Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm sorry I've been neglecting Iberian Notes. We've been doing all this stuff for, and we're actually having lots of fun with it. I've figured out--and have been taught by Murph--a lot about how to make this running a website work.

The weirdest thing happened to me tonight. I'd been down to see Murph and Clark at Miguel's downtown, and we broke it up when midnight came around. I caught the last metro going up on the yellow line, and there was this trashy-looking couple with a kid about a year and a half old. They were smoking heroin off aluminum foil.

I noticed what was going on, and I don't have a cellphone, and so I alerted the people around me quietly (didn't want to call attention to myself and get attacked by the messed-up male). And no one would do a damn thing. I said call the cops, somebody's got to stop this, these people are junkies and they're dragging around a baby. Nobody did anything. I got shrugged shoulders and who gives a shit.

So after about eight minutes of these people failing to get the baby's bottle in its mouth and smoking heroin and behaving all fucked-up, I got off the train at my stop and alerted the security guard, who called it in.

I should have given those people a twenty and taken the kid.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Congratulations to the Spanish national football team. They finally won one. I didn't think they could. I didn't think they'd get past Italy. But they won fair and square, and they played better than the Germans. Everyone played well; probably Xavi and Torres were the best. Senna has had a great Eurocup, and his value has probably doubled. Possibly the main advantage Spain had: the average age of the players is the youngest of all the Eurocup squads, something like 26.8 years. Stats show baseball players peak at age 27; if that translates to soccer, and I bet it does, Spain's guys are, on the average, just hitting the best years of their careers.

Puyol had a good Eurocup, which surprised me, because he was all beat up physically during the late unlamented Barça season. Iniesta was OK. Xavi was excellent. Fabregas was very good, and he'll be playing here again within a couple of years.

Barcelona needs a forward. I wonder if they make a big offer for Torres with the, say, €50 million they're going to get for the three big stars who will be leaving soon.

The celebration isn't too wild around here; there are a few firecrackers going off, but it's not as if the Barça had won something. Toni Soler had a piece today in La Vangua about the people like him who "don't care" if the Spanish team wins; of course, what they want is for Spain to lose, but saying so would seem unsporting.

It is true that the announcers have been obnoxiously nationalistic through this whole thing; there have been a good few pieces in the Catalan papers about this, and they're right. Rather than, say, reporting on the game, they've been leading cheers.

Anyway, congratulations to the players, and we hope the fans are happy. I bet a lot of people show up for work hung over tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Well, the Spanish football team has proven me wrong; I didn't figure they'd get past Italy, much less win the semifinal as well. Germany will be tough to beat in the final, but there's no reason Spain can't beat them if they play like they have so far. Hard to believe that a team coached by that ancient jackass Aragones has made the final of the Eurocup, proving that the coach doesn't have much to do with the way the team plays, I guess.

Housing starts in Spain over the first trimester of 2008 are down 36% over the same period last year; all the real estate statistics, secondhand housing sales and number of new mortgages and that stuff are significantly down. To my unscientific eyes, asking prices for apartments in Barcelona have fallen by a third over the last year. The stock market is down as well, about to drop below the psychological barrier of 12,000 points; it's off something like 15% on the year. Rising interest rates--the Euribor is at 5.3%--and high oil prices--$140 a barrel--don't help matters any.

Weird pervert news around here. The guy who raped the horse last year got five months in prison for cruelty to animals. This kind of sicko needs to be kept away from everybody for a long time. And remember Javier Rodrigo dos Santos, the Prevert of Palma, the guy who ran up €50,000 on a municipal credit card in gay brothels? He's now been accused of child sexual abuse. Jeez. We've got just about as many weirdos around here as they do everywhere else.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We're going off to the pueblo for the long weekend; Iberian Notes should be back on the air Tuesday. I've been putting some effort into, and it's looking pretty good. A couple more tweaks, some publicity, and systems are go. We're planning to go to this Spanish blogger thing called the Blogellón in Zaragoza on July 4, so that ought to be fun.

It's San Juan weekend, and I hate San Juan in Barcelona because of all the damn firecrackers. They bother me and frighten the pets.

News from these here parts: Rajoy got what he wanted at the PP convention. He's the candidate for the next election, and Dolores de Cospedal is the new party secretary-general. Two Spanish soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in Bosnia. Our Castro-loving government, led by Zap and Moratinos and other weasels of that sort, persuaded the EU to lift its symbolic diplomatic sanctions on Cuba. Of course whoever writes Fidel's articles said that wasn't good enough for him, that the Europeans were hypocrites. I'm amazed the Europeans haven't twigged yet that the Cuban pattern is: whenever you get a concession, demand more.

Nasty crime among gypsy drug dealers in Tortosa, two murdered, a mother and her son. Spain's population topped 46 million, 5.2 million of them immigrants. Top 14 nationalities: Romania 730,000: Morocco 645,000; Ecuador 420,000; UK 350,000; Colombia 280,000; Bolivia 240,000; Germany 180,000; Italy 160,000; Bulgaria 155,000; Argentina 145,000; Portugal 125,000; China 125,000; Peru 120,000; Brazil 115,000. It's pretty clear that Spain is not Eurabia, with the Moroccans the only Muslims among the top immigrant groups. And three-quarters of a million of our immigrants are well-off Europeans, often retired.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We've got pretty much the way we want it now. We had a bit of a struggle with WordPress; what we've discovered is that you can do all kinds of stuff with it, that it's much more versatile than Blogger, but it's also much less user-friendly. Remember, I'm a complete technological disaster, I don't even have a cell-phone and I don't know how to use one, and even I can figure out Blogger. WordPress is above the capabilities of the average idiot, that is, me. Anyway, now, is mostly a question of content and getting the word out; the technical stuff is mostly dealt with.

News from these here parts: The commuter trains were down again yesterday and this morning due to heavy rain in some areas. Sau, the biggest of the reservoirs that supplies Barcelona, is at 80% of capacity, so fears of the drought have completely subsided. The PP opposition to Rajoy has pretty much folded, and will not be abataining from the vote of confidence to be held at the party convention. That crook Joan Puigcercós got elected head of Esquerra Republicana, at least until he goes to jail over the comissions scandal.

Building starts were down 21% in Spain this April over the previous year. They busted 25 municipal employees and elected officials in Estepona, governed by the PSOE, for massive fraud, embezzlement, extortion, abuse of power, and other groovy things. Every single political party in Spain runs a crooked political machine that looks out for the interests of its clients first and everything else second, so municipal corruption exists everywhere no matter what the governing party.

Everybody's talking about this sex pervert who called himself "Nanysex," a pederast who molested very young children. He's been sent off to jail and supposedly the other prisoners tried to torch his cell and burn him to death.

That clown Moratinos went to Venezuela and hugged Hugo Chavez and talked about the bilateral "intense and solidarious connection" between the two regimes. Every time I start thinking, "Oh, Zap's not all that bad, things could be a lot worse, at least he hasn't nationalized the Internet," something like this happens and makes me want to puke.

As expected, Spain qualified for the quarterfinals of the Eurocup without much problem, easily defeating Russia and Sweden. Tonight they play Greece in a meaningless game, and they'll face Italy in the quarters, where Spain will be eliminated as usual. If I had any money I'd bet some of it on the Italians, especially with decent odds. Holland is the team that's played the best so far, with Portugal and Croatia this year's dark horses.

Guardiola made his first speech as Barça coach. He confirmed yesterday that he was going to ship out Ronaldinho, Deco, and Eto'o. So all the teams making offers for those guys must have tried to lowball the management directly afterward, because today they said that they wouldn't sell the Tainted Three if they didn't get enough money. Yeah, right, I seriously doubt that any of those guys will ever play for Barça again. Now they're speculating Dinho to Man City, Deco to Chelsea, and Eto'o to Newcastle or West Ham. For what that's worth. Milan will probably come up with the cash for at least one of them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Don't forget to read just for grins.

The big news in the States related to Spain is the extradition of Monzer al Kasar, a Syrian arms trafficker who has lived in Madrid for years, to the US on charges of conspiring to sell ground-to-air missiles to the FARC. This guy has sold arms to many of the worst scuzzballs around the world, from Nicaragua to Iran. This is getting almost no coverage in Spain; La Vanguardia gave it one paragraph on page 10. I get the idea the Zap government is trying to downplay this one.

The truck drivers are still refusing to work, but the blockades and violence by "picketers" have at least partly petered out. Yesterday they blocked off the motorways at Sant Cugat and Amposta, snarling things up good, but not completely. The government actually arrested a few of these guys who were blocking the border at La Jonquera. One of the "strikers" got run over by a pissed-off driver down in Andalusia and got killed.

Panic hoarding has pretty much stopped; most of the gas stations in Catalonia ran out during the week, but they've been resupplied. There's plenty of food in the supermarkets; besides staple nonperishables, which they never ran out of, fresh meat and fish are available again. Fresh vegetables and fruit are still scarce. The port is back in business, as is the central wholesale market.

