Sunday, February 29, 2004

Puerta del Sol Blog has several posts of interest, including one taking the piss out of the Daily Express and another on an afternoon spent in downtown Madrid. Check it out.
Here's a nice Fisking (in Spanish) from Libertad Digital by Peter Turner. He takes apart an anti-Bush editorial from El Pais, demonstrating that our local "progressives" know next to nothing about the United States. Check it out.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Here's a Cecil Adams article on media ownership in the United States. Check it out.
Here's a petition which I can wholly support: the signers want CNN to use the term "terrorists" rather than "separatists" to describe ETA. Terrorists, of course, is exactly what ETA are.

Update: Here's the lead paragraph from CNN's story on the ETA bust; the cops caught an ETA supply caravan in Cuenca with enormous quantities of explosives. Speculation is the bomb was planned to hit the Madrid offices of El Mundo; they had enough explosives to blow a thirty-meter-deep crater.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish police Sunday seized more than 1,000 pounds of explosives and arrested two suspected members of the Basque separatist group ETA who were planning to carry out an imminent attack in Madrid, an official said.

Now, come on. This is ridiculous. Separatist, my ass. ETA is a terrorist gang. Both CNN and Reuters need to change their policies and change them now. I know it's only a little thing, merely symbolic, but it really does hurt to see that bunch of murderers and bombers, who shoot in the back and target children, dignified by the term "separatist" or, even worse, as Reuters said, "guerrillas".

Here's an interesting (modern) book titled Workers Against Work: Labor in Barcelona and Paris under the Popular Fronts by Michael Seidman. It was published by the University of California Press in 1991. The first seven chapters are about the history of labor in Spain, culminating in the 1936-39 Revolution set off by the army pronunciamento. Now, Mr. Seidman seems to me to be a Marxist, because his model is one of class struggle and he uses words like proletariat and bourgeoisie. He may have Communist leanings, since he doesn't criticize the Communists much, not nearly as much as he does the anarchists and the unions. But his book is full of facts, his footnotes and sources are legit, and he is iconoclastic. One of the main faults of the leftist supporters of the Second Republic is their tendency to insist that everyone of the left was heroic and noble. Mr. Seidman does not make that mistake. In fact, he pretty much proves the opposite, and he emphazises the totalitarian character of the revolutionary Republic. Go check out the whole thing. I borrowed a few quotes that I liked, though.

This first, longest one is a summary of Mr. Seidman's basic theme, that the workers of Barcelona were interested in their own benefit and not in solidarity with others or anything utopically altruistic.

...An approach that seeks to judge only the economic performance of workers’ control will, like the purely political appraisals of the Spanish Revolution, surely miss the significance of this Revolution, which some have called the most profound of the twentieth century. My concern has been to avoid an exclusively political or economic evaluation and instead to explore the social relations in the collectivized factories and workshops. In this regard, the technicians and union militants who took control of the productive forces confronted the same problems that have affected both the Western bourgeoisies and the Communist parties that have rapidly developed the means of production. The new factory managers often ran into the resistance of the workers themselves, who continued to demand more pay, fake illness, sabotage production, reject the control and discipline of the factory system, and ignore calls to participate in managing the workplace.

In response to workers’ resistance, the union militants disregarded their democratic ideology of workers’ control and opted for coercive techniques to increase production. Many collectives gave technicians the power to set production levels; piecework reappeared, and incentives tied pay to production. The new managers established strict control of the sick, severe surveil lance of the rank and file during worktime, and frequent inspections. Firings and dismissals for poor performance and “immorality,” that is, low productivity, occurred. The CNT realized its plan for the “identity card of the producer” that would catalogue workers’ behavior. Socialist realist posters glorified the means of production and the workers themselves so they would produce more. Labor camps for “parasitic” enemies and “saboteurs” were founded on the modern principle of reform through work.

The reactions of the leaders of the working-class organizations to the rank and file’s actions in the collectives and controlled firms were revealing. Federica Montseny, the CNT Minister of Health and Public Assistance in the republican government, posited a theory of human nature to explain the problems in workers’ control. According to this prominent faísta, who was the daughter of a well-known anarchist theoretician, human beings “are as they are. They always need an incentive and an interior and exterior stimulus to work and to produce the maximum production in quality and quantity.”[7] As for the CNT Metallurgical Union, “the collectives…have underlined the bad side of human nature. This has consequently led to a decrease of production when it is most necessary to produce.”[8] At the end of 1938, Felipe Alaiz—a faísta who was elected editor of Solidaridad Obrera in 1931 and was later named director of Tierra y Libertad—defined the “essential problem of Spain” as “the problem of not working.”[9] “In general,” he complained, “there is low productivity, and low productivity means…irremediable ruin in the future.”

The CNT activist asserted that the “strikes were partially responsible for the decline of the work ethic.” Though strikes were necessary on occasions, workers had abused the right to strike. Political, general, sit-down, slowdown, and other kinds of strikes may have been useful in the past, but now they only hurt the new “consumer-producer.” Likewise, holidays on Sundays, weekends, May Day, and numerous other public holidays as well as vacations injured the cause. Sick leave, work accidents, featherbedding, and job security hurt the “proletarian economy” and food production.

Here's Mr. Seidman's take on the Catalan Nationalists of the time.

In Catalonia, at the time of the Asturias revolt (1934), the “Catalan state within the Federal Spanish Republic” was declared by Lluis Companys, the leader of the Catalan nationalists grouped in the Esquerra. This attempt at Catalan independence failed miserably. It clearly demonstrated the limits of Catalan nationalism, whose social base was too weak and narrow to form an independent nation. As we have seen, the Catalan bourgeoisie had long made its peace with Madrid and the traditionalist elements of central and southern Spain; it lacked the strength to overcome their influence and the dynamism to dominate the entire nation economically and politically. Thus, radical Catalan nationalism could not count on the support of a large part of the upper bourgeoisie that depended for protection and favors on Madrid. Lacking the support of the upper class and the CNT, radical Catalan nationalism in the 1930s was the province of what for lack of a better name we call the petty bourgeoisie—technicians, shopkeepers, funcionarios, clerks, artisans, and sharecroppers. Their nationalism was not only political but cultural and involved as well a renaissance of Catalan as a spoken and written language. The economic possibilities of a nationalism that called for a separate Catalan state were severely restricted, because the feeble Catalan industries depended both on protection granted by Madrid and on the impoverished markets in the rest of the peninsula. Catalan nationalism might mean a desirable political and cultural independence from a bureaucratic and centralized Spanish state, but many Catalans of varying social origins realized that, given the condition of regional industries, a separate nation might well lead to their economic destruction.

Some things never change. This is probably still the standard method of content production at La Vanguardia, and goes a long way toward explaining Baltasar Porcel:

For example, early in the Revolution employees and security guards of the Barcelonan newspaper La Vanguardia met at a tavern to drink and gamble during working hours.

One thing I notice about all the parlor pinkos and self-proclaimed revolutionaries and middle-class squatters who hang out in the bars around here is they smoke tons of cigarettes and drink enormous quantities of alcohol, and don't work very much. They wouldn't have lasted long in the good old days:

Spanish militants sometimes equated excessive drinking and laziness with sabotage and even fascism. One CNT poster, which was made in Barcelona for the Departamento de orden público de Aragon, pictured a corpulent man smoking a cigarette and comfortably resting in what appeared to be the countryside. The colors of this piece were unlike those of most other posters; the figure was not red or black but yellow, reflecting the tones of sunny Spain. At the bottom was printed the caption, "The lazy man is a fascist". Another CNT poster, made again for comrades in Aragon, displayed a man who was also smoking a cigarette, a symbol, one may speculate, of indifference and insolence since committed workers and soldiers were not shown smoking. This individual was surrounded by tall wine bottles, and the poster contained the caption, "A drunk is a parasite. Let’s eliminate him." This was particularly tough talk during a period when threats of elimination did not always remain oral, and work camps for enemies and the apathetic were in operation. Both Marxists and anarchosyndicalists were hostile toward non-producers.

This one ought to disprove the myth of the people's unity and collective virtue:

The most spectacular case of theft occurred in the power industry.[60] The gas and electric committee had a secret—and illegal—bank account in Paris that was supposedly destined for the purchase of coal. In 1936 the managing committee, acting perhaps with the complicity or knowledge of the Generalitat, had authorized a delegation to deposit funds in a Parisian bank. In September 1937 the managing committee ordered a new delegation to return to Paris to change the francs into pesetas. Several colleagues accompanied the two members of the original delegation—one in the CNT, the other in the UGT—who had placed the bank account in their own names. When the spouses of the two men joined them in the French capital, suspicions awoke in other members of the delegation. Tempted by such a large sum, over one million francs, the duo had become embezzlers. They disappeared with the women and the money.
Welcome to everybody coming over from Little Green Footballs. Look around here and see what you can find, and go visit the blogs we link to. Hope you enjoy it and want to come back.

Here's a nice little story from Slate on college flag football. In Kansas there are some people who take it pretty seriously, and some of the coolest long pass plays I've seen have been at flag games, and that was back in 84-87 and 91-94. Read the story if you like participatory sports and scandal.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Here's a little squib from Wednesday's El Periodico on the whooptedo over George Bush's unfortunate support of an anti-gay-marriage Constitutional amendment. Now, imagine what you'd think if this were your main source of information about the United States, as it is for almost 200,000 Catalans. The squib is by one Carlos Enrique Bayo.


The neoconservative ideology which now rules the American Administration is directing the first steps of Bush's campaign, which is trying to fire up its phalanxes of fundamentalist voters and make it clear from the beginning that no liberal wishy-washiness will be tolerated. But, above all, what he is trying to do with this plan to corrupt the Constitution with his homophobia is distract the voters from questions at which he has failed: unemployment, health, the deficit...

