Wednesday, March 05, 2008

News from these here parts: Madrid archbishop Rouco Varela defeated incumbent Bilbao archbishop Blazquez in the election for the president of the bishops' conference. Blazquez was elected vice-president. Both are conservative, but Blazquez is considered more friendly toward regional nationalisms. Elections are every three years; Blazquez served only one term, while Rouco has previously served two.

This really shouldn't be particularly big news, but the Church is considered by many people to be very powerful in Spain. I think most people overrate the Church's importance and influence; it's a hangover from the 1940s and 50s, when the Church was part of the coalition that supported the Franco regime. This is one reason why the Spanish Left is so anticlerical, though anticlericalism has been strong in Spain ever since the 19th century.

The Church's greatest source of influence now is their school system, which is partially funded by the state. That, of course, is bullcrap. I'm not anti-religion or anti-Church--I think they do a lot more good than harm--but there ought to be a strict separation between God and Caesar.

Only four more days until the general election. I still think it's going to be very close. The Spanish people seem to be rather disillusioned about the campaign; the general reaction is that Zap and Rajoy are just slagging one another off and making promises that won't be kept. Nobody seems to be very enthusiastic. By the way, Toni Soler in La Vanguardia agreed with me that Rajoy won the debate. So that makes three of us: me and two borderline Cataloonies, Soler and Rahola.

The Great Transport Snafu continues: an electric power line came down across the train tracks in Sant Andreu this morning and three commuter lines are shut down. Power is out in the area, and we don't know when it'll be back up.

The bus drivers' strike continues into its third day. Early this morning strikers sabotaged 17 buses, including stoning one containing passengers in my neighborhood; they broke windows and rear view mirrors, and punctured tires. Fortunately nobody got hurt. I have no idea at all why this shit is tolerated. They're going to snarl up Plaza Catalunya this afternoon with an illegal demo, just to piss off the citizens even more. One arrest has been made: a striker punched a cop in the nose on Monday, and they actually came and took him away. Where I come from, if you attack a cop, the consequences are rather more unpleasant than just getting booked downtown.

And the saga of the African boat people continues, as well. A cayuco washed up on Tenerife after three days at sea, carrying two dead people and 53 who were still alive. The international media is not covering this story at all.

El Pais reports that Pedro Varela, the Nazi owner of a Barcelona bookstore specializing in trash, garbage, and lies, has been sentenced to seven months in prison for Holocaust denial. Since it's a sentence of less than one year, it will be suspended. They acquitted him of "incitement to racial hatred," for some unknown reason. I'm against jailing him, of course, since political speech should not be censored no matter how disgusting it is. You don't win a battle of ideas by silencing the opponent, you win it by letting him make his case and then crushing it with facts and reason.

El Periodico has a story titled, "South America rejects 'preventive war' against FARC." It says that Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and (of course) France are strongly opposed to such a thing. Jesus. How exactly is it a 'preventive war' when the elected government tries to wipe out a gang of murdering terrorist kidnappers and dope dealers? They add that 1) Venezuela and Ecuador have rearmed 2) they're both trying to destabilize the Uribe government 3) Chavez has been subsidizing the FARC 4) If there's a war, it'll be America's fault.

Good news for the Republicans: McCain has locked up the nomination and Huckabee has withdrawn from the race. Better news: Hillary beat Obama in Texas and Ohio, and there's going to be six more weeks of internecine Democratic war until the Pennsylvania primary. I think the Democrats are going to blow this election. I also think Obama has peaked way too early, and that his schtick will get old long before November. This is getting plenty of coverage in Spain.

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