obama race has caught everyone's attention, to the point that the media's been paying too little attention to the Republicans, who have an excellent chance to win in November.

To recap: It seems that Hillary has support among white women, lower-income voters, and Hispanics, while Obama has support among white men, middle-income voters, younger voters, and blacks.

The Democratic race is nowhere near over; Obama should win today's primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, but Hillary's not out of it even though she's fired her campaign manager and "lent" her own campaign $5 million, both of which are bad signs. The Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 ought to be decisive, and if Obama wins both of those states it's all over. If not, Pennsylvania on April 22 may be the decider. Of course, this is great for the Republicans, with the Dems shooting themselves in the foot by attacking one another.

Andy Robinson gets a page 4 story in La Vanguardia to inform us that if Europeans are anti-American, then it's the Americans' own fault and especially George W. Bush's. Andy says that the United States's "brand equity" is declining, and adds in a snotty aside, "Although consumers from Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, and other countries might disagree, the United States had accumulated a considerable quantity of brand equity." I was actually under the impression that the United States had a comparatively good reputation in those places, since folks there have actually seen what the alternative is.

Meanhile, Pilar Rahola has a pro-Hillary screed in which she calls Obama empty and idea-less, which is true. She takes a shot at Euro Yankee-bashers, though:

We Europeans are experts at the art of getting the wrong candidate in the US elections. We massively applauded the candidacy of Senator John Kerry, despite the evidence of his probable failure. For Europeans, he represented the acceptable American, more cultured, better-mannered, better-read, more fashion (sic) than that Texan Bush, and therefore one of us. Besides, the Hollywood actors and the rock stars backed him, and that was enough to raise our silliness several levels.

...Nevertheless, fooled by Michael Moore's tendentious propaganda (the one who flies to anti-system conferences in his private plane), we decided that the electoral result had no contextual explanation, but rather that the Americans were very, very bad people and they had all become religious fanatics. And so we were happy in our contempt, since we all know that our conceited European superiority complex regarding the Yankees soothes our unconfessable inferiority complex. In reality, we are dying with envy, and that is why we need to point the finger at them in order to maintain our injured dignity.

Now it is happening again, this time in its flower (sic) version. Every self-respecting European is thrilled with Barack Obama, considers that Hillary Clinton is a genuine product of the system (as if Obama were not also part of it), and drools at the thought of his entering the White House.

A lot of people around here who I've talked to actually think that Obama is some kind of radical candidate. I had some guy tell me yesterday evening that Obama was going to reduce the power of the big corporations. I have no idea which idiot media outlet he got that from.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More good news from the anti-ETA front: Judge Garzon ordered 14 members of the new board of directors of the illegal ETA front-party Batasuna to be rounded up on charges of collaboration with a terrorist organization. Spain has the equivalent of a RICO law; that is, being part of a group that is declared illegal is, in itself, against the law. They are squashing ETA's infrastructure, and there is absolutely no way any of ETA's front parties are going to be able to run in the election.

One reason this is important is because Spain's genius campaign finance laws (which every party breaks and which causes lots of corruption) offer government campaign subsidies to political parties--so if an ETA-front party manages to get itself on the ballot, then it gets our tax money! And you know whose hands that campaign finance money ends up in.

This is a stunt that is often resorted to by a notorious South American cult, the Siloists, also known as the Humanist Movement. These guys set up something called the Humanist Party, whose goal is to get the free TV advertising and campaign finance subsidies to spread its guru's message. Once they actually set up something called the Green Ecologist Party and got like 20,000 votes, due to the confusion between their front group and the other (slightly less offensive) Green parties.

I personally would remove all limits on political campaign spending and donations, as it seems to me that you ought to be able to give as much money as you want to your candidate of choice, and that candidate ought to be able to spend as much money as he can get on his campaign. To keep things honest, simply require all donations over, say, $1000, to be announced at a weekly public press conference.

And I would bloody well get rid of anything even resembling a government subsidy for anything even resembling a political party, and that includes activist groups, so-called NGOs, and alleged think tanks and "educational" foundations.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Terrorist news: US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in Munich, "The Barcelona cell (broken up last month) seems to be part of the terrorist network run by Baitullah Mehsud, an extremist leader based in Pakistan and linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, whom we suspect of being implicated in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto." Good thing they got these guys before they blew anything up.