Note these confusions:

a) Neoconservatives, by original definition, are ex-liberals who switched over to a conservative viewpoint because of their views on defense and foreign affairs. The prime example is Irving Kristol. Neoconservatism has nothing to do with the Christian religion. In fact, many prominent neocons are Jews and "neocon" is often an anti-Semitic code word for "pro-Israeli". Neocons are often socially liberal or at least generally tolerant, which gets them criticized from the fundamentalist wing of the Republicans. I am sure than most real neocons deplore Bush's stance on a possible gay-marriage constitutional amendment, but will hold their noses over it due to their agreement with Bush on national security issues.

b) Bush certainly hasn't failed on unemployment, which is at a tolerable 6%, or on health care, since he's subsidizing prescription drugs for old folks big-time, or on the deficit, which is not in a particularly good state but is by no means out-of-control yet.

c) Nobody thinks that Bush is homophobic. He hasn't made any anti-gay statements nor has he tried to roll back gay rights. He's wrong on this issue, but he's not a hater of gays.

d) The term "phalanx" (falange) is obviously calculated to evoke memories of Franco's dictatorship, since the semi-Fascist political organization that supported Franco was called the Falange. It's a very loaded word, and its use demonstrates the user's ideology.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

One of the Slightly Famous People I Actually Know is the baseball writer Rob Neyer, whom I knew in college. He writes regularly for and has several books out. With his compadre Dr. Rany Jayazerli, who writes for the Topeka Capital-General and works as a dermatologist, they put out my favorite sports blog, Rob and Rany on the Royals. I'm biased, of course, because I'm a Royals' fan, but for baseball analysis these guys are hard to beat. With spring training and then Opening Day before we know it, they'll be posting much more regularly. (My second favorite, a very close second, is Aaron's Baseball Blog. This guy, Aaron Gleeman, is a college kid up in Minnesota and a huge Twins and T-Wolves fan. He's already picked up a couple of professional writing jobs on various Web sites. Aaron knows what he's talking about and I like the way he writes. Watch out for this guy as a real writer in a few years.)

I seriously think the Royals have a chance this year. If--

--Neither LF Juan Gonzalez nor 1B/DH Mike Sweeney gets hurt. If these guys can play 140 games, they'll hit home runs--say 25 for Sweeney, 35 for Juan Gone--and rack up OPSs of well over 900. With Berroa leading off, Beltran second, Sweeney third, Gonzalez cleanup, and the Stairs/Harvey DH platoon fifth, there are going to be some serious runs driven in at the dop of the order.

--CF Carlos Beltran does what most people think he's going to do and has a career year. He's just entering the prime of his career and this is his last season before free agency. Carlos will likely be wearing pinstripes next season and he wants the big contract.

--Jeremy Affeldt turns out to be the starting pitcher we think he can be, Darrell May and Brian Anderson come through with solid seasons, as they usually do, and two of the other four candidates for the starting rotation don't suck too bad.

--Nobody else--C Benito Santiago, 3B Joe Randa, SS Angel Berroa (2003 Rookie of the Year), RF Aaron Guiel, and the two platoons at second base and 1B/DH--really sucks it up big-time.

--The relievers perform adequately.

All of these things are more than possible. If most of them happen the Royals can win 90-92 games and compete in the AL Central. Nobody else in the division is going to be much good. The Twins are capable of winning 85-95 games and might well win again. Chicago is not going to be much good and Detroit and Cleveland are going to just blow. The Royals are going to rack up the wins against those two teams this year just like last year.

A few other things make me like the Royals. They're deep. If somebody gets hurt, the Royals can sub him with an adequate player who will do the job. They have a couple of fine young players, corner outfielder David DeJesus (who will either sub Juan Gone or compete with Guiel for the RF spot) and starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who will likely start the season in Triple-A and come up in June or so. If either of these two guys plays well this year, that's gravy, more than we were expecting. Also, the relief corps is made up exclusively of professionals. A couple of years ago Jason Grimsley, the personification of "adequate" or "mediocre", was their best reliever. Now he's their worst, their mop-up man. Finally, Tony Pena is a good manager. Nobody claims he's a brilliant strategist; he basically just lets the guys play and gives them plenty of support. The players respect him, and he was an important piece of the change that happened last year, when Pena replaced Tony Muser, the worst manager ever to live. Anybody would have been better than Muser, of course, but Pena has been pretty successful so far.
You know, since I've already linked to several of my favorite sites, Sasha's, Winds of Change, and HispaLibertas, I'm going to go whole-hog and mention a few other blogs I like, what with the avalanche (well, small avalanche) of hits coming in.

Frequent commenter Akaky has his own blog, Passing Parade, which I highly recommend. I just wish he'd post more often, but he's been good about getting at least a post or two up every week. You all know him, so check out his blog. He's funny and smart.

You'll want to keep up with the former Cinderella Bloggerfeller, the most erudite of bloggers and somebody else who is funny and smart. This link connects you to his plethora of successor blogs, including the Axis of Porcel HQ, the only blog that regularly brings you the ravings of Baltasar Porcel, undoubtedly the craziest git in the world with his own daily newspaper column, outside of North Korea.

Trevor is, as always, doing yeoman's work over at Kaleboel. Check out his smart, funny posts, many of them about Catalonia. I love Dr. Weevil; there's another guy who's funny and smart. Chicago Boyz is one of my favorite sites; I don't know why I never plug them. They don't need it. These guys really know their econ and law.

As for funny, smart people of the female sex, Jessica Harbour is very interesting. You've kind of got to sit down and read her stuff; her site is not one to hit for thirty seconds, it's one to stay on for a while and hit a few of the links. Angie Schultz is a frequent contributor here, and she speaks plainly and extremely sensibly. I don't know whether those two know one another but they share an interest in things Asian. Cecile Dubois has picked up some press from FrontPage for her politically incorrect stance--in her ninth-grade English class, where her teacher has denounced her conservative political ideas. Cecile is quite probably the most intelligent fourteen-year-old I have ever come across. Check out her site.
We're getting massive piles of hits on the Noam Chomsky post from a few days ago. Seems that the lovely, talented, chic, and happily married Sasha Castel linked to it, and then Winds of Change linked to her, and the whole Winds of Change audience descended here through Sasha. Welcome. Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player.

Here's a hypocritical little local story. The elections are coming up in about three weeks, and Esquerra Republicana has been made to look very bad because of its leader's secret meeting with the ETA leadership in Perpignan. In addition, the Socialist Party and the Communists have been made to look very bad because they are Esquerra's partners in the coalition governing Catalonia. So what they've done is call a demonstration against ETA and against the ETA truce declared in Catalonia for this afternoon in the Plaza Sant Jaume. The three leftist parties, Maragall's personal organization (Ciutadans pel Canvi), and the unions, along with Convergence and Union, are sponsoring it. The PP has refused to join in because they consider that all these groups are mounting a phony demo, that they are trying to whitewash their dirty faces and hands by having a demo against ETA that they wouldn't have given the slightest thought to having if not for Pepelu Carod-Rovira's stupidity, venality, or both, which has embarrassed the hell out of everybody associated with him.

There's a story going around saying that Carod-Rovira's real last name is Perez. I neither know nor much care whether it's true; I'd be worried if it was Schickelgruber, though. The point of the rumor is that Carod is trying to cover up his Spanish origins, which is really not too unusual around here. Remei has a female cousin who shares her molt katalanisch surname, Guim, who married a guy whose surname is Rodriguez. Their kids' surname is therefore Rodriguez Guim. The cousin does not like this and wants to change the order of the two surnames so they'll be Guim Rodriguezes.

In the media, Miguel Calzada uses the name "Mikimoto" and Jordi LP's surnames are Lopez Perez. In soccer, all the Barca players who have Catalan surnames use them as their official soccer one-word nicknames--Guardiola, Ferrer, Puyol, Victor Valdes. The ones that don't, though, use their first names, so Gerard is Gerard Lopez, Sergi is Sergi Barjuan, Oscar and Roger are Garcias (they like to be called Garcia Junyents, since they have a molt katalanisch second surname), Dani is Dani Garcia, Xavi is Xavi Hernandez, and so on. The two Catalan NBA basketball players are referred to here as Gasol (the guy who plays for Memphis, Pau Gasol) and Raul (the guy who plays for Utah, Raul Lopez).

Campaign promises: Rajoy wants to cut taxes on small businesses and Zap is promising a 26% increase in pensions over the next four years.

Meanwhile, in Haiti, life expectancy 53.3 years, the lowest in the Western hemisphere, the rebels have rejected a peace plan backed by the US, Canada, France, the OAS, and Caricom, which sounds pretty damn multilateral to me. I vote we let the French send in peacekeeping troops and let them run the show. That'll make them feel better about themselves and keep us as far out of this mess as we can. As for whether the rebels or the government approve of said force, the hell with them because the first thing the peacekeeping troops need to do is round up several hundred, at least, of the bad guys on each side. This needs to be a real invasion, no pussy-ass stuff like we did back in '94. Then some nation-building needs to be done and the United States, as rich as it is, really needs to pony up, assuming the French and Caricom troops are going to occupy the place for several years. I wouldn't give a dime of foreign aid to either Aristide or the rebels, but if say the Red Cross--or the French Army--were established there and some real work on health and education and the economy got done, we should be generous.

Meanwhile, we're meeting in Peking with the Chinese, Russians, Japanese, and both Koreas about what to do with North Korea. We really don't know whether the North Koreans have nukes, but we've got to assume that they do until proven otherwise. What we've got to do is exactly what we, and China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, are doing: make sure they don't use those nukes until their government collapses, which it will one of these years. We can't risk invading them; there are tens of thousands of American troops hostage along the DMZ, as well as the huge city of Seoul, right under the guns of the North Korean artillery.

The PP president of Murcia, Ramon Luis Valcarcel, let a good one loose the other night. Now, you need to know two things: 1) the PP central government is going to build an aqueduct to carry water for irrigation south from the Ebro river to the areas of Alicante, Murcia, and Almeria. The Socialists oppose this because they're the opposition. Catalonia and Aragon oppose it because they want the money to be spent irrigating Catalonia and Aragon rather than that land down south. 2) It is very widely rumored that Catalan prime minister Pasqual Maragall is a major drunken alcoholic. There's a discussion on this very subject going on at HispaLibertas (in Spanish).

Anyway, Valcarcel said, "I would understand the Catalan Socialist's objections to the Ebro aqueduct if we were talking about wine, because he drinks quite a few hectoliters a day and that makes him say certain things." I actually think that's kind of funny. Objections have been raised, though.