Transport is still a mess; two trains broke down on the main Renfe commuter line yesterday, and they had to shut down the line to the airport. Meanwhile, the independent taxi operators called a work stoppage for yesterday, so millions of working hours were wasted, one more time.

Seems to me like public services have been real crappy around here for about the last year; first the Carmel subway tunnel collapse, then the blackout last summer, then the commuter train crisis, exacerbated by the AVE foulups, then the drought for which adequate measures had not been taken, now this mess that has been a huge pain in the ass to the whole country. And there have been at least a dozen minor events that have caused large hassles for the citizenry. I say we hold the Socialists and their Red-Green-Brown friends responsible and vote them out of office, but that might be just me.

Get this. A 24-year old American tourist died yesterday in Barcelona after being mugged. A Moroccan with a police record as long as your arm (he has been arrested "dozens of times") pulled a knife on him near the funicular station on Montjuic in front of numerous witnesses. La Vanguardia says "This is an area historically plagued with thieves who besiege the tourists who visit the Olympic area and the Miró Foundation." SO WHY DIDN'T THE AUTHORITIES JAIL THEM ALL YEARS AGO?

The American didn't fight back and handed over his camera. Witnesses say he apparently went into some sort of state of shock, walked a few steps, and then collapsed, hitting his head. An Italian tourist, who is a doctor, tried to give him first aid, but he died, either of a heart attack or of head injuries.

The amount of street crime against tourists in Barcelona is absolutely disgraceful, and the authorities aren't doing anything about it. I have always recommended that people come to Barcelona anyway, since the good things about the city have always outweighed the bad ones, and if you're careful you can greatly reduce your personal risk. I'm starting to change my mind, after the murder of the Danish tourist a couple of weeks ago and now this.

My position now: Come to visit Barcelona at your own risk. If anything happens to you, you've been warned. By some amateur with a blog, not by the police and government authorities, whose business it is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big news around here: This morning they arrested eight Algerians on charges of belonging to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. This lot was providing logistical, financial, and recruiting support to Al Qaeda activities. The arrests were made in Castellon, Barcelona, and Pamplona. Ten more people were detained; their nationalities and involvement have not yet been announced.

This bunch has carried out five attacks in five days in Algeria, the worst on Sunday, killing 13 people. They are not related to the Pakistani group rounded up in Barcelona in January on charges of plotting to suicide-bomb public transport. The United States believes this bunch of Pakistanis is linked to the outfit run by Baitullah Mehsud, suspected of organizing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Don't forget to go read I improved it some more today, and added a few more posts.

So the damn truck drivers blocked up all the highways in and around Barcelona today, as well as the border crossing at La Jonquera, causing immense chaos. Gasoline hoarding has begun; 40% of the gas stations in Catalonia are sold out and there's no telling when more will get there. This is simply not tolerable. Groups of people cannot be allowed to infringe everyone else's rights. If they want to stay home and not work, fine, but that's not what they want to do. I say simply pull their licenses, tow away their trucks, and jail them. Naturally, nothing of the sort is going to happen. And, get this, the taxi drivers are going to shut down (it's not a "strike") on Friday, and probably go around acting like a bunch of dickheads too.

(By the way, a bunch of shithead parents brought out their kids, the height of irresponsibility, and blocked off the Diagonal to protest the latest education law. That's setting a good example of how your own selfish petty demands are more important than everyone else's civic rights. And, get this, this lot are the conservative Catholic parents, not a bunch of goddamn hippies or something.)

You want more bad law enforcement? Here's some bad law enforcement. One Alejandro Martínez Singul, a serial rape-o, raped twelve girls between the ages of 9 and 18 in Barcelona in the early '90s. They locked him up in 1992. AND THEY LET HIM OUT IN 2007. Look, people, the reason we have jails is to protect the citizens from people who want to hurt or rape or kill us, and who we're too soft-headed to hang as they deserve.

So Alejandro the rape-o raped a girl in Perpignan, France, and the cops arrested him today in Cardedeu. I hope he falls out the back of the police van going 120 kph while trying to escape. I bet that can be arranged.

There's a big stink going on in the Spanish Constitutional Court. María Emilia Casas, the chief justice, committed the indiscretion of giving informal legal advice to a woman she knew whose husband had been murdered; that woman has now been indicted for said murder. Oops.

Finally, the board of the Autonomous University tried to hold a meeting today. They called out the cops to protect the board members. About fifty middle-class student punk squatter wannabe poseurs, protesting the so-called Bologna process, decided they'd charge the cops, and the cops beat the crap out of them. Good job, Cops!

Sunday, June 08, 2008 is in full swing. We still have organizational stuff to do, but we've got content up and going, and "Liffey" is fixing our mistakes. I think it's pretty funny. It's not all hilarious, some of it is just curious, but we think there's a place for such a website in Spain. So go visit it and link to it and tell your friends about it.

By the way, please make suggestions if you have any.

Big news from around here: ETA again. They exploded a small bomb in front of the offices of the Bilbao newspaper El Correo, with no warning, at around 3 AM today while about 50 people were working inside. No one was hurt, fortunately.

Political stuff: Interior minister Rubalcaba told Basque premier Ibarretxe that it doesn't matter what the Basque nationalists do, "self-determination" for the Basque country is out of the question. Of course Ibarretxe is going to carry on with his plans for a referendum, and he's going to say it's binding, and the Spanish government is going to say it's not binding, and this will all end up signifying nothing.

PP founder Manuel Fraga said that Ruiz-Gallardon would make the best successor to Rajoy as head of the PP, and that Gallardon has a majority among the Madrid branch of the party. Gallardon, of course, has declared his support for Rajoy more than once, so the question is whether Fraga meant "now" or "after Rajoy loses us the 2012 election."

30% of the women murdered in domestic violence cases in Spain this year had already filed charges against their abusers. This is entirely unacceptable. A great deal more must be done in this country to protect people, especially women in abusive relationships, against violence. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I honestly don't know whether there's a battered women's shelter anywhere in Catalonia, and you'd think a guy like me who reads the paper (and filters through the Internet, and watches the news on TV) every day would have heard about it if there were one.

The shitbag truck drivers who are refusing to work because they don't like the price of gas went out and blocked up the highways near the Montmeló racetrack this afternoon, a race day, causing five kilometers of traffic jams and an uncountable quantity of irritation. I have no idea why the police don't haul all these shitbags off to jail for about seventeen felony traffic violations each, not to mention interfering with the citizens' right to travel, creating a public nuisance, and generally being assholes, and tow their trucks away to the vehicle pound, along with pulling their licenses.

Speaking of shitbags, four punk kids were arrested last night in Sant Feliu after smashing the windows, headlights, and mirrors of 50 parked cars, along with denting the metalwork with iron bars. They must have caused at least €100,000 of damage, figuring about two grand per car. When asked why they did it, they said, "Just for fun." I bet almost nothing happens to them.

We had some fun yesterday afternoon here in Gracia. The goddamn squatters had them a big old "Freedom for Franki" demo, which I went down to check out in the Plaza Virreina. They were pretty much what you'd have figured, dirty and drunk, swigging out of bottles of Xibeca and chanting "Prisoners on the streets, freedom and amnesty." That's a well-known ETA chant. They finished off their march by torching a few dozen paper Spanish flags in the Plaza Rius i Taulet. I was unimpressed. No discipline. These people are more of a poorly organized sub-lumpenproletariat than a social movement, and they could be scattered with just one firehose.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I've been occupied during the last few days setting up, which is starting to look really good, I think. Our volunteer editor, "Liffey," is doing a great job fixing our mistakes and cleaning up our prose. We have plenty of content, and we're still learning all we can do with WordPress. Next step: Get some publicity.

My poor little dog, Perla, has had a terrible month. On May Day she ran out into traffic on Calle Providencia and got hit by a van. I thought she was dead for sure, but the van driver slammed on the brakes--it wasn't his fault--and didn't run over her, just hit her pretty hard. She spent two days at the vet's; fortunately, it was mostly just a scare. We learned something from this, though: Perla absolutely needs to be leashed whenever she's anywhere near a car.

Then yesterday we took her in for an operation we'd scheduled months ago: dogs have little scent glands on each side of their butt, and Perla's are constantly getting infected, with unpleasant consequences. So we had the vet extirpate them. Now Perla is wearing one of those plastic funnel things around her neck so she can't lick her bottom, and she does not like this at all.

She has to go back to the vet in ten days to have the stitches out. Let's hope that's the last time she has to go there until her vaccinations next year.

News from these here parts: ERC is holding a primary election among its 10,000 members; they've got four candidates to choose from, including the crook Joan Puigcercos, all of whom I hope lose. The entire Spanish press is orgasmic for Obama. Spending our tax money wisely: the Zap government is beginning an ad campaign in the world financial press explaining what a great job it is doing with the economy. They're going to kick it off with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. God knows what that'll cost. PSOE hypocrisy: The Aznar government hired a Washington PR firm to lobby for Spain in Washington for €2 million, and the Socialists raised hell about it. Now the situation's reversed.