The pro-ETA crowd came out in Bilbao this afternoon and held an illegal demo that turned into a riot, cars overturned and garbage skips burned. They even torched a bus. The cops thumped 'em good. Go Cops! Three arrests were made, which doesn't seem like nearly enough to me. The rioters are angry because Judge Garzon has prohibited their front-parties from running in the March 9 election.

Three douchebags had themselves a neo-Nazi demonstration in front of the synagogue in the Call, Barcelona's old Jewish quarter just off the Plaza Sant Jaume, back in July 2006. Among other things, they made threats and incited to violence, which isn't free speech, it's a crime. So they finally got around to arresting them, only a year and a half late.

The bus drivers say they're going back on strike, and the metro workers are going to do the same. That ought to screw up the city real good and stress out all the rest of us.

Not much campaign news. Zap's trying to identify Rajoy with the Iraq war and the Church, and run against that. Rajoy is trying to hit on a hot-button issue, and he thinks he's found one with immigration, while he identifies Zap with the economic slump. It's not really an edifying spectacle. At least they've both quit making wild promises, for now anyway.

There's a tremendous amount of interest over here in the American primary elections, and for once some of the commentary heard in the streets and cafés is positive. The Spaniards like the idea of voting in primaries for the candidates of each party, since right now the candidates are chosen by small groups of party insiders. They're confused by a lot of things about the American system; what they find especially strange is that the presidential election isn't related to whoever wins the most seats in Congress.

Other strange stuff for them: You vote for more than one office in the US elections, and so you can split your ticket, vote for candidates of more than one party on the same ballot. There's no proportional representation in the US, which means there aren't any small fringe parties in Congress. The two main parties are wide-ranging coalitions of several groups, and so it's not unusual for a congressman to vote against the leadership of his own party. They also think it's funny that we have sheriffs, which they identify with Western movies, and that it's an elective post.

Barcelona played badly last night in Sevilla, but got out with a 1-1 draw on a goal by Xavi. They looked slow and out of shape. The defense was atrocious, with both Oleguer and Thuram starting. Ronaldinho came out in the second half but didn't do much, though the quality of play did improve a bit. Sevilla's got a kid named Diego Capel at left wing who is going to be very good. He ate Oleguer's lunch. Oleguer, by the way, might be sold to Lazio, which would be hilarious, the Cataloony Commie pro-squatter idiotarian playing for the most openly Fascist fan base in the world.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Spanish champagne Communist actor Javier Bardem, of the notorious Bardem family, won some award from something called the New York Critics' Circle. He plays "a monstrous, unscrupulous being who freezes the blood of the spectators"--seems the movie he's in is a bit violent. So get this: he claimed that he got the inspiration to act the part of a psychopathic killer "from President Bush."

La Vanguardia wonders whether Academy Awards voters will hold Bardem's valiant statement against him when that vote comes out. Hell, no, this is Hollywood we're talking about. He's just won himself some bonus points.

By the way, I'm boycotting the movie because I'm not going to give Bardem any of my money. Instead, for the first time ever, I'm going to pirate it.

More Spanish leftist media silliness: Check out this Socialist campaign video, featuring the usual suspects, all of whose careers saw better days about thirty years ago: Sabina, Bosé, Serrat, Victor Manuel and Ana Belen, and the rest of that lot. They've come up with the dorkiest, most retarded hand gesture ever to show their undying support for Zap. I think they're trying to imitate Zap's pointy, Dracula-like eyebrows, but they look like a bunch of dopes. Get this: El Mundo says the alleged artists involved are "doing things the American way." I don't think any bunch of American singers, even if it included Jackson Browne, would ever do anything so uncool in public.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Campaign rhetoric: Looks like Rajoy has hit a popular nerve with his declaration that immigrants should have to sign some kind of contract in order to stay in Spain. As an immigrant, I'm in favor; Rajoy's proposal wouldn't force people to do anything outlandish, but it would require them to learn Spanish and not cut off their daughters' clitorises. Zap's comeback was weak; he claimed that Rajoy's statement was an insult to immigrants, which this idea is not. Anyway, it looks like the PP has found an issue.