I will bet you money that this is a planted story in La Vanguardia. It seems that the new chief Cabinet minister, Josep Bargallo (he's Carod-Rovira's substitute), is completely unknown. I'd certainly never heard of him before. So the Vangua runs consecutive stories, yesterday and today, AND gives a front-page teaser above the head to yesterday's story, AND prints a letter to the editor in the place of honor, in a box, at the center of the Letters page yesterday, about the fact that--get this--Josep Bargallo does not wear a tie. The President of the Catalan Tiemakers' Association or whatever complained that Mr. Bargallo's tielessness is going to hurt the tie business, so he should provide a good example by wearing one. Now, could this just possibly be a maneuver by certain obscure interested parties whose interest is increasing Mr. Bargallo's popularity and/or notoriety for political reasons? Naah. I've been living here too long. I see conspiracies everywhere.
This ought to get a couple of arguments started. If you read Anglo-American historians writing about Spain, up until about the 1920s or 30s Hapsburg and Bourbon Spain was sharply criticized, even condemned, for its backwardness, cruelty, greed, and intolerance. Spaniards hit back, not unreasonably saying that it's pretty hard for Spain to get a fair hearing from a bunch of English Protestants. Spanish historians called the Inquisition / conquistador / mass expulsions of Jews and Muslims / Dutch War part of Spanish history the "Black Legend", pointing out that the Spanish of the time weren't too much worse than anybody else and that Spanish culture of the time made enormously valuable contributions to Western culture as a whole.

The pendulum began to swing the other way and more recently most Anglo-American historians of Spain have been very careful to debunk or minimize tales of Spanish brutality back then in the old days. But has the pendulum reached the end of its trajectory and started to go back in the direction of the Black Legend? Here's a section from a 1998 book by David S. Landes.

The tale of Spanish misdeeds and crimes in the conquest of the Americas is so appalling that it has been a source of retrospective embarrassment and mortification. What kind of people were these, who could perpetrate so much cruelty and treachery? The answer, as outlined above, lay in social selection and history. On the one hand, the kind of adventures that lay ahead in the New World attracted the most daring, hungry, knavish members of Spanish society, many of them blackguards who thought little of their own lives and even less of those of others. On the other, the Spanish historical experience, the protracted war against enemies without and within (the persecution of religious difference), could not but promote ends over means and extinguish sentiments of decency and humanity. To which Tzvetan Todorov would add the factor of distance: the Spanish were operating far from home and exercising their power and wrath on strangers, on an Other defined as subhuman and hence outside or beneath the rules that governed comportment even against an enemy. So they competed in imagining and doing evil, which thus fairly exploded in collective frenzies. Todorov adds, "The 'barbarity' of the Spanish has nothing atavistic or animal about it; it is perfectly human and announces the arrival of modern times."

Unhappy the day that brought together this monumental amorality and the opportunity of conquest, that placed much weaker peoples in the merciless hands of greedy, angry, unpredictably cruel men.

In the effort to mitigate, if not excuse, this record of evil, apologists, many of them descendants of these conquistadors, have followed two lines of argument. One is to discredit the charges by labeling them as myth or exaggeration. Hence recourse to the term leyenda negra (black legend): black, thus by implication excessive (is anything ever completely black?); and legend rather than history. The aim is to dismiss rather than disprove, because disproof is impossible. (The same tactic and the same terminology have been used to discredit the argument that Spanish intolerance and religious fanaticism at home, culminating in the obsession with racial purity [limpieza de sangre], and the pursuit of heresy even into the solitude of dreams, crippled the nation's capacity for inquiry and learning. Here, too, it is easier to dismiss bad news than to rebut.)

The second approach is to point out the misdeeds of other colonizers, in particular the Anglo-Saxon Protestant Norteamericanos, whose strategy of conquest was different and whose victims were fewer, but whose capacity for cruelty and hypocrisy was supposedly similar. As though the misdeeds of others excused one's own crimes. This line of argument is not unrelated to subsequent issues of power and the politics of imperialism. For many Latin American historians and ideologues, it has been vital to emphasize the wickedness of the gringos who came to dominate the Americas. Better, then, to lay the misfortunes of the Amerindian populations at their door, if only by implication.

From The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.

OK, folks, let fly. Have at it. Keep it clean. I'll point out that I have found these two strategies of argument that Landes mentions, the flat statement ("Catalan nationalism is defensive", "Wars are fought for economic reasons", "Ferdinand and Isabella were basically good people") for which no evidence is supplied, and the "So what, you're worse" argument, what they call tu quoque, to be dismayingly common around here. Now, I'm sure I use both those fallacious styles of argument all the time, and you guys can undoubtedly go through the archives and find examples of me doing exactly what I'm criticizing in others. But that doesn't excuse other people from doing it.

I'm going to add one more generalization. I find the level of creativity in Spain to be very high, and it's one reason I like the place. Barcelona is full of authors and musicians and artists and actors and architects and designers. The place is packed with them. You could claim that Spain, with Picasso, Miro, Dali, Bunuel, Garcia Lorca, Gaudi and Domenech-i-Montaner, the Machados, Pio Baroja and Unamuno, Casals and Caballe and Domingo, has been the most creative European country in the twentieth century. I find the level of scholarship and research generally very low, though. People who are considered reputable historians and social scientists around here just would not pass muster in the United States or Britain. Sure, some would, but a lot wouldn't. (Exhibit A: Chemical Lali Sole, tenured university prof of sociology and occasional Vanguardia contributor.) I could make a huge generalization here and say that Spaniards tend to be excellent in fields that require the spark of individual inspiration and lousy in fields that require discipline and calm judgment. But I won't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Andrew Sullivan is freaking out. He's completely lost it. Seems George Bush has decided to support a proposed Constitutional amendment reserving marriage to heterosexual couples. I oppose this amendment because I oppose amending the Constitution unless absolutely necessary, and this is not an issue that demands that sort of action.

Sullivan has demonstrated that he is a single-issue author. When we get right down to it, his single issue is gay rights. Well, I think there are a lot more issues that are currently a lot more important, since it seems to me that gays in the United States already have just about as many rights as they have had anywhere, anytime, in world history, and exactly as many rights as everybody else has. The biggest one of those issues is the war on terror. If Sullivan is going to abandon all his years of support of Bush over this little contretemps, that support must never have been very deep in the first place.

It's also interesting that Sullivan's single issue is one that personally affects him. His attitude is not altruistic; it is self-interested. Basically, he's interested in me, me, me, and the hell with everybody and everything else. The war on terror? Iraq? Building democracy? Afghanistan? Israel? Nope, he's turned against Bush because Bush doesn't agree with him over same-sex marriage. As if Andrew can't openly live with his boyfriend and do whatever the hell he pleases. He can go out and be just as gay as he wants. Nobody's going to stop him. But he's not satisfied; he demands the right to a legal formality that has until now been reserved for heterosexuals. And he wants it now. It's very important to him.

Now, I personally don't much care whether gay people can get married or not. Actually, they can. In Kansas City they can go down to the Metropolitan Community Church on the Plaza and get themselves as married as they want. The marriage has no legal standing, but who cares? Isn't the point of getting married to make a solemn commitment to one another?

Nope. Not if you're Andrew Sullivan.

It looks to me like President Bush was pushed to make the declarations he did by the spectacle going on in San Francisco. I have no idea about the legal questions involved according to California law, but apparently the city hall was marrying any same-sex couple that showed up and requested it. Now, maybe that's the way things should be. I really don't care one way or another. But elected officials should NOT go around breaking the laws of their state. If they think those laws are morally wrong, a fair enough position, then they should resign and campaign to change those laws politically. But simply turning up your nose and saying, "This is San Francisco, we'll do whatever we want and the hell with state laws" is not appropriate.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

At least two or three of you may be interested in this book called Europe Revised by Irvin S. Cobb. (It's another of those Gutenberg texts with the whole book; you've got to scroll down through the crap to get to the text. It's not very long, 150 pages or so.)

Cobb was an American author active maybe 1900-1920 or so; all I recall reading by him are a couple of short stories that show up in anthologies of the time. He managed to make it over in the spring or early summer of 1914 for two months (he went to England, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy) and wrote this semi-ripoff of Innocents Abroad. Cobb does mention Twain in his text; apparently a scam that tourist guides of the time used was to announce themselves as having been Twain's guide. In fact, it seems like half the book is devoted to the author complaining about how the Europeans were cheating him.

The book's worth reading for the other half, though. It shows how a fairly cultured and well-bread American saw Europe in the months right before the Great War. Note Cobb's chapter about how laughable European soldiers seemed in their dress uniforms. Very soon all those soldiers were to become dead. As always, the book probably tells you more about Irvin S. Cobb and the fairly cultured and well-bred American society of his times than it does about Europe. One thing that stands out is Cobb's nonchalant racism. Another is how rich America was then compared with Europe. Cobb does a lot of complaining about European backwardness without striking on the answer why: because they were poor. This is probably why Cobb felt so victimized by the constant badgering for tips; to poor people any American traveling in Europe is rich.

Something else that stands out is the innocence of the book. Cobb is still in the pre-Great War thought mode--politics and economics and the like are something far away, so the Place de la Concorde in Paris is the site of the greatest tragedy in history for him, and he spends a chapter imagining the feelings of the dead at Pompeii. Something a whole hell of a lot bigger was coming very soon and Cobb completely misses it. Not a word about international tensions or imperial conflicts or arms races.

Finally, note all the generalizations and cliches made about Americans and Brits and Germans and French and so on. Much the same stereotypes existed then as now. In fact, in Cobb's book, you'll be more surprised to find a stereotype you've never heard of before than to find a stereotype that is already well-known to you.
Twenty people have been killed in northern Morocco when a 6.0 strength earthquake struck early this morning. More news will almost certainly be coming. The earthquake was felt in Melilla but not in any other part of Spain. My guess is that buildings in Melilla are constructed according to at least a minimal building code that means they don't fall down in 6.0 earthquakes. I wonder how true this is in Morocco. Remember that recent earthquake in eastern Iran that destroyed a whole city that was mostly built of adobe and that killed thousands of people? Natural disasters that have little effect in places with modern safety standards can be huge killers in places that don't have them. Here's CNN International's story.

