Monday, March 31, 2008

Yearly inflation in Spain hit 4.6% in March, the highest rate since 1997. Oil and food prices are to blame. The ECB's goal was a maximum of 2% inflation in 2008. Looks like that ain't gonna happen.

Get this. Clickair, Iberia's low-cost airline, forgot that we changed to daylight savings time last weekend, so a bunch of passengers missed their flights. Unfortunately, this kind of complete screwup (called a "chapuza" in Spanish) is all too common over here. One of the best things about Spain is that it's a low-stress, laid-back country, but sometimes we can get a little too laid-back around here.

Meanwhile, Clickair and Vueling, another low-cost airline, are planning a merger in order to reduce costs and competition; this will mean even fewer flights out of El Prat, since duplicates will obviously be eliminated. I think the antitrust authorities ought to look into this. This fad of adding an -ing on the end of a Spanish word to make it look more international or something (Vueling, Bicing, etc.) has got to stop now.

Alarmist Andy Robinson gets the first two pages of La Vanguardia's international section to wax nostalgic for the good old USSR. Says Andy:

Draconian drug prohibition and absolute permissiveness for all business and financial activities. This is a good summary of the global agenda of the United States and the G-7 in the '80s and '90s, accelerated after the fall of the Soviet Union...Simultaneously, the Anglo-American model of financial liberalization, deregulating enormous capital flows, was exported, while teams of economists from Chicago landed in the former USSR and its satellites...Prohibitionism has helped the gangsters almost as much as laissez-faire...Because of all this, "it is not crazy to think that instead of prohibiting drugs and permitting the free circulation of capital, we should do just the opposite," said criminologist Michael Woodiwiss of the University of Bristop. "Strict regulations over the financial markets should be applied." The Americans should know this: "During Prohibition of alcohol and financial permissiveness, crime was endemic." What put an end to it was not Elliot (sic) Ness, but the regulation of the market, the creation of the FBI, and in general the social policies of Roosevelt's New Deal.

1) Iberian Notes completely agrees with Andy that the prohibition of drugs is the biggest mistake the American government is currently making. 2) Andy doesn't seem to understand that US foreign policy is not coherent over time; it depends greatly on who the president is, and so the US does not have a global agenda. Much less the G-7, made up of seven different elected governments including France and Italy. That lot can't agree on what's for dinner, much less a big secret global plan to let the Jewish-American financial powers that be run rampant.

3) He doesn't seem to understand, either, that today's Russian mafia is yesterday's KGB, and that the old USSR was an incredibly corrupt place. The Americans prohibit people from buying intoxicating drugs; the USSR prohibited people from buying most of the things they needed or wanted. Which form of prohibition is going to create a bigger black market? 4) Laissez-faire is a straw man. No government has ever pursued a complete laissez-faire policy; all governments have regulated the market ever since governments have existed. The question is not whether to regulate, but how much.

5) Andy doesn't know dick-squat about American history. The alcohol business was merely one of many that organized crime was involved in, the FBI didn't get into the struggle against organized crime until the '50s and it wasn't very effective until the late '70s, and the social policies of the New Deal had absolutely nothing to do with the Mafia. Duh.

In contrast to the usual wishful-thinking wet dream periodically published in the Spanish press about the decline of the "American Empire," to be replaced by Europe or China or even the Arab states, Joaquim Coello, billed as an engineer, writes in El Periodico:

The decline of the United States is not inevitable. It will be proven again that the principles of democracy, freedom, and equality of the citizens have power and strength, and despite their faults, they are superior to any other political system. The superiority of the United States's political structure, based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence of 1776, will be demonstrated one more time.

I've never seen anything like this in the Spanish press before.

Barça choked again big-time Saturday night, losing 3-2 to Betis after going ahead 0-2 on goals by Bojan and Eto'o. They played well in the first half and just horribly in the second, and as soon as Betis scored its first goal, everybody in the bar groaned because we knew the game was over and Barça was going to blow it again. Iniesta and Bojan were by far the best Barça players.

I think we need to stop speculating about who's going to be sold during the off-season, and start wondering who's going to stay. I'd keep Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Bojan, Eto'o, Valdés, Jorquera, Giovani dos Santos, Touré, and Milito, and get rid of the rest of them, including Puyol, who is washed-up.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

You may have noticed that I've changed the template. I'll be making more changes in the next few days.
The big news in Spain is the Mari Luz case. Down in Huelva some sex pervert kidnapped and murdered a little girl named Mari Luz back in January, and they just found her body a few days ago. The perv has been arrested, and here's the fun part: he had two prior convictions for child sexual abuse, once on his own daughter, and they never bothered actually putting him in jail.

The judiciary is being seriously questioned over this one, since the pervert never should have been anywhere near this child. Jail is made for sick bastards who go around sexually abusing kids, not for people who smoke pot or write bad checks. Spain, by the way, does not have a register of sex offenders, though it does have one of woman-beaters, and there is no law requiring that people be informed if a sex offender is living in their neighborhood, either.

Mari Luz was from a gypsy family that is integrated into society, while the perv seems to be a lower-class payo. The Huelva gypsies are understandably very angry, and they've tried to lynch both the perv and one of his brothers (who is almost certainly innocent, though the perv's wife might have helped him cover up the crime).

This guy would be a clear death penalty candidate in the US, and I'd have no problem voting for it if I were on the jury.

So the Zap government has blocked the proposed transfer of water from the Segre to the Llobregat, thereby showing who is really running things in Catalonia, and it ain't Montilla. Lleida province is happy, while the city of Barcelona is not.

I am not sure whether this is a good idea or not. Spanish teenagers, especially in the south, like to all get together in the street and drink till they puke; this is called "el botellón." So in Granada last night the city government cordoned off an area and told the kids to go to it. 12,000 teenagers showed up, and they're still there as I write. Four of them have been hospitalized for alcoholic poisoning so far. (By the way, the legal drinking age in Spain is 18, but nobody pays any attention.)

On the one hand, some consequences of drinking are kept under control, since there were 200 municipal cops there, and so there was no fighting, vandalism, or drunk driving, and anybody who got sick could receive medical attention. On the other hand, officially permitting botellones is effectively giving them society's approval, and it must cost the city an enormous amount of money both to pay the cops and clean up the mess.

By the way, these gatherings are almost always organized by Internet: some guy says, "Hey, let's have a big old botellón," and he e-mails and SMSs all his friends, and they do the same, and it snowballs, and next thing you know there are 12,000 drunken teenagers sprawled out all over the streets.

I do think Spain's attitude toward adolescent drinking is preferable to America's, since it's not treated as if it were a deadly sin here. There are a couple of complications in the US that don't exist here, though: 1) teenagers in the US usually have to drive home after drinking parties, while in Spain they don't; 2) many families in the US consider drinking to be sinful for religious reasons, meaning that kids have to hide their drinking, while this is not true in Spain; 3) there's a binge drinking tradition in the US that hasn't existed here until recently with these botellones.

However, the Spaniards can please stop bitching about tourists drinking in the streets, since their own kids are pretty good at it themselves.

So they got three hundred people out in Madrid to protest against Chinese repression in Tibet, just 0.005% of what they could have gotten if they were protesting Uncle Sam again.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Vallfogona de Riucorb made TV3 and La Vanguardia! Says Victor-M. Amela:

Another televised revelation, yesterday morning. Josep Cuní went live to the cemetery in Vallfogona de Riucorb, in order to document a mass grave there in which dozens of unidentified young soldiers were buried during the Civil War. On screen, the gravedigger explained right there that during construction work, the power shovel dug up the dirt and "there were arm and leg bones, skulls, bones everywhere." Cuní asked what happened to those bones. The gravedigger answered, "We threw them with all the other stuff in the dump in the ravine over there. What were we going to do, Mr. Cuní?" Mr. Cuní's face was frozen in shock and he had no answer. The law is one thing, crude reality another, as TV reveals.

The gravedigger was almost certainly Ramon from Cal Matruqueu, the town's builder and odd-job man, who is 75 if he's a day. He buried Rosa: that is, he opened up the niche, removed Remei's father's coffin and bones, put Rosa's coffin inside, put a plastic bag with Remei's father's bones back in, and sealed up the niche again. He was a friend of Remei's father; they grew up together. As Remei says, they're country people around there and they're not squeamish about death.

I had no idea there was a Civil War mass grave in Vallfogona. The soldiers would have been Republicans, probably wounded brought to a makeshift hospital in one of the hotels at the spa during the Battle of the Ebro in late 1938. The Ebro was the fiercest battle of the war, and the only place anywhere near Vallfogona that saw serious fighting.

Actually, I don't know much about the Civil War in Vallfogona; they don't talk about it much. I do know: 1) the hotels at the spa served as a CNT officers' school, at least for a time 2) the priest was not murdered, he escaped with the help of some locals, supposedly including Remei's father's family 3) the medieval statue of Saint Peter atop the church was pulled down; Remei's grandfather saved the middle section in the basement, and Remei donated it to the county museum a while back 4) the local teacher was a CNT member and he fired up at least some townspeople; he somehow survived the war 5) Remei's father's family were conservative Catholics and Carlists, like many of the townspeople; most townspeople were landowning peasants, kulaks in Stalinist jargon 6) I have heard nothing about any executions in the town, whether by Republicans or Nationals.

I am going to have to investigate this. Also, I think something needs to be done in order to give these people a decent burial, and I'm going to find out what I can do.

Manuel Trallero says today, also in La Vanguardia, that commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 1938 Italian bombing of Barcelona and its victims is a good thing, but that other victims need to be commemorated too:

"We have a historical deficit and a debt to pay," declared counsellor Saura* at the Palau de la Generalitat. The victims of the bombing of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War were first hidden by Francoism and then completely ignored by democracy. Now, with the 70th anniversary of the famous bombing of the Coliseum cinema by Italian aircraft, which caused a massacre because it blew up a passing truck loaded with explosives--a fact conveniently hidden by the Republic--ceremonies are held, books are published, films are premiered.

