Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Sant Jordi, so there are rose and book stands up all over town, and it's a beautiful pre-summer day. Lots of bustling around downtown, with the combination of Sant Jordi crowds and the Man U supporters, who haven't committed any major atrocities yet. The city government is trying to concentrate the English fans in the Puerto Olimpico, as they did with the Glasgow Celtic fans at the Forum.

Of course, like all holidays, Sant Jordi has its capitalist side; in fact, you could argue it's the most commercial national holiday in the world, since it's the only one centered on buying things. Six million roses will be sold today in Catalonia, 60% of the yearly total, which is fifteen million euros if you figure they go for an average of two-fifty. Only 25% of the roses are produced in Catalonia, and the rest come from Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya. La Vanguardia says a Catalan rose wholesales at 50 eurocents, while one from Kenya wholesales at just 20. So buy a rose and help out Third World agriculture.

This is also the big day for book sales, and the Barcelona press actually handicaps the various authors to see who sells the most. This year's favorite is Carlos Ruíz Zafón, who's come out with another of those medieval historical fiction things, and who is by the way detested by literary snobs. Eduardo Mendoza and Quim Monzó are also expected to do well. The three biggest foreign authors of best-sellers are Ken Follett, John Boyne, and Noah Gordon, all of whom I believe are in town to sign books; another Sant Jordi marketing thing is that authors show up and sign purchasers' copies at bookstores. The press always has a couple of laments over what they call "media books" (by the likes of Andreu Buenafuente, Toni Soler, and whoever's the latest TV3-created pseudo-celebrity is) that are based on TV programs and take the bread out of the mouths of hard-working hacks who've knocked out yet another unreadable 160-page monograph on linguistic politics.

ABC is reporting that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's number two, has called on the Moroccans to "struggle against the allies of Satan," i.e. Spain, and free Ceuta and Melilla "from Spanish occupation." Listen, Zap, I've been saying it for years, we are a target no matter how much Alliance of Civilizations wanking about that you do. The Madrid bombings would have happened no matter what Aznar's policies had been, and you took political advantage out of it. You better just hope that the PP doesn't take that same advantage of you next time we get bombed.

Remember Zap's budget surplus? In the first three months of 2008 it was cut in half. Payouts are up 13% while income is only up 1%. This includes the €266 million the Zap government has already paid out as subsidies to parents of newborns, but does not include the €6 billion in tax refunds, half to be paid out in June. Now, we can afford a little deficit spending. Let's not fall into the trap of making it lots of deficit spending.

Esperanza Aguirre has apparently decided that she will not challenge Rajoy at the June convention, but that she will do so before the 2012 election. She has proposed a primary election to determine the 2012 PP candidate. This means party disunity for the next three years, which is the best way to lose the next election.

Meanwhile, there's a three-way power struggle in the Catalan PP between current president Daniel Sirera and challengers Montserrat Nebrera, a moderate, and Alberto Fernandez Diaz, of the old guard. It's pretty clear that Sirera is going to be defenestrated; the influential moderate Francesc Vendrell has proposed a Fernandez Diaz-Nebrera leadership. Just a comment: Though the PP got twice as many Catalan votes as Esquerra Republicana in the last election, the ERC power struggle is getting about ten times the TV3 coverage.

The Spanish Navy has sent a frigate, the Méndez Núñez, toward the Somali coast, and Moratinos announced that it is "several sailing hours" from where the Spanish fishing boat is anchored. "Other countries and organisms," which means the US, UK, France, and NATO, have provided Spain with the necessary intelligence, and have granted Spain the use of their communications systems. We'll see what happens. Meanwhile, Spain has sent its ambassador in Kenya to Mogadishu in order to negotiate with the Somali government. I didn't know there was a Somali government, and I doubt it has much influence among the pirates.

Worst-case scenario: The pirates are really Al Qaeda, and the Spanish fishing boat is bait to get a Western naval ship within range of some kind of missile they've managed to get hold of. I hope I'm just being paranoid.

Now Berlusconi, the owner of AC Milan as well as incoming Italian prime minister, says that Barça is asking too much for Ronaldinho. They're offering twenty million for both Ronaldinho and Zambrotta, and Barcelona is demanding fifty million for them. I say Barça should take Inter's offer of thirty million for just Ronaldinho, though I'm all for getting rid of Zambrotta as well.

And tonight's the big game, Barça-Man U in the first leg of the Champions' League semifinal. Man U is of course the heavy favorite to make the final, but in two games, three hours of play, anything can happen, which is why they play the games in the first place. Valdés needs to be perfect, because he's not going to get any help from his back four, and Iniesta needs to find Eto'o with a couple of through balls. Hey, it could happen. The Giants won the Super Bowl. The Cardinals won the 2006 World Series. Truman beat Dewey.

Oh, yeah, get this. Burglars broke into soon-to-be-ex-coach Frank Kijkaard's house last week while he and his family were inside. They didn't realize the burglars had even gotten in until they found that some €300,000 worth of cash, jewelry, and watches were gone. My question: What the hell were they doing with all that stuff in their house in the first place?


John said...

Mistake on my part: Ruiz Zafon doesn't write those medieval historical novel things, he writes those early 20th century political intrigue things.

Manel said...

You don't need to be very sharp to see why the ERC internal crisis gets more coverage from TV3 - and other Spanish media by the way - than the PPC internal disputes. They are one of the parties that support the Catalan government so their internal problems can have consequences for the future of the current government, while the PPC are powerless in the Catalan scene as well as not being a major force within the Spanish PP.