There's been some talk that Zap should have called elections for last fall, before the economic slump began. Now, the slump hasn't been too bad thus far, and it's mostly due to the standard business cycle, not Zap's policies. Still, he should have known a slowdown was coming, planned accordingly, and dissolved parliament back in about September.

Judge Garzon "suspended the activities" of the ETA front parties ANV and PCTV, making sure that they won't be able to run in the March 9 general election.

ETA set off a fifteen-kilo bomb in front of the courthouse in Vergara, in the Basque country. No one was injured, fortunately. Serious material damage was done.

The first high-speed train did its test run into Sants station in Barcelona yesterday, so they may actually have it up and running by election time. The question is whether that will help or hurt--it may remind people of the whole Great Transport Snafu.

Bad simile department: The guy in La Vanguardia reporting on the space shuttle launch said that the flames of the rocket lifting off were the color of gazpacho.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Drudge is reporting that Mitt Romney is going to pull out of the race for the Republican nomination, though Mike Huckabee says that he's still in. Whatever. McCain is clearly the nominee now, no question. Now let's see the conservative wing of the Republicans prove they're adults who can handle losing. With all due respect, the moderate wing got one of our guys in this time, and it's time for you to suck it up, do your duty, and back the party's candidate.
Another case of minority political groups in Catalonia blocking progress: CiU and ERC have decided they're against the high-speed train's passing through a tunnel under Barcelona. Jeez, people, minority groups have been blocking the route of the AVE through Catalonia for years. Not to mention the expansion of the airport, an exurban highway loop around the outer edge of the metro area, the electrical hookup with the French power grid, the water plan to send Ebro water south and bring Rhone water here, and about eighteen other useful projects that make a lot more sense than subsidizing movies no one will ever see.

Campaign promise update: Rajoy says he's going to deport foreign citizens who commit crimes in Spain. Sounds good to me, but I think he's going to have to change the penal code to do that, and another penal code change seems unlikely so soon after the last one. Zap said such a change was unnecessary, leading to the question of: so why aren't foreign criminals being deported, since the streets of Barcelona are full of them? Also, Rajoy promised to plant five million trees, for whatever that's worth.

The Ibex 35 was down 0.9% at midday, below 13,000 points. The European Central Bank is holding the line on interest rates at 4%. Banco Santander earned €9 billion in profits in 2007, up 19% over 2006, which is good news for the shareholders.

Contradiction: La Vanguardia headlines, "Lack of connections at El Prat airport puts brakes on growth of tourism," and "Barcelona to increase hotel capacity by 10% in 2008." Right next to one another. Well, which one is it? And, of course, if there is a market for more flignts to Barcelona, some smart airline is going to start providing them, no? If Clickair has cut its number of Barcelona flights, it just might be because the market's saturated, and they were losing money on them.

Meanwhile, the Barcelona hotel owners' association criticized the high rate of crimes against tourists, and the lack of lighting in the streets. Seems to me this ought to be a top priority for the city government, right? I mean, you improve Barcelona's reputation for safety from crime (which is lousy), more tourists are going to come, and there'll be more demand for flights and hotel rooms and all of that, no? Arresting and deporting the dirtbags who prey on both tourists and locals would improve everyone's quality of life immeasurably.

La Vanguardia online's readers' poll: "Should the Circuit de Catalunya (the Montmeló racetrack) be sanctioned because of the racist insults against Hamilton?" 1329 persons voted. 34% said Yes, 65% said No.

El Pais has a depressing summary of the Hamilton flap, titled, "I'm not racist, but you're a fucking nigger (negro de mierda)":

...There is an essential explanation, deeper and more profound, that changes the crudity of insults into other things. "They are trying to offend and hurt the rival. There is no deep-seated racism," said the veteran researcher and sociologist Juan Díez Nicolás. These subtleties are not appreciated in other European countries, especially in the United Kingdom, where the affair is still one of the top stories of the week, and has produced shock and indignation. "Racism is under debate in Spanish sports, and this reflects on the whole society," rotundly declared the BBC.

In Spain, certainly, it is seen in a different way. "This is not discriminating against anyone because of his race," says one of the psychologists consulted, and it is the diagnosis of most of the implicated parts of society. In this case, she says, the outburst meant. "He is the rival of Fernando Alonso, and treated him badly and disloyally last year when they were on the same team."