It doesn't matter that there is no documentary evidence of Churchill's alleged words to the House of Commons ("I do not want to undervalue the severity of the damage falling on you, but I trust our citizens will be capable of resisting as bravely as the valient people of Barcelona.")

Barcelona also has "a historical deficit and a debt to pay" to the victims of the "checas."** Many of them, victims because they went to Mass or were anarchists. The reasons are varied. But victims of that axiom from Miguel Mir's "Diary of an Anarchist Gunman": "Our job is to kill and your duty is to die." Let nobody fool himself. It was not the work of mere rioters...All the Republican parties, in addition to the feared SIM,*** had such establishments. This is not an attempt at Fascist propaganda...We have a debt to these victims, just as much victims as those of the bombings of Barcelona.

*Joan Saura is the leader of the Catalan Communists, ICV.
**Secret Republican prisons where prisoners were tortured, interrogated, and killed. The Anarchist checa was at Gran Via and Paseo de Gracia, while the main Communist checa was on the Calle Sant Elies.
***Servicio de Inteligencia Militar, the Military Intelligence Service, the NKVD in Spain.

Trallero's wrong about one thing. Churchill said, "I do not at all underrate the severity of the ordeal which lies before us; but I believe our countrymen will show themselves capable of standing up to it, like the brave men of Barcelona, and will be able to stand up to it, and carry on in spite of it, at least as well as any other people in the world," in his "Their Finest Hour" speech on June 18, 1940, to the House of Commons.
La Vanguardia has an article on what they call the Bologna process (what the goddamn university non-students were "striking" over), which is supposed to help make European universities competitive with American ones. According to La Vangua, of the 535 best universities in the world, 308 are in the US, 50 in the UK, 26 in Canada, 20 in Germany, 19 in Japan, and 1 in Spain, which is the University of Barcelona medical school.

Massive cognitive dissonance for Yankee-bashers: Americans are supposed to be ignorant, unintellectual, and uncultured. Yet the US has all the top universities and the most Nobel Prize winners, for whatever that's worth, and it attracts thousands of students from all over the world.

La Vangua claims that the US spends 3% of its gross national product on research and development, while the EU spends 1.2%, and that 5% of Americans between ages 30 and 50 are enrolled in university or post-graduate studies, while only 2% of EU citizens are. Therefore, the Bologna plan will devote more public spending to raising these percentages. The problem is that the majority of US R&D spending comes from the private sector, and that the 5% of Americans continuing their educations are doing so in order to reach personal, not public, goals.

Many Spaniards I've talked to are very critical of the Spanish university system; I've heard people say that it's based on memorization and regurgitation, that it discourages individual initiative, that it doesn't teach students how to think, that professors are distant and uninterested in students as individuals, that it's too bureaucratic and regimented, and that there is a lot of nepotism and patronage involved in choosing instructors. A personal observation of mine is that many Spaniards resort to invoking authority as evidence to back up their arguments--so-and-so said this so it must be true. I think they learned this at the university.

Poverty in Catalonia: 19% of Catalans live below the poverty line, which is a yearly income of €8276 (about $12,100) per person, up from 17.2% last year. Comparison with the US: About 12% of Americans live below the federal poverty line, which is $10,400 for an individual living alone and $21,200 for a family of four. In-kind benefits, such as food stamps, school lunches, and public housing, do not count as income in the US for purposes of measuring poverty. 46% of poor households in the US own their own home, 30% have two or more cars, 63% have cable or satellite TV, and 91% have a color television.

Here in B-ville, the city government is all excited about the tacky souvenir shops that surround touristy places like the Sagrada Familia and the Ramblas. Indignation waxes, especially at the flamenco-dancing dolls and the big Mexican sombreros. I have to admit I'm surprised at how popular the Mexican hats are among the Dusseldorfers, Rotterdammers, and Liverpudlians. If you buy one and walk around town all the locals think you're a complete idiot, but I figure everybody who reads this blog already knows that.

Personally, I never buy stuff at souvenir shops; I always get something at the museum gift shop. I especially like little reproductions of animal statues; my favorite is the Egyptian cat-god from the British Museum. Here in Barcelona, the City History Museum's shop on Calle Llibreteria has nice stuff worth at least looking at. They sell little silver reproductions of a Visigothic (early medieval) horse that was found during an archaeological dig, which are a bit pricey but worth it.

The goddamn bus drivers voted to go on strike indefinitely beginning on April 15 if the city government doesn't give them what they want. So far more than 200 buses have been sabotaged by the strikers.

Latino gang fight in L'Hospitalet. Gunshots fired. One hospitalized, stabbed in arm and leg. Three arrested. Gang involved: Dominicans calling themselves the "Black Panthers," in English. This is getting a bit out of hand.

Value-added tax (IVA) receipts are down 8% since January 1 due to the halt in the construction sector. This is going to play hell with the budget.

Ronaldinho has burned his bridges: his manager (and brother) threatened to sign him up with Real Madrid, and claimed he could legally break Dinho's contract for a €16 million buyout, far less than the €125 million buyout clause in his contract. So don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. Luis Fernandez, Dinho's coach at Paris-St. Germain, just came out with a book accusing him of being a selfish player and breaking all the team rules, especially those related to eating properly and staying home at night.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anthony Daniels has a piece in the New Criterion comparing Ortega's The Revolt of the Masses and Freud's The Discontents of Civilization. Check it out. I've actually read Ortega in the Spanish original; he's a first-rate thinker, but I agree with Daniels in finding some of his thoughts rather sinister.
Foodies will be interested in this balanced (and rather long) piece from Slate on avant-garde Spanish cooking. I've never eaten any of the avant-garde stuff, and I'm a vegetarian anyway, so I have no personal opinion on fish-blood foam.
Not much news today, either. The biggest story this morning is that the goddamn bus drivers are on strike again, just like every Thursday. They sabotaged ten buses today, breaking windows and puncturing tires. At least this time three arrests were made; the strikers had been destroying city property and endangering the passengers with complete impunity until now. The only striker arrested so far had been one who punched a cop.

Archaeology news: They found proto-human remains (specifically, a jawbone including teeth) dating back 1.2 million years at the Atapuerca site in Burgos province; they believe the hominid jawbone belonged to a Homo antecessor, which scientists think was a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens. These are the oldest proto-human remains discovered in Europe.

Get this: TV3's story says in the very first paragraph: ..."the scientists who discovered (the remains) included Catalan researchers." Local pride is great, but I'm not too sure that the region where a few of the archaeologists were born is worthy of inclusion in the lead. By the way, they also repeatedly spelled Homo antecessor wrong, using a single S instead of the correct double letter.

Cultural news: Eduardo Mendoza, my favorite living Spanish (and Catalan) author, has a new book out called "El asombroso viaje de Pomponio Flato." Pomponio is a Roman who investigates murder charges against a fellow named Joseph (who has a very gifted child) in a town called Nazareth. I plan to check it out soon.

I have to admit that Barcelona's "Bicing" scheme, despite its ridiculous pseudo-English name and my repeated predictions of total failure, is working out pretty well. They've got 130,000 people signed up, and you see people riding the bikes all over downtown. The service is currently being extended to my neighborhood, Gracia, and I guess I'm going to sign up, though I have a bike of my own. I'm still wondering how many inexperienced riders are going to get killed in Barcelona's hellacious traffic.

If we don't get some rain around here pretty soon we're headed for water rationing, despite the multiple denials we had been hearing from the authorities for months. When total reservoir capacity goes under 20% (right now it's at 20.5%), we'll be rationed to 230 liters/person/day, half of what New Yorkers use. If it drops to 15%, they'll reduce water pressure. If it goes down to 10% there will be a complete water cutoff one day a week, and if it goes below 5% that means two days a week of complete cutoffs. Smells to me like we're all going to stink this summer; oh, well, plenty of folks around here only shower once a week anyway.

In February Spain's budget surplus fell by 27% compared to last year, since tax receipts are down due to slower growth than expected along with the rise in oil prices. Zap's balanced budgets are great, but current projections for the future are based on overly optimistic economic growth estimates of more than three percent. But growth may be as low as 2% in 2009. I bet if he tries to keep all those campaign promises he made, good-bye budget surplus.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Here's a fascinating attempt at dealing with unavoidable cross-cultural conflict: it's a US Army booklet from late 1945 called "112 Gripes about the French." It then lists typical complaints heard from GIs stationed in France, and debunks most of them. Great stuff. Go read it; you need to click on "Next Gripe" at the bottom of the page.

I've got a book called "Wartime Britain 1939-1945" by Juliet Gardiner, and it says that both the US army and British authorities issued similar guides for, respectively, American troops and British civilians, while the Americans were stationed over there.
Slow news day. This is good news since it means no domestic violence, Latino gang fights, terrorist bombs, or attempts by Zap to renationalize the phone company.

Economics stuff: The Ibex 35 market index rose 3.6% yesterday, led by the blue chips Telefonica and Banco Santander. It reached 13,430 points, which is still 11.5% off since January 1, when the index was over 15,000. La Vanguardia credits the recovery on Wall Street, the bailout of Bear Stearns, and the increase in second-hand housing sales in the US. The general feeling of impotence and dependence among Spanish investors on the American market must have a lot to do with free-floating anti-Americanism, even among people who should know better.

Second-hand housing sales in January were down 42% in Catalonia and 27% in Spain as a whole compared with one year ago. Pop goes the bubble.

So after literally years of whining about the PP's water plan to transfer Ebro River water to Valencia and Murcia, the Catalan government has come up with its very own redistribution of water resources, supposedly to be ready for late summer or early fall. They're going to build an emergency aqueduct between the headwaters of the Segre River, which flows into the Ebro, and the headwaters of the Llobregat, which supplies Barcelona with much of its water supply. Naturally, Lleida province is furious: "Those goddamn city slickers are stealing our water!" So Catalonia as a whole gets angry if water is to be sent to another Spanish region, but Barcelona doesn't think twice if water is to be taken from another Catalan province.