UPDATE: Here's FoxNews saying that there are at least 300 dead and that the quake was felt across southern Spain. No damage is reported from Spain. The area hit is dirt-poor and earns its living supplying Europe with hashish. The difference between the poverty on one side of the Straits of Gibraltar and the wealth on the other is greater than that on one side of the Rio Grande and the other.

GDP per head according to purchasing-power parity (USA=100)

United States 100
Mexico 25.3
Spain 55.9
Morocco 10.4

The average American is four times as rich as the average Mexican; the average Spaniard is more than five times richer than the average Moroccan. And if you thought Mexico was poor, wait till you see Morocco.

(Source: The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2002)

Monday, February 23, 2004

Here's a funny new anti-American meme going around here. Jeez, it seems like the only thing people ever talk about is the United States. Anyway, the Academy Awards are a big deal here, they show them live on TV and all that crap. I couldn't care less, myself.

So it seems that due to the fallout of Janet Jackson's breast, they're going to put the Oscars on five-second delay rather than showing them absolutely live. (This is common media practice. All radio and TV call-in programs are on five-second delay, for example, so when the crazy Nazi yells "Fuck the faggot Jew niggers!", which happens more often than you'd like to think, they cut it off so it doesn't get broadcast. Nobody ever complains at Larry or Bill or Charlie or Rush that this is censorship. Check out the level of unmonitored chat rooms on the Net. That's what you'd get on talk radio without the delay.)

We don't want no breasts or nobody saying nothing like "Fuck" at the Oscars. This is national TV and the Hopelessly Squares have to be kept happy. If you want breasts and people saying "Fuck", watch the MTV Awards or the Playboy Playmate of the Year Awards or the Let's See Who Can Yell "Fuck" The Loudest Awards. Or just go down to your vid shop and rent a few pornos.

Anyway, what they're saying round here is that this five-second delay is censorship, see, because there are all these Hollywood actors against the war, and they'd criticize Bush, and so the government is making sure that no one says anything against Bush, so they're going to censor the Academy Awards for political reasons.

Yeah, right. Jeez, you'd think Bush didn't have better things to worry about than whether Sean Penn gets coked up and goes on a Chomsky-quoting binge live from L.A. You'd also think that it was that easy for the government to openly violate the First Amendment.

Note well: The Motion Picture Academy is a private organization and they can censor anybody they want to for whatever reason. The TV network is also a private organization and can also censor anybody it wants to for whatever reason. (They were the ones who decided on the five-second delay for the Oscars, not the government.) It's also been longstanding policy that the Federal Communications Commission can regulate TV and radio broadcasts for such things as obscenity.

But the US government cannot censor political speech. If they try, they won't be able to get away with it. The press and the courts and the people with their votes would stop them. Proof of this are all the lawsuits filed whenever anything that even smells like the government's violating the First Amendment comes up.
Hmmm. I've always liked Quim Monzo, but it looks like they have him dead to rights as just another plagiarist working for La Vanguardia, which might as well change its title to "All the Stuff We Could Find on the Net That Other People Wrote". Marius Serra, Rafael Ramos, Roger Jimenez, now Quim Monzo...oh, well, at least we know all Baltasar Porcel's pieces are original, inimitable, and unimitated. (Thanks to our loyal reader Pep.)
Well, let's see. The Democrat primary race is down to John Kerry and John Edwards; everyone else has either dropped out or is Dennis Kucinich. If I had to choose between the two, I'd pick Edwards to be the next President, though of course I'd prefer Bush to either of the two. Kerry's a Northeastern left-liberal who's never done anything of importance politically and who can't keep his positions straight. How much you wanna bet the ticket will be Kerry-Edwards, though? I don't think Edwards has a chance at winning the Dem nomination for President, though it's still theoretically possible if he should suddenly sweep a bunch of primaries. Kerry beat him in Virginia and Tennessee, states next to and rather similar to Edwards' home state of North Carolina; Edwards was playing with home-field advantage and lost.

The Spanish press is playing up the possibility that Cheney will be dumped as VP for somebody else, and that that somebody else will be the designated official candidate for 2008. I doubt it, myself, unless Cheney is to be shifted to a major Cabinet or security post (like, say, State, when Colin Powell goes? Or CIA?) Meanwhile, the good news for the Republicans is that Ralph Nader is going to run again. He cost Gore the election in 2000 when he hived off three million votes that would have gone to Gore and put him over the top in several states that he lost to Bush. I figure that only a third or so of the people who voted for Ralph next time will make the same mistake this time, but 50,000 votes may well make the difference in Michigan or Ohio, two of the key states up for grabs.

(Request to readers: Can anyone give me a URL for reasonably current state-by-state polling results, you know, "Alabama: Bush 54%, Kerry 43%"? Or whatever.)

Over here in these parts, ETA has stated that they did not make any kind of deal with Carod-Rovira regarding the ETA truce in Catalonia. Carod-Rovira denies that too. So I figure there are only two possibilities here.

A) Carod is a lying sack of merda and so are the etarras. They did make a deal for a truce in Catalonia. Evidence: The truce did happen. Carod had called for such a thing in the past. And did he really think he was going to convince ETA to lay down its arms all by his little self? So why did he go to the meeting in the first place?

B) Carod is an idiot. He really did think he could convince them all by his little self. ETA screwed, blued, and tattooed him. ETA used the meeting with Carod to confer some political legitimacy upon themselves; they were the ones who leaked the story in the first place. ETA is continuing to take advantage of the opportunity to gain all the headlines they can in order to recuperate some of the political influence they have been losing as they have been growing weaker. (The government estimates there may be as few as 200 active etarras left.)

Or, of course, there is possibility C), that Carod is both a lying sack of merda AND an idiot. I tend to go for this one, myself. This whole Carod-Rovira mess is going to cost the Socialists tons of votes in Spain outside Catalonia and the Basque Country. Most of those people are probably going to abstain rather than vote PP, so right now I like Rajoy with close to an absolute majority partially due to a low turnout of the Socialist base, who don't much like Zap's bumbling and weakness. His ridiculous election slogan--"ZP", which is supposed to stand for "Zapatero Presidente"--isn't going to win him any support, either, except from the Spanish Guild of Newspaper Cartoonists and Cheap TV Humorists.

Speaking of idiots, Federico Trillo, the Minister of Defense, fucked up majorly. Early Saturday morning, after a dinner with PP party activists, he said, "I wish I'd been Minister eight years ago to invade Perejil Island so we'd have gotten fishing rights from the Moroccans." Perejil is the tiny island off the Moroccan coast, which is Spanish territory, that was occupied by Moroccan troops and then reoccupied by the Spanish in 2002. Fishing rights in Moroccan waters have always been the source of controversy between Spain and Morocco. Now, he was almost certainly drunk off his ass when he said that, which doesn't make him less of an idiot. Anyway, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ana Palacio had to apologize to the Moroccans four times before they were satisfied. Trillo needs to go, but if I were Rajoy I'd want to wait until after the election and hope meanwhile that everybody forgets about this, rather than drawing everybody's attention. On the other hand, a quick resignation for family reasons never hurt anything, either. Minimum fuss, minimum bother, put in somebody like Fast Eddie Zaplana, and kill controversy before it starts.

Here's a funny one. Drunk driving is in the news again; a lot of people are talking about the carnage on the Spanish highways and ways to cut it down. One proposal is a zero-tolerance law, which seems a little strict to me. I'd prefer for them to effectively enforce the current limit of .08 before making the laws stricter. Anyway, the Spanish papers are making a big deal about this very civic practice suggested by a French cabinet minister in which, among a group of people who go out, one doesn't drink and he drives everybody else. Many Spaniards seem to think that we should follow the example of our wise, cultured neighbors to the north and adopt said practice, which is claimed to be one reason behind the decline in highway deaths in France. Huh. That's a good idea, but it seems to me I've heard it somewhere before. Can't think where...

One thing that is making Barcelona a more and more attractive place to live is the arrival of immigrants from around the world. Lots of wealthy Northern Europeans and artsy kids from London have been coming down here for years to enjoy the good life. But immigrants from outside Europe are becoming an important part of the city. Ten years ago there were very few foreigners from anywhere except Morocco. Now, they're coming from all over the place. Here's a list of statistics from La Vanguardia about the numbers of "non-Community immigrants" in 2004 and 1996 (in parentheses). The figures are from the city government.

Most Numerous Non-Community Nationalities in Barcelona, 2004 (1996)

1. Ecuador, 32,496 (202)
2. Morocco, 13,594 (3196)
3. Colombia, 13,307 (703)
4. Peru, 13,163 (2094)
5. Argentina, 11,437 (1871)
6. Pakistan, 10,198 (614)
7. China, 7195 (804)
8. Dominican Republic, 6777 (1066)
9. Philippines, 5871 (1854)

I'm completely in favor; I've seen how the immigration of new groups from South Asia and the Middle East and Latin America has changed America for the better within the last twenty-five years, and the same thing is going to happen here. Welcome, everyone.

Barcelona won away, 0-1, at Valencia on a header by Gerard, and they won without Davids. That's their fifth straight win, and a good one, against a top team in their stadium. Barca didn't try to play pretty soccer; they set up a defensive scheme and ground out a win, which strenghtens their hold on all-important fourth place with a five-point lead over Athletic Bilbao. That's just more good news for Real Madrid, which opened up its lead over second-place Valencia to five points. Madrid slaughtered Espanyol, 2-4. Espanyol had better start playing a lot better real soon or they're going to find themselves in Second Division again at the end of the year.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Here's something I thought was interesting. It's called The Dominion in 1983 and it's a 1883 pamphlet by one "Ralph Centennius". Mr. Centennius is visualising Canada 100 years in the future, when it will be the most wonderful place imaginable with the help of a few deus ex machinas. Of course, what you learn from the book is what sort of thoughts preoccupied people in 1883. There's an awful lot of talk about transport; seems we would be using some sort of "rocket cars" to travel around the world in just minutes. Check out the various bits of "scientific" predictions Mr. Centennius makes; people at that time must have been fascinated by the power of electricity, since it turns up so often. Note that he predicts something resembling an atomic bomb, which was to put an end to war when the whole lot of European princes got blown up by these oxyhydrogen bombs in 1932. He also predicts a sort of First World War in Europe, to kill four million soldiers, in the late 1880s. Mr. Centennius is quite vague about how social problems are going to be fixed up; seems that a all-wise self-appointed Society of Benefactors, rather as in Plato's Republic, will take it upon themselves to make everything perfect. People, overcome by the society's loving wisdom, will all behave rationally and kindly.