"So why didn't they just directly call him a bastard?" wondered the Guardian correspondent Paul Hamelos, both offended and surprised, who reached the zenith of his confusion and perplexity when an Administration official argued the excuse that it was Carnival. "Carnival!" he repeated, between anger and incredulity. Some of those who insulted the Englishman had their faces painted black, wigs with curly hair, and T-shirts with the sentence "Hamilton's family" on the front. It was a day for dressing up, "and the English don't understand that."

"Spain is not racist, all the studies show that," said the sociologist Diaz Nicolas. It's something else. "It's a lack of imagination, and troublemaking. It's not right. That's clear, but let's not confuse matters. It's as if they called someone Fatty or Shorty," says this professor.

That's a bunch of crap, because no one has ever been enslaved and brutalized because of his height or weight. Millions of people were bought and sold and put to forced labor during hundreds of years because they were black, and all of Western Europe is guilty, including Spain. Black people are justifiably particularly angered by racist insults, since those insults imply that blacks are less than human and deserve to be treated as inferiors.

At a deeper level, the analysis of several British professors cited by the Times calls Spanish society "not racist, but inexperienced in living together with immigrants." And this, they say, makes people "see insults regarding skin color lightly and indulgently." According to this thesis, Spaniards aren't more racist than anyone around them, but they have less experience in dealing with different people and the subtleties that entails. To the point that the Spaniards do not know how to calibrate the importance of these insults.

Yeah, that was one of my theses the other day: Spaniards don't have much of an idea of what offends people of other nationalities, and they often act like they don't particularly care.

Sectors linked to the Zapatero administration wonder why the Spanish government does not either complain about or demand apologies for the behavior of the notorious British hooligans when a team from the Isles plays in Spain. "We don't say that the English are drunken vandals because some of their football fans are," they insist, in a rather nationalist manner. Definitely, they state that the English "are exaggerating" about this question, a maximalism whipped up by the sensationalist tradition of part of their media.

"Are we minimizing it or are they maximizing it?" wonder high officials in the Spanish administration. Ibarra said, without a doubt, the former. "The official message for years and years has been that this is not increasing, and that they are just a few isolated cases. and this is false." According to Ibarra, the number of racist incidents in Spain has grown to the point of affecting 200 towns througout the country.

Let's see. The British are hypocrites? Check. The British are drunken hooligans? Check. Hamilton deserved it? Check. Controversy stirred up by British press? Check. We're not racists no matter what you say? Check. The insults are no big deal? Check.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Looks like McCain is going to be the Republican candidate; I just hope he doesn't pick Huckabee as his veep. Romney would be fine, so would Giuliani. The conservative wing of the Reps is grumbling, but they'll get in line, they have nowhere else to go. Unless Ron Paul splits the party and runs as an independent, which has to be the Republican nightmare. As for the Dems, it's still up in the air. Let's hope Hillary and Obama go down to the wire, sniping at one another all the way, and that the convention ends up being brokered. That'll piss off either Hillary's base, middle-class white women, or Obama's base, blacks, and hopefully reduce Democratic turnout big-time.

La Vanguardia's coverage is again complete: a front-page headline and photo, and the first four pages of the international section. Not even Andy Robinson is especially offensive; of course, he called the California primary wrong, predicting that Obama would win because of the youth vote. The fact that his story is bylined "Berkeley" might have something to do with his misjudgment.

Judge Andreu of the National Court has charged 40 members of the current Rwandan Tutsi government with genocide and crimes against humanity during the Congo War, along with the murder of nine Spanish citizens between 1994 and 2000. He has issued international arrest warrants for them. My reaction: 1) Isn't this extraterritoriality, which the Spaniards always criticize when we lock up bad guys at Guantanamo? 2) Did Spain ever charge any of the Hutus, the group that started the mass violence, with genocide? 3) I am all in favor of punishing butchers and murderers, no matter who they are, but it seems to me that military force will be needed to get these guys out of Rwanda. Who is going to provide that military force?

The Ibex 35 was up 1.4% at midday, led by the utilities, so the market hasn't crashed on us yet. The other European markets are showing very slight gains.