Talk about crazy contradictions: There is an association up in the Pyrenees that is trying to conserve the traditional Catalan breed of donkey. Great, I'm all for it. So last weekend they got 400 people together for a big old donkey fiesta. Great, sounds like fun. Except those dumbasses KILLED some donkeys and then ATE them, as the main event of the fiesta. Naturally, the animal-rights groups are angry enough to kick the barn door down. Bonus: They did the same thing last year and received so many protests that they naturally had to do it again.

Rafael Poch, La Vanguardia's man in Peking covering the Tibet crisis from half a continent away, reiterates that "The international media ignored the Tibetan pogrom against the Chinese in Lhasa," and "Official sources attacked foreign media manipulation of information."

Nancy Pelosi was in town yesterday for a stopover on the way home from visiting the Dalai Lama in India. She met with regional premier Montilla and Barcelona mayor Jordi Hereu, supposedly about ecology. God only knows why. Aren't there about two hundred more important people in Europe to meet with? Oh, well, it can't hurt anything.

The Spanish press didn't pay too much attention to the Obama and Reverend Wright fooferaw, nor have they even mentioned McCain's gaffe when he confused the Sunnis and the Shiites, but they're all over the Hillary-lied-about-Bosnia story. Reason? There's a good image, the film of Hillary and Chelsea at the airport receiving a state welcome and receiving a gift from a little girl with no sniper fire anywhere.

You know, I can actually see giving Hillary a break over this one. We all have the tendency to remember things in a way that puts us in the best possible light. She probably really did believe that she was facing danger there in Sarajevo, and has built it up in her mind to the point that she falsely remembers snipers being there. I doubt she was deliberately, premeditatedly lying.

As for Obama and Reverend Wright, this is only going to get worse as more of Wright's crack-brained crap comes out on video. Obama has not successfully distanced himself from this guy, and I'm not sure if he can. He's way in too tight with Wright, taking the title of his book from one of Wright's sermons and everything, Now, I doubt Obama really believes Wright's "The government invented crack and AIDS in order to genocide the blacks" stuff, but what I think it shows is that Obama really doesn't believe anything in particular. He's willing to go along with anyone and any idea that he thinks will help his career, and if that means sucking up to radical black racists in South Chicago, he's happy to do so if it will get him elected to the state senate.

McCain is already ahead of both Hillary and Obama in the surveys. The Democrats are going to blow this election.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Check this out. Kansas City outfielder Joey Gathright hurdles the pitcher on his way to first base. In a spring training game, no less. This guy must be tremendous fun to watch; he's supposedly the best pure athlete in the league. He has absolutely no power--he's a Mickey Rivers-type slap-hitter who gets a lot of infield singles, and he doesn't walk enough for a good on-base percentage. But he's a fine fourth outfielder, since he's good in the field and can handle playing center, and he shows every sign of improving, since he's still young. They also say he's getting better at stealing bases, and having even one scary-fast guy on your team can create a lot of havoc.

Here's the famous video of Gathright jumping over cars.
I came across this interesting journal article called "The Ghost Battalion: Spaniards in the Waffen-SS, 1944-45." Check it out. Basically, what happened was, when Franco withdrew the Blue Division from the Leningrad front in 1943 under Allied pressure, some of them, convinced Nazis, stayed behind and joined the Waffen-SS. Other recruits came from Spaniards who had volunteered to work in Germany, Spanish Republican exiles held in prison camps, and from Spanish Nazis who crossed the border into France to volunteer. The author estimates there were at least one thousand of them. What's interesting about these guys is that they all joined super-Nazi organizations, either the Waffen-SS, the SD, or the Gestapo, and they joined up very late, many of them after the Normandy invasion made it clear to everyone that the Nazis were doomed. Many of them wound up in Leon Degrelle's Belgian SS battalion, and most of those guys got killed in the battle of Berlin. A lot of them served as anti-partisan troops in France and Yugoslavia, and a lot of them worked against the Anglo-Americans in France with the Gestapo; they didn't all serve on the Eastern Front, as the Blue Division did.

I wonder if this might not be the case with Enric Marco, the impostor who claimed to have been an inmate at Mauthausen and fooled everyone, to the point of being elected president of the association of Spanish ex-concentration camp inmates. Marco was forced to admit that he had actually volunteered to work in Germany, and he didn't get much more specific. Could he have been one of these guys, and his whole imposture an attempt at covering up his SS or Gestapo service?
We spent the four-day Easter weekend out in Vallfogona, where we did what we usually do: go walking/hiking/trudging with the dog and sit around the fire. It's cold in that old stone house. (By the way, an architecture student is going to do his project on our house, I suppose as an example of architectural folkways. He paid his first visit over the weekend, and his first comment was, "You don't have to worry about this place falling down," since the walls are two feet thick.)

One thing I notice every spring is the first day that the leaves on the trees are thick enough to obscure the bare branches: it's today in Barcelona, and the weather couldn't be prettier, with the sun out and the sky brilliant blue because a cold front from the northwest blew all the pollution away.

The cold front brought a pretty good snowfall up in the Pyrenees, six or eight inches, which is unusual this late in March. It won't alleviate the drought much, though, since it'll only provide enough water to supply Catalonia for a week. Still, every little bit helps, and normal rainfall is predicted for this spring.

The biggest news over the weekend was that ETA set off a car bomb in Calahorra, La Rioja. They called in a warning first, so the area was evacuated and nobody got hurt. It was a big bomb, sixty or seventy kilos of explosives, and it blew the crap out of the street where it exploded.

The PSOE has made its post-election, pre-seating of the Congress plans pretty clear: they're trying to reach an agreement with the PNV and CiU to form a centrist coalition. No more Catalan Tripartite in Madrid, no more power for the Commies and ERC. Good. I much prefer it when Zap has to bargain with parties that are more conservative than he is rather than parties that are farther left than he is.

Zap is still talking about reshuffling the cabinet. Apparently Moratinos stays on at Foreign Affairs, and despite asking to be moved, Rubalcaba stays on at Interior. Alonso moves from Defense to PSOE leader in the Congress, Jauregui becomes party secretary general, De la Vega stays on as the Cabinet's spokeswoman, Miguel Sebastian gets a new Research and Development ministry, and Carmen Chacon gets a new Social Affairs ministry. At least so go the rumors.

Pepelu Carod-Rovira says he's stepping down as president of Esquerra Republicana, which we were all expecting sometime pretty soon; he won't rule out running as the party's chief candidate during the next regional elections, though. First they have a party convention in June to get through, featuring a Carod-Puigcercos power struggle. I hope the party splits and both fractions crash and burn.

63 people were killed on the Spanish highways over Semana Santa, 40% fewer than last year, but still far too many. Our roads are three and a half times more dangerous than those in the UK. So far 460 people have been killed in traffic accidents in Spain this year.

Get this. The average Spanish wedding costs €20,800, more than $30,000, and one-third of Spanish couples go into debt to pay for it. Seems like somebody's got his priorities misplaced.

Economics minister Pedro Solbes has again reduced his prediction for Spain's 2008 GDP growth to 2.6%, while the savings bank association says it will be 2.5%. Long-term predictions for 2009 are hovering around a mere 2%. It seems that a rule of Spanish economics is that if growth is less than 3%, unemployment increases, and everyone is expecting a steep rise in the number of jobless. This will reduce Social Security payments in, and increase unemployment insurance payments out, putting Zap's balanced budget in danger. (No matter how much I love slamming Zap, at least he hasn't unleashed government spending and endangered economic stability.)

Average apartment rent in Barcelona: €1040 a month. Not many people can afford that. Gracia, by the way, is the most expensive neighborhood in town per square meter rented, since everything here is miniature-sized, little toy streets and buildings. You have to buy tiny appliances to fit them in your tiny apartment. Americans don't believe it when I tell them that the bar where I watch the Barça games is maybe 400 square feet, and we can fit about 35 people in there. 400 square feet is an average-sized bedroom in Kansas City.

There are 1,130,000 Muslims living in Spain, about 2.5% of the population; for comparative purposes, that's about the percentage of Jews in America. Fears of Eurabia in Spain are a paranoid fallacy.

Barça stomped a weak Valladolid on Sunday, and Real Madrid lost to no-longer slumping Valencia, leaving Barça four points back with nine games to go. Nobody seems to want to win the League. Ronaldinho was benched again, and Barça fans are united on the need to get rid of him over the summer. Bojan, who is still only 17, scored two goals. I still think Villarreal and Sevilla are playing the best football in the league. Racing Santander is this year's surprise team, currently sitting in fifth place and qualifying for the UEFA Cup next year.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Semana Santa (which PC touchy-feely education types have renamed "Spring Vacation") and so there's no news since everybody's on vacation already, even though the official Catalan four-day weekend doesn't begin until tomorrow.

Turns out one of the people killed in the gas explosion was the crazy woman who set it off.

They found two containers filled with ten kilos of explosives and a timer in a rural area in Ciudad Real: it was apparently an ETA drop-off for a traveling cell to pick up that fell through. The cops suspect it's just been lying there since 2006.

TV3's top story this morning, and La Vanguardia's second international story on pages 4 and 5, was the Communist-organized anti-war demonstration in Washington. I checked CNN and Fox News, and had to search for the story; it wasn't on their websites' front page. Interesting how much weight the Catalan media puts on such a minor story. The article doesn't mention how many demonstrators there were, but a few thousand at most showed up, so it was no big deal at all.

So how does La Vanguardia's Eusebio Val report the minuscule turnout? "Despite wide opposition to the war among the citizens, the people who act out these feelings of protest in the street are always few. The accelerated lifestyle and the great distances in American cities are not favorable to these demonstrations on a working day...The immense majority of the Americans who reject the war prefer to express it in private and with certain resignation."

