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.

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