There was gunfire early this morning on Calle Torrent de les Flors two blocks away from my house; when I went down to the café with my newspaper and the dog, there were three cop cars and they had the street blocked off. Nobody seems to know what happened, whether anyone was hurt or why the guy did it. There is a consensus that it's got nothing to do with terrorism. The local press hasn't picked up on it yet.
Gracia is a very peaceful place but we do have the occasional murder; within the last three or four years an Argentinian girl was knifed by her boyfriend, an old guy murdered his wife over on Principe de Asturias street, there was a Chinese mob killing at a restaurant on Calle Providencia, and some psycho murdered two women at a parking garage just the other side of Plaza Lesseps. The wildest one was when this guy fell in love with a prostitute and shot her Albanian pimp at a bar in the Plaza Rius i Taulet; the pimp survived. ("Just like in the movies," everyone said.) All that sounds pretty bad, but remember we've got 200,000 people packed in here; we've got the highest population density of all Barcelona neighborhoods, and Barcelona is the most densely populated city in Europe.
The boat people continue arriving; this morning a boat containing 76 black African illegal immigrants washed up in Almeria, and another boat with 26 more was found off the Granada coast. These voyages across the Mediterranean from Morocco are much safer than the attempts to reach the Canaries from the Mauritanian and Senegalese coasts. It's still a shame and a tragedy, and what we in the West can do to help is stop interfering with their commerce. Put an end to protectionist tariffs and stop subsidizing our own producers, especially farmers. That's the best way to help out the Third World: give them a chance to compete.
ETA update: They seem to have re-established their car bomb factory in France; the French cops raided their last one in September 2007 and confiscated 400 kilos of explosives. It's thought that the new bomb workshop cell turned the van-bomb over to the Vizcaya operational cell, who proceeded to set it off in Legutiano yesterday. They tried something similar last year in Logroño, but the bomb didn't go off, as ETA's bomb-making expert, Luis Ignacio Iruretagoyena, who made the enormous Barajas bomb that destroyed an entire concrete parking garage, had already been arrested during the French roundup. Since then ETA has only exploded small, amateurish bombs, since they didn't have the explosives or expertise to make big ones. Until yesterday.
More PP infighting: Now the Basque PP says it backs Rajoy against Maria San Gil's challenge to his leadership. That is, they're supporting the national party leader over their own regional party leader. This can only strengthen Rajoy's position.
Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega has made a damn fool out of herself again. There's been a backlash in Italy against Romanians in general and Romanian gypsies in particular. There are 550,000 legal Romanian immigrants in Italy, and 195,000 illegals. Among them are 42,000 Romanian gypsies, and also 28,000 Yugoslavian gypsies. As usual, there has been a populist working-class backlash against them, exacerbated by several well-publicized crimes; the ones that angered many Italians were when a Romanian gypsy woman tried to steal a baby from another woman's arms, and three rape-murders committed by Romanians. Gypsy camps have been burned by mobs in Naples. This is a problem.
So the Berlusconi government in Italy is setting up three police brigades specifically to deal with gypsies, one in Milan, one in Rome, and one in Naples. Yesterday morning the Italian cops rounded up 400 illegals and deported a bunch of them, and more raids are coming.
Racism? That's a factor, but no country is free of racism. Especially, no European country is free of anti-gypsy racism; Spain is notorious for it. The problem is that there's some justification for disliking many gypsies, especially some of the Romanians, who even the Spanish gypsies fear. Many gypsies just do not follow the rules of European society; it's not their different but harmless customs and beliefs that are disliked, it's the stealing and bullying and drug dealing and throwing garbage around and begging and abusing women and not working.
Anyway, De la Vega felt it necessary to spout off about Italian internal affairs, and accused Berlusconi of "exalting violence, racism, and xenophobia." She added that she disagrees with the deportations "because it does not respect the law and the rights of immigrants. Our government repudiates violence, racism, and xenophobia, and therefore cannot accept what is happening in Italy."
Oh, shut up, you self-righteous ninny. Take a look at the La Mina gypsy neighborhood here in Barcelona if you want to find a few social problems that your Socialist government might want to do something about.
In the mood for some irony? La Vanguardia says today that "integration is a failure in Catalan schools." Half of the immigrant children in Catalonia would have to be forcibly transferred to another school in order to desegregate. Some public schools have become effectively ghettos for immigrant children, because when the tipping point of immigrant students is reached, all the Spanish parents pull their kids out of the school. 85% of immigrant children in Catalonia go to public schools, and so the nice, white, often Catholic (which equals no Muslims) private schools are the obvious refuge. Funny, I thought "white flight" was only a problem in racist countries like the United States and Britain, and that moral, high-minded people like Spaniards would never succumb to it.
Example: In the working-class Fondo neighborhood in the Barcelona suburb of Santa Coloma, the percentage of immigrant children is 35%. One public elementary school there is 69% immigrants. The neighborhood "concerted" (fee-charging Catholic school that receives state subsidies) elementary school has only 4% immigrant children.
Reality tops Viz. Viz is a vulgar English comic magazine that features the running character Eight Ace. Eight Ace is a pathetic alcoholic addicted to Ace beer, which goes for one pound forty-nine an eight-pack at Mr. Patel's off-license down the street. His family, which includes his violent wife and an indeterminate but large number of children, lives in a shack on the edge of town, though Eight's wife often makes him sleep in the shed, especially when he urinates on himself, which is usually.
In every episode, Eight tries to reform, and he's well on the way to becoming an upstanding citizen, when somehow the sum of one pound forty-nine reaches his hands. Eight can't resist the call of the Ace, and he backslides yet again, gets beaten up by his wife, and is forced to sleep among the debris in the front yard once more. My favorite was when he decided to be a good father and took his kids to the zoo, but unfortunately people had thrown 1.49 in change into the crocodile pen. The last frame shows a horribly mangled Eight, leaving a trail of blood behind him, dragging himself down to Mr. Patel's.
Naturally, of course, there's no beer in England called Ace, and definitely no beer in England that goes for less than five pounds for six cans down at the off-license. But here in Barcelona, in today's La Vanguardia, Caprabo has an ad advertising Aurum beer, which I've never heard of before, at 18 euro-cents a can. A little multiplication means that an eight-pack would cost €1.44. And if we convert that into pounds--one euro is about 0.8 pounds--an eight-pack of Aurum would set our man Eight back by only one pound fifteen. Amazing. Eight cans of beer for one pound fifteen. Eight ought to move down here, he'd save money in the long run.