The comments on this post at Lenin's Tomb are excellent.
As the election draws nearer, the various political campaigns are now all completely underway. Here's my brief summary:
Carme Chacón, the 'airhead' (because she's a woman) is leading the PSC's campaign. On the streets here, it's clear that the Socialists have made an effort to show that the fight is not Rajoy vs Zapatero but Rajoy vs Chacón, obviously because Zapatero isn't that popular out here. They're also running mixed messages in their campaign literature, using "La Catalunya Optimista" (The Optimistic Catalunya) but also "Si tu no hi vas, ells tornem" (If you dont go [to vote], they'll be back" referring to the PP. So in short: optimistic but fearmongering.
That strange woman whose name I can't remember heads up the PPC's election list. She's a miserable, grumpy sort of woman but I think the PP are resigned to the fact that they're becoming a minor party here. She has accused Chacón of 'using her pregnancy' in her campaign, which strikes me as a bizarre thing to say. What should she have done, resign and go into purdah? Solidarity, miserable hag!
The double-headed monster that is CiU is promoting manly decisiveness as its main policy. Mas and Duran i Lleida are both strong-jawed, photogenic fellows who are following the traditional line of 'more powers for Catalunya, but not too many!'. It'll be interesting to see if they get the chance to pact with the PP. I hope not.
ERC always run a more direct campaign in the Spanish elections than in the Catalan ones. This year's no exception: "Volem un pais de 1ª; per això volem la independència!" ("We want a premier league country; for this, we need independence"). They've gone with some ill advised posters which show Joan Ridao's bald head not once but twice in each one! I'll try to get some pictures for SyS this weekend. They also seem to be pursuing a bigger campaign in the Balearic Islands, where they reckon people are pissed off with being 'forgotten' by the PP & PSOE. Good luck with that.
The Iniciativa campaign seems to have been pretty subdued, which will no doubt lead to further losses for IU in the Madrid parliament. They have some brightly coloured posters dotted around which look like they were designed by a child and which have too many complex messages on them. They're pursuing their usual campaign of sustainable development, higher minimum wage, shorter working week: you know, all that stuff that makes certain people froth at the mouth, kick the dog and slam the door. As noted previously, the fuckers pacted with the PP in Cerdanyola when I last voted for them, so as far as I'm interested, they can do whatever they like.
By the way, we were in Port del Comte skiing this weekend and had a great time, once again. We also revisited the pretty village of Sant LLorenç de Morunys for a glass or two of Voll Damm. There was something I noticed in the streets which struck me as the best symbol of the repression of Catalan during Franco's dictatorship: every street and every square in every town and village was renamed by funcionarios (administrators) to Spanish. Now, this isn't the same as banning the language out-right but it's an incredibly invasive, malicious thing to do which ensured that however much people in rural areas might speak Catalan in the market or in the bar, for official purposes, they weren't allowed to call their street by its real name. Obviously, the same happened here (Calle Escuelas is back to Carrer Escoles), but it struck me as particularly invasive in a village where paractically no one speaks Spanish regularly. It's these symbolic little things, calculated to annoy or hurt, which added together amount to an attempt at genocide.
Zapatero closed today's big debate with these words, after nearly two hours' bitter argument over the state and future state of Spain.
Vital details: Rajoy's suit looked cheap and too small; Rajoy seemed much more nervous and uncomfortable while pretending to be calm (the photocall); Zapatero seemed much more nervous during the debate and interrupted Rajoy frequently; Zapatero was, intellectually, the better arguer; Rajoy's confidence won him points. Rajoy's point that people 'don't understand macro economics' seemed somewhat patronising and foolish.
In terms of the actual discussion, there seemed to be a roughly equal balance between who 'won' each point. The general opinion seems to be that this is 0-0, which is beter for Rajoy than for Zapatero.
Cuarto is reporting that Zapatero won the debate easily among males and those aged between 24-50. Women and the youngest voters were much more balanced in their tastes, though Zapatero comes out on top in every single poll.
Good luck, indeed, to the Spanish voters.
