Monthly Archives: April 2010

The PP’s racism in Badalona is no surprise

So the PP has been forced to apologise for its revoltingly racist campaign material which included suggestive messages like “We don’t want Romanians”. The PPC’s leadership has exclaimed that it doesn’t support this kind of filth, stating “crime doesn’t have a nationality”.

Well, yeah, but it can’t have come as a surprise that the PP in Badalona would try to run this as their main campaign point. They’re after the seething racist vote which is a vote you’ve really got to go out and fight for. Anyway, they were getting in trouble for this kind of thing a year ago.

Same old PP.

[Note: other parties are capable of this kind of crap. But the PP seem to be linked to it a lot more than anyone else]

Volcanoes, peak oil, food and the changes we’ll all need to accept

The skies over London and most of the rest of northern Europe are quiet this weekend. Eyjafjallajökull’s ash stopped my poor sister from going to New York (a trip she’d been looking forward to for months) and has stranded several friends and colleagues. After the initial ‘wow, they’re really stopping all the flights!’ reaction, the press has now reverted to their usual scaremongering. Apparently, the UK might soon suffer shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sorry, I’ll say that again: the UK is apparently at risk of fruit and veg shortages. This is the UK, which has some of the finest and most fertile farmland in Europe. Obviously, it has been a pretty tough winter but to me this is a symptom of everything that has gone wrong in our modern world: we’ve stopped growing and eating the vegetables we can produce in March and April in England and instead we fly pineapples in from Ghana and baby sweetcorn from Thailand. This links in to everything: we’re no longer in anyway self-sufficient, we encourage poorer countries to produce food for foreign markets instead of their own, and we fly food in from all over the world: wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s likely that the volcano’s influence on Britain’s supermarkets won’t last too long. But that doesn’t mean things will be fine forever and ever. With the US military warning that we’ll have passed peak oil production by 2015 (though we must bear in mind that this might just be some kind of move in a game we can’t see, like trying to invade Iran or something) – it seems to be totally undeniable that we’re all going to have to accept some pretty significant changes to the way we live.

Whereas in recent years, eating local, seasonal food cooked slowly has been a sort of retrospective pleasure of the wealthy middle class food snobs in Europe, I reckon that in a few years, that’ll be basically the only way to eat. We might have to accept too that baby sweetcorn and pineapple become birthday treats to be longed for and savoured. What we can’t grow fairly locally, or ship in the old fashioned way, we shouldn’t be eating.

But that’s not the only change I can see happening. As it’ll become more difficult and expensive to transport goods, most European countries will need to start looking once again to local manufacturing and industry. We’ll have to rely less on plastics and other polymers which are also sourced from the petrochemical industry: look around you right now and see if you can identify any item from the last 50 years which definitely didn’t rely on petrochemicals at some point in its production. We’ll have to accept changes in the quality and the quantity of goods that are available.

OK so this post may well sound a little paranoid and rambling. I suppose I’m still trying to organise my thoughts. But my point is that I think it’s very likely that we’ll all have to accept some pretty massive changes to our lives over the next few years and decades. In a way, this volcano is something of a gift because it can remind us of how unsustainable our happy European lives have become.

A judge indicted – I support Baltasar Garzón

I’ve been away from blogging for a while. I’ve not lost interest but I do feel like it’s never the right time, or I never have the right time, to express myself properly. This post, being written on Tuesday night, should appear on the site at 1000 Wednesday, in association with other blog posts defending Spanish judge Balatasar Garzón who is about to face prosecution for knowingly undertaking investigations outside of his jurisdiction.

I’ll start off with two frank admissions. Firstly, I’m no legal expert. Like many others, I do my best to understand and follow the intricacies of various aspects of law connected with my work and with subjects that interest me. This case obviously falls into the latter category. Secondly, I wouldn’t call myself Garzón’s number one fan. The man strikes me as something of a pompous ass so I’m not writing to try to defend his character. That’s OK, though, because a question of law shouldn’t be framed as a question of debating a man’s politics or hairstyle.

Baltasar Garzón is a prosecuting judge in Spain’s top criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional. He’s world famous for his – sometimes successful – attempts to bring dictators and agents of dictatorship to justice for their crimes against humanity. I first heard about him when his court issued an arrest warrant for General Pinochet, leading to that man’s arrest in England. Pinochet was later released because of ‘medical conditions’ he later seemed to recover from. Margaret Thatcher made a big show of having him over for tea, proving a disdain for democracy and decency some had only guessed at.

Garzón also investigated multiple cases in Spain, including the PSOE government’s GAL ‘contra’ group in the ’80s and corruption in the huge BBVA bank.

More recently, Garzón turned his attention to the various crimes committed by Spain’s fascists during the civil war and the dictatorship that followed. He announced that he considered the ‘disappearance’ of well over 100,000 republicans to be officially crimes against humanity. It is this legal position that has resulted in Garzón being indicted for exceeding his jurisdiction. The events he wanted to investigate are covered by a 1977 act of amnesty, a legal instrument that was enacted as Spain took its first steps towards democracy – under the constant threat of yet another fascist coup.

It is important to note here that this is not a case brought by the judiciary itself, or by the police. Rather, it is more like an English private prosecution, brought by the far-right wing ‘trade union’ Manos Limpias – essentially a fascist defence group which has attempted such action against Garzón around twenty times before (according to Wikipedia).

The reason I support Garzón in this case is simple: I don’t accept that the 1977 amnesty should be legally binding for crimes against humanity or genocide. I don’t accept that it should apply to any crimes, especially not after the end of the Spanish civil war. My understanding is that there is a significant opinion in Spain’s legal community that international law can – and must – supercede local laws when dealing with what are considered to be international crimes. This is what has happened in other countries: it would be madness to allow anything else to happen.

It is my belief that the charges levied at Garzón in this and in two other lawsuits are entirely politically motivated. I don’t think that Garzón is a saint, or that he’s incapable of doing wrong. I do, however, fear for Spain’s democratic future if this right-wing attack on justice is allowed to succeed. Spain’s history needs to be investigated and until another judge comes along who has the courage to do it, Garzón is our only hope.