If we don't get some rain around here sometime soon, water stocks will be virtually zero by the end of the summer, and there will have to be rationing and cutoffs. Tankers will begin coming in from Marseille and Tarragona in May, and old wells on the Barcelona plain are being opened up. Barcelona citizens use only 110 liters of water a day, while New Yorkers use 500; if people weren't already pretty frugal with water (because it's expensive), we'd have run out a long time ago. La Vanguardia says that the future lies in desalinizing plants, but the problem is that the process requires a good deal of energy.

In case you hadn't already figured it out, all those "authentic" Dalí and Miró lithographs being sold on Ebay are fake. The FBI and the Mossos busted an art forgery gang based in Barcelona and Chicago; eight persons were arrested here. By the way, I think Dalí is clever but not an artist of the first category, and I don't get Miró's stuff at all. I wouldn't walk across the street to see a Miró. I think other Catalan and Spanish painters like Sorolla, Casas, Nonell, Rusiñol, Fortuny, Utrillo, and Gris, along with architects like Domenech i Muntaner, are much more interesting.

The goddamn bus drivers are on strike again today.

Barça plays at Valencia tonight in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal; in the first leg Valencia earned a 1-1 draw in the Camp Nou, so they win in case the second leg goes 0-0. Ronaldinho is on the shit list big-time; he's being kept out of this game as well. Other players high on the shit list are Deco and Marquez. If Valencia gets eliminated coach Ronald Koeman will likely be fired.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Slow news day, always a good thing. New construction starts are down 8% in Spain since January 2007, the largest decline in the EU-27. The stock market is down just a little, two-tenths of one percent or so. British Airways increased its share of Iberia to 13%, but they're not going to take over the airline, since it would lose its valuable semi-monopoly of Spain-Latin America flights if it passed to non-Spanish hands. Meanwhile, the airlines have reduced the number of Barcelona-Madrid flights because of competition from the new high-speed train, meaning there are plenty of slots at El Prat for any company that wants to fly in and out of here. Now let's see if Barcelona's market can support more traffic.

La Vanguardia ran a special culture section on the changes the city has experienced since the late ´80s, when I came here. It's mostly pomo-critical theory architecture--design--urban planning stuff, and it seems like there are several overriding themes: 1) Barcelona is the most wonderful place in the world 2) the city took advantage of its Olympic Games more effectively than most other cities have 3) government urban planning works in Barcelona and other cities should follow our example 4) there are too many damn tourists spoiling things for us Barcelonese 5) America sucks.

(My reaction: 1) they have a good point. Barcelona is probably one of the ten most desirable cities in the world to live in 2) they really did use the Olympics to put the city on the world map: Barcelona used to be a fourth division city and now it's near the top of the second division 3) government urban planning in Barcelona has been fairly successful, but there have also been some very serious errors 4) Shut up already about the tourists. We live off them. And they're a natural consequence of getting on the world map, which Barcelona is so proud of 5) Yeah, around here they can't even run a culture supplement about their own city without slagging off the Yankees.)

So check out this piece (of crap) by one Josep Oliva, billed as "an architect and urban planner":

USA: the urban anti-model

With a few honorable and notable exceptions, the typical American city is the urban anti-model. Though I would call it the domestic city, conceptually speaking it is a human settlement that does not reach the category of a city as it is correctly defined. The most representative example is Los Angeles, which is the paradigm of unsustainability and the absence of urban values.

Yeah, I hate L.A. too, but a lot of people like it, so many that it's America's second largest metro area. Are all of those folks lacking in proper urban values? And where does this joker get off telling us that Kansas City, say, is not really a city? What is it, a vat of Crisco?

Various factors explain the existence of these non-cities. According to V. Verdu*, the preeminence of the home over the street, the private over the public, utilitarian individualism and distant communication, all this is genuinely American. To these characteristics of privacy, individualism, and a certain dehumanization, one must add the omnipresent liberalism** and the suburban mentality typical of the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries as a consequence of climactic determinism, Besides, there is the role of the economy, which impregnates everything.

*Verdú wrote the notorious Yankee-bashing screed The American Planet.
**Remember, in Spain "liberal" means "capitalist," more or less.

Note the stereotyping of Americans as private, selfish, distant people, a common cliché among all Mediterranean Europeans. However, most Europeans don't straignt out call Americans dehumanized like this guy does. One comment: Americans don't hang out on the streets much because they have spacious, attractive homes with yards rather than cramped, overcrowded apartments, and instead of meeting at the local bar they actually invite one another over to their houses. Americans often (mistakenly) consider Spaniards as cold and unfriendly because they never invite you over to their place. And does the economy not impregnate everything in Barcelona too, or do people here not have jobs or anything?

For years, the US has exercised great influence in the whole world and in every aspect of life, including the construction of cities.

Yep, here's the problem. The United States is more influential than Catalonia, and therefore one must whine and complain about it.

Verdu points out that such a cruel and intense phenomenon of colonization, so absolute and devastating, has never received so little opposition, and that it does not operate in the crude manner of oppression, but rather with the refined strategy of seduction. It's not exploitation, but "modernizing." And so we copy them, uncritically adopting their way of life, and we are fascinated by the "modernity" of their images.

Cruel? Devastating? Colonization? What? Suburbs are cruel? Note that our author admits that the European stereotype of the American city is, despite its devastating colonization, seductive. It's American, so it's no good, but those clever Yankees trick people into thinking it's attractive. And note what's really bothering him: some people around here aren't totally anti-American and think living in a suburb might be kind of nice. Also note that he's judging America on images again, just like other bigots from over here who don't know crap about anything outside their own little pond.

Why should we copy a model with no future, because it's unsustainable, the product of unbridled liberalism, which ignores public space and scorns the added value of enjoying the city in itself?

In this sentence I count two straw men, the alleged stereotype (model) of the hypothetical American city and the traitorous Catalan seduced by Yankeeism; one case of begging the question, saying that this stereotype (model) has no future because it is unsustainable when those things are synonyms; one use of a scare phrase, unbridled liberalism; and two unsupported and unfalsifiable hypotheses, that Americans ignore public space (like Central Park or the Mall or Boston Common?) and make cities unenjoyable (like Boston or Chicago or New York or San Francisco?).

They talk about modernizing our urban tradition and projecting it into the future, but banal novelties are one thing and solid modernity destined to establish itself in atemporality is another.

I have a big solid turd destined to establish itself in the Barcelona sewer system in about an hour or so.

Diagonal Mar, the courthouse complex, the autistic shopping malls, and the business parks are examples of the application of American non-urban criteria. It is strange, because it is incoherent, that the compulsively anti-American left follows the dictates of this domestic city in major urban interventions that reflect urban planning from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Among others, this is the case of Caufec in Esplugues.

So this guy is annoyed at the Catalan left wing because it's not anti-American enough? And why are shopping malls so awful? It's not like hundreds of thousands of people don't go to them here in Catalonia every weekend. And when did shopping malls become politically conservative? Finally, note that our author has gone through this entire rant because he wants to denounce some construction project out in Esplugues. Jesus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So the stock market continues its yo-yo ride, up 3% at closing time and above the psychological line of 13,000 points again. The banks came back, with BBVA up 5%, Santander up 4%, and the other blue chips up between 2% and 3.5%. Smaller banks like Popular and Bankinter were up 5%. London, Paris, and Frankfurt were all up about 3.5%. La Vanguardia credits the recovery on Wall Street, the drop in the price of oil to $102, and the slight improvement of the dollar to $1.57/€. They pretty clearly think that the fate of the Spanish economy is riding on what happens in New York and Washington.
The gas explosion here in Barcelona yesterday was caused intentionally by the woman who lived in the apartment; she was to have been evicted that very day--get this, by her own sister, who was the landlord. So she poured gasoline all over the place, and then turned on the gas and struck a light, with predictable consequences. They don't know whether she is one of the three dead bodies discovered, all of which were charred to a crisp.

This woman was apparently a major pain in the ass and general weirdo; she didn't get along with anybody, wouldn't let even meter readers enter her apartment, practiced traditional magic (oil and salt smeared on the front door, etc.), held grudges, and had a persecution complex. She wrote a letter to El Periodico on Friday saying that her apartment was being stolen from her, and had appeared on--get this--"Patricia's Diary" and the Ana Rosa Quintana show, Spain's Oprah, with various complaints. Most memorably, she went on once to claim that the airlines were discriminating against her, because she was so fat she took up two seats, and so they made her pay for two.

The Free Tibet people, who mostly looked like actual Tibetans rather than transferred nationalists, had a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate here in Barcelona. They got about 300 people; compare that with the "No to the war!" demos five years ago, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. You can bring out one-third of the city against the Americans, but virtually no one to protest the Communist Chinese dictatorship.

Rafael Poch, in Peking, continues with his particular perspective in his reports on Tibet. He says the revolts amounted to anti-Chinese lynch mobs, calls them "pogroms" again, and leads off with a quote from the governor of Tibet claiming a total of 16 deaths, Chinese killed by Tibetans, and declaring that Chinese police did not open fire on Tibetan demonstrators / rioters. Poch adds that the "Tibetan lobby in exile" claims as many as one hundred dead Tibetans, and quotes Chinese TV as saying, "The Dalai Lama's gang (camarilla) has been telling the world that it no longer wants Tibetan independence, but this is an enormous lie. It wants the world to link the Tibetan question to the Olympic Games in Peking."

It seems to me that the Chinese government is extremely sensitive about its Olympic Games, and perhaps the best thing to do is not watch them on TV. Would you have watched the Berlin Olympics?