The brash and arrogant United States, by the way, is riding for a fall and will ultimately rejoin the United Empire; the first section of the book reflects Mr. Centennius's fear of annexation by the US, which will fortunately be avoided when the American / Fenian army and fleet trying to invade British Columbia is sunk by a hurricane two miles out of San Francisco. (But if it had come to war, the Canadians would certainly have won, though outnumbered three to one, due to their nobility and high morale.)

Oh, yeah, English will be the universal language, and Britain will peacefully annex the whole Middle East without a drop of blood being shed.

Check this one out. It's quite short. It's a "Gutenberg" text, so you have to scroll down through a lot of crap before you get to the pamphlet itself.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Hey, we're censored! Something called SoundWall, which I guess must be filtering software, won't let you access Iberian Notes. We must be cool! Only the cool kids get censored. I hope it's not because I frequently use the word "coprophagia". I love that word. It's probably all Joan's trilingual potty mouth that's got us on the SoundWall shit list.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Here's a piece by Canadian Mark Steyn from the Wall Street Journal about how some Canadians can't take a joke. Seems that Conan O'Brian's silly "Insult Dog" act, the whole point of which is to be obnoxiously insulting, made fun of French Canadians.

Go read the whole piece, but check out this bit:

There's a lesson here, both for the European Union and an increasingly Hispanicized U.S.: Gags are one of the great pillars of a common culture, but they're one of the first things to get lost in translation--and if you can't share a joke, it's hard to have a shared culture. That's why multilingual societies tend toward the humorless: see Switzerland and Belgium. (For the purposes of the preceding racist generalization, I should point out that I'm half-Belgian.)

Is this true in Catalonia? It's certainly the stereotype other Spaniards have of Catalans: they're cold, unfriendly, humorless, unfunny.

The Catalan answer is that other Spaniards, and especially Andalusians, are phony and frivolous though humorous and fun-loving--gracia, alegria, fiesta, and all that--and superficially friendly. Others may offer easy but shallow friendship, while when the Catalan offers friendship it is sincere and from the heart.

My feeling is that stereotyping people is something we all do; you've got to classify things in your mind. I agree it is a sign of intelligence to be able to draw finer classifications than the standard, but the standard, stereotypical classifications--"Catalans are X, Aragonese do Y, Andalusians think Z"--are extremely convenient ways of organizing people into groups that your mind can define, compare, and contrast. We all do it; the funny thing is that classifications become much more specific the closer you get to home.

Here in Spain, for example, each region has its stereotyped character--Catalans are dour, Madrilenos show-offs, Basques tough, Aragonese witty, Andalusians happy-go-lucky. Within your region, comarcas (counties, subregions) have stereotyped characters, and within a comarca different towns and villages are said to be different--just around here there are extremely strong local rivalries between Terrassa and Sabadell, Olesa and Esparreguera, Igualada and Manresa. Remei says she's from the country, though, and that all country people in Catalonia and Aragon and Old Castile have a lot more in common with one another than any of them do with city folk.

I dunno. I wouldn't call Catalans humorless; Catalan individuals are just as likely to have a sense of humor as anyone else. I don't think there's anything I can put a finger on and label "typically Catalan" humor, though. Black humor and irony are popular here, but they are everywhere else. Many Catalan jokes tend toward the scatological or the sexual, but that's just like everywhere else too. And as for being a bunch of Dalinian absurdists, uh, no. High absurdity is a rare gift everywhere, including here.

I do not much like the current style of humor that TV3 is dishing out, though; a lot of their stuff comes from two different producers, El Terrat and Krampack. Both appeal to the 15-30 crowd, more or less. El Terrat's style is harsher and Krampack's lighter, but both of them are doing young urban humor. Much of it is indistinguishable from what you'd find anywhere else; one thing it has in common is that it's all very politically correct and Neocatalanist.

The local twist is that these guys often parody Catalan society, but never too viciously and often quite gently, while they're often harsh with Spain and especially with Spanish media celebrities. I can just see Toni Soler and Andreu Buenafuente and Joel Joan swilling blended scotch (as they do here) and grousing, "Goddamn Maria Teresa Campos, she's not nearly as good as we are yet twenty million people watch her and only one million watch us." So they take it out of her hide.

Funny Catalans: Eugenio, Quim Monzo, Ramon "Iva" Tosas, Eduardo Mendoza, Jaume Perich, Xavier Cugat, Empar Moliner, Miguel Cartanya. Catalans who would be funny if they didn't take themselves a little too seriously: Albert Boadella, Albert Pla, Manuel Trallero, Lloll Bertran.
Well, whaddaya know. We got picked up by National Review, along with EuroPundits, Merde in France, A Fistful of Euros, Eursoc, and I Love America, in the Europress section. (We get mentioned way down at the end of the article.) Thanks a lot. To new readers coming over from NR, welcome, sit down and stay a spell. Put on a Johnny Cash or Buck Owens CD if you really want to get in the right mood. Ray Charles, Junior Brown, Dwight Yoakam, or Sonny Boy Williamson will do just fine. I also like to think of this as a James Brown kind of blog, and it's maybe a little Dylanesquely both reflective and absurd at times. We try for an Ice Cube or Clash-style sharpness. The artist this blog reminds me most of, though, is Wanda Jackson.

This is most distinctly not a Mandrell Sisters, Debby Boone, Tiny Tim, Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, REO Speedwagon, James Taylor, Celine Dion, or Men Without Hats kind of blog. At least I don't think so.
On the word "gringo":

One rather far-fetched story says gringo was derived from the song, "Green Grow the Rushes, O" by Scottish poet Robert Burns, as it was sung by English sailors in Mexican seaports. Many of the explanations and interpretations of this word have used this "Green Grow the Rushes, O" theory or slight deviations of it. I am saying that all of this is bunk and not supported by any real evidence. An article in the University of Arizona historical quarterly "Arizona and the West," by Charles E. Ronan S.J., of the Department of History of Loyola University of Chicago, discredits that origin. It gives many examples of the use of the word gringo, but does not find any positive source from which it is sprung.

To quote from Father Ronan's article:

"The word gringo was mentioned in Spanish literature as early as the eighteenth century. In his famous Diccionario, compiled some time before 1750, Terreros y Pando, a Spanish historian states that gringo was a nickname given to foreigners in Malaga and Madrid who spoke Spanish with an accent, and that in Madrid the term had special reference to the Irish. The pertinent passage in the Diccionario reads:

"Gringo in Malaga, what they call foreigners who (have) a certain kind of accent which prevents their speaking Spanish with ease and spontaneity; in Madrid the case is the same, and for some reason, especially with respect to the Irish."

"Another instance of its early use is in Bustamante's 1841 edition of Francisco Javier Alegre's Historia de la Companis de Jesús en la Nueva España, in which he explains that the Spanish soldiers sent to Mexico in 1767 by Charles III were called gringos by the Mexican people.

"Between the late 1760's and the early 1830's, however, the word apparently was rarely used, for no mention of it during that period has been found.

"Beginning in the 1830s, there are numerous references to the word gringo in the New World travel accounts, in dictionaries, and in Spanish-American literature. For example, two early 19th century travelers, the German Johan Jakob von Tschudi and the Frenchman Arseve Isabelle, both testify to the use of the word. In his travels in Peru during the years 1838-1842, Tschudi recounts how the Peruvian women 'prefer marrying a Gringo to a Paisanito, or (native).' In this 'voyage,' Isabelle complains about the insulting names, such as gringo, that travelers were called in South America. As for dictionaries, two, Diccionario (1846) of Vicente Salva y Perez, list gringo as a nickname given a foreigner who speaks an unintelligible language. Interestingly enough, the word is not incorporated into Diccionario de la Real Academia until the 1869 edition. In Spanish literature, gringo appears in Manuel Breton de los Herreros Elena, a drama presented for the first time in Madrid in 1834. Que es eso? Contais en gringo? (What is this / Are you using gringo language?)

Scholars are not in agreement about the correct use and origin of this word. According to one opinion, gringo is a corrected form of griego as used in the ancient Spanish expression hablar en griego, that is, to speak an unintelligible language or "to speak Greek."

What I think is very evident from all of this is that this word was used long ago before any English-speaking calvary soldiers were riding and singing near the Mexican border as has been suggested by some in previous reports.

Please let us lay this debate to rest and conclude that this word was in dictionaries and daily use in the Spanish language in the 18th and 19th centuries. It will continue to be interpreted by all of us in many different ways.

J.H. Coffman

Scottsdale, AZ

Mr. Coffman conclusively proves the word "gringo" was used in Spain a hundred years before the Mexican War. Here's the American Heritage Dictionary:


NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. grin·gos
Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a foreigner in Latin America, especially an American or English person.
ETYMOLOGY: Spanish, foreign, foreign language, gibberish, probably alteration of griego, Greek, from Latin Graecus. See Greek.
WORD HISTORY: In Latin America the word gringo is an offensive term for a foreigner, particularly an American or English person. But the word existed in Spanish before this particular sense came into being. In fact, gringo may be an alteration of the word griego, the Spanish development of Latin Graecus, “Greek.” Griego first meant “Greek, Grecian,” as an adjective and “Greek, Greek language,” as a noun. The saying “It's Greek to me” exists in Spanish, as it does in English, and helps us understand why griego came to mean “unintelligible language” and perhaps, by further extension of this idea, “stranger, that is, one who speaks a foreign language.” The altered form gringo lost touch with Greek but has the senses “unintelligible language,” “foreigner, especially an English person,” and in Latin America, “North American or Britisher.” Its first recorded English use (1849) is in John Woodhouse Audubon's Western Journal: “We were hooted and shouted at as we passed through, and called ‘Gringoes.’”

Here's Urban Legends Reference Pages ( on the same subject:

Claim: The word gringo comes from Mexicans' overhearing American soldiers sing the song "Green Grow the Lilacs" during the Mexican-American War.
Status: False.