Barça bought Dani Alves from Sevilla for €29 million, and Martin Caceres from Villarreal for €16.5 million. That's pretty expensive for a pair of defensive players, though they are both very good and Caceres is very young as well. The Eurocup starts today with Switzerland facing the Czech Republic in what's sure to be a thrilling 0-0 defensive battle. Spain's got an easy group and should have no problem qualifying for the quarterfinals, where they will lose as usual.

Two dirtbag doormen of Spanish nationality refused to let three Moroccans into a disco in Fuenlabrada, a Madrid suburb. It got violent and the thugs stabbed one of the Moroccans to death. Of course, Spain's not racist or anything. And this morning five Spanish dirtbags were injured in downtown Madrid in a gang fight involving baseball bats and, get this, axes.

There's an unfortunate tendency to blame all crime in Spain on immigrants; immigrants commit a disproportionate amount of crimes, of course, but there are logical reasons for that. Immigrants are generally of low socioeconomic status in their home country--if they were middle-class and well-educated, they wouldn't have to emigrate. They're also in an unfamiliar and sometimes frightening situation, away from home, where they don't speak the language well and don't understand some of the things happening around them. And, along with the 98% of immigrants who are good citizens and valuable acquisitions for Spain, we also get 2% who are criminals in their home countries, on the run from justice there or looking for opportunities to prey on their own vulnerable compatriots here.

The truck drivers are going on strike beginning Monday in protest against the high price of gasoline. This actually isn't a strike, it's not workers against management, it's a bunch of small operators refusing to work, so it's really more of a lockout than a strike. I believe in the right to strike, but I'm a bit puzzled about why you'd strike against the price of raw materials. What do they want, for the government to magically increase the oil supply so that the price goes down? Probably what they want is more government subsidies for themselves, some tasty Treasury pap.

And you just know they're going to pull a bunch of crap, blocking the public highways with roadblocks of burning tires and facing off against the cops.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good news. We got our silly-news-in-Spanish site up and running at So go check it out and see what you think. And tell all your friends. And call up everyone you know and tell them to buy advertisements.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Quick Monday blog roundup:

Biased BBC fondly recalls the most outrageous Beeb moments ever. Read the comments, they're entertaining.

Colin Davies is reliable, always there with more insights from Pontevedra.

Eursoc has more on food prices and EU agricultural subsidies.

Expat Yank suggest that Susan Sarandon move to Spain. He also has a whack at European Obama-worshippers.

Gates of Vienna reproduces a sonnet written in SMS-speak on everybody's favorite punching bag.

Iberian Nature has good stuff; check out these photos of bears, wolves, and eagles.

La Gatita Gringa does not much care for bullfighting. I don't, either. LA-Madrid Files has his own perspective.

No Pasaran! takes the Euros to task about making phony comparisons with the US in order to prove the EU is, like, better.

Observing Hermann denounces more EU subsidies for Airbus and EADS.

Oliver Kamm says that Obama has no idea about foreign policy at all.
No news today. The green line of the metro went down today between 8:30 and 9 AM, thereby screwing up the system during morning rush hour. Meanwhile, a car wreck on the motorway leading into town from the suburbs in the Vallés at around 8:30 AM caused a seven-mile backup. Probably nearly 100,000 people got to work an hour late, costing us that much productivity. When one piece of the puzzle goes down, the entire infrastructure feels it.

Three-quarters of Spanish workers are suffering from workplace stress and feel burned out. Of these, three-quarters claim to be suffering health problems due to said stress. Causes: Not knowing what is expected of them, not being permitted to make decisions, and not feeling secure about their future.

I would add generally distant management that is not able to convince the worker that his and the company's interests are the same. I would also add that small businesses in Spain often try to exploit their workers big-time, I believe more so than in the United States. My wife Remei has only been satisfied with the way management has treated her at one of the small companies she's worked at; I can personally state that small language academies in Spain are generally very badly run.

More boat people: 34 black African illegal immigrants arrived near Almeria today, having crossed the Mediterranean from Morocco. The foreign press didn't notice.

44% of Spanish university students admit having used a cheat sheet on an exam, and 47% admit copying off another student's paper. Now they're trying electronic tricks, using MP3s and the like to store information. I can't claim to be Mr. Ethics and Morality, having fallen short of my own standards many times, but I never cheated on a test. One thing is that I was always good at school, so I never felt like I had to.

In America they take this really seriously. I knew a guy at KU who got expelled from the university for cheating on a chemistry final exam. Not much loss; he was a jerk anyway. Ted Kennedy got kicked out of Harvard for cheating on a Spanish final.

Latin gang fight in Madrid last night: two stabbed, one seriously, and three arrested. At least in Madrid the Latin Kings aren't a "cultural organization."

Heavy rains and flooding in the Basque Country, especially near Bilbao. They've evacuated parts of several towns, including Guecho and Santurce. Some of the highways are closed down, and the trains have been seriously delayed. Nobody's died yet or anything really bad like that. Here in Catalonia the reservoirs are all above 50% of capacity, and several are higher than that.

Barcelona sold Zambrotta to Milan for €9 million and Giovani dos Santos to Tottenham for €8 million. I think they gave up on Giovani too quickly, he's got tremendous talent, but the story is that he picked up a lot of bad habits in Rijkaard's free-and-easy clubhouse.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

ETA again. This time it was a bomb at 2:30 this morning in Zarautz, Viscaya, a prosperous Bilbao suburb. They called in a warning first. The target was one of the companies that is working on the high-speed train line from Madrid to the Basque country. It wasn't a big bomb, about five kilos of explosives, small enough to be carried in a backpack. Not much damage was done; three people were slightly injured, but they're OK.

Zap promised he wouldn't let the companies raise electricity rates any higher than the rate of inflation, which is a problem because such a fixed price is well below what it costs them to produce the electricity.

Eto'o, in Cameroon, head-butted a local journalist in a fit of pique. That's assault and battery. Of course he's going to get away with it because he's God down there. Supposedly Milan wants to buy him. Barça is asking for €50 million and Milan says that's too much. They already bought Zambrotta, but the price hasn't been announced; it's probably about €8 million or so. It's pretty clear they want to get rid of Giovani dos Santos, probably to Tottenham. Bargain sale at the Camp Nou!

The Royals finally won a game after like twelve straight losses.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Other news from around here:

Zap says he's going to turn over management of the Barcelona commuter train system and the Barcelona airport to the Generalitat. Somehow I think this will mean that they go from being badly administered by Spanish bureaucrats to being badly administered by Catalan bureaucrats. How about a little privatization?

Domestic violence increased by 29% in 2007 in Barcelona, while sexual assaults increased by 32%. I imagine most of the increase is due to a higher percentage of crimes being reported, but this is not good.

More African boat people: a cayuco with 55 persons on board reached Tenerife. I am tired of the international media ignoring this story.

Basque prime minister Ibarretxe is going on and on about his October 25 referendum on self-determination for the Basque Country. The problem, of course, is that such a referendum is unconstitutional, besides having no legal value. But Ibarretxe says he's going to hold the damn thing anyway, and that its results will be binding if approved by the Basque Parliament. He's wrong, of course, since the Constitutional Court outranks the Basque regional government.

For comparison's sake, imagine if Alabama were to hold a referendum on reinstating segregation, banned by the US Constitution. Or on outlawing abortion, protected by the US constitution. Or establishing the Baptist Church, executing juveniles by burning at the stake, raising the voting age to 30, or banning the Communist Manifesto. What do you think would be the consequence, whether they passed it or not?

Ruiz-Gallardon announced his support for Rajoy in a speech at which Esperanza Aguirre did not show up. Read into that what you will.

So the government polling agency CIS, and why we need one I don't know, did a survey ranking world leaders in popularity here in Spain. Michele Bachelet was first, and Lula de Silva was second. Bush came in third from last, followed by Castro and Chavez.

Spanish heartthrob pop singer Alejandro Sanz is appearing in the Spanish-language pro-Obama ad, titled "Podemos." Although Sanz is not American, of course, he does have freedom of speech and so he can say what he wants, including endorsing a candidate in another country's elections. I remember back in 2000, though, when the American singer Gloria Estefan campaigned for Jose Maria Aznar, and the entire Spanish left became very indignant at this foreign interference. So which is it, people?

The Lakers, featuring Catalan power forward Pau Gasol, made the NBA finals, where they'll play Boston. Everybody's getting all excited about it over here, especially the media, and of course 100% of them are backing the Lakers. I don't care because I 'm not interested in the NBA; half of me wants the Lakers to lose because I've never liked them and their big-city Hollywood glamour image, and the other half wants the Celtics to lose because it would piss off Bill Simmons so much. I suppose I'll be rooting for Boston because former Kansas star Paul Pierce plays for them.