Speaking of sports and nationalism, Spain gets very excited whenever one of them actually wins something, no matter how unimportant the sport. The Americans generally don't; the only sports events I remember a big deal being made about nationalistically were the 1980 Winter Olympics hockey team, which famously upset the Russians, and Lance Armstrong's reign over the Tour de France to a lesser degree. In Spain, though, individual sports stars like Rafael Nadal and Fernando Alonso are considered representatives of the whole society, and their success is believed to reflect upon all Spaniards.

(By the way, it makes many Spaniards really mad when you criticize one of their national heroes. To start a barfight in Spain, just say: "Nadal can't play on any surface but clay, and he's not good enough even at that to beat Federer." Or "Gasol's a wimp who can't play defense, and scoring lots of points when Kobe Bryant's getting triple-teamed doesn't make you an All-Star." Or, "Alonso's a pussy, listen to him whine. Waah, waah, waah." Or, "The American golfers can't stand Sergio Garcia's cute little boy act and enjoy whipping his skinny ass." Or, "Why does your football team even bother showing up to international competitions? They always get eliminated in the quarterfinals anyway.")

So the synchronized swimming team won four gold medals at the European championships in Eindhoven. Who the hell watches synchronized swimming? It's one of those dull, regimented sports like rhythmic gymnastics and team handball that the Communists invented during the Cold War. It made the front page of La Vanguardia, and led off the TV3 news last night because one of the girls is Catalan.

Football news: The Barça doctors say Ronaldinho isn't injured, and the rumor is that he was kept off the team in the Almeria game because he's been dicking off in practice. He's not going to be here next year. The Fantastic Four have been a fiasco: Eto'o and Messi have been playing well when they're not injured, which is often, Ronaldinho has been playing below his ability when he plays, which isn't often, and Henry just has not been very good. His latest excuse is that he's all bent out of shape because of his expensive divorce which limits his custody over his daughter, so he can't score any goals, you see.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh, Lordy, the Spanish stock market's sliding again; it was down 2.5% at 10:30 this morning, and it's expected to fall further, as the other European markets are also down: London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Milan are all down between 2.5% and 3.5% this morning. In Spain, the biggest losses are in the banking sector, with Santander and BBVA both down more than 3.5%. La Vanguardia blames the decline on the Federal Reserve's interest-rate cut, the fall of the dollar to $1.60/€, and the collapse of Bear Stearns.

El Pais reported yesterday that Esperanza Aguirre was planning a coup the Monday after the election, but she discovered herself with no support outside of the Madrid branch of the party. Key support for Rajoy came from PP bosses Javier Arenas in Andalusia and Francisco Camps in Valencia. With typical Spanish media glee at being able to slam other media outlets, El Pais says that El Mundo, Cope Radio, and Telemadrid were all backing an Aguirre takeover of the party, and that Rajoy's media support came from ABC. Now, since El Pais is notoriously pro-Socialist, one might want to take this with a couple shakers full of salt.

This morning a gas explosion in the La Verneda district of Barcelona killed three people and injured thirteen. Firemen had to rescue 37 people from the apartment building. Another gas explosion in Alcala killed one person. This happens entirely too often in Spain.

Abba's former drummer, Brunkert Ola, was found dead in slightly suspicious circumstances at his house in Mallorca; his throat was cut and he bled to death. He apparently fell headfirst through a window and cut his throat on the broken glass. The Guardia Civil is investigating.

Last weekend eighteen people were killed on the Spanish highways, which are three-and-a-half times more dangerous than British highways. Get this: Eighteen deaths in a weekend is considered a very good sign in Spain, since the death toll last year during the weekend before Semana Santa was double that.

So Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro went to Teheran. He has a hot breaking news flash scoop: The university of Teheran is offering Catalan classes. There are 17 students. The students are reading a Josep Pla book from 1918. Exciting.

Barça choked last night in Almeria, giving up two goals on corner kicks, and they got out with a 2-2 draw. They played lousy against a team that's not very good, and they're seven points back of Real Madrid with ten games to go. Meanwhile, Villarreal has closed within two points of Barcelona. It's clear that Levante and Murcia will be two of the three clubs to be demoted to Second; the third spot is still up for grabs. Somebody will play badly enough to clinch it pretty soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I buy La Vanguardia mostly because I like the rest of the Spanish press even less. La Vangua's strength is its national coverage, especially news from Barcelona and Catalonia. Its weakest point is its international correspondents, most of whom are either incompetent (Rafael Ramos in London), biased (Andy Robinson, roving reporter), or on the take (Tomas Alcoverro in Beirut). Eusebio Val in Washington actually isn't particularly bad. The worst of the lot is Rafael Poch, their man in Peking. Poch seems to think his job is repackaging Chinese government propaganda in an easily digestible form.

Poch claims that the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa was an anti-Chinese "pogrom" (his word), that Tibetan rioters torched 160 buildings belonging to Chinese and burned ten ethnic Chinese to death. He says, "Tibetan exiles and their sympathizers in the West (the Buddhist lobby, Hollywood circles, and adversaries of China) have decided to make the Peking Olympics look bad." Wow, I've heard of the so-called Jewish lobby, but I never knew there was a Buddhist one.

By the way, Poch's dateline is Peking, so he's only a couple thousand kilometers away from where the action is. Sort of like reporting on Hurricane Katrina from Seattle.

Media pundits often praise papers that have many foreign correspondents for giving their readers independent reports that don't depend on the standard wire service story. But if all the foreign correspondents suck, I'm not sure what good it does.

The Spanish media just loves the Eliot Spitzer story. They're still all over it.

All the Spanish political commentators are trying to guess what Zap's next Cabinet is going to look like. Potential changes: Three vice-premiers, Maite Fernandez de la Vega, Pedro Solbes, and Jesus Caldera. De la Vega losing influence, Solbes gaining it. Spokesperson: Either Carmen Chacon or Jose Antonio Alonso, moving over from Defense. Perez Rubalcaba to leave Interior, replace Moratinos (good, anyone but Moratinos) at Foreign Affairs. New Cabinet post: Ministry of Innovation and Science, for Miguel Sebastian. Ramon Jauregui for Labor or Public Administration. Pepe Blanco to leave as party secretary, possibly for Public Administration. Elena Valenciano to replace Lopez Garrido as parliamentary spokesperson.

Holy Week vacation began for many people on Saturday. Officially, here in Catalonia, we get Good Friday and Easter Monday off, for a four-day vacation. A lot of people take the whole week off, though, for a ten-day break. Traffic hasn't been too bad.

They busted a Socialist city councilman in the Tarragona town of Vinyols with 500 kilos of hashish. He had the dope stashed in his van.

Real Madrid choked last night against Deportivo, meaning that if Barcelona wins tonight in Almeria they'll be back up at five points behind. It's a very poor League this year, with both Barça and Madrid playing crappy and the rest of the teams even worse. Valencia is having a disaster of a season, Zaragoza was supposed to be good but they suck, and the only teams playing good football at least sometimes are Sevilla and Villarreal. Every Spanish team has been eliminated in Europe except Barça in the Champions and, of all teams, Getafe in the UEFA Cup. And Getafe drew Bayern Munich in the next round, so they'll be out pretty soon too.

A Betis fan clocked the Atletico Madrid goalie right in the head with a bottle and the goalie had to be carried off the field on a stretcher, though he's not seriously injured, just needed some stitches. Disgraceful. The aggressor has been arrested. You have to try pretty hard to do that in Spain. Of course the ref called off the game, with Atletico ahead 1-2. It's not unusual for spectators to throw shit on the field in Spain; as far as I know, this never happens in the US, except when hockey fans throw a squid on the ice for good luck.

Childishness: Spanish Immigration has tightened up the requirements necessary to enter Spain from South America, and several Brazilians with the wrong papers or no means of support have been put on the next plane back home. So the prickly Brazilians have retaliated by refusing entry to Spanish tourists, just to be dickheads about it. The Spanish foreign ministry is contemplating an advisory warning Spaniards about travel to Brazil.

This is like when the US instituted a fingerprinting requirement for people entering from South America a few years ago; the Brazilians retaliated by fingerprinting American visitors. Back then the Spanish public was all in favor of Brazil, humiliating those arrogant Yankees. Now they're not so sure.

More African boat people: A cayuco with 56 people on board, including 11 minors, washed up on Tenerife.

Both the newspapers ABC and La Razon report on a mass Civil War grave discovered in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid. Contrary to standard historical propaganda: The 150 bodies the mass grave contains were Franco supporters shot by the Republicans in 1937-38. Valentin Gonzalez, "El Campesino," the notorious Communist commander of the Republican Fifth Regiment, had them shot after Francoist bombing destroyed an airbase at Alcala; El Campesino had 400 more Francoist prisoners shot at the University City. La Razon speculates that there are many more undiscovered mass graves of victims of the Republicans in the Torrejon-Alcala area of eastern Madrid province.

Ironically, El Campesino escaped to Russia after the war, but in the 1950s (after a stint in a Soviet forced labor camp) he got fed up with the Soviet Union, became an anti-Communist, and defected to France. His memoirs are an important source for Civil War history, though of course they're nowhere near 100% reliable.

They've found another grave near the University City that may contain what's left of Andreu Nin, the leader of the anti-Stalinist POUM Communist party. After the May 1937 Stalinist repression in Barcelona, Nin was arrested, interrogated, tortured, and shot by the NKVD.

Interestingly, this story doesn't make El Pais's online edition.

So they had demonstrations around the world on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. A thousand people turned out in Barcelona and a thousand more in Madrid. Just goes to prove that the hundreds of thousands who turned out for the 2003 demos were there to feel good and virtuous about themselves, and to demonize the Americans, of course. If they actually gave a shit about human life, they'd be out there demonstrating against Al Qaeda and the Saddamite terrorists, who have killed 90% of those who have died in Iraq.