On a different, but connected note: allow me to introduce Simbolos y Senyals, a new project I've started. It's all about the political posters, stickers and graffiti which many of us see on the streets of Spain. My hope is that, along with what examples I can share, readers will send in photos or documents which can be stored together to create a database and library of political campaign material used by major political parties and smaller activist groups. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Also, please feel free to contact me with any examples of such material which you'd like to share.
Now I don't usually follow award ceremonies (except to complain about them) but I'm really pleased that the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men did so well at last night's Oscars. They deservedly picked up the best film, best director and best adapted screenplay awards. Javier Bardem also fully deserved his award for best supporting actor.
Those of you who haven't yet seen No Country For Old Men: don't worry about the fact that it's an Oscar winner. It's still a brilliant film and well worth watching.
There will probably be a few more additions but this is pretty much the lineup for Primavera Sound 2008. The festival runs from the 29th to the 31st of May and is now the traditional 'first party of the summer'. My picks highlighted in bold:
808 State, A Place To Bury Strangers, Alan Braxe, Animal Collective, Apparat Band, Dj Assault, Atlas Sound, Autolux, Awesome Color, Bill Callahan, Bishop Allen, Bob Mould Band, Bon Iver, Boris, Buffalo Tom, Caribou, Cat Power, Clipse, The Cribs, De La Soul, Deerhunter, Digital Mystikz, Dinosaur Jr., Dirty Projectors, Dr. Octagon aka Kool Keith + Kutmasta Kurt, Edan & MC Dagha, El Guincho, Ellen Allien, Enon, Eric's Trip, Fanfarlo, The Felice Brothers, Fuck Buttons, Dj Funk, Gentle Music Men, The Go! Team, Grande-Marlaska, Health, Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs, It's Not Not, Kavinsky, Kinski, Les Savy Fav, Lightspeed Champion, Madee, Man Man, The Mary Onettes, Mary Weiss, The Marzipan Man, Menomena, Messer Chups, Midnight Juggernauts, Mission Of Burma, Mixmaster Mike, Model 500, MV & EE with The Golden Road, Nick Lowe, No Age, The Notwist, Okkervil River, Om, Para One, Pissed Jeans, Polvo, Port O'Brien, Portishead, Prinzhorn Dance School, Public Enemy performing It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Robert Hood, Rufus Wainwright, The Rumble Strips, Scout Niblett, Sebadoh, Shipping News, Silver Jews, Simian Mobile Disco, Six Organs Of Admittance, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, The Strange Death Of Liberal England, Subterranean Kids, Supermayer, Surkin, The Swell Season, Tachenko, Tarántula, Throbbing Gristle, Tiefschwarz, Tindersticks, Träd Gräs och Stenar, Vampire Weekend, Vórtice, Voxtrot, White Williams, Why?, Young Marble Giants.
I'm particularly glad to see several Drag City acts playing, as well as the massive Public Enemy performing a truly classic album. What's her name from the Raveonettes said that they want to play the festival as well. Also, what are the chances of Stephen Malkmus getting up on stage with Silver Jews? It's all to play for.
Primavera Sound organisers – now you have my picks, please try to organise the stages so that they all play simultaneously. I love it when you do that.
So Fidel Castro is finally stepping down this Sunday as president of the council of state, and commander in chief, of Cuba. It now looks pretty much certain that his brother, Raúl will be invited by the council of state to become president.
This move could well lead to a wide range of economic changes in Cuba, though we'll have to wait to see how far they'll go. They can't exactly adopt the China model but I reckon that Cuba can find a way to renew the revolution while improving the living conditions of its citizens. A more even-handed approach from the United States would help them with this.
In other news of Marxist-Leninist insurgency, the Northern Rock bank will finally be nationalised at some point this week. Seeing as British tax payers were guaranteeing the bank, it's pretty sad that it has taken months for Alistair Darling to follow my (well, Lenin's) advice. I remember that Iberian Notes used to use 'nationalising the banks' as an emblem of the terrible things socialist governments can do. One presumes that New Labour's nationalisation of a bank that nearly collapsed because of the instablity inherent in the capitalist system is acceptable. Business in neo-liberal societies traditionally condemns state involvement in the market, unless it's to pick up the pieces after the whole mess falls apart. And it happens again and again and again.