The orgasmicness over Gasol, billed as the first Spanish player in the NBA finals by TV1 and the first Catalan player in the finals by TV3, is going a bit too far; he's a good player, but not an All-Star. Oh, well, he's happy to get out of Memphis, which he bad-mouthed for years in the Spanish press, and get him some media spotlight.

Oh, yeah, speaking of TV3, they've taken it off their site now, but last night they headlined their story about the "new" Amazon tribe, "A tribe that has never seen white men before." Uh, guys, they've never seen black people, or East Asian people, either. Not to mention women of any of those races. Talk about sexist ethnocentrism. I demand an investigation. Heads must roll.
The Colombian government announced today that FARC has been plotting with ETA to murder Colombians in Spain, including vicepresident Francisco Santos and ex-president Andrés Pastrana, along with cabinet ministers and ambassadors, since at least 2003. ETA members trained in Colombia in that year, and ETA and FARC have had contact since at least the early '90s, when they held a meeting in Cuba, of course. Two ETA men gave the FARC an explosives and car-bomb master class. During the ETA "truce" in June 2006, a FARC member traveled semi-openly to the Basque Country to take part in a meeting with pro-ETA front groups, organized by banned ETA-front party Batasuna.

What I want to know is why nobody on the European left will believe that the whole lot of extreme left gangs around the world, from the Montoneros to the Red Brigades to FARC to the Japanese Red Army to the Sandinistas to the PFLP to ETA, are creations of the Cold War. Every single one of them received Soviet support and money, often laundered through Cuba. Of course ETA and the FARC have connections going way back, and the very most basic foundation of those connections is called the KGB.

The far-leftist propaganda machine is already rolling, trying to discredit the computer files discovered by the Colombians during the anti-FARC raid into Ecuador. It won't fly. They're guilty as hell, and so are Chavez and Correa, who are bankrolling them and providing them with shelter.

Zap, do you get it now? Your friend Hugo Chavez, who you sold military weapons to, is supporting a gang of terrorists guilty of kidnapping, drug trafficking, and murder, not to mention trying to overthrow a democratically elected government. And that gang of terrorists is an ally of our very own Spanish gang of terrorists that is murdering members of your very own political party. And the connection between them all is Raul Castro's Communist dictatorship in Cuba. And you yourself are continually seeking to lift European Union sanctions against the brother and handpicked heir of the Godfather.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jesus. I got another one of these. Showed up on my referrals log because Iberian Notes is becoming your one-stop shop for incest porn. This guy is from Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia, and he did a Google search for "sun fuck whit mather." Four words. Three spelled wrong. Note which one he got right. What a freak.

If I were into stereotyping people I know nothing about, like certain readers of El Pais, I'd say that the Oedipus complex runs rampant among males in Islamic countries. As does bad spelling.
El Pais has a big exclusive scoop: Dunkin' Donuts inadvertently ran an ad campaign in the US featuring Rachael Ray, whoever she is, wearing a Palestinian scarf. El Pais says that the keffiyeh "was made by Yasser Arafat into the symbol of the resistance of the Palestinian people against Israel...It is worn by all sympathizers of the cause." You can see why some people got mad.

Naturally, neither the company nor the actress had any idea of what the thing means. So they received protests and pulled the ad. Obviously. They don't want to run any ads that offend any of their customers. That's bad business. For the same reason, they probably wouldn't dress their spokesmodels up in Obama T-shirts, McCain baseball caps, or a Red Sox jacket in a New York ad. Or the Confederate flag. Or a Che Guevara T-shirt. Or a KKK hood. Or an SS uniform.

In fact, I bet Spanish companies do the same thing. I bet you don't see a lot of American flags in Spanish ads, and that they wouldn't use someone in a US army uniform to promote a product in Spain. I bet they wouldn't use the Catalan flag in Madrid, or the Spanish flag in Barcelona, either. I doubt you would see a Spanish republican flag anywhere. I bet they don't show people wearing Falange blue shirts. Or Franco-era gray police uniforms. Or those T-shirts with big marijuana leaves on them. And I know for a fact that they never show anyone wearing either an Arab headscarf or a Jewish kipa.

In fact, I don't recall ever seeing anyone in a Spanish advertisement wearing a keffiyah, either.

So here are some of the comments:

More proof that Israel really governs in the US. No matter what they say, the Israelis are the most important power in the world: just remember their 60 years of occupation of Palestine, and the rest of the world letting it happen. FREE Palestine!

The poor Americans!

Multinationals take over everything because everything can become a consumer product. They've done it with hippie and punk symbols, and now "Palestinians" (apparently among some Spaniards an Arafat scarf is called merely a "Palestinian") Before, wearing a "Palestinian" had ideological connotations, now everybody wears them because they're in fashion. The ones who used to wear sweaters with American flags now wear "Palestinians." It is an abusive appropriation by the global multinationals to homogenize thoughts and appearances.

There are a lot of Jews loose around here.

Horrible! She's wearing pants too!!! Bin Laden wears pants too!!! People who cover their legs are terrorists!!! Worse than terrorists!!!

If you read the New york times (sic) you'll learn that the suicide rate in the navy (sic) is the highest in history, but why would they worry about that? Instead let's make a fuss about the Palestinian scarf.

What is coffee sweetened with? Sugar. What country produces sugar? Cuba. So the advertisement is communist propaganda. They're imbeciles.

In the US, they're truly ignorant, but they should not be excused. This ignorance is the fruit of their social, cultural, and economic dictatorship. This country is a real danger for our society, and not the "sources of immigration." They provoke and generate so much hate.

As Obelix would say, these Americans are crazy!

I imagine that many young consumers wear whatever is the most fashion (sic) without seeing any militant allegiance. Knowing the cultural level of many Americans, I would not be surprised if it is just another fad. In any case it is one more example of the intolerance that they have accustomed us to.

No comment...Thank you, Lord, that I am not American.

This is one more sign that the gringos are panicking, which is an ideal weapon for the conservative extremists in the United States, who are trying to eliminate all the cultures and religions different from theirs.

But does nobody remember the scandal of the nipple at the Super Bowl? This is more of the same. They don't worry about Guantanamo or other disasters, though.

Is this story serious? It seems so ridiculous to me that I can't believe it's true! Carrying an 8mm Magnum in your pocket is totally normal, moral, and legitimate, and wearing a "Palestinian" is a proclamation of terrorism? And I thought they used guns in war instead of "Palestinians"!

What a country...I hope we never become like them.

These Americans (from the North) with their mental illnesses, are stepping on individual and collective rights (traveling comfortably, wearing a scarf, or a T-shirt). The bad thing is that here there are many imitators of their model. Will we end up goose-stepping?

They can't show a scarf, but rifles, pistols, machine guns, tanks, bombs, that's not censored, on the contrary.

It's completely logical. Everybody knows that Palestinian scarves were produced by Arafat in a high-tech laboratory in order to make everyone who wears them a potential terrorist.

What poorly thinking people! Poor country! Ignorance cubed.

Even being a great power, the United States of North America, "paladins of freedom," are not precisely an example to imitate, but exactly the opposite. Their expansionist ambitions, united with their great ignorance about many subjects, the ease with which they let themselves be influenced by Zionist groups, have led them to commit innumerable errors that many of our countries refuse to condemn. CYNICISM, and nothing more.

All advertising actors should wear a Palestinian scarf in all the ads on European TV networks. It would be a good chance to remind the Americans of the holocaust they are committing against the Palestinian people.

I will never buy products with that brand again. We should prohibit all videos that show the American flag, which is the most bloodstained symbol in the history of humanity. It often appears in videos of people torturing in Guantanamo, dropping cluster-bombs, invade countries, kill democratically elected leaders of other countries, massacre entire peoples, and a long list of crimes against humanity. The United States is the greatest international terrorist.


If this is the contry that calls itself "the land of freedom," where is that FREEDOM? I'm sure if she had been wearing a Jewish kippa or any other Zionist or militarist garment, then there would have been no problem. The only adjectives that fit are "UNEDUCATED", "IGNORANT", "ZIONISTS", "ILLITERATES", "MANIPULATORS", and their synonyms.

The message of the advertisement is exactly that: "choosing." Choosing my coffee shop, my coffee, my donuts, choosing to wear a Palestinian or Hindu scarf or live in an igloo...but retrograde and ignorant American society cannot understand these subtleties.

And then the Western world considers them tolerant and democratic! What repression! And what if the actress had been wearing a veil? Then, people who think differently are called anti-Semites. Please, it's just a scarf.

If they have such a bad opinion of Palestinian scarves, what must they think of Palestinian people?

Proven: 1. Human stupidity has no limits. 2. The power of the Jewish lobby in Israel.

There are Yankees who have no idea where they live.

These Americans are crazy. Ridiculous. They love looking for problems where there aren't any.

What a list of supine foolishness to justify fear of others. This is like fried potatoes, that became freedom fries instead of french fries because of pure chauvinism. Really, they make me sick. Because of a scarf!

What an absurd country! What if they worried about things that are really important!

