Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The big political news, which is actually of little importance, is that Zap lost the first vote to be seated as prime minister because he didn't get an absolute majority; only the PSOE deputies voted for him. So what: they'll take another vote on Friday, and this time it's first-past-the-post, which means Zap has to wait two more days.

Rajoy promised to make nice and cooperate on issues of state such as terrorism, which is considerably more responsible than the PP's attitude during much of Zap's first term.

Zap promised to make an official report of the "balanzas fiscales," the amount of money transferred from Catalonia (and the other regions) to the central government in taxes, and the amount of tax money spent in Catalonia (and other regions) by the central government. This is something that the Catalanists have been demanding for years.

On the one hand, it makes complete sense to me that the maximum possible information about tax collection and government spending should be made public, because the public pays the taxes. So I'm in favor.

On the other hand, this demand has always been based on faulty logic: regions don't pay taxes, individuals do. Since Catalonia is a richer-than-average region, the average Catalan pays more taxes than the average Spaniard. Duh.

As for the argument that not enough tax money is spent in Catalonia, okay, that's fair enough. You can make that case. But if that's what you're arguing for, more pork-barrel spending, then just be honest enough to admit it.

And as for the Catalan infrastructural collapse, how much of that is the fault of not enough central government spending, and how much of it is the fault of incompetence by the regional and municipal governments, and irresponsible behavior by certain political parties?

By the way, in the United States this is not an issue. Some states pay out more than they get back, and some states pay out less. Makes sense, right? Half pay out more, half pay out less. Law of averages and all that. Nobody complains about it.

Zap also came out in favor of a Rhone River-Barcelona aqueduct. Somebody should have been working on this ten years ago.

He also promised:

1) a €400 tax refund
2) more public housing
3) to retrain construction workers
4) to help families pay their mortgages
5) more government R&D spending
6) more infrastructure spending
7) to reform the inheritance tax
8) to raise the minimum wage to €800 a month
9) to raise retirement pensions
10) to spend €1.2 billion helping families with dependents (disabled, senile, retarded, etc.)
11) extend paternity leave from 2 to 4 weeks
12) preschool for all children between ages 0 and 3

1 and 7 are reasonable. 6 is not a bad idea if what's to be built is useful, like transport and utilities, but not if it's more big ugly empty buildings (see: Forum). I'm in favor of 9 and 10, since I favor helping out the weakest among us. 12 seems awfully ambitious. You know all the arguments for and against 8. 3 is a complete boondoggle: all job training money is wasted, at least here in Spain.

They're investigating another possible mad-cow death in Alicante. The authorities say there's no danger of an epidemic, and that the victims must have been infected years ago before the regulations were changed. This is exactly the kind of thing we just have to trust the government on. That's what I like about democracy: I have a lot more trust in a government responsible to us than one responsible to nobody. This is Spain, Western Europe, the institutions are more or less honest. If we were in, say, China, I wouldn't believe a word.

Speaking of covering up the truth: Xavier Sala i Martin, the Columbia econ prof and Barça club executive, declared that some players who have not been playing recently are not injured, as the club had announced, but rather benched. He added that the players in question are those who go out at night. This presumably means Ronaldinho and Deco. I don't think it means Messi, I think he's legitimately hurt, and he's expressed a willingness to clean up his act. Meanwhile, Barça plays Schalke tonight in the second leg of their Champions' League semi-final. If they get eliminated the season's basically over, and that might happen if they play the way they did against Getafe. By the way, I watched the Liverpool-Arsenal game last night, and Barça's not as good as either of those teams.

Another judicial screwup: A judge in Andalusia left a man in jail for a year after he had been acquitted of all charges. Sheer incompetence.

The business bankruptcy rate is up nearly 75% in Spain in the first quarter of 2008 over last year. Half of the bankruptcies are in the construction sector. The Expofincas real-estate agency, €23 million in debt, suspended payments yesterday; it's the first big real-estate company to go to the wall.

So La Vanguardia got an interview with the Hispanic (specifically Dominican-American) author, Junot Díaz, who won this year's Pulitzer for best novel. This guy isn't precisely a poet from the mean streets of the barrio: he's a literature prof at MIT.

Diaz says, "Every time I meet writers from Latin America I laugh, because most of them are white and rich. If they are representatives of our culture, I say, come on. When I travel to Colombia or Venezuela or Cuba most of the people don't look white, but when you meet their writers, every little one of them is bourgeois and extremely white. There is a disconnection between the people and the writers which we have to improve. In any country you name, Peru, Colombia, look for a group of writers from that country, and I'll get together a group of Latins in the United States, and you'll realize that there is much more diversity among Latin writers in the United States than among writers in any other country."