OK so this isn't much of a video, but the music is excellent. It's a cover of a popular R Kelly song about Mohammed Ali and is performed without any hint of irony or sarcasm. In fact, this is a loving cover of what is really a great American song. The R Kelly version lacks authenticity and feeling – and feels custom built for the adverts it adorned.
…and here's the original R Kelly version
This is another beautiful song from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, this time in collaboration with Matt Sweeney (who adds something of an electric blues edge to things). Gemma and I were lucky enough to see the dynamic duo touring the album 'Superwolf' and enjoyed a truly magical concert, featuring many tracks from the album as well as some classics. When, pray, will Bonnie 'Prince' Billy be back in Barcelona?
Shock-jock from the Catholic radio network La Cope, Federico Jiménez Losantos, is being sued by Madrid mayor Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón over accusations the radio personality made concerning the mayor's attitude to the victims of the 11-M bombings in Madrid. Apparently (and I have to trust El País on this, as I never listen to El Cope), Losantos repeated various accusations against Gallardón, especially that he "didn't want to know who killed 200 people in his city".
In a slightly odd move, Losantos is trying to call some top PP officials including Comunidad de Madrid premier, Esperanza Aguirre, Eduardo Zaplana and Ángel Acebes to his defence, I assume as character witnesses. These people represent the right-wing of the PP and they recently won something of a power-struggle in the party against Gallardón's slightly less extreme wing. They're also well known for strongly disliking Gallardón, despite (or because of?) his popularity among voters in the capital.
So either these people will stand up and defend their mate, Losantos (the same guy who openly claimed that "Zapatero has an enormous, and growing, responsibility for 11-M"), or they will leave him in the lurch and risk his ire on the airwaves. For the PP, one would think that their obvious choice would be to call Losantos and say something along the lines of "Sorry old chap, election's coming up dontchaknow, can't have this nonsense… firm friend… you're best off on your own…" (at least that's what the Tories would do). But might this not be difficult for the PP leadership? Could it be risky for them to alienate the far-right sector of Spanish society so close to an election? Or… could they use this as an opportunity to finally twist the knife they stuck in Gallardón and show their strength?
Actually, the court proceedings start after the election, but I suspect that journalists will be keen to know just what the PP's leadership plan to do with Losantos (and if they're not, they bloody well should be). If they can avoid this serious question in the run-up to the election (and they certainly shouldn't), what does it say about a party which desperately wants to wrest power from the Socialists? Either they're with Losantos or they drop him: time to decide.
The archbishop of Canterbury's support for introducing elements of sharia law into the British legal system shouldn't come as much of a surprise. While many are deceived by his gentle voice and fluffy beard, Rowan Williams is no secularist. As the spiritual leader of the established English church, he is already part of a bizarre political-religious state infrastructure which exists nowhere else in Europe (except perhaps Andorra where the French head of state and the bishop of Urgell hold the presidency).
One thing that I hoped Gordon Brown might get around to during his four years in power is the disestablishment of the church. Perhaps this is now more likely. It'll be the first step towards a republic too.
From The Guardian:
Meanwhile, Javier, a 35-year-old Getafe fan, puts it down to misunderstanding, saying: "It is not racist – they were dressed for carnival. This is the sense of humour in carnival – the Spanish take the mickey out of themselves, too. The Spanish laugh at the Andaluciáans and the Catalans, as much as any other race."
As the election draws near, Graeme at South of Watford has been investigating a series of different factors which could change the outcome of the vote. The economy and terrorism are important considerations for many Spaniards, as are problems with the national infrastructure, education and immigration.
The right-wing PP, keen to regain power after two terms of PSOE government, have been hammering on about terrorism more than anyone else (plus ça change…!), and recently, Spanish Catholic bishops raised their voices in support of Mariano Rajoy's moribund campaign. One of the key points agreed on now by the major parties is that there shouldn't be negotiation with political parties who refuse condemn ETA bombings, past and present. People who tacitly 'approve' of terrorism.
