Friday, April 25, 2008

So some jerks in a town in the Aragonese Pyrenees had nothing better to do, and they thought it might be a good idea to pull down the abandoned church's bell tower. And, get this, they posted the video on YouTube, under the title "Down with the church," to the tune of a punk-rock parody of the Lord's Prayer. La Vanguardia has the video (to the right of the news article). Now, the abandoned church is of fairly recent construction and has almost no historical or artistic value, so this isn't a cultural tragedy like when the Taliban blew up the giant Buddhas. But I just don't get the point of destroying something for the fun of it.

More cultured, sophisticated European behavior in the Andalusian town of Ecija: on Sunday six members of the same family died in a fire. Tragic, of course. But the rumor began to spread that the firemen had taken thirty minutes to respond to the alarm (the mayor said it took less than five minutes), and a lynch mob of locals began to attack the firemen, throwing rocks at them, while they were still trying to put the fire out. Now the Guardia Civil has arrested seven of the mob. Good, for once somebody who violently breaks the law gets arrested around here.

Complaints are being made that the French killed three innocent Somali victims in their raid on the pirate base. This news got one sentence at the bottom of a page 6 story in La Vanguardia yesterday. Wonder how much play it would have gotten if it had been another case of unilateral colonialist Yankee warmongering?

Much is being made of a potential world food crisis around here. Comments: 1) Rice is going up, but wheat is coming down 2) Amartya Sen said that famine is not caused by there not being enough food, it's caused by food not getting to the people who need it 3) I think we have the technology to get emergency food to anywhere in the world outside remote places in Africa 4) Let me repeat that I am completely in favor of ending agricultural subsidies in the First World, and I've been talking about it for years 5) The Spanish press is blaming "speculators," which sounds to me like Jew-American capitalists, for the potential problem 6) Law of unintended consequences: The Greens say use less fossil fuel. The Americans start using corn to make less-polluting fuel. Now American greed for energy is killing babies in Chad. You can't win either way 7) Demand for grain has risen for many reasons, but over here all they can talk about is biofuels 8) Since the demand for grain has increased, the supply is going to increase too, and pretty damn quick 9) Lula da Silva is in favor of biofuels, too, but nobody ever criticizes Brazil for chopping down the Amazon to plant sugarcane or for using that sugarcane to make fuel 10) Nobody, ever, criticizes the OPEC cartel for artificially keeping petroleum prices high, which is probably the most important factor in the rise of food prices.

Is Barcelona the only city in the world where airline routes are big news? All the papers are reporting that American Airlines has instituted nonstop service between El Prat and New York. I'm sure it's got something to do with the city's raging self-esteem problem: we must be important because we've got a nonstop flight to New York! Note the standard Spanish love-hate attitude toward America: we resent American power and influence, but at the same time we bask in reflected glory when America pays attention to us.

Jeez. Econ minister Solbes just won't leave Disneyworld. Now he's predicting 2.3% GDP growth for both 2008 and 2009, though the private sector says it'll be half that.

Meanwhile, 246,000 people were added to the unemployment rolls in the first quarter, putting the number of Spanish unemployed over 2 million, a rate of 9.6%. The only two regions that didn't see a rise in unemployment were the Basque Country and Extremadura, while Catalonia saw the largest increase, 39,000 more unemployed. It's going to get worse before it gets better, people.

The percentage of flats in Barcelona priced at under €240,000 has doubled since 2006 to 18%, and you see a few under €200,000 now. El Periodico says that these places are of generally good quality, too, while two years ago cheap flats were all very undesirable. Problems: 1) the mortgage interest rate is high right now, with the Euribor at 5%, depressing demand 2) credit is tight and banks aren't giving out mortgages to everybody and his dog anymore.

You probably saw that Barça drew with Man United at the Camp Nou, 0-0; they had a dozen opportunities but couldn't score as usual. United played it safe and stuck to defense and fast breaks, and they'd have won if Cristiano Ronaldo had made his penalty kick in about the second minute. Wayne Rooney was disappointing. Barcelona's best players were Iniesta and Touré. Now they have to play the second ninety minutes at Old Trafford, which will not be easy. But anything could happen, and all hope has not been abandoned. Rijkaard has given up on the League; this weekend he's sitting his good players to rest them up for the rematch with Man U.


Mário Vilela, Brazil said...

Lula is a cheap demagogue, but, as a matter of fact, we don't grow sugarcane in the Amazon, or at least don't grow any significant amount of sugarcane there.

More than half of all Brazilian cane comes from the southeastern state of São Paulo, and the rest comes overwhelmingly from neighboring regions or from the northeast.

I, by the way, don't like biofuels in the least. We've had for more than three decades now a program called Proalcool, which has drained good soil and good money for producing nothing more than an ersatz gas. Oil may be expensive, mas it's still plentiful -- or at least more plentiful than rich soils. But I'm, alas, a minority in Brazil.

P.S. Yours is one of my favorite blogs, John. Carry on the good work!

John said...

Thanks for the correction, and for the goodwill as well. Much appreciated.