Origins: This rather improbable saga of the origins of the word "gringo" has it that the term began during the Mexican-American War (1846-48), when Mexicans supposedly overheard American soldiers continually singing either "Green Grow the Lilacs" or "Green grow the rushes, O" (a song based upon a Robert Burns poem). The Spanish-speaking Mexicans began referring derisively to the Americans as "green grows" (rendered phonetically in Spanish as gringos), which soon became a pejorative Spanish-language term for "foreigners" (particularly Americans).

Other versions of this etymological legend attribute the singing to Irish Legion volunteers serving in Simon Bolivar's army during Venezuela's war for independence from Spain in the early 19th century, "cowboys in south Texas," or American troops attempting to track down Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1916-17.

All of these charming explanations have chronology working against them. Although the first recorded use of "gringo" in English dates from 1849 (when John Woodhouse Audubon, the son of the famous nature artist, wrote that "We were hooted and shouted at as we passed through, and called 'Gringoes'"), the word was known in Spanish well before the Mexican-American War. According to Rawson, the Diccionario Castellano of 1787 noted that in Malaga "foreigners who have a certain type of accent which keeps them from speaking Spanish easily and naturally" were referred to as gringos, and the same term was used in Madrid, particularly for the Irish.

The true origin of gringo is most likely that it came from griego, the Spanish word for "Greek." In Spanish, as in English, something difficult or impossible to understand is referred to as being Greek: We say "It's Greek to me," just as in Spanish an incomprehensible person is said to hablar en griego (i.e., "speak in Greek"). The English version of the proverb shows up in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1599), when Casca, one of the conspirators against Caesar, proclaims:

Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again; but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but for mine own part, it was Greek to me.
The same phrase was also used (at about the same time) by another Elizabethan playwright, Thomas Dekker, but its origins are much older: it comes from the Medieval Latin proverb Graecum est; non potest legi (i.e., "It is Greek; it cannot be read").

It is certainly possible (and even likely) that the Mexican-American War precipitated the introduction of the Spanish word gringo into the English language, but the word itself antedates that conflict by at least sixty years and had nothing to do with singing soldiers, American or otherwise.

That's enough for me.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Franco Aleman pointed out to me this here gem from La Vangua. It seems to me that the guy who signed this article, Roger Jimenez, is a plagiarist because his signed piece is simply a repetition--he didn't even bother changing too many words--of a common Internet story, an urban legend. If you look at old Saturday Evening Posts or Reader's Digests, you'll see this one come up every couple of years. In the American 1940s-50s version, the American government is the insufferable bureaucracy that is going to impose these ridiculous spelling changes that make everything much more complicated than it needs to be. In the bit Mr. Jimenez ripped off, it's the European Union. It's the same joke, though, and it's been around for at least sixty years. I imagine that Mr. Jimenez didn't even invent the Spanish version of this urban myth; somebody else probably adapted it from English long ago. Is the Vangua going to bust him? Well, they didn't do it to Marius Serra for exactly the same crime, so I don't know why they'd even consider coming down hard on Jimenez.
Here's a story that James Taranto links to about silly regulations in the public schools. Taranto thinks this is ridiculous. Yeah, nobody's ever sued him. Look, I'm going to stand up for the teachers on this one. They are responsible for all these kids in their classes, most of whom they love but a few of whom are a massive pain in the ass and among other things ask to go to the bathroom eighteen times a day. When the parents stop demanding the right to sue teachers for eighteen million dollars if a kid should get hit by a bus while they're on duty, then teachers will be willing to be more permissive with said parents' kids. Until then, the rules are the rules and the only way teachers and administrators can be safe against lawsuits that might well ruin them, and there are an absolute shitload of such lawsuits backed up in the courts, is to draw the line and enforce it. If parents and kids don't like it, that's just too damned bad.

The rule, as always, is that the class goes to the bathroom as a group several times every day. If a kid has to go outside those several toilet trips every day, he gets fifteen free trips a month. That seems more than fair to me. I wouldn't let a kid assigned to me get out of my sight, personally.
Here's a discussion from the Comments section that I thought was worth posting in order to dispel this common myth, what I call a "historical urban legend". Italics are a commentator; standard type is me.

Are you sure you live in Catalonia? You will never hear a spanish or a catalan refer to Americans as "gringos". That's mexican stuff.

People around here have seen it in the movies enough that the less polite of them adopt it when they wish to be insulting to an American.

Did you know the history of the word "gringo". It seems like during the American-Mexican war, the locals used to shout the American troops: "Green go!" (like get out of here). Because the american soldiers weared green uniforms. I dont know... it's one of those mexican words that sound ridiculous to us, like "pendejo", "chinga tu madre" and all that... They have their own culture we have ours. I bet you don't feel comfortable using brit slang. Same thing here.

Nope. The word "gringo" is 18th century Peninsular Spanish slang for any foreigner. It probably goes back before then, since slang words tend not to turn up in writing until they becomes fairly common use. This is documented in writings from the time. It's a corruption of "griego", meaning "Greek" and standing for any foreigner, in the sense of "It's Greek to me." The term later became attached in Mexico to Americans specifically.

Just a few problems with that story:

a) American soldiers at the time wore blue uniforms or none at all.
b) You think a bunch of Mexican peasants are going to be yelling defiantly at a bunch of guys with guns?
c) You think a bunch of Mexican peasants knew enough English to shout "Green go!"?
d) You think a bunch of Mexican peasants cared whether a bunch of Spanish-speaking army guys or a bunch of English-speaking army guys exploited them? Remember, Mexico was a caudillo-style dictatorship under the incompetent and corrupt Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The Americans were saints compared to him and his army, which pillaged wherever they were in Mexico as if they had conquered it. And the American army of the mid-1800s were a pretty rough bunch.

(You might read General U.S. Grant's memoirs; it's available on Gutenberg and Internet Books Online and Internet Library and all those book search sources. Grant wrote it in collaboration with Mark Twain at the end of his life; the collaboration of Twain is obviously what makes it a truly great work, beautifully written, deeply felt, breathtakingly honest about everything except his alcoholism. Grant goes into detail about his experiences as an army lieutenant in the Mexican War. I think it's the one indispensible book on the 1845-65 army.)
Here's an interview with Alain Hertoghe, the French journalist from the Catholic paper La Croix who was fired for writing a book saying that the mainstream French (and, by implication, Continental) press had so many anti-American prejudices regarding the Iraq war that they failed to report the story correctly. This is well worth a read.

You also ought to check out this article from Insight debunking some common lies told about George Bush and his family. Give it a look. (From Front Page.)

Eursoc got a link from Andrew Sullivan for this piece about the division in the EU between France and Germany, and everybody else. Good post. Check it out.

Here's Dorothy Rabinowitz from the Wall Street Journal tearing into the History Channel for airing a British documentary that says that Lyndon Johnson had John Kennedy and seven other people killed. This, of course, is utterly insane and a complete contradiction of any actual fact regarding the Kennedy assassination.

By the way, anyone wondering what really happened on November 22, 1963, should read Case Closed by Gerald Posner, which conclusively demonstrates that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who fired three shots from the Texas School Book Depository. Should you be curious about the other famous assassination of the 1960s, read Posner's Killing the Dream, which concludes that James Earl Ray, a Missouri peckerwood cracker hillbilly redneck dirt-poor barely-literate white-trash loser jailbird felon common criminal, shot Martin Luther King. Ray, however, probably had the help of at least one of his brothers and perhaps other people. Posner does not implicate the government or the law in any way; he does speculate that there was a rumor in American prisons during the 1960s that some Southern racist businessman had put a bounty on King's head, and that this just might be a true story; it would explain Ray's access to ready cash and his travels across the United States in the weeks before the assassination--and his travels around the world afterward. Remember, they caught up with him in London.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

This Esquerra Republicana-ETA thing is really getting out of hand. For those new to the blog, here we go with a quick explanation. After the most recent Catalan regional elections, a Tripartite coalition made up a coalition. The PSC (Catalan Socialists) had won by far the most votes, but they needed the support of ERC (leftist Catalan nationalists) and ICV (Communists) to form a government.

Well, Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, the leader of ERC, went and had a secret meeting with the leaders of the Basque terrorist gang ETA in which he tried to "negotiate peace". This was sometime in January. Now, the American equivalent would be Dennis Kucinich meeting with Al Qaeda, without government knowledge, out there making a deal on his own, with the payoff that Al Qaeda wouldn't attack Democrats, only Republicans. What many people said about the Carod-Rovira--ETA meeting was that Carod was trying to make a deal in which ETA would cease to operate in Catalonia. Well, what do you know. ETA released a video today.

It consisted of two guys in black capes and white hoods with black berets on top of their heads--I swear, they looked like 1950s French existentialists dressed up as Klansmen--in front of an ETA logo with a Basque and a Catalan independentista flag. One of them made this statement:

ETA, the Basque socialist revolutionary organization of national liberation, hereby informs the Basque Homeland and the Catalan people of the content of its revised policy of armed action in Catalonia as well as the decisions taken.

ETA, within the framework of the process of liberation that it carries out with the goal of achieving recognition of the rights that belong to the Basque Homeland as a nation, decided in the 1980s to carry out armed actions against the economic resources of the Spanish and French states, and the armed forces of the occupation and the Spanish political authorities.

This question has always been subject to repeated analyses of the situation that our organization has made at various times. ETA has made a new analysis and has made a new decision regarding its armed actions in Catalonia.

These are the principal items that ETA has taken into consideration.

Catalonia and the Basque Homeland are two nations with many similarities and points in common, we would like to emphasize two: (Comma splice sic.)

--They are two nations, oppressed by the Spanish and French states, territorially divided according to artificial frontiers imposed by force of arms.

--This situation of oppression has caused the development of close and deep relationships of friendship and brotherhood.

--The change made in the last decades in the political situation in Catalonia and the Basque Homeland. There has been a clarification and an important advance of independentista forces and a widespread awareness of the need for the right of self-determination which belongs to the peoples oppressed by the Spanish state.

--The serious crisis that the oppressor Spanish state is undergoing. At the end of the Franco dictatorship, the Spanish state invented the "State of Autonomous Regions" with the objective of drowning the desires for freedom of the Basque, Catalan...nations. (Suspensive points sic.) Today, 25 years later, the crisis in which the political framework of the Spanish reform is immersed is clearer and deeper than ever. And we can affirm that it has been the struggle of these two peoples for their liberation that has caused this crisis: The Basque Homeland and Catalonia are the hotbeds that are breaking down the antiquated system of the institutional and political framework that has been imposed.