I have 4 "Palestinians." This stupidity could only happen in the United States, where carrying a gun and killing people is normal, but having a cloth around your neck is bad. Ridiculous. What a "country of freedom."

This is ridiculous. I've been wearing a "Palestinian" since I was 15, and I do not support extreme Islamism, simply, I support a cause that has cost many lives, and I repudiate the injustice that has no end because it's not in the interest of the US.

Radical Islamists often wear blue jeans too. Let's prohibit them!

This perfectly shows the Islamophobia of the Americans. Now pieces of clothing are offensive and promote radicalism. Next thing they'll prohibit dark-skinned people or those who look like Arabs from television, we wouldn't want then to be Islamists and we don't realize it!

So if I drink Coca-Cola I'm an accomplice of Guantanamo? Of course, we've forgotten that the Americans are friends of the Israelis, and the Palestinian scarf is a symbol they don't like. They've given me an idea, I'm going to go out now and buy one.

Note the fact that many of these commenters don't know how to read; they've confused the decision of a private company with some sort of national ban on "Palestinians." Also note the fact that "Palestinians" are so fashionable in Spain that they have their own slang term; one guy even brags that he has four. Note the psychological need that many commenters have to feel individually superior to Americans. Note the widespread stereotyping of and ignorance about American people. Also note the bitter sarcasm, which is the verbal weapon of he who knows he has already lost.

Finally, note that the commenters drip hate for Americans individually and the American people as a culture and a nation. Though most anti-Americans deny such hate, claiming that they merely dislike the policies of the American government, they're lying.

By the way, did this story even make the news in the US? I haven't seen it anywhere, and I cover news on the Net pretty thoroughly. El Pais's article says they got it from the BBC, which isn't surprising, knowing the Beeb's particular biases.
Not much news today. Econ stuff: The national budget for 2009 will be €160.2 billion, a 5% increase over 2008. Solbes proyects a balanced budget for the next two years, and then a surplus in 2011. However, these projections are based on a 2-3% annual growth rate, and the private sector's predictions say it mignt not be even half that.

Meanwhile, economics counselor Antoni Castells announced that the Generalitat's budget deficit for 2007 was €762 million, €300 million more than projected.

Car sales in May were down 18% over May last year. Consumer spending must be way down.

Other news: These idiot chefs are still arguing with one another over whether it's OK to use chemical additives in haute cuisine, and everybody is talking about it, which means our frivolity level here in Spain is high, as usual. That's one of the things I love-hate about Spain: there's a lot of excitement about things that aren't important at all. Which I guess is true in America as well, but I notice it more here.

The Barcelona press is split: La Vanguardia is supporting Santamaria, probably because he is the spokesman for a long-running promotion they're doing, distributing cooking utensils. El Periodico is supporting Adria, probably because Santamaria is backed by the eternal rival La Vangua.

Complaint about the newspapers: They're always running eight million promotions at the same time. La Vanguardia is promoting an atlas, a CD series, a book series, and a collection of exotic bugs encased in plastic, as well as the kitchen stuff. I wish they would lay off the damn promotions and charge less for the paper.

By the way, El Pais has raised its price to €1.10. I imagine the other papers will soon follow suit. They very obviously practice price collusion; I'm not going to claim that the papers are actively conspiring to rip us off, but it's clear that nobody is willing to compete on price.

The 150,000 members of FC Barcelona are mad. 9000 of them signed a recall election petition against club president Joan Laporta, double the necessary number. So it looks like there will be an election. Barça elections are always fun because they're full of outrageous skullduggery. Somebody's already stolen a computer with access to the entire Barça database, and has allegedly tried to sell it for a million euros to an opposition candidate.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yearly inflation in Spain hit 4.7% in May, a five-point increase over April. It is directly caused by the increase in oil prices, and by the subsequent increase in the price of every other raw material. Inflation is not a good thing. Better low growth than high inflation.

The CIS, the government polling agency (and why we need one I don't know), says that the PSOE would beat the PP in a general election held today, 43.6% to 37.6%. I'm surprised to see the PP so high, what with the internal power struggle and the poor electoral campaigh they ran. Zap is a very weak incumbent and they had no business losing to him.

Oh, by the way, I'm going on record right now to say that McCain is going to win the US election handily, taking the Republican heartland along with the big three swing states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Hillary is not going to give up; she's going to take Obama all the way to the convention. And the Republicans are going to jump all over Obama's past record, and lack thereof. He and his crazy wife and their past and present associations are going to make him unelectable. I will bet they have some oppo dynamite on him, too. McCain will win both the center and the right, which has nowhere else to go. They may not much like McCain but they will come out to vote against Obama.

I think Bobby Jindal would make an excellent vice-presidential candidate. He's young, attractive, more conservative than McCain, more qualified than Obama, and being East Indian-American and a convert to Christianity isn't going to hurt. This guy gets elected in Louisiana, so his appeal to the Southern Christian vote is real. He ought to nail down the Bible Belt for the Republicans. He'll also be appealing to the naturalized citizen vote, as he's the son of immigrants, who tend to be very socially conservative. And he'll make it possible to vote Republican and not look racist, for people who think that's important. Jindal can talk technocrat with the college graduates and talk Jesus in the small towns. Besides, he and his family are vegetarians, which I think is totally cool. I also think McCain should offer Secretary of Defense to Joe Lieberman, and announce it now if Lieberman agrees. I wonder when the Democrats are going to kick Lieberman out of the party.

Water update: The reservoirs that supply Barcelona have reached 50% capacity, and it's even higher in the reservoirs in the Ebro watershed. They are going to build the aqueduct between Barcelona and Tarragona in case of future emergencies, but they will not transfer any water this year. The tanker ships will continue bringing in water until August. The current water restrictions will be lifted very soon. Also, the rains have been so good that the danger of forest fire this summer is very low, at least until September.

My former boss Jimenez Losantos is definitely off the reservation; he's bolted the PP. He accused Ruiz-Gallardon's witnesses, Acebes, Zaplana, and Aguirre, of "total bald-faced manipulation." These three used to be Losantos's favorite politicians, and they've thrown him under the bus. They are more loyal to Gallardon (and Rajoy) than to Losantos. He is definitely going to lose this lawsuit; the only support he got was from Pedro J. and Luis Herrero. One thing is that Gallardon doesn't come off looking too great, either; he seems like a whiny little kid who says everybody's calling him names.

Something just happened that really pissed me off. Some woman came to my door (I have a sign on my door saying "No solicitors or Jehovah's Witnesses") saying she was not a saleswoman, she was from Endesa and wanted information about my use of natural gas. I said to myself, hell, it's a survey, I'll help her out and tell her how much gas we use. So I go find the latest gas bill to show her that we used eleven euros worth of gas last month. She asks me to show me the bill, which I do, and she starts writing down stuff. I look and see that it's a form to get me to change companies, from Gas Natural to Endesa. I say, "What's going on here? I don't want to change companies." She said, "If you don't change companies you don't get the discount." I said, "So you are a saleswoman, trying to get me to buy something I didn't ask to buy," and shut the door on her.

Has Endesa, or any other company, tried this on you? It's most certainly an unethical business practice, and somebody ought to complain to the consumer protection people.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm working on a new idea: a silly-news website. Right now I'm beta-testing it. Monday and Tuesday I worked on finding content. Today I learned how to post photos. Tomorrow I hope to learn to size and place them correctly. If you have a spare couple of minutes, go over there and see what you think. I'm already aware of one weakness: I need an editor to check my Spanish for grammar mistakes and the occasional semantic error.
The Colombian terrorist group FARC had tentative plans to murder anti-FARC Colombians living in Madrid, according to the computer files captured during the raid into Ecuador. Interpol confirms that the information is authentic. Can our local moonbat left please stop kissing the feet of this gang of kidnappers, extortionists, drug traffickers, and murderers, and the clownish Mafia don Chavez who bankrolls them?

The Spanish real estate market has reached the status of "flaming gasbag," as housing sales were down 39% in the year ending in March. Secondhand housing sales were down 46%. 42% less money was lent out by banks in the form of mortgages. By the way, 98% of Spanish mortgages are variable-rate.

You may wonder why I've been paying so much attention to real estate; it's because the majority of most Spaniards' accumulated wealth is plowed into their dwelling, and when real estate prices drop everybody loses wealth, at least on paper. Nobody gains wealth, not the banks nor the government nor the big companies, contrary to the opinion of most folks, believers in the "physical fallacy."

My old boss, Federico Jimenez Losantos, the hard right-wing host of the morning program on Cope radio, is in trouble. Madrid mayor Ruiz-Gallardon has sued him for libel, since in 2006 Losantos claimed that Gallardon "didn't care" about the March 11, 2004 victims, though he planned to use them for political purposes, and that he was collaborating with the PSOE. The case has now come to court, and I think Losantos is going to lose. Some big wheels have been called to testify, including Aguirre, Acebes, and Zaplana, along with the editor of El Mundo, Pedro J. Ramirez.

