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.

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