--The honest, active and generous solidarity that the process of liberation of the Basque people has awakened on the part of the Catalan people.

At the same time, the armed struggle carried on by ETA against the Spanish state in Catalonia has caused different and opposing interpretations and reactions among the different sectors of independentista and leftist Catalans.

--The importance of reinforcing the willpower and determination of the people in order to defend the right of self-determination that belongs to the Catalan people and to the Basque Homeland, as against Spanish imposition. The necessity of reinforcement, in the cases of the Catalan and Basque peoples, of the foundations that, in our understanding, should support the relationship between different oppressed peoples.

--Respect and non-interference regarding the methods and ways in which the respective organizations may put in practice in the process of liberation that each people is carrying out.

--Solidarity to other peoples who find themselves in a similar situation of oppression.

Considering all these elements of analysis and with the desire that the ties between our peoples become stronger based on the the principles of respect, non-interference, and solidarity, ETA hereby communicates to the Basque Homeland and to the Catalan people its suspension of its campaign of armed actions in Catalonia beginning January 1, 2004.

A revolutionary salute to all Catalan independentistas.



Long live Jon Felix! Long live Joan Carles!

In the Basque Homeland, February 2004.

Jon Felix Erezuma and Joan Carles Monteagudo were the terrorists who pushed a carbomb downhill, put it in neutral and just let it roll, into the Guardia Civil barracks in Vic, near Barcelona, on May 30, 1991; they had previously murdered six policemen in Sabadell. Nine people were killed in the blast in Vic, five of them children, and twenty were wounded. Monteagudo and Erezuma must have seen that the courtyard of the barracks was full of the families of the Guardias when they let the car go. The image most people remember of the bombing is a photograph of a fireman carrying away a small girl with one of her legs blown off below the knee. I remember taking the bus home from work that night; it took like three hours because the cops roadblocked the freeway between Cerdanyola, where I worked then, and Barcelona. When it came our turn they went through everybody very carefully. It didn't bother me when I heard more or less what was going on. A couple of days later they tracked Monteagudo and Erezuma to a house in suburban Barcelona; I don't think they got much of a chance to surrender. The Guardia Civil ventilated the place and the two murderers were found dead inside with multiple perforations, Ma Barker-style.

Here is Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's official statement:

On the 26th of January the secretary general of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the chief of cabinet of the Generalitat publicly stated that he had met with members of the leadership of the terrorist gang ETA. That same day said party made a public statement in which it admitted that it had reached an agreement with the terrorist gang.

Today the terrorist gang has announced its contribution to this repulsive strategy promoted by ERC. The terrorist gang will continue killing, but it will not do so in one part of our national territory. We know that the quid pro quo is the political shielding by ERC of the objectives of the terrorist gang and a closing of the eyes regarding terrorism as long as its party interests are not affected.

The Administration of the nation wishes to state, in an unmistakeable way, its rejection of all forms of negotiation which do not consist of the delivery of all weapons to the legitimate authorities and the surrender of the criminals to the courts. Of course, the Administration will continue to pursue the terrorists with the same determination inside and outside of Spain, and I trust that we can do it with the same success as so far, or even with more success.

The only democratic way to put an end to terrorism is its complete defeat by means of police and judicial action and internatinal cooperation. This, and no other, is the appropriate response for a state with the rule of law.

All negotiation with a terrorist gang on the terms we have just seen confirmed is deeply antidemocratic and implies political complicity with the terrorists. We are facing a pact between the terrorist gang and ERC, unless this party expressly rejects the agreement and immediately fires those who negotiated it.

The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party forms a part, at this moment, of a coalition with ERC that governs Catalonia; equally, the Socialist Party forms part of an electoral coalition that is running joint candidacies with the Republican Left in the upcoming general elections. The Socialist Party, as a national party that presents itself as an alternative to govern and as a signer of the pact for freedom and against terrorism, must adopt immediate decisions, faithful to its commitments and to democracy. They can no longer allege lack of knowledge; they can no longer look the other way.

I believe that it is incompatible with the pact for freedom and against terrorism to maintain coalition governments and electoral coalitions with the party of the Republican Left of Catalonia as long as they do not fulfill the conditions which I have outlined.

All we Spaniards have suffered ETA terrorism for many years; we have fought and have been fighting for decades against it; we are not far from defeating it, and in order to do so we have used the legitimacy of our democracy, the strength of our state with the rule of law, and the solidity of our national unity.

The agreement reached between the Republican Left of Catalonia and the terrorist organization ETA, far from bringing us closer to peace and freedom, moves us away from them, because it means no more and no less than an absolutely unacceptable moral surrender and political complicity.

You go, Jose Maria! We're going to miss his Trumanesque plain speaking. I honestly believe that Aznar is the best political leader in Europe as far as honesty, courage, and intelligence goes. He proved he had brass balls when the ETA tried to blow up his car in 1995. The bomb went off and if Aznar's limo hadn't been armored it would have blown him into very small pieces. A passerby was killed. Aznar kept his cool, sort of like Reagan did when that nutcase shot him, and impressed a lot of people.

The general reaction of the editorialists and the columnists of La Vanguardia is that Carod-Rovira is an incompetent, if not worse, and has to resign now and leave the country for several months. One wag, Alfred Rexach, suggested that we should send Carod to Casablanca in order to get rid of him. The joke is that Carod's predecessor as leader of ERC was a guy named Angel Colom. It was decided by the Catalan poliical class, so it is widely rumored, that certain predilections of Mr. Colom's would likely get everybody into very serious trouble if they were made public knowledge. So Mr. Colom was sent as far away as possible, which is the Generalitat's "consulate" in Casablanca, Morocco. Mr. Colom is a former seminary student and schoolteacher, in addition to being a politician.

My wife's Remei's reaction was profane, to say the least. She called Carod a "mamarracho", a "malparit", a "gilipollas", and an "imbecil", among other less printable epithets. She said, resumed, "Look, I'm Catalan not because I want to be but because I just am, so I take it pretty seriously, and I don't like it that this idiot Carod has given that bunch of terrorists a political card to play. This is a disgrace. Carod got a political job and he's supposed to be helping Catalonia advance and trying to make it better, not negotiating with fucking terrorists. All of us Catalans voted for him and he represents all of us, and he's not doing it right. The older I get the more I see that nationalism is stupid because it makes divisions between people and when you take it too far it leads to killing, and I don't want any of that Bosnia shit around here. I speak Catalan and I am Catalan and I do things not because they're Catalan things to do but just because they're the things I do, and I don't give a shit who else does them."

That was a summary, with most of the foul language edited out.
The breaking news is that ETA announced a truce only in Catalonia this afternoon; it looks like Carod-Rovira's meeting with the ETA leadership paid off and that there was a quid pro quo. Everybody in Spain is thoroughly pissed off at the Tripartite government in Catalonia, since what it has effectively done is negotiate a separate peace, leaving the rest of Spain looking down the gun barrel. Spanish Socialist leaders are calling for the Catalan Socialists to pull out of the Tripartite coalition.

The problem with that is new elections will probably prove to be necessary. The current PSC-ERC-ICV coalition cannot stand if the PSC pulls out, of course, but the only other feasible coalition would be CiU and ERC, and ERC is precisely the problem. A PSC-CiU government would probably be impossible since they've hated one another's guts for the last 24 years.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

From Fox News:

Retailers Think Spring
Hocking pastels, sandals in sub-zero temps may be smart business

Uh, shouldn't that be "hawking"? That's an informal word meaning "selling in the street" or just "selling". "Hock" is to pawn; e.g. you might hock the family silver if you need money. Another meaning for "hock", very informal, is that it's what you do with a loogie.

Now, I'll bet money that the person who wrote this head was from the Northeast; many people in the Northeast speak with an accent that doesn't distinguish the "ah" sound in "father" (low back unrounded vowel) from the "aw" sound in "naughty" (one step higher, slightly rounded). The standard example of this accent is that its speakers pronounce "cot", like a bed, and "caught", the past of "catch", the same. And they pronounce "hawk", with the "aw" sound, the same as "hock", with the "ah" sound.

That's where this little piece of confusion came from. Hey, gimme a break, this is virtually all I learned in two years of grad school. I get to show off occasionally.
Here in Spain it certainly seems that there is an epidemic of domestic violence going on right now; murders and beatings are on the news and in the papers with some frequency. It is argued by some that these violent acts are caused by an institutional sexism in Western society, by a patriarchal structure that demeans women systematically. I don't buy it.

The most recent tragedy was yesterday, when some piece of scum in Figueres set his wife on fire. She suffered burns over 60% of her body but is expected to survive. According to the Vanguardia, in recent years in Spain there have been seven attempts by men to set their wives on fire. Now, that is plain sick and disgusting, and I have no sympathy for those who physically abuse others; my personal feeling is that prison should be exclusively reserved for criminals who use violence, and that all criminals who use any kind of violence--rape, murder, robbery, assault and battery--ought to be sent there.

My question, though, is whether there is really an increase in cases of domestic abuse of women or whether it's just being reported more now. My personal guess is that woman-battering is actually on the decline, percentage-wise, as society becomes wealthier and "softer"; agreed, extreme cases like yesterday's in Figueres always get in the news, but I wonder if a lot of the milder cases being reported these days wouldn't have just been swept under the rug in the past.

In order to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire, TV3's lead-in to the story on the news was titled "El horror masclista"--"The sexist horror".

Here are some excerpts from "Who Stole Feminism?" by Christina Hoff Sommers.

For a long time (Richard J.) Gelles and (Murray A.) Straus were highly regarded by feminist activists for the pioneer work they had done in this much-neglected area. But they fell out of favor in the late 1970s because their findings were not informed by the "battery is caused by patriarchy" thesis. The fact that they were men was also held against them.

