Monday, August 30, 2004

AM I THE ONLY ONE who finds this is a bit of a faulty logic?
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will host informal summit talks with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Madrid on 13 September, his office said Monday.

A spokesman said the talks were expected to focus on international questions but added that Zapatero had no ambition to create "a Paris-Berlin-Madrid axis" in place of the "Paris-Berlin axis which is the driving force of the European Union".
I mean, it's one thing to have a policy of not planning to set up a rival axis. For example deciding not to create, say, a London-Madrid axis (I know this is unthinkable given Blair's policies, it's just for the sake of the argument) as an alternative to counter the Paris-Berlin axis. Regardless its merits or feasibility, it's a proposition that at least works at a logical level.

But, saying that you don't want to add your country to an already existing axis between France and Germany, because it's good as it is, is not having no ambition to create anything; it's directly outsourcing (surrendering, again?) your foreign policy and geostrategical interests to what others decide, Chirac and Schroeder in this case. Guess it's better than doing what Osama wants, like withdrawing the troops after the March 11 bombings, but still far from what a responsible leader should do.

And by saying it upfront you lose all bargaining power with them. Why would they come for a summit in Madrid if they know you're relinquishing your decision power? To see who picks up the tab? Plus, both Chirac and Schroeder are in a quite shaky position and may very well lose their next elections. If Zapatero gambles all his chips on them, what happens if they are succeeded by others who may not look so kindly at someone who has given them everything they wanted without asking?

Gee, I sound like grandma giving advice to a teenage girl about men.

IT'S THE NINTH INSTALLMENT of Arthur Chrenkoff's 'Good News from Iraq' series. As usual, it's worth the time you'll spend reading it.

There are so many developments taking place over there, with the help of so many countries from all over the world.

With one conspicuous absence: Zapatero and foreing minister Moratinos assured that the withdrawal of Spain's troops from Iraq would not mean that they would not help in the democratic reconstruction of the country; that the pulloff was just a way to show their displeasure about the war, the behaviour of the Coalition, and Aznar's decision of joining it, but that they would not forget the needs of the Iraqi people.

Actually few people believed that at the time (even Zapatero's supporters, I'm sure), but I'd have been more than happy to be wrong on this.

Alas, I am not; the Spanish government has all but abandoned the Iraqi people. What a shame.

ZAPATERO, THE PLASTIC POLITICIAN, says Juan Hervada in a thoughtful post.

He's not optimistic, but at the same time he also has a couple of images worth of Allahpundit. Go read it.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

JOHN CHAPPELL MERCILESS DISSECTS a dumb article attacking Bjorn Lomborg, written today by the senior editor of the Economics section of La Vanguardia, Barcelona's supposedly most prestigious newspaper.

Perhaps the fact that La Vanguardia boasts of being twin souls, er, newspapers with the New York Times explains it. In any case, it's a good sample of what we have to endure around here on a day to day basis, guys. Read it and weep.

MARK STEYN HAS AN INTELLIGENT piece on today's Sunday Telegraph -not a surprise- on Bush's skillful tactics:
At the beginning of the year, Thomas Lifson, who was at Harvard Business School with George W Bush, made an interesting observation about the President. He notes that young George "was a very avid and skillful poker player" when he was a Business Administration student and that "one of the secrets of a successful poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing hand. This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W Bush's political career".

Indeed one does. In the months following Mr Lifson's observation, the President sat back, as John Kerry's consultants, the Iowa caucus voters, the Democratic Party at large, and the media convinced themselves that the one card that trumps Bush's leadership in the war on terror was Kerry's four months in Vietnam, and bet everything on it. They have just lost that hand.

Kerry is in seclusion, unable to expose himself to any but the most sycophantic interviewers, and getting whumped by hundreds upon hundreds of fellow Swift boat veterans, plus former POWs, plus retired admirals, over every aspect of his brief stay in the Mekong Delta.