That old fraud the Maharishi finally croaked, outliving two of the Beatles.

Survey: 86% of Spanish men say that if they had an affair they wouldn't tell their wives. News: 14% of Spanish men are so dumb that they would tell their wives if they'd cheated on them.

Pronunciation guide for Europeans: Arkansas is "Ar-kun-SAW." Kansas is "KAN-zus." Houston is "YOO-stun." New Orleans is "New ORE-lins." Chicago is "Shih-CAH-go." Cleveland is two syllables: "CLEEV-lund." Miami is "My-AH-mee." Ohio is "Oh-HY-oh." Iowa is "AY-oh-wuh." Detroit is two syllables: "Duh-TROYT." Idaho is "AY-duh-ho." Seattle is "See-AT-tul." Memphis is "MEM-fis." (Not "Mehn-fees.") Delaware is "DELL-uh-wear."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Oh, Lordy, the stock market's taken another dive, this time down 5.2% to 12,800 points late this afternoon. The construction firms did worse than average, and the blue chips fell less than average. La Vanguardia blames it on Wall Street's 2% decline. The other big European markets were down about 3%.

32,000 real-estate agencies closed down in Spain during 2007, which is 40% of the total. Most of these were shoestring speculative one-person shops that thought the boom would go on forever.

Food prices in 2007: through the roof. Sunflower oil went up 34%, milk 25%, flour 22%, chicken 16%, pasta 16%, onions 15%, bananas 13%, eggs 11%, and sardines 10%.

We're definitely having a major drought, despite Sunday's rain, and the water restrictions the Generalitat told us wouldn't be needed are going into effect: no more watering gardens or filling swimming pools with drinkable water. They're already working on getting tankers to deliver water from the Rhone and from desalinizing plants, and they're also going to reopen a bunch of old wells closed down years ago.

Judge Garzon charged the president of the ETA-front party ANV, along with two other party leaders, with collaboration with a terrorist gang and conspiracy. This is apparently a necessary legal step previous to banning the party and prohibiting it from running in the March 9 election.

Here's a good one. Something called the Barcelona Observatorio came out with a quality of life ranking for world cities and guess what? Barcelona came out on top! Number One! King of the hill, cream of the crop, top of the heap! For the tenth year in a row!
Here's TV3's story on the Lewis Hamilton incident:

In England they did not like it at all when a handful of fans shouted at Lewis Hamilton during last weekend's training sessions at Montmeló, and the wave of denuncistions of racism that has appeared in the British press is threatening a diplomatic conflict. The English government does not seem happy with the apologies given by the racetrack's management nor with the censure of the FIA, and has called for the suspension of the Grand Prix of Catalonia.

Lewis Hamilton is a hero in England because he was supposed to take over from Damon Hill, the most recent English Formula 1 champion in 1996. His not winning the world championship was an authentic national tragedy, and they have not liked at all the fact that a handful of fans received him at Montmeló with signs, chants, insults, and racist attacks.

The English press, the first in feeding the flames of the Hamilton-Alonso rivalry, has accused Spain of racism, recalling episodes like Luis Aragones insulting Henry or the chants against Eto'o in Zaragoza, and has mounted a campaign to censure the intolerable conduct of a few fanatics.

The racetrack had already done everything possible to put an end to such conduct--they confiscated banners, prevented hostilities against Hamilton from the stands, and expelled fans--and official bodies have criticized it rotundly, but in England they are still denouncing the attack suffered by Hamilton above and beyond the sporting rivalry with the Spanish champion.

Because of this, the British sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, announced yesterday that he would send a letter to the FIA and the Spanish government prpopsing the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Catalonia, while demanding that steps be taken to combat the xenophobic campaign that Lewis Hamilton is the victim of.

Even TV3 is blaming this mess on the sensationalistic English press who are out to get Alonso; it claims that the British minister's anger is due to the media coverage and not to the racist insults, it whitewashes the performance of the track management, it chalks British irritation up to rivalry between fans rather than disgust at racism, it downplays the character of the insults (they were dressed up like monkeys yelling "fucking nigger" at him), it shifts the focus from Catalonia to Spain as a whole, and it falsely claims that only a few people were guilty of the insults when large parts of the crowd were.