So far so good, right? American society makes it possible for poor Hispanic immigrants to grow up to be writers and professors, something not possible for poor citizens of some Latin American countries.

But Díaz also says, "You can't choose your colonial language. This is a punishment. Mine is English. I learned to read in English. That's why I write in English mixed with Spanish."

Wait a minute. Colonial language? Dude, your parents immigrated from the Dominican and brought you with them when you were nine years old. The American public schools taught you to read and write at the taxpayers' expense. I don't think you can say that English has colonized you if you grew up in New Jersey, especially after you've joined the American upper-middle class, with whom you speak English.

He continues, "I don't know if this prize (will help Latino literature in the US) because you know what the gringos (sic) are like. Although they praise you today, tomorrow they mistreat you like an animal."

Yeah, you know what the spicks are like. Although they feed from your hand today, tomorrow they bite you on that very same hand.


Akaky said...

You can't choose your colonial language? Let's see, if I'm not mistaken, Waiting for Godot is actually En attendant Godot, which Beckett wrote in French after already having written several novels in English. English was Joseph Conrad's third language, after Polish and French. Gary Shteyngart writes in both Russian and English, and Shteygart has more or less the same kind of life story that Diaz does: childhood immigration to the US, English definitely not the first language of the household, etc. I strongly suspect that Diaz does not choose to write in Spanish because those white bourgeois Latino authors he dislikes so much can use the language much better than he can and that he would just as soon not compete with them. And then add this: the man a lot of people think is the greatest Spanish language writer since Cervantes is still alive, and to paraphrase Flannery O'Connor's comment about William Faulkner, no Latino writer wants their llama stuck on the same tracks the Macondo Exress is roaring down. Diaz gets to avoid the problem by writing in English. As for his problems with the gringoes, well, there's another American writer with an opinion about that sort of thing: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

But we all know that Twain was a racist, right? He uses the N-word in Huckleberry Finn no less than 253 times, I think the number is. Terrible that that piece of racist trash is taught in the schools, terrible! It ought to be stopped immediately!

Anonymous said...

Gee the implicit racism in both of these remarks is a little much. Jump on Diaz all you want JOHN-ski but last time I checked my history books the Dominican Republic was occupied by the United States TWICE. But of course you're right, the US doesnt have a colonial relationship with the DR and English is not a colonial language. No not at all. (I love ignoring hundreds of year of history and common sense!) Also AKAKY I highly doubt Diaz chooses to write in English because he wants to avoid competition. That's so dumb it's like you're bending over backwards to try to put a young artist down. Also Read a little contemporary Latin American literature and you might discover that the Macondo Express has been out of commission for quite some time. Also Shteyngart and DIaz have the same kind of life story? YOu clearly know nothing about either author. Check the ages they immigrated, the families they immigrated into and the classes they occuped.

And wait a minute JOHN: do you know Junot Diaz? What does someone's current job (teaching at MIT in Diaz's case) have to do with whether or not he's from the mean streets. I actually KNOW where Diaz grew up, Building 509 in London Terrace, outside of Perth Amboy, from 1974 until 1988 (when he left for Rutgers). THis neighborhood was less than one mile from the largest landfill in the state, extremely poor and extremely tough. A talk-shit clown like you wouldn't have lasted two seconds in the terrace.

Also JOHN a simple question: you feed spicks? REALLY? Last time I checks spicks, who do nearly all the agricultural work in the US, are the ones FEEDING people like you.

And for the record gringos is a spanish word. And in Spanish its spelled gringos. No sic required.

John said...

Diaz had my respect until he called me, and the people who put him in the upper middle class, gringos who were just waiting for a chance to treat him like an animal.

I call bullshit on that racist stereotyping and bigotry.

I also call bullshit on your threats of violence. Think you're tougher than me? You don't know that, especially not in the land of the Second Amendment and the concealed-carry permit.

Akaky said...

You make some good points there, Anon, but what I really like is the neat way you sidestepped my main point in the first instance and then agreed with it in the second instance without admitting that's what you were doing. Diaz writes in English because he chooses to write in English, not because those awful colonial gringos are compelling him to do so. As for the Macondo Express being out of commission, I'm sure that will come as a surprise to GGM.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are plenty of scrawny, physically incompetent geeks that survive in third-world hovels far scarier than Big Bad Dominican New York, and they generally manage it by learning how to suck dick at a very young age.

John said...

Congratulations, Anonymous! I'm glad you managed to survive. Hope you didn't get to like it too much.