The Senator put his money on the wrong war. After a couple of entertaining weeks of the aggrieved Swiftees driving down his poll numbers in battleground states, it seems a shame to interrupt the implosion of the Kerry campaign for the Republican convention. But I'm sure the seared Senator is grateful for the intermission, and for the rest of us the next week affords a rare opportunity in this election campaign to catch up with the issues of the current millennium before the inept Kerry resumes bogging us down in his personal Vietnam quagmire again.
Which is quite consistent with the latest from Bush who, with a couple of sentences, graciously deals with the Kerry heroism issue and at the same times leaves the Democratic candidate as the one who is a petty questioner of past credentials. What a contrast with the past "Bush is AWOL" accusations (via The Command Post):
US President George W Bush has described his Democrat opponent John Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam as more heroic than his own service in the Air National Guard.

Debate over Senator Kerry's Vietnam war service has been running high in the lead up to the November presidential election, with a pro-Rebublican [sic] group criticising his record.

Mr Bush has told US television Senator Kerry was in harm's way in Vietnam but also said if his own unit had been called to go to Vietnam, he would have gone.

UPDATE. Don't miss this blog entry by Ed Morrisey; as he says, "the media breakthrough has begun in earnest."

Friday, August 27, 2004

The glossy magazine at the centre of a row over holiday photos of the prime minister's daughters apologised Thursday to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his wife.

The editor of Diez Minutos, which specialises in showbiz and celebrity paparazzi photo-spreads, said sorry for printing the four-page piece with pictures of the couple's daughters Laura and Alba, who are aged eight and ten.

In the magazine's feature, the girls' faces cannot be seen, but the editor said the identities of the girls was obvious.

The row blew up Wednesday when Zapatero and his wife Sonsoles Espinosa sent an urgent fax to the magazine Diez Minutos asking the editor not to syndicate pictures of their two girls on their summer holiday in Minorca.

The family did not agree to the feature.

Headlined 'Zapatero, his first holiday as president', the piece carries colour pictures of the two girls.

According to government sources, Zapatero and his wife claim the pictures have "compromised the right to privacy of the two minors".
Now that Zapatero has made even clearer his determination to protect the privacy of his two daughters, will he please stop bringing them into his political discourse, as if the two kids were his unofficial advisors in international relations and internal politics?
As I said my daughters are aged 10 and 8 and from the very day I won the election they were asking me every night: "Daddy, when are you going to bring the troops home [from Iraq]?" Because the debate about the war was so incredible...
He's done it several times, but this is the only example in English that I could find.

UPDATE. Reader Marzo warns that the last link to the International Herald Tribune containing the full transcript of the interview with Zapatero is no longer available. It can be found in the New York Times too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ARAFAT AT THE KARAOKE. John Cole is a genius.

(via Figaro's Blog)

MORE ATTACKS ON FREE SPEECH; can we blame John Ashcroft for this, too?
In the wake of the furore over pictures of his female ministers in two glossy magazines, Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was embroiled Wednesday in another row about photographs – this time of his daughters.

Zapatero and his wife Sonsoles Espinosa sent an urgent fax to the magazine Diez Minutos telling the editor of their anger over pictures of their two girls on their summer holiday in Minorca.

The two girls, aged eight and ten years old, are featured in a three-page spread in the magazine, which the family did not agree to.

Headlined 'Zapatero, his first holiday as president', the piece carries colour pictures of the two girls.

According to government sources, Zapatero and his wife claim the pictures have "compromised the right to privacy of the two minors".

The premier and his wife expressed their "deep unhappiness" with the publication of the pictures.

Zapatero thanked all the newspapers and magazines which had respected the privacy of his family during their holiday in Minorca.

But sources added that Zapatero was determined to "exercise the right to privacy of minors".
It's true that the Spanish legislation is quite restrictive and normally demands the faces of the children in published pictures to be blurred. I haven't seen the actual magazine (a kind of quite low-brow glossy), only the reproduction in one newspaper. The pictures were taken from some distance but in a public venue, the sea; it's the typical shot of a family enjoying a swim around the small yacht they have been using during their holidays. So I'm not sure of the law protecting the privacy of minors applies here, but it seems too much of a fuss for a minor incident.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

MAGNIFICENT MARK STEYN on Kerry's troubles:
Nothing the "sleazoids" say about Kerry is as bad as what he said about them 33 years ago in his testimony to Congress, when he informed the world that his comrades – his "band of brothers" – had "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads" etc, throughout their time in Vietnam.