Geller and Straus do find high levels of violence in many American families, but in both of their national surveys they found that women were just as likely to engage in it as men. They also found that siblings were the most violent of all...The vast majority of family disputes involve minor violence rather than severe violence (defined as "actions that have a high probability of leading to injury"). In their 1985 survey...they found that 16% of couples were violent--the "Saturday Night Brawlers" (with the wife just as likely as the husband to slap, grab, shove, or throw things.) In 3 to 4 percent of couples, there was at least one act of severe violence by the husband against the wife...Gelles and Straus are careful to say that women are far more likely to be injured and to need medical care...Murray Straus estimates that approximately 100,000 women a year are victims of severe violence (in the US)--far short of Senator Biden's claim of three or four million...Because of changing demographics and improved public awareness, there was a significant decrease in wife battery between 1975 and 1985...

Gender feminists are committed to the doctrine that the vast majority of batterers or rapists are not fringe characters but men whom society regards as normal--sports fans, former fraternity brothers, pillars of the community. For these "normal" men, women are not so much persons as "objects". In the gender feminist view, once a woman is "objectified" and no longer human, battering her is simply the next logical step. Just how "normal" are men who batter?...

Are the batterers really just your average Joe? If the state of Massachusetts is typical--the large majority of batterers are criminals...according to Andrew Klein, "almost 80 percent of the first 8500 male subjects of restraining orders had prior criminal records in the state. Many...were for offenses like drunk driving and drugs, but almost half had prior histories of violence against male and female victims. In other words, these men were generally violent, assaulting other males as well as female intimates. The average number of prior crimes against persons complaints was 4.5."

"Time" (magazine)...informed readers that between 22 percent and 35 percent of all visits by females to emergency rooms are for injuries from domestic assaults...The primary source (for this claim) is a 1984 study...conducted in downtown Detroit....of the 492 patients who responded to a questionnaire about domestic violence, they report that 90 percent were from inner-city Detroit and 60 percent were unemployed. We also learn that the 22 percent figure includes both women and men...

In a November 1992 study...a survey of all 397 emergency departments in California hospitals. Nurse managers were asked, "During a typical month, about how many patients have been diagnosed with an injury caused by domestic violence?" The nurses' estimates ranged from two per month for small hospitals to eight per month for the large hospitals.

Ideology aside, there are indications that those who batter are not average. Talk of a generalized misogyny may be perventing us from seeing and facing the particular effect on women and men of the large criminal element in our society...We need to understand why the number of sociopaths in our society, especially violent male sociopaths, is so high.

My guess is that the number of violent male sociopaths in US society is declining, and this is clearly reflected in the crime rate. Sure there are other causes, like better policing, stiffer sentences, higher income and education levels, but I'm going to chalk it up at least partly to what some are calling the "Roe effect". I think that the sort of people likely to give birth to sociopaths are reproducing less and less.

That is, abortion became a constitutional right in the entire US in 1973 with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Ever since then, it's been easy and cheap to get an abortion in the US, and there are more than a million performed every year. Now, who gets abortions, as a general rule? Not your stable, middle-class couples, but your single mothers. This is why young people in the US are more traditional than they used to be; the folks who lead an unstable (not liberal or leftist, but the kind that makes you a lousy parent) lifestyle, screwing around a lot and drinking and using drugs and partying a lot and not holding down steady jobs and associating with trashy people, don't reproduce any more. The kids who have been born since '73 are much more likely to belong to a stable family unit because nonstable people have been able to get the Future Unwanted Babies of America aborted.
Here's an interesting collection of Spanish Civil War propaganda posters. Read the accompanying commentaries, which were pretty clearly written by several different people: some are quite critical of the Republic and especially of the Communists, while others follow the strict party line. Anyway, check it out.

Monday, February 16, 2004

This article from the Weekly Standard by Kagan and Kristol, two of the leading so-called "neoconservatives", is highly recommended for those looking for a correct analysis of the Iraq war. It's a rather long article--don't forget to click on "page 2" for the whole thing. Summary: Saddam was a sonofabitch. He had to go.
Well, yesterday was the anniversary of the Great Big Anti-Yankee Demo. On Feb. 15, 2003, leftist organizers got between 300,000 and 500,000 people out on the streets of Barcelona for a mass demonstration that was supposedly "against war" but really against the US; you could tell by the signs people were carrying and by the concluding speech, an anti-American diatribe by the little-known actress Carme Conesa. (Pedro Almodovar did the speech in Madrid. Americans might want to remember this when deciding whether or not to give Almodovar any of their money at the box office.) The organizers claimed a million, though they didn't get anywhere near that many. It was still a very large demo, though.

So this year they decided to have another. This time they got between 6000 and 10,000 people in the Plaza Catalunya. A "cacerolada", a pot-banging, was scheduled last night for 10 PM but I didn't hear a thing, and I had my Merle Haggard CD ready to go at top volume as soon as the pot-banging started. TV3 tried to make a big deal out of it, focusing in on the crowd and filling the screen with it. They did pull back once: then you could see that the crowd comfortably fit into the center of the plaza, without even spilling out and blocking traffic.

The other thing TV3 repeated over and over was that George Bush I said something last year in a TV interview along the lines of "We can't let American foreign policy depend on how many people demonstrate in Barcelona." Now, Bush just threw the name of Barcelona out as an example, as you can tell from his tone of voice; he could just as easily have said "Milan" or "Paris" or "Berlin". Still, both TV3 and the Vanguardia mentioned Bush's mention of the city of Barcelona with great pride, as if it demonstrated the international significance of Barcelona. Woo-hoo! An American ex-president mentioned us with a throwaway line in an interview eleven months ago!

By the way, in other Catalan cities, they got a thousand in Tarragona and 300 in Lerida. In Gerona not even the organizers bothered to show up, so there was no demo, just a handful of reporters milling about.

The Vanguardia has a couple of polls out. In this morning's paper they give us their projection of the vote within Catalonia for the March 14 general elections in Spain. The Socialist PSC will pull 37% of the vote and 18 seats in the Congreso de los Diputados; the conservative PP will get 22% and 11-12 seats; nationalist Convergence and Union will get 18% and 9 seats, the independentista ERC will bring in 13% and 6-7 seats, and the Communist ICV will draw 7% and 2 seats.

Several small surprises here. I'd expect the Socialists to lose a couple of seats and not do quite as well as the survey says. The PP, for the first time, will be the second most-voted party in Catalonia, a role that had previously belonged to Convergence and Union.

The big non-surprise, though, is the collapse of Convergence. Now, CiU, the mainstream and fairly responsible Catalan nationalist coalition, has been riding for a fall for years. It is a combination of Union, the conservative Christian Democrat Catalan nationalist party, and of Convergence, a catchall bunch of Catalan nationalists who run the gamut between moderate conservative and social democrat. Now, Union is a real political party with a solid following and a coherent ideology. They'll survive. Convergence, though, was held together only by the force of personality of its longtime leader, Jordi Pujol. Well, Pujol has retired and Convergence is splitting. The more leftist and more independentista Convergence voters have already gone to ERC, the more conservative and less nationalist voters will stay with Union or go to the PP, and the more social democratic voters will flip to the Socialists.

Yesterday the Vangua ran their poll results for all of Spain; they predict the PP will win handily but will not repeat their absolute majority that Aznar won in the 2000 generals. As I always say, the PP always does a couple of points better on election day than they do in the pre-election surveys, due to the fact that it's politically incorrect to say you're pro-PP. Some people won't admit it even to an interviewer. If the PP doesn't take an absolute majority, though, they can count on the Canarian Coalition and what's left of Convergence and Union to put them over with a parliamentary majority.

Pretty much all the Vanguardia's commentators have been slagging the US off about the Janet Jackson so-called scandal for the last two weeks. Who cares? Everybody's forgotten all about it already. It was no big deal, just a media blip. But the Vangua's columnists are taking turns using words like "puritanical" and "hypocritical" and "immature" and "censorship", and they're still doing it, making the Vanguardia officially The Last Newspaper in the World to get off this dumb story.

"Chemical Lali" Sole has a piece calling the Clint Eastwood movie "Mystic River" "immoral". Huh? I thought it was just a movie.

Barcelona beat Atletico de Madrid last night 3-1, a convincing win against a real team, and held on to fourth place in the Spanish league. Edgar Davids is the big difference. With him in midfield, Xavi, Barcelona's "quarterback" or "point guard", isn't always covered by an opposing player, and so he has a chance to make the long passes that he does so well. And Davids is a scrapper, a never-give-up guy, something Barca really needed. I was very wrong about him. Ronaldinho continues to demonstrate that he really is a top-class player. Nobody else on the team is doing all that great, but at least they're playing competently now. Madrid, Valencia, and Deportivo are still running away with the league, though.

Cyclist Marco Pantani, who won the Tour de France several years ago (1997?), was found dead in a hotel room in Italy surrounded by boxes of antidepressives and anxiety-blockers at age 34. He'd been involved in several drug scandals, though he was still competing professionally. They haven't made it clear whether this was a suicide or an accident, or whether it was even an overdose. Pantani suffered from manic depression.

On the back page of La Vangua, there's a very odd interview with Robert Gallo, one of the discoverers of the AIDS virus. About halfway through Dr. Gallo begins spilling his guts to the interviewer, how he dumped his wife for a Twinkie and how she then took him back, how he ignored his children, how he'd been a bad parent, how the dispute over who'd found the AIDS virus first hurt him emotionally as well as financially, how the people he'd expected to stand up for him didn't, and so on. This is clearly a guy who has some psychological problems that he is in the process of working out. Or, in regular English instead of jargon, he's a sad and rather bitter man who feels guilty. Rather like me on a bad day.

The interviewer, Lluis Amiguet, adds this commentary:

Somebody told me that the doctor's surprising confessions are in the same line as the "born-again Christians" that are so trendy in the United States, and added with cynicism, "If he knows how to apologize well on TV, he'll make it to the White House." Gee, that sounds like prejudice and stereotyping to me, not to mention making light of Dr. Gallo's obvious pain.

And if Dr. Gallo were one of those "stiff-upper-lip" emotionally cold WASPS, out of touch with their feelings and emotions, who care only about work and money and burst with pride over their worldly accomplishments, they'd blast him for living up to that side of the typical American stereotype.

By the way, in case you were interested, the expression "keep a stiff upper lip" is of American origin rather than British, according to H. L. Mencken. Yeah, I was surprised at that, too.