But the PP have a history of tacitly approving much worse movements than ETA will ever be. Born out of the ashes of Franco's fascist dictatorship, the PP are the standard bearers for a type of neo-fascism, shrouded in the clothing of democracy but with no great love for democratic institutions, self-labelled of the 'centre' but retaining ultra-conservative views, explicitly in favour of the constitution yet permanently opposed to rescinding fascist-era legislation.
In fact, the PP fail their own test by refusing to explicitly condemn the atrocious crimes carried out by Franco's regime (which, by the way, did not end in 1945 as some would have you believe). Claiming that it's better to 'let sleeping dogs lie', the PP argue that nothing would be gained by their formally condemning Franco's regime. So why not come out and do it? The answer is that the PP want to have their cake and eat it: they want to contest democratic elections and then disseminate lies about the results; they want to claim to represent the 'centre' while constantly appealing to the hard-right of Spanish politics; they claim 'solidarity' with the victims of terrorism, but only talk to the ones who are members of one of their own grassroots campaigns. They talk about looking to the future and still refuse to remove Franco as 'Honourary Mayor in perpetuity' of the city of Salamanca.
I couldn't vote for a party with such a short-sighted view of history or such a terrible record of equivocation.
After this weekend's disgraceful displays of racism against Lewis Hamilton at Montmelo, the FIA have warned Spain that one or both races due to take place here this season may be cancelled if anything similar happens again.
Hamilton was subjected to calls of 'puto negro' and 'negro de mierda' as he carried out test laps at the Barcelona circuit. Other incidents included a rather odd group of people actually going to the trouble of blacking-up and donning t-shirts proclaiming 'Hamilton's Family'.
Many Spaniards are big fans of Fernando Alonso (Dullest Man Ever™) and some have apparently used his rivalry with Hamilton as yet another excuse to indulge their pathetic racist beliefs.
Racism in Spanish sport is a serious problem. Numerous black athletes including Barça's Samuel Eto'o have been subjected to thoroughly unpleasant taunts in recent years. It's not long since Luis Aragones was fined for calling Thierry Henry a 'black shit'.
The best thing to do would probably be cancel both the Barcelona and Valencia races for a couple of years. It would teach honest, non-racist, F1 fans that in future, rather than standing by as a bunch of racist scum-suckers make everyone look bad, it would be best to turn around and smack them in the mouth. Also, it would probably help to reduce pollution and hepatitis infections in the race areas significantly.
It was Barry's birthday recently and so. in was has become a tradition, we headed up to Les Planes for the first calçotada of the year. It's not a completely traditional calçotada (being held indoors and, with a few exceptions, lacking much of a competitive spirit). For those of you who still haven't tried this traditional Catalan meal experience, it basically consists of a big bunch of people sat around a table, eating long onion/leak things (calçots) which have been roasted in a fire. You peel the burnt bits off the calçot, dip it in romesco sauce, tip your head back and eat the whole thing. It's particularly amusing because what with all the burnt bits and romesco sauce flying around, everyone gets pretty dirty. The tradition comes from Valls in Tarragona province (romesco comes from Tarragona too).
I don't like calçots at all, so I always have a salad instead. I do generally attempt to join in the fun by eating my not-quite cojonudos asparagus in a fashion approaching that of a calçot-eater.
…and then, our car broke down…
A gang of bishops (yes, this is the formal collective noun) yesterday called on Spaniards not to vote for a party who 'negotiates with terrorists', in a clear sign that they want their fold not to vote at all. As everyone here knows, all of the main political parties in Spain have negotiated with terrorists over the last decade, meaning that loyal sheep have no choice but to either abstain or vote for one of the several Falange parties jostling for the fascist-fetishist constituency.
On the other hand, the bishops may have been suffering from the same collective memory failure that the PP have shown symptoms of. This debilitating sickness has led the right-wing party and its supporters to lash out at any suggestion that talks be held with ETA or Batasuna, even though this was precisely their own policy when they were in power.
My point of view: if the bishops don't keep their big noses out of politics, perhaps we should have one of those traditional anti-clerical carnivals which happen here every now and then. Religion has a place in some people's hearts but it has absolutely no place in democratic politics. We should all support the cutting away of any parasitic agency which seeks to pervert our democracy.