Oh, yeah, they were also demonstrating against Israel, and in favor of "relaxing attacks against Iran," withdrawing Spanish troops from Lebanon and
Afghanistan, and putting Bush, Blair, and Aznar on trial for war crimes. Here in Barcelona they had the daughter of one of the ten alleged terrorists (arrested in January on charges of plotting to blow up subway trains in Barcelona) read a speech about "Islamophobia." In Seville the three hundred who turned out, get this, had a poetry reading in front of the American consulate.

You won't be surprised to learn that the demonstrations were sponsored by the United Left, that is, the Spanish Communist Party, the heirs of El Campesino.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Former city councilman and vice-mayor Rodrigo de Santos, the Pervert of Palma, says that the nearly €50,000 of tax money he spent in gay brothels over two years was a mere accident, an oversight, and he will of course return it. Too late, Rod. You wouldn't be giving it back if you hadn't got caught first.

By the way, Big Rod is married with three kids.

Sales of new dwellings were down 29% in Catalonia in 2007; sales of preowned dwellings were down 24%. Pop goes the bubble. The average Catalan family spent 55% of its income last year on housing, which is a tremendous amount. the average Catalan mortgage payment was €987 a month, about $1500. If I remember correctly, a few years ago in the US, the rule was don't spend more than a third of your income on housing. Things might have changed by now.

Zap is insinuating that CiU is asking too high a price for its support and he's willing to govern from the minority.

He's also basking in triumph because he finally got a phone call from the Bush Administration arranging a face-to-face meeting at the next NATO summit meeting. The American administration had ignored Zap ever since he first pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq and then advised the rest of the coalition to do the same. The Socialists are treating this as a great victory, that Bush and America have somehow been humiliated.

Zap's 2004 gender violence law is being appealed to the Constitutional Court on the ground that it violates the rule of equal treatment under the law by giving men a more severe sentence than women for the same crime. I'm not only against violence against women, I'm against violence against people in general. It seems to me like the penalties for all violent crimes need to be considerably stiffened in Spain, not just cases of men abusing women.

Jordi Pujol's wife, Marta Ferrusola, let loose with some tremendous Cataloony bigotry yesterday when she said that she didn't like the fact that the premier of the Generalitat is Andalusian and his name is José. She added that Montilla doesn't speak good enough Catalan for her exquisite taste. Pure racism.

More on the Barcelona abortion clinics scandal: "Doctor" Morin, abortionist-in-chief, charged €5000 in black-market cash for performing late-term abortions. He also had his cleaning women do double duty as "nurses." He gave kickbacks to other doctors who sent patients to his clinics. Morin's clinics used aggressive marketing to reach Latin American immigrants by passing out brochures in call centers frequented by Latins, and through Internet and the Yellow Pages. They even went to National Health clinics and passed out brochures there.

Friday, March 14, 2008

La Vanguardia gives its back-page interview to Seymour Hersh today. Get this.

The danger and the plan (to attack Iran) exist. Right now, Cheney, who makes the decisions, is being pressured by Barak, the Israeli minister of defense, a very smart guy, to bomb Iran before the elections because Israel and the American Jewish lobby are terrified of Obama, who might win, because they can't buy Obama! Because Obama gets his funds from thousands of small donations on the Internet. This is a revolution and it gives him enormous freedom, which the Clintons don't have. Hillary gets her money above all from the American Jewish lobby, which is why she is so tough and pro-Israeli in the Middle East, but they can't buy Obama because he doesn't need them. This makes Barak, his hawks, and the whole Jewish lobby very nervous...

The Republicans know how to campaign. And we'll see what happens. Soon they'll concentrate all their fire on one target: Obama is black, but that's not the problem. His problem is that he's a Muslim. (Interviewer: That isn't clear and he says it's not true.) It is his weak point that could finish him off: a Muslim means an enemy of the Christians and the Jews at the same time.
One of two things happened here. Either someone did a dreadful translation, or Mr. Seymour Hersh is completely insane.
Not all that much news around here today. The excitement over the election has died down.

Barça lucked out in the Champions' League draw; they got Schalke 04, a decent but unspectacular team from Germany. The best matchup will be the Arse versus the Pool.

There were two domestic murders yesterday in Tarragona and Almeria; these get a lot of attention because they're the most common type of murder around here. Fortunately, murders are still very unusual in Spain.

The government polling agency, and God only knows why we have one, reports that Spaniards are most worried about unemployment, "the economic situation," terrorism, housing, immigration, and crime, in that order.

Meanwhile, housing sales fell 9% in Catalonia during just the fourth quarter of 2007, and 14% in all of Spain during the whole year. The bubble deflates, not with a bang but a whimper. And the euro hit $1.56, as oil hit $111.

The damn bus drivers are going to continue their strike for at least the next two Thursdays. Look forward to more sabotage.

Barcelona remains one of the world's most polluted cities. The average concentration of particulate matter, in micrograms per cubic meter of air, in 2007 was 80 in Barcelona, compared with 100 in Shanghai, 55 in Mexico City, and 27 in London. In El Prat, particulate concentrations exceeded the EU limit 135 days last year; in the Eixample it was 81 days, and here in Gracia it was 59. Barcelona also exceeds the EU limit in concentration of nitrogen dioxide in our air. Ozone pollution is down, but it still exceeded the EU limit 15 days last year.

An Andalusian "human rights" group reported that 921 African boat people died while trying to reach Spain by sea in 2007. I don't know how they came up with this figure, but remember that there were obviously deaths at sea that went unreported. The Guardia Civil's December 2007 estimate was 360 immigrants dead at sea in 2007. The Guardia Civil also estimated in September 2007 that 1260 immigrants had died at sea during the previous 21 months. Whatever the correct figures are, it's a terrible tragedy, which is, inexplicably, completely ignored by the international media.

It's estimated that about 300 immigrants die every year trying to cross from Mexico to the United States.
A gentleman named Javier Rodrigo de Santos was the vice-mayor of Palma de Mallorca between late 2005 and May 2007. He had access to a municipal credit card. So he spent his nights at Palma's gay brothels and charged up €45,000 worth of male prostitutes. And you've got to figure those rentboys ain't working for no five grand an hour, either. He got caught because some accountant noticed that all those credit card charges had been rung up at four in the morning. Mr. de Santos has been charged with embezzlement. Top that, New York.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More election fallout: After the absentee ballots were counted, a seat from Barcelona has been reassigned from CiU to the PP, giving CiU 10 seats and the PP 154 in the Congress of Deputies.

Eduardo Zaplana, PP hard-liner and party spokesman, has resigned. About time. His negatives are extremely high, and they need to pick someone more moderate, both politically and personally.

Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, considered the most moderate and attractive among the current PP leadership, has announced that he plans to stay on as mayor and back Rajoy at the party convention.

Convergencia is already pushing Montilla to kick ERC out of the Catalan Tripartite. And that's not all they're going to want. Duran Lleida is in no hurry to make any deals.

By the way, Duran says that he's recovered from his bout with lung cancer. Good.

Chemical Inma Mayol, Communist leader in the Barcelona city council, has also stepped down.

Inflation reached 4.4% in the year ending February 29, the highest rate since 1995. There are no signs of it slowing down, what with oil pushing $110 a barrel. Economics minister Solbes says it's because of rising oil and grain prices.

So the damn bus drivers are on strike today; they're going out every Thursday until they get what they want. Six buses were sabotaged this morning, some with passengers on board; rock-throwing strikers broke the windows of one bus. The municipal bus company says it's going to take disciplinary action against some 25 strikers, but no arrests will be made, which is ridiculous, since throwing rocks at a bus with passengers in it is a violent crime. You could put someone's eye out doing that.

At the beginning I would have been willing to cut a deal with the drivers (who make upwards of €33,000 a year, by the way): You want two full days off a week, we'll make the schedule work out, but you'll have to take a small pay cut because you'll be working fewer hours. I would have been sympathetic if they'd struck peacefully, holding demonstrations with legal permits and the like. But after this wave of unacceptable behavior on their part, sabotage and violence (remember, they beat up a CCOO union rep the other day), I say screw them. Fire the lot, like Reagan did with the air traffic controllers.

The Eliot "Luv Guv" Spitzer scandal is, get this, La Vanguardia's top international story today. The press around the world is loving this: hypocritical law-and-order guy hoist by his own petard. It's not nearly as important as many other issues, though; Spitzer was merely one of dozens of state governors, and of no particular international importance. Imagine if the governor of, say, the Tokyo or Moscow or Paris or Mexico City region or province or whatever was forced to resign over a prostitution scandal. Would it make the Barcelona press? Maybe a couple of paragraphs, maybe not.

One of the greatest tabloid headlines ever: the New York Post's "Ho No!"

Have you seen the photos of the hooker involved? She's attractive enough, but five thousand bucks an hour for that?

From La Vanguardia's comments section:

The Americans are not a model for anyone but fools. A country with such a recent history is puerile from any point it is analyzed from. What made them believe they were the center of the world for a long time was their dollar. But that is all over.

I don't know what to say, I start laughing...the Americans are always so silly, and at bottom they are not and should not be a model for anybody.

I suppose we should not be surprised, knowing about the Americans' double moral standard.

There is a system worse than any other that allows its president to use policies of asphyxiating the country in order to continue his war games (many reasons he gave for the declaration of war have been proven to be false), and he denies medical care to children, citizens of his own country. This is putting money above conscience, not even we corrupt Europeans do that.

I live in the US and this is typical Yankee hypocrisy of moralism and puritanism. For going whoring, he resigns, but others declare an illegal war and invade another country causing the deaths of thousands of persons and nothing happens and hee waits to retire next January. And let's not mention the governors who use the death penalty whenever they want. Disastrous.

All the Yankees are sick. Raising such a scandal over prostitution and saying nothing about the violations of human rights they commit daily with their wars!!

The biggest hypocrisy I know is in the United States.

The funny thing is that they cause such a scandal over a "sin of the flesh" (there are no others), and they are the ones that we forgive most easily, while they are not bothered by the hundreds of thousands of deaths, men, women, and children, that they have caused in Iraq with an unjust war. Who is more "civilized"? I prefer Mediterranean morals to sick Anglo-Saxon Puritanism.