Spanish libel law is a good bit looser than American; in the US you have to prove that the defendant lied intentionally with malicious intentions toward the plaintiff, while in Spain you can sue for insults and "injuries."

Amnesty International has released its annual report, and La Vanguardia gave it all of Page 4. As usual, AI is much more indignant about the shortcomings of democratic governments than it is about the crimes committed by dictatorships, but at least somebody is trying to keep track of what's going on.

La Vanguardia's account focuses on "extrajudicial arrests, the prison at Guantanamo, restrictions of freedom, and abuses carried to the absurd such as requiring an old man to take off his shoes at an airport." I detect an unhealthy interest in what Paul Hollander called "a relentless critical impulse toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values."

At least AI flays China for supporting the oppressive governments in Burma, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. It criticizes the European Union for "not investigating its member states about human rights, turning over terrorism suspects to the US (the CIA's secret flights), restricting the rights of immigrants...and marginalizing the gypsy minority."

The most important criticism of Spain, which I think has some validity, is "the difficulty of women who are victims of violence to obtain protection, justice, and restitution, especially in the case of immigrants, who do not go to the police for fear of being deported. 48 of the 71 women murdered in Spain in 2007 were immigrants."

I do think the government ought to make it clear that the legal resident status of people who go to the police to report crimes will not be investigated, that those who denounce crimes will not be deported as a consequence of doing so.

Get this; it's in La Vanguardia's print edition but not online. Here in Barcelona they invited "the Iraqi journalist and writer" Eman Khamas to speak at the press conference marking the release of the report. She said, "They talk about a civil war in my country, but it isn't a civil war, it's a war against the occupation that some Iraqis have benefited from. The US insists that security has improved, and it's a dirty lie. The proof is that they sent 30,000 more soldiers at the beginning of the year."

Uh, Ms. Khamas, the reason that security has improved in Iraq is precisely because the Americans sent more soldiers. It's called "the surge." Some guy named Petraeus is in charge of it. They've been doing it for a while now. Deaths of US soldiers have been more than cut in half since the surge began.

Oh, by the way, CIA secret flights? What CIA secret flights? Minister of Defense Alonso told Radio Euskadi that the Zapatero Government "has checked and confirmed the reports of US flights that use bases in Spain and has not detected any sort of illegality. The Government has systematically reviewed all information about US military flights. As Minister of Defense the first thing I did was ask for the reports about the suspicious flights. There is no evidence that anything illegal has been done in Spanish territory. If it had, it would not have been tolerated, since regarding human rights, we must not be complacent."

And another conspiracy theory, this one promoted by El Pais, deflates.

They found a body floating in Barcelona harbor this morning. The cops have not identified it yet, or explained what the person died of. I hope it was a squatter who shot up a bunch of heroin and then fell off the walkway to Maremagnum.

La Vanguardia's reader photo of the day is of a sign painted on the wall of a junkyard in Prat de Llobregat. It says, "Me cago in los muertos y en to su puta madre del ke me robe," which translates as, "I shit on the dead ancestors and the whore mother of whoever steals from me." La Vangua's commentary is, "The photographer hopes you laugh along with him." So far there have been no cultural analyses of the vulgarity and obscenity of the language used by most Spaniards, or the role it plays in the Spanish collective imagination, whatever that is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yet another moral disaster for the UN. The NGO Save the Children has accused UN peacekeeping troops, and members of other "peace" and "humanitarian" groups, of routinely committing sexual abuse of children in the countries where they are stationed. The countries mentioned are Haiti, Liberia, Congo, and Ivory Coast. Some children are telling horrific stories. I know that charges of sexual abuse are often false--for an example, look at the wave of late '80s-early '90s false stories of Satanic child sex abuses at several US preschools, all of which were bogus--but Save the Children has so many independent accusations that at least some of them must be true.

I really think that when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are over, the US ought to consider pulling completely out of the UN, which is rotten to the core, and help set up an organization of established democratic states only, based on NATO. And I mean democratic; Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, and Russia don't qualify, much less Morocco and Pakistan and Angola and Venezuela and China. I would be willing to give such an organization, which would be very hard to get into and not very hard to get voted out of, veto power over American overseas use of the military.

Interior minister Perez Rubalcaba said yesterday that ETA has already reestablished a new leadership, just a few days after the capture of the bull goose etarra, Lopez Peña. He added that he was going to put 800 more cops on the terrorism beat.

More PP infighting: Gabriel Elorriaga, the PP's press secretary, has come out against Rajoy. Elorriaga is known as a moderate, which is a change from the others questioning Rajoy's leadership; the rest of them are all from the right / Spanish nationalist wing of the party.

Another near-disaster in Catalonia. Get this one. A truck driver ran his truck off a bridge near Solsona in Lleida province this morning, crashing partway through the guardrail. The truck is now hanging off the side of the bridge, with the driver still in the cab. Nobody died. So what's the big deal? The truck is full of explosives. The area has been evacuated, and the cops are waiting for a large crane to arrive so they can pull the truck and driver to safety. Let's hope it works.

What I want to know is exactly how a guy driving a truck full of explosives manages to drive it off a bridge. Shouldn't he be going like ten miles an hour?

The combination of high oil prices, crashing real estate prices, and Zap's social programs have cut the budget surplus by 56%. Government income has declined, due to lower VAT receipts caused by the construction slump, and lower gasoline tax receipts due to the high price and decreased consumption. Spain is still running an €9 billion surplus, so we don't need to worry yet, and a little deficit spending won't hurt. But let's not make the American mistake of borrowing to keep consumer spending high and keep the economy out of recession. A short sharp shock might well be salutary for the US, and it looks like it's coming here too.

Ana Obregon update: Ana Obregon is an aging Spanish slutty bimbo and sometime TV actress. She has had sex with at least one-eighth of the men in Spain. Her last program was the repulsive "Ana y los siete," in which her character was the nanny for a large family by day and a stripper by night; the most horrifying sight in the history of Spanish TV was la Obregon's seminude silicone-laden body. So she's in trouble now for offering to pay her bodyguard to beat up a TV host who had made fun of her. I say that's conspiracy to commit assault and battery, a violent crime, and that she ought to go to the slam for it. Obregon denies the story and is threatening to sue the magazine that published it. I bet she doesn't do it, that she's all hat and no cattle.

(Contrast: I wouldn't want to put Isabel Pantoja in jail, even though she's mixed up in this Marbella corruption case and is almost certainly guilty of tax fraud, at the very least. She's a nonviolent, economic criminal, who shouldn't suffer loss of her physical freedom, but rather of her economic freedom. Sentence her to five years in public housing, scrubbing floors and eating off food stamps.)

Oh, by the way, you know the urban legend in which a celebrity with mega-fake boobs is on an airplane that loses cabin pressure, and her juggernauts explode? Here in Spain that celebrity is Ana Obregon. I've heard it in the US about Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson.

Dumbest controversy of the year: Catalan chef Santi Santamaria has accused Ferran Adria and other celebrity chefs of ruining Iberian cuisine by using artificial chemical ingredients in their fancy expensive avant-garde dishes. So everybody's all excited, and, get this, they're debating the question on TV and the radio, and taking sides on it. Who gives a crap? It's obvious that nothing interesting has happened yet this week.

The death toll of the construction accident at the new CF Valencia stadium has reached four. Three of the dead have been identified, an Ecuadorian, a Bolivian, and a Spaniard. They're arguing about the causes now, but it's obviously not the fault of the men who fell, it's the fault of whoever was in charge of putting up the scaffold.

Barça update: Keita has officially signed. Pique is coming for sure. Rumor has it they want to sign forward Dani Guiza, who led the league in goals last year, from Mallorca, Hleb from Arsenal, Villa from Valencia, and Alves from Sevilla. Villarreal (not Recreativo; he was merely on loan there last year) is demanding €20 million for Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres.

Meanwhile, the Royals are dashing our hopes yet again. The season started out so nicely, and now they've lost eight straight on a road trip to Boston and Toronto, including a no-hitter by Jon Lester, a guy who has just come back from having cancer. Congratulations to Lester, it's a great story, but you hate it when it happens to your team.

Here's the Royals' best possible lineup in my opinion. By the way, OPS (On-base average Plus Slugging percentage) is the best statistic that measures a batter's performance, I think. You want your guys at the power positions (3B, RF, LF, 1B) to have at least an 800 OPS, and your guys at the skill positions (C, SS, 2B, CF) to have at least 750. A weak-hitting shortstop might have a 700 OPS, while a top hitter like Manny Ramirez or Albert Pujols might be well over 1000. Barry Bonds used to rack up a steroid-fueled OPS of like 1300 every year. Under 700 and you're a marginal player, one step away from the minors, unless you're an exceptional fielder or a reliable catcher.