Unlike John O'Neill's book, he didn't bother to give specifics: the US Army in general was rife with ear-severers. If you want to know why Paul Galanti is appearing in an anti-Kerry ad, it's because he first heard about this speech from his Viet Cong captors who cited it to try to persuade him and his fellow prisoners that resistance was now futile and they might as well cross over to the other side.

I said a couple of weeks back that John Kerry was too strange to be President, and a week or two earlier that he was too stuck-up to be President. Since I'm on an alliterative roll, let me add that he's too stupid to be President. What sort of idiot would make the centrepiece of his presidential campaign four months of proud service in a war he's best known for opposing?

I wouldn't stand for Parliament on a family values platform because I know someone's bound to bring up the 123 gay porn movies I had a bit part in back in Amsterdam in the 1970s.

How cocooned from reality do you have to be to think you can transform one of the most divisive periods in American history – in which you were largely responsible for much of the divisiveness – into a sappy, happy-clappy, soft-focus patriotic blur without anybody objecting? Most Vietnam veterans of my acquaintance loathe John Kerry, and, if he wasn't aware of that, he's too out of it to be President.
And the icing on the cake, the final touch:
If this campaign were any more inept, Michael Moore would be making a documentary claiming Kerry's a Republican plant secretly controlled by Karl Rove and the House of Saud.
Heh, as you-know-who would say.

Monday, August 23, 2004

KUDOS TO THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR for using the right term when defining ETA, in an unusually balanced article today, considering the precedents in the foreign media:
Compared with the ruinous attacks that struck Spain in March, the bombings over the past 14 days in the northern provinces might be expected to attract little notice: Seven weak explosives, wrapped in plastic bags, and weighing less than 300 grams, caused only slight injuries and minor property damage.

But in Spain, a country that has suffered domestic terrorism for the past 30 years, the explosions were an unnerving reminder that ETA, the Basque terrorist group, was still a threat.
(emphasis mine)

I have complained in the past that the foreign media still uses the stupidly incorrect "separatist group" as the label for a group guilty of more than 800 murders. And there hasn't been a Franco to resist against for almost 30 years now.

(Crossposted at The Command Post)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The widow of the first British soldier to be killed in Iraq has accused anti-war campaigners of exploiting the grief of the relatives of dead servicemen for political purposes.

Samantha Roberts, 32, who rose to prominence after she accused the Government of misleading the public over her husband's death, said that some critics of the conflict had sought to "take advantage" of her own grief and she feared that the same was now happening with other families.

[...] "Widows and relatives need to be careful that their grief isn't going to be used as a weapon to attack the Government by unscrupulous politicians or by those within the media with their own anti-war agenda," said Mrs Roberts, speaking from her home in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. "When you are newly bereaved, you are in a very vulnerable and confused state and it is easy for some people to take advantage of that.

"I certainly felt that some people were trying to take advantage of me and my feelings after Steve died and use them for their own agenda.

"When someone very close to you dies, the rawness of the experience makes you look for someone to blame for their death. I think that the tragedy these families are suffering is being exploited by some who want to attack the Government.

"I would advise anyone who suffers a bereavement in a case like mine to think very carefully before speaking out publicly. I'm no professional, but it is easy to find yourself saying things that you don't mean, and you have to ask yourself whether your husband or son would want you to be doing this."