What I don't understand is why something that in Europe would not even make the news (at most it would appear in the celebrity press), in the United States causes a resignation. They are completely crazy.

For a pecadillo this guy resigns, and for destroying countries, on the other hand, they're happy and smiling.


A governor resigns because of a private and intimate pleasure and Bush vetoes the prohibition of waterboarding as a method of torture and nothing happens. No one protests. Stop the world, I want to get off.

Seems like there's a lot of free-floating hostility out there among Spaniards, and America is a very convenient target. Note that these commenters never say anything new or different: the standard anti-American tropes have been the same since the 19th century.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The most recent fad here in Spain is this year's national submission to the Eurovision Song Contest. It's called "Baila el chiki-chiki." I had nothing to do with this, so don't blame me.
Rajoy announced yesterday that he is not going to step down: he called a party convention for June and announced that he would stand as a candidate for another term as party president. Esperanza Aguirre said she would not be a candidate, and Gallardon publicly backed Rajoy. So we'll see what happens.

It looks pretty clear that the PP hard-liners, secretary general Angel Acebes and party spokesman Eduardo Zaplana, are on their way out, to be replaced by moderates Pio Garcia Escudero and Esteban Gonzalez Pons. The name of Francisco Camps, premier of the Valencia region and also considered a party moderate, has appeared a lot lately; Gonzalez Pons is his man. Aguirre is backing Manuel Pizarro for one of these spots, and he'd be a good choice as well.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, the interior minister, has told Zap he wants a different job; he'd like to go back to being the PSOE spokesman in Congress. Zap's going to reshuffle the cabinet; I bet Maleni Alvarez gets thrown out on her bum, and that Pedro Solbes, Fernandez de la Vega, and (unfortunately) Moratinos will stay on.

So the Generalitat has a new genius plan to bring more rental flats on the market; they will pay the landlord up to six months' rent in case the renter is a deadbeat. See, the problem is that Spain has insane renters' rights laws, and it's nearly impossible to evict anyone, so nobody wants to rent out any vacant apartment he might own except at exorbitant prices. Besides, the rent-control laws force the landlord not to raise the rent by more than the official rate of inflation during the minimum five-year standard lease.

The little teenage bastards that set the homeless woman on fire back in January 2006 are finally going to be tried; they're looking at 28 years each, though they'll probably wind up serving no more than half that. This happened right here in Sant Gervasi, just ten minutes on foot away from my house, and the two dirtbag murderers are from nice middle-class Catalan families. I just don't see why anyone would be so cruel and cowardly. First they beat her up and then they poured turpentine on her and burned her alive. Just for fun. And they were so stupid they did all this in the vestibule of a bank branch where she was trying to sleep; of course, there was a surveillance camera there, and it filmed every single thing these shits did. They'd be looking at the death penalty in the US, and I certainly wouldn't sign any petitions for mercy.

Everyone's all bent out of shape about the Barça, because a couple of weeks ago they were only two points behind Real Madrid, and now they're eight points back after two straignt losses in the League. Barça is still alive in both the Champions' League (final eight) and the Spanish Cup (final four), though; they're the favorite to win the Cup, though I imagine that one of the English teams will win the Champions. I'd bet on any of the four against Barcelona right now. There is going to be a shakeup in the clubhouse at the end of the season no matter what happens. Out: Rijkaard, Ronaldinho, Deco, Henry, Zambrotta, Edmilson, Thuram, Oleguer, Ezquerro. In: Cesc and Poulsen, rumor has it. There's also a dumb rumor that they want to sign Lampard, which I would not do.
Jimbo Wales of Wikipedia is looking mighty two-faced these days; he's been accused of manipulating Wikipedia entries for both money and sex. Not that he's done anything illegal, but there sure is a contrast between Wikipedia's self-proclaimed high-mindedness (have you ever looked at their immensely long list of policies, many of which are contradictory?) and the tawdry behavior Wales is accused of.

Speaking of tawdry sex, the Republicans are thrilled with the Eliot Spitzer scandal. Schadenfreude city. They hate his guts and would love to see Spitzer not only out of office, but in prison too. And if this mess makes Hillary Clinton look bad too, that's just gravy.

David Mamet has a very interesting piece in the Village Voice on his move to the political right. Just goes to show that if you're not a liberal at age 20, you have no heart, but if you're not a conservative at age 40, you have no brain.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Anglosphere comment on the Spanish election:

The Guardian has a column that doesn't sound much different from what I've been writing. This is worrying.

The LA Times has a story focusing on Rosa Diez.

The Times's story focuses on Zap and the Carrasco murder.

The BBC focuses on Zapatero's "liberal social reforms," which I don't think were all that big a factor in the election.

The New York Times also focuses on "social changes" in Spain.

Pink News focuses on Zap's pro-gayness.

Reuters focuses on the economy.

The AP's report is surprisingly detailed.
Fallout from the election: Zap and CiU are in no hurry to cut a deal, but I don't see any other way out for Zap. He's unlikely to get support from the PNV, and anyway he needs seven seats for a majority and the PNV only has six. Zap would also need the Canary Coalition's two votes, or the Commies' two votes, for the 176 votes in Congress necessary to seat him as prime minister.

CiU is making noises that sound like they want a coalition, with a couple of ministries in Madrid. And that's not all they're going to want. My guess is that the Catalan Tripartite falls apart sometime pretty soon because of the collapse of the Commies and Esquerra, and Montilla will govern from the minority with punctual support from CiU. As CiU considers itself the opposition party in Catalonia, it won't go for a coalition government in the Generalitat.

The Catalan Socialists want a big payoff for their huge win on Sunday that put Zapatero over the top. They want two or three ministries for themselves, and they want one of their people in the inner circle of the PSOE politburo. They're going to have to swallow the appointment of hardcore Spanish nationalist Jose Bono as president of the Congress, though.

Rajoy is going to stay as PP leader, though they're going to have a national convention this fall. I bet somebody else is chosen there, since Rajoy has lost twice already. La Vanguardia says that Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre is maneuvering for the top spot.

The head that rolled at Esquerra was that of head counsellor Joan Puigcercós, who announced his resignation in order to serve as full-time party secretary. There's going to be a faction fight between Puigcercós and Carod-Rovira at ERC's convention in June. I hope they both lose.

Regional results in all of Spain:

Catalonia PSOE 25, CiU 11, PP 7, ERC 3, IU 1
Andalusia PSOE 36, PP 25
Basque Country PSOE 9, PNV 6, PP 3
Navarre PP 2, PSOE 2, NaBai 1
Madrid PP 18, PSOE 15, IU 1, UPD 1
Asturias PP 4, PSOE 4
Canaries PSOE 7, PP 6, CC 2
Galicia PP 11, PSOE 10, BNG 2
Valencia PP 19, PSOE 14
Murcia PP 7, PSOE 3
Castile-La Mancha PP 12, PSOE 9
Extremadura PSOE 5, PP 5
Cantabria PP 3, PSOE 2
Aragon PSOE 8, PP 5
Balearics PP 4, PSOE 4
La Rioja PP 2, PSOE 2
Castile-Leon PP 18-PSOE 14

So, basically, the PP either wins or breaks even everywhere but Catalonia and the Basque Country, where the moderate regional nationalists win much of the conservative and / or Catholic vote; Andalusia, the Socialists' historic heartland and recipient of much government spending; and Aragon, where the PP angered the locals with the damn water plan. Note that anti-Catalan Valencia is the region where the PP has the biggest advantage.

Atypical provinces: Sun Belt Almeria, in Andalusia, backed the PP; industrial Leon, in Castile-Leon, backed the PSOE.

Other news: The Eliot Spitzer scandal has made the news over here, and there's some whingeing about Yankee Puritanism, as usual. I figure the guy crossed three lines: 1) he's a law-and-order crusader, and he is a paying client of the organized-crime prostitution racket 2) he cheated on his wife, embarrassing her and their three children 3) he must be pretty stupid to be paying hookers while he's governor. If you're a single adult and you are sexually active, society pretty much figures that's your business. But if you're married and patronizing hookers, that's not.

How much you want to bet that he's some kind of desperate sex weirdo whose wife refused to cooperate with his kinky fetishes? That's the only logical explanation I can come up with.

Of course, I think prostitution ought to be legalized in official red-light districts, which would be established far away from residential areas. Then you can require medical checks and licensing, you can tax it, you can keep the kids away, you can drive pimps and organized crime out, and you can keep an eye on the prostitutes' personal safety.

In fact, I'd do the same thing with gambling; I'd legalize casinos, but only in the red-light districts, and I'd require by law that the casinos be as unattractive as possible: no alcohol or drugs on the premises, no entertainment, no restaurants, just gambling tables and slot machines. And I'd legalize drugs as well, and require them to be sold only in the red-light districts, too.

Get this: The Vatican came up with a new list of mortal sins for the 21st century. It's incredibly dumb. They are:

1) "Bioethical violations," such as birth control. Ridiculous. We should be giving out free condoms and Norplant to anyone who wants them to keep the birth rate down and control sexually transmitted diseases. Which, if the Pope pulled his head out of his ass, he would see as the biggest threat to human health in Africa's poorest countries.
2) "Morally questionable experiments." If we're talking Dr. Mengele or Brave New World, I completely agree, but the Pope means stem cell research, which is going to save millions of lives in the medium term.
3) Drug addiction. I thought drug addiction was now considered a disease. Talk about blaming the victim. I also thought alcohol was a drug. This means everybody in Ireland is going to hell.
4. Polluting. So everybody who drives a car is going to hell, too. Besides, the most pollution per capita is caused in poor countries where poor people use biofuels (wood and dung) for cooking and heat. Just like Jesus and all our ancestors until about 1900 did. These people are sinners? I don't see that they have much choice.
5) "Contributing to widen the gap between rich and poor." Ridiculous. Who cares if the rich get richer as long as the poor get richer too? If poor people's incomes double, and rich people's income is multiplied by five, is that bad? That's precisely what is happening around the world right now.
6) "Excessive wealth." What? You're a virtuous person who makes a lot of money because of his skills and abilities, makes generous charitable donations, behaves honestly in business, loves his fellow man, brings up a good family, and you're going to hell because you have a nice house and a Mercedes? Come on.
7) "Generating poverty." How precisely does one generate poverty? By making irresponsible decisions and flunking out of school, spending all your money on beer and fags, and knocking up three girls by the time you're 19? Any poor bastard who falls into that trap is going to have enough trouble here on earth, and it seems pretty harsh to punish him in the afterlife.