There are four comments. One blames the English press and its hidden interests; one says the incident was no big deal; one calls the English hypocritical drunken hooligans; and the last blames the English press and says any anger is due to Hamilton's losing out last year.
I've examined the first 206 comments in La Vanguardia's online story on the Lewis Hamilton flap, and they're generally pretty depressing. I didn't classify all of them, but I did divide them into nine categories. Some of them fit into more than one category, so I chose the one that seemed most definite. Here are the results:

Reasonable responses: 16

Now into the cesspool.

The British are hypocrites: 29
The British are all drunken hooligans: 14
Catalans are not racist / The racists must be Castilians: 26
Hamilton is a jerk and deserved it: 11
General anti-British: 9
The controversy has been stirred up to benefit hidden interests: 7
Everybody's racist, not just us: 5
It's no big deal: 9

Here are a few individual examples:

Cat: If the Spanish supporters of Alonso cannot behave themselves, they should stay at home. In Catalonia we respect people and hate all kinds of racism. England should not confuse Spain and Catalonia. Catalonia is different in all ways.

Bob: Hamilton = Hypocrite Perfidious (British) Press = Superhypocrites Am I racist? So what.

Jordi: Who are the English to give us lessons about manners and behavior? They're a public danger every time they leave their country, a gang of drunks who do nuthing but drink and start fights: the great majority of them are trash; this is the pot calling the kettle black.

SentidoComun: Enough of this racism nonsense, they insult his color because it is a distinguishing characteristic, they could also call him Shorty because he's short or Baldy because he doesn't have much hair, racism is something different. Besides, these English are still killing Iraqis to steal their oil, and they get excited because a few morons dialectically attack a young millionaire. Crazy.

Pable: In Panama it is the same. Blacks with British surnames who were brought to dig the canal are angry and violent, not so the ones with Spanish surnames. Everywhere the british have gone, the blacks are angry, look and see if it's like that in Brazil. Don't cry about how people are treated in Spain, I was treated worse in Nigeria.

Carlos: These English are too fucking much, they have their minister intervene over a few insults, and when their holligan (sic) go around European cities cracking skulls and destroying the city, they don't give a shit. They should worry about their own dear compatriots. A public person like Halmiton (sic) shouldn't give a crap what they call him. Let it be clear that I'm against insults, as I am against the federation's favoritism toward that gentleman.

Antonio: Since last year they didn't get the f1 world championship even by discriminating against Alonso for not being British, and fearing that this year Hamilton won't win either, now they're trying to close down Spanish racetracks? Is there a people more racist than the English?

Eoneguin: Racism is a natural condition among human beings. Blacks are, even more among themselves. Arabs are, a lot. Asians are, in the most cruel way. And we whites have to feel guilty. Besides, what happened to "Chocolate Milk" was just kidding, at worst a joke in bad taste.

Ironico: The English are going to give us classes in morality, living together, racism, manners, and respect to countries like Spain? If England has been characterized by anything in its history, it is not the things listed above. They only care about being the center of the world. Maybe they should begin to set an example that they have changed and give back Gibraltar. Anyway, in my opinion, fuck them!

Axel_T: The English newspapers who are causing this kerfuffle are the sensationalist press, they are not serious, let us do the same thing, if it bothers them that a few guys paint their faces black for Carnival, fuck them!

Destroyer: If the English have become so polite let them teach their children not to come to Ibiza, Lloret, Salou, and the whole Mediterranean coast to set up ghettoes to get drunk and behave like vandals. Not to mention the Glasgow Rangers holligans (sic), although they're Scottish they're the same thing, when they came to BCN they destroyed everything in their path. By the way, who killed Lady Di and the "morito" who was with her? They should look at themselves first and then talk about others.

Basket Case: It's strange that the British accuse Spanish society of being racist. You only have to remember their history to see how hypocritical they are. Not to mention the character of many of them: arrogant, bossy, and against anything that is not Anglophone. Excuse me, but they disgust me as a collective.

Pere: It would be a good thing if the English were also scandalized by the invasion of Iraq or their hooligans, they are a gang of undesirables, as they have always been.

Correcaminos: Frankly I don't give a shit what the English think.