Thursday, February 07, 2008

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.

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