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Two veteran firefighters were suspended without pay yesterday after they admitted having had sex with a woman in their Bronx firehouse while on duty, Fire Department officials said.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY WRITES on Venezuela's recall referendum and the sorry role (to use a kind term) of Jimmy Carter and Cesar Gaviria, the figureheads of the team of international nearsighted, er, I mean, observers:
When Jimmy Carter went to Cuba in 2002, Fidel Castro reveled in the photo-ops with a former U.S. president. Mr. Carter seemed to think he was heroically "engaging" the Cuban despot. But in the documentary "Dissident," celluloid captures something most Americans didn't see: Castro giggling sardonically as Mr. Carter lectures the Cuban politburo on democracy. That foreshadowed what happened when the media splash ended and the former president went home: Dissidents he went to "help" today languish in gulag punishment cells.

I was reminded this week of how Castro so artfully used Mr. Carter when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez took a page from his Cuban mentor's playbook. On Monday, the Carter Center along with the head of the monumentally meaningless Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, endorsed Chávez's claims of victory in the Venezuelan recall referendum, rather too hastily it now seems.

The problem was that the "observers" hadn't actually observed the election results. Messrs. Carter and Gaviria were only allowed to make a "quick count"--that is, look at the tally sheets spat out by a sample of voting machines. They were not allowed to check this against ballots the machines issued to voters as confirmation that their votes were properly registered.

If there was fraud, as many Venezuelans now suspect, it could have been discovered if the ballots didn't match the computer tallies. The tallies alone were meaningless. The problem was clear by Tuesday but it didn't stop the State Department spokesman Adam Ereli from chiming in. "The people of Venezuela have spoken," he proclaimed.
She's not happy either about this last bit, and she's completely right.

Friday, August 20, 2004

SPAIN'S SOCIALIST PRIME MINISTER Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is proud to portray himself as a hard-core feminist. In one of his first interviews with a major foreign newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, he showed his mastery of sociological statistics and his deep, elaborate, non-simplistic political thought:
I'm a radical feminist. In my experience, out of every four people in politics, if they are women, 3 are really good. If they are men, only one and a half to two. That's my experience. For public life and for democratic coexistence, I think being a woman is a great advantage. Because they know how to share things better than men do. And politics is all about knowing how to share.
Indeed, as the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday (free reqistration required), his government is pressing an ambitious social agenda and, among other measures,
[Zapatero] has appointed women to half of his Cabinet posts, and the Socialists say they want to pass a law requiring that at least 50 percent of the candidates on an electoral slate are women. The government is seeking to overturn even a longstanding prohibition against women ascending to the Spanish throne.
[BTW note the ChiTrib is mistaken in this last bit: within the same dinastical degree there's a preference for men to ascend to the Spanish throne but women are not forbidden, as several precedents prove. Just as an example: Prince Felipe is the current heir to King Juan Carlos as his only male son; should he not be able to ascend to the throne for some reason, the next in line would be Infanta Elena, his older sister]

In order to prove that he is a real feminist, what a better way than opening the Palacio de la Moncloa -prime minister's office and residencial complex, that is, the equivalent to the White House or No. 10 Downing Street- for a photo spread of the eight women ministers modeling in Vogue? (click for bigger version)
Posted by Hello

Look how Socialist, and how feminist, they all look posing in front of Moncloa's main entrance, clad in chic designer clothes (not as modest as the San Francisco Chronicle says; they're an average $6,000 each, according to Spanish media reports), and sitting, or standing by, two sofas covered in... fur! Where's PETA when you need them?

Without a trace of irony, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, deputy prime minister (the one on white, standing up), declares in the accompanying interview that women "have a less developed sense of vanity." Yeah, and you're proving that precisely by posing in a glamorous magazine?

Zapatero in person supervised the photographic session after one of the weekly Friday's cabinet meeting. The photoshoot lasted... 8 hours! Yes, the best way of proving that having as many women as men in the new cabinet is a profound and not 'cosmetic' measure is to spend several hours in such a frivolous project as this. It's not that they have better or more important things to do, like, you know, running a country or sumthin'; it's the guys are in charge of that.

Not surprisingly, the episode has garnered criticism from almost all sides, and the prime minister's office has gone in damage control mode, using a bit of fuzzy logic:
The prime minister's office defended the feature yesterday, saying the ministers' comments about sexual equality in the accompanying report were more important than the photographs