L DeJesus CF 694
R Grudzielanek 2B 710
L Gordon 3B 799
R Guillen LF 718
R Olivo C 911
L Teahen RF 681
R Butler 1B 669
S Callaspo SS 660
R Buck DH 690

That just blows. Only Olivo and Gordon are doing their jobs, and Guillen is hitting well now after a disastrous April. That's it. Everybody else is hitting far below average for his position. And both Callaspo at SS and Butler at 1B are below-average defensive players, to boot. (The rest of the team is average or above-average, at least.) The Royals have above-average defensive players at both those positions. The problem is that 1B Gload's OPS is 573, and SS Peña's OPS is 388, which might be the worst in the history of the major leagues--and they've already given him more than 140 at-bats.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Typical Monday, not much of a news day, especially since it's Memorial Day in the States and everyone's down at the lake. Bit of weirdness: Some Spaniards, including Baltasar Porcel, get snippy at America's celebrating Halloween, a kids' dress-up holiday, at the same time Spain celebrates Todos los Santos, the day when dead people are remembered in Spain. Porcel has accused the Yanks of turning a solemn ritual into commercialized kitsch.

Of course, Todos los Santos (All Souls' Day) is a CATHOLIC holiday, and the people of the US are religiously mixed. We have our own secular day to remember the dead, Memorial Day. In fact, we have another similar holiday, Veterans' Day in November, when those who died for their country are remembered. You could argue that Americans are therefore even more respectful of their dead than the Spaniards.

Another piece of evidence: Most Spaniards know nothing about their family history. Remei, for example, doesn't know about any of her ancestors before about 1900. Many Americans, on the other hand, are interested in genealogy and in the lives of their ancestors. My family knows, for example, that some of us were Tennessee-Texas Scotch-Irish (including a couple of Confederate soldiers and Methodist circuit riders; at least one owned slaves), some of us were Kansas Germans from Bukovina in the old Austrian Empire, and that one branch, my mother's maternal grandfather's line, was Oklahoma Cherokee. They were all farmers or ranchers; we're from the landowning-peasant class, not the urban proletariat. An aunt and several of my cousins have married Mexican-Americans, meaning that I have Hispanic relatives as well, none of whom speak Spanish. Family surnames include Chappell, Colley, Whitney, Shannon, Stuart, Aust/Ast, Shoemake, and Walz. My favorite distant-relative surname is Schimmelpfennig.

Spaniards are surprised when they find out I know all this, but it's not unusual among Americans; we all know we're half-Irish, one-quarter Italian, and one-quarter Polish, or whatever the mix may be.

So the Jaume Bofill Foundation did a study and found that only 2% of immigrants in Spain who have been here at least ten years want to go home. Well, duh. If they wanted to go home they'd already have left. Wonder how much the Generalitat subsidized this one with.

Living on the infrastructure edge: This morning the main commuter-train line lost power in a tunnel near Plaza Catalunya and went down for forty minutes, thereby snarling up everything as usual. Another train broke down south of Sabadell and fouled up that line as well. I figure at the very least 50,000 people were an hour late to work, costing us 50,000 production hours that could have been used to increase our GDP.

It rained again this morning, and the five reservoirs in the Ter-Llobregat watershed that supply Barcelona are now at 40% of capacity. Worries about running out this summer are rapidly disappearing. Now they're talking about halting the shipments of water by tanker and calling off the Tarragona-Barcelona aqueduct plan. I don't know; I wouldn't start feeling too safe and secure yet.

Tragedy in Valencia: A scaffold collapsed this morning at the construction site of CF Valencia's new stadium, killing two and injuring four. Jeez. Somebody screwed up bad here, because scaffolds are supposed to be firmly attached to something so they don't fall down. There are entirely too many deaths on the job in Spain, and it's frequently due to half-assery, ignoring the most elemental safety precautions. There is also far too much drinking on the job.

Two squatter punks used climbing equipment to dangle themselves off the front of the Sabadell city hall this morning, in order to demand the release of Franki from jail. If I were the cops I'd give the punks five minutes to cease and desist and then cut their ropes. That would put a rapid end to this crap. I hope Franki is enjoying his stay in the Modelo.

The Spanish real estate developer Habitat is in massive trouble. They already laid off 350 workers at their Don Piso subsidiary, and now they're laying off half their staff, 160 more workers. The Spanish real estate Zeppelin has crashed and burned. Their own company forecast is, get this, to lose €650 million between now and 2010. They've made a deal with the 39 banks to which they owe €1.6 billion to reschedule payments, saving them from bankruptcy, at least for now. The contractor Ferrovial owns 20% of Habitat. I'm glad I don't own any Ferrovial stock.

14 million Spaniards saw the Chiki-Chiki guy perform on Eurovision, a 78% share. That's one-third of the population. I missed it. Damn.

The Japanese yakuza who murdered the mayor of Nagasaki has been sentenced to death. In Japan they hang the condemned in secret, without informing his family until he's dead. No one around here has yet criticized the primitive, barbaric, brutal Japanese for using capital punishment.

Barça update: Edmilson is going to Villarreal. Inter Milan wants to buy Deco. Negotiations for Ronaldinho and Zambrotta continue with AC Milan. Manchester City's offer for Ronaldinho is the best they've received. He's exactly the player a midtable club like that doesn't need. I'd spend that money on five competent young players with a future. Instead of buying one ex-superstar with mysterious injuries and bad habits, get five real, solid pros. Supposedly Barça is going to buy the 21-year-old Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres from Recreativo.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Chiki-Chiki guy bombed at Eurovision and came in 16th. Bummer.

More boat people: A cayuco carrying 68 black African illegal immigrants washed up on Grand Canary early this morning. Two of them had died at sea, and three more were urgently hospitalized, suffering from exposure, shock, and thirst. Fifteen of them were minors. El Pais gives the story two paragraphs. La Vanguardia doesn't mention it.

It's raining pretty good today, and the rains will continue for most of the week, which is just what we need. Reservoir capacity in Catalonia is now at 35%, up from 20% just a few weeks ago. Now they're talking about not needing the aqueduct from Tarragona or the tanker ships full of water. I dunno: we're going to have more dry years sometime in the future, and having the aqueduct there will end fears of Barcelona running out of drinking water.

Good news: The Colombian air force killed the FARC leader, "Tirofijo" ("Sure Shot"), in a bombing raid back in March. Hope he's finding it nice and warm where he's gone. The Colombian government says it's the strongest blow ever suffered by that gang of terrorists.

Hillary's gaffe about Robert Kennedy has made the press over here, and there's wild speculation that the Americans are so racist they'll never elect Obama in the first place and if they do he'll be assassinated.

The pro-ETA crowd in the Basque country had a demo yesterday "against the Spanish flag." They managed to bring out 250 people in San Sebastian. It never ceases to amaze me that 15% of the Basques support ETA, terrorists and organized criminals, extortionists and murderers. If this were an oppressive dictatorship such as Burma or Sudan or Syria I'd understand--hell, I'd support--a resistance movement, but Franco's been dead for 33 years now.

The Prado has a very cool exhibition opening soon and running through September: the subject is Renaissance portraits, 70 of them, by Durer, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Van Eyck, and Botticelli, among others. El Pais has a slideshow that you should check out. I'm going; it'll give me an excuse to take a weekend trip to Madrid.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

From today's El Pais in an article titled "Cuba and a hope named Obama": 'A Cuban academic declared that, differently from other occasions, the American electoral process is being taken very seriously this time in official circles. "In previous elections it didn't matter who won. Now it is different. McCain represents immobility. It would be the same policies as always there, and the same response as always here. But an Obama victory would move the whole political scene,' said this analyst, a member of the Communist party."

Another near-disaster here in Barcelona: Yesterday they were loading a cargo of dimethylamine off a ship in the harbor, and the crane dropped it, so the nasty poisonous inflammable stuff got all over the place and they had to shut down the seafront part of the motorway loop around the city for nine hours. The traffic jam was amazing.

I think one of the problems with Barcelona's infrastructure is that we're living on the edge. The system works OK in normal conditions, but let one thing go wrong--a rainstorm that shorts out the traffic lights, a sinkhole that closes down a commuter rail line, a power cable that comes down atop an electricity substation, a bunch of squatters blocking off the Via Laietana with their latest attempted riot--and the whole thing collapses, making everybody's life impossible and costing innumerable hours of work time, thereby decreasing our productivity and hurting our economy.

So CiU wants €5 billion more in tax money for the Generalitat from the central government. That would be OK if they were going to spend it usefully, but you know what they want it for: to pass out to their own clients in their own political machine. More money for TV3! And the Department of Linguistic Normalization! And their pet newspapers (mostly in provincial towns like Lleida, Girona, Manresa, etc.)! And their own "consultants"! And all the 175,000 civil servants employed by the Generalitat!

The cops have been running an anti-drug operation in the Zona Franca, one of Barcelona's most degraded slums. They've arrested and jailed 48 persons for drug trafficking, and have pressed charges against 373 more for drug dealing and 33 for illegal possession of a weapon. The story only mentions the nationality / ethnicity of two of those jailed, both Spaniards.