I have a positive view of Christianity in general and the Church in particular. Judeo-Christian ethics are at the heart of human society today. I think the Church does much more good than harm. I also think it is sometimes absolutely full of crap, and this is one of those times.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Final election results: PSOE 169 seats, the PP 153, Convergencia 11, the PNV 6, Esquerra 3, the goddamn Commies 2, CC 2, the BNG 2, CC 2, UPD 1, and NaBai 1.

Regionally, the PSOE was the most-voted party in Asturias, the Basque Country, La Rioja, Aragon, Catalonia, Extremadura, Andalusia, and the Canaries. The PP was most-voted in Galicia, Castile-Leon, Cantabria, Navarre, Madrid, Castile-La Mancha, Valencia, Murcia, and the Balearics.

Looks like what happened is that the Socialists ate IU's and ERC's lunch, while the PP gained scattered seats at the expense of regional parties.

The Catalan press is playing up how important the sweeping Socialist victory in Catalonia was; if Catalan votes were left out, the PP would have won the election. The PSC won 18 seats more than the PP in Catalonia; they won only 16 seats more than the PP in all of Spain.

Commie leader Gaspar Llamazares has already resigned, and Carod-Rovira is expected to be next. Rajoy looks like he's going to try to hang on as leader, claiming victory because the party gained five seats. At the very least he needs to get rid of the hard-right elements in the party leadership, meaning Zaplana and Acebes.

The actual election results look a lot like the surveys El Periodico was running during the week before the elections. The exit polls, as usual, underestimated the PP vote, since being conservative is so socially unacceptable in some places that some people don't admit it.

Spain's definitely made a turn against radical regional nationalist parties. Count it up: in Catalonia, nationalist parties (CiU and ERC) won only 14 seats out of 47. In the Basque Country the nationalists (PNV) won just 6 seats out of 18, with ETA-front party Herri Batasuna banned from the ballot and its supporters boycotting the election, and peaceful separatists EA and Aralar shut out. In Galicia the BNG won only 2 seats out of 23. Only CiU increased its number of seats, by just one.

I'm thrilled that the goddamn Communists damn near got wiped out, down to 2 seats from the 23 they had as recently as 1996.

It looks like I called the effect of the murder of Isaías Carrasco wrong; I figured it would help the PP, but instead it probably had no effect, or even helped the PSOE by increasing the turnout as a whole.

I'm fairly optimistic for the next four years: Zap can't screw things up too badly, and his policies are going to have to be pretty moderate in order to keep his alliance with CiU. I don't see any other way out of it for him; he'll have to either form an official coalition, giving CiU a couple of ministries in Madrid, or govern from the minority with CiU support. And that support won't be forthcoming if he tries to do anything outrageous.
About a year ago, a gentleman living near Mataró, along the coast north of Barcelona, paid a visit to his neighbor's stable, where four horses were kept. He tied one of them up and buggered it, "causing various injuries to its rectum." The horse was discovered "in a state of shock," hyperventilating and with a greatly accelerated heart rate, bleeding from the anus. The gentleman has been charged with felony animal abuse, with the aggravating circumstance of sexual abuse. His trial starts today; he faces a ten-month sentence, which will be suspended, and he'll have to pay the €771 veterinary bill.

What a sick weirdo pervert. Anally raping a horse. This guy clearly needs to be separated from the rest of society for a long time. And he will be, since he's up on further charges, this time for raping a human.

I am truly disgusted by sadists who take pleasure from harming creatures weaker than they are, human or animal, and I would punish them harshly. Get all the pot-smokers and dopers out of jail, and replace them with horse-rapers and women-beaters.

Some guy in Madrid, for example, was convicted of driving down the highway and throwing a litter of kittens out the window, one by one, apparently for the fun of watching them splatter. He was fined €360 for misdemeanor animal abuse. Look, Judge, if he'll do it to a cat, he'll do it to a person as well. Lock his ass up right now and protect the rest of us law-abiding citizens and harmless animals.

By the way, the Chinese are currently conducting a cat holocaust in Peking in preparation for this summer's Olympics; the Daily Mail broke the story yesterday. Just another reason to boycott it; I won't be watching.
My post-election article is up at Pajamas Media, so go read it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Well, voter participation was 75% and the PSOE won. With 92% of the vote counted, it's the PSOE with 43.8% and 168 seats, and the PP 40.1% and 154 seats. CiU has 10 seats, the PNV 6, IU 3, ERC 3, CC 2, the BNG 2, UPD 1, and NaBai 1.

In Catalonia, it's PSC 25 seats, CiU 10, the PP 7, ERC 3, and ICV 2.

I'll have an article up tomorrow morning at Pajamas Media, so check it out.
With 90% of the vote counted, it's PSOE 167-PP 155, and these results aren't going to change much. Looks like Zap will be able to either cut a deal with CiU or govern from the minority. Now the question is: what's CiU's price going to be? I imagine they'll demand a breakup of the Catalan Tripartite, and that they replace ERC and Communist officeholders at both the municipal and regional level inside Catalonia. The question is whether they'd get that.

The verdict from down at the (Catalan-speaking, pro-Barça) bar is that everyone's happy the PP lost, nobody's real excited about the Socialists, and several people are all pissed off right now, because both Esquerra Republicana and the Barça got their asses kicked.

So the PSOE gains three seats and the PP gains seven over 2004. Rajoy and the leadership are going to try to spin this as a win. It's not.

Spain is getting ever closer to having a real two-party system. The third party at the national level, the United Left, has nearly been wiped out. The moderate nationalist parties in Catalonia and the Basque Country held their ground. The rest of the regional parties did poorly. Esquerra's down from eight seats to three, which means Carod-Rovira is no longer taken seriously by anyone. And Rosa Diez won a seat--does this mean the birth of a centrist third party? Probably not.
Pepe Blanco just claimed victory again, and he signed off with "Good night and good luck," just like Zap. Jesus. This has got to stop now. In case you're wondering where it came from, that movie lionizing Edward R. Murrow was real big among the Illustrated and Enlightened around here.
I'm going to go down to the bar to watch the second half of the Barça-Villarreal game on pay-TV, and while there I will interview the local Catalan working class for their reactions.

With 54% of the vote counted, it's PSOE 171-PP 150. It looks like the count is going to stabilize somewhere around here: both main parties gaining seats, the PSOE more than the PP, and the smaller parties as the big losers. Along with the PP leadership.
With 43% of the vote counted, it's PSOE 169-PP 151. This is starting to look something like the exit polls showed, but it gives the PSOE a bigger win than the surveys were predicting a couple of days ago.
Thoughts off the top of my head:

1) Zap's not going to get an absolute majority, but he's going to be able to govern with the aid of CiU.
2) Whether the PSOE can cut a deal with the PNV is questionable, since the prosecutor's office is trying to put the PNV's leader in jail, and they might not be feeling too friendly.
3) Can Rajoy claim victory if the PP wins more seats than they got in 2004--that is, more than 148? I say no.
3a) Because I think the PP leadership has botched both the message and the way it was communicated over the last four years.
3b) And because I think Zap was a weak candidate who could have been beaten by a competent opposition.
33% of the vote counted: PSOE 170 seats, PP 150.
As usually happens, the official figures change a great deal over the normal election evening: with 30% of the vote counted, it's PSOE 172 seats, PP 144.
With 17% of the vote counted, the official figures are PSOE 173 seats, PP 136. These are, of course, by no means definite.
TV3's exit poll for Catalonia gives the PSC 45.7% of the vote and 24-27 seats; CiU 20.9% and 9-11 seats; the PP 16.3% and 7-8 seats; ERC 8.4% and 3-4 seats; and ICV 3.9% and 1 seat.
Pepe Blanco, the Socialists' organizational secretary (that is, top apparatchik) has claimed victory. The PP is not conceding anything so far; they still think the high turnout in Valencia and Madrid is going to help them out.
So what does it mean? If the surveys are right, and they all seem to agree, then just off the top of my head:

1) Zap has very close to an absolute majority, and he has more of a mandate than he did in his first term.
2) Rajoy will have to step down as PP leader, perhaps not immediately, but they need a new candidate for the next election.
3) The two leading candidates to replace Rajoy have to be Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Esperanza Aguirre.
4) I don't think Zap is going to do anything particularly different than he did in his first term.
5) The PP strategy of confrontation obviously did not work.
6) Neither the debates nor the murder of Isaías Carrasco had much effect on the voters.
7) The turnout was nowhere near low enough to help out the PP.
8) The Communists got completely destroyed.
8a) How much you want to bet that most of the Communist voters went over to Zap because they're so angry at the PP?
9) CiU did pretty well, and if Zap gets below about 170 seats, he'll have to cut a deal with them. The PNV did pretty well too, so a good showing by the comparatively moderate regional nationalists.
10) The more radical regional nationalist parties, ERC and the BNG, got stomped.
11) Zap's not going to negotiate with ETA any more no matter what happens.
12) I bet he doesn't keep most of his promises, though he's going to have to carry through on the €400 tax rebate.
All the other TV network surveys have similar figures to TV3's. They have the PSOE between 163 and 178 seats, and the PP between 142 and 152.