So everybody's excited about the Eurovision festival tonight. God help us all. Check out the video of Spain's candidate. El Pais says this whole thing is paid for with taxpayers' money through the Cervantes Institute (whose job is to promote Spanish culture around the world) and TVE, the state-owned (and why we need one I don't know) television network.

Supposedly Barça has bought the French-Malian midfielder Keita from Sevilla for €14 million, and has repurchased the Catalan defender (and product of Barça's youth team) Pique from Manchester United for €5 million.
The Spanish government-owned news agency EFE (and why we need one I don't know) got an interview with Obama. Highlights:

Obama promised to "open a new chapter" in US-Spanish relations, and said he would work with Spain on issues like preventing terrorism and climate change.

He promised closer ties to Spain, saying, "As someone who did not support our initial invasion of Iraq, I am not in the same position as the Bush administration." Obama added that Bush "judges his allies on whether they support his agenda or not," and promised a "different attitude toward foreign policy, with energetic diplomacy with the international community."

Said Obama, "Spain has always been one of the United States's strongest allies, and we want to make sure that we will be able to continue working on the issues that are important for both countries." He stated that his Latin American policy would be "guided by dialogue," and that he was willing to talk with every country, including Cuba and Venezuela.

He declared, "Obviously, it will be necessary to complete a series of steps before having any serious diplomatic conversations." Obama volunteered to take the first step toward Cuba; in order to show his "good faith," he will relax restrictions on US residents sending money to and going to visit their relatives in Cuba. Before talking to Chavez, he said, the Venezuela-FARC connection needs to be "uncovered."

Obama concluded by stating his position on illegal immigration: "I believe it is important that we have solid border security and that we penalize businesses that intentionally hire undocumented workers, but I also think we need to find a way toward citizenship for those who have no papers."

All this might sound good in Spain but it's not going to play in Peoria or convince the little old lady in Dubuque.

Says Charles Krauthammer:

Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that. Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."

After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I just heard this song on KHYI internet radio out of Dallas; I haven't found out who does it:

"I never kissed a girl till I went to college
She got drunk and cheated on me
And I never kissed a boy till I went to prison
Murder in the first degree."

Way better than Raimon.
So the PP infighting is getting worse: the San Gil and Rajoy supporters have each called demonstrations by SMS for this afternoon. This is a terrible, irresponsible idea, and Gustavo de Aristegui, at least, agrees. A political party that's going to win an election needs to show an undivided front; if it can't make up its own mind what it wants, then it's never going to convince the voters.

The average retirement pension in Spain has increased 7.3% over the last year to €813 a month, which is an improvement but still not enough for old folks who have worked hard their whole lives. So I guess Zap can claim to have done something more or less useful, for once.

Let me clarify that I am by no means a tax-and-spend left-liberal / social democrat--I'm generally in favor of keeping taxes and spending as low as possible--but when it comes to helping out people who deserve it, I think we can afford to be generous. More money for retired people, and less for consultant reports and agricultural subsidies and culture ministries and state-owned TV and concerted Church schools and subsidies to the press and foreign aid to Cuba and propping up decaying rust-belt industries and supporting a bloated bureaucracy and payoffs for underemployed Andalusian "agricultural laborers" who for some reason always vote for the PSOE.

The goddamn squatters had themselves a big old time here in Gracia last night; they torched 25 plastic garbage containers. So how much is it going to cost us taxpaying citizens to replace them, and where do we put our garbage in the meantime? This ain't Naples; we don't live in filth around here.

I hate these dirtbags. They contribute absolutely nothing to the community, and they detract from it by committing vandalism and and shoplifting and living rough and dirty in abandoned buildings. So I bought a black indelible marker pen, and I've been writing "Okupas fuera" and "Okupas = parasitos" on the fly-posters they stick up on all the walls calling for anarchy and freedom for Franki.

So with all the foreign news out there they could be reporting on, La Vanguardia devotes a page to Ellen DeGenerate inviting John McCain to be the best man at her lesbian wedding. Wow, that's hot breaking political news. The most interesting part of the whole thing is that they spelled McCain's name wrong.

Get this. It's very weird. Santiago Cañizares, Valencia's goalie, formerly on the Spanish national team, is being investigated for child sexual abuse and has been subpoenaed to testify. Cañizares is known for having, well, unusual ideas, and hanging around with occult psychic cultish pseudophilosophical types. Specifically, he's been hanging around with a Uri Geller-type called "El Brujo," or "The Wizard." Seems that The Wizard has been charged with sexual abuse by 15 young women between the ages of 11 and 22. The Wizard instructed the girls that they needed to have sex with men as part of their "recovery" therapy. That's rape. How exploitative. What a betrayal of trust. Well, one of the girls has identified Cañizares as one of those men.

The Wizard was jailed in February 2007, and refused to testify until February of this year. Cañizares's agent denies any wrongdoing, but says Cañizares will not make any public statements. I say if he did it then we lock him up.

Headline from La Vanguardia: "Moving performance by Raimon in Madrid commemorates student revolution during dictatorship: 1000 people, among them ministers Sebastian, Soria, Aldo, and Salgado, attend singer-songwriter's concert."

You know an "artist" sucks when he's the official singer-songwriter of the current political regime. Here in Spain, there are several alleged artists--Llach, Sabina, Serrat, Ramoncin, and that lot, of whom Raimon is probably the worst--who pretended to be all radical back in the Sixties but never actually got beat up themselves. Now all those parlor-pinko lefty chuckleheads who think they were cool back in the good old days pretend to like these clapped-out used-up old farts.

The thing about Raimon is he cannot sing, he cannot play the guitar, he cannot write melodies, and his lyrics are stupid.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Judith Miller has a long piece in City Journal on ETA and terrorism in Spain. Go read it. There are a few small inaccuracies, but there are also some things I didn't know, such as the following paragraph:

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials have repeatedly traveled to Madrid, American officials say, to urge the Spanish government to close loopholes that international terrorists have exploited in its legal system, reduce the self-defeating envy among Spain’s warring police forces, improve police training, and step up bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Some of this has occurred. Spain recently approved the stationing of an NYPD detective in Madrid to monitor counterterrorist operations. But most U.S. pleas have had limited impact, perhaps hampered by the tension between Washington and Madrid over Iraq and other issues.
PP infighting news: Maria San Gil will not stand for reelection as the Basque PP leader; that is, she's getting out of the way. Very responsible, and worthy of Ms. San Gil, famous for her courage and honesty. She's receiving support from Gustavo de Aristegui, an intelligent man who is the PP's shadow minister for foreign affairs, and former Prime Minister Aznar's wife, Ana Botella, a Madrid city councilwoman. De Aristegui said, "Rajoy is makeing a profound mistake," which is pretty strong language when you're talking about your own party's leader. Rajoy, meanwhile, got support from Andalusian PP boss Javier Arenas.

Drugs and alcohol update: Of Catalan high-school students between 14 and 18, within the last month, 25% have consumed cannabis, 3.5% have consumed unprescribed prescription drugs, 31% have consumed tobacco, 61% have consumed alcohol, and 2.6% have consumed cocaine. Where do teenagers get enough money to buy cocaine?

Well, those little bastards, the Barcelona street criminals, have killed somebody. They bag-snatched an 80-year-old woman, a Danish tourist, and threw her to the ground on Tuesday. She was taken to the hospital, where she went into a coma, and she died yesterday. The cops say it's going to be almost impossible to find the murderer--under Kansas law, anyway, this is capital murder, committed during the commission of a felony--unless somebody talks. What cowards, victimizing old women who can't defend themselves. I vote we hang them, but you already knew that.

They arrested two more people for Internet kiddie porn here in Spain, where punks mug old ladies with impunity, but at least we round up pervo pederasts by the dozen. Get this: One of these pervs is a pediatrician. Glad I didn't send my kid to him.

The Euribor, the Eurozone's base interest rate, hit 5%, and oil has hit $135 a barrel. This means higher mortgage payments and higher food and gasoline prices, so it's time to pull in the old belt a notch or two.

What America should do: Reduce energy dependence on the Middle East. Despite the drawbacks, with oil this high, using ethanol makes sense. We have enormous coal reserves; let's use them. Drill in Alaska: it's an enormous place and a few oil wells are not going to drive polar bears into extinction. And it's not like anyone lives north of the Brooks Range. Wind power makes sense with oil this high, as well, and there are lots of windy places in Kansas where nobody lives where they could put up thousands of windmills. Build state-of-the-art nuclear plants; the risk is negligible though the cost is high. Sure, all this is going to cost money, but I'll bet private corporations could more than handle it.

Today it's Corpus Christi, and in an ancient Barcelonese tradition, they place an blown-out egg on top of the stream of water shooting up from the fountain in the Cathedral cloister, along with a dozen other medieval churches. The stream of water elevates the egg and it "dances," held up by the water. It's called "l'ou com balla," and is definitely worth having a look at if you're in town.

Get this: Nearly half of all Spaniards do not shower every day, according to a Proctor and Gamble survey. And with water restrictions, it's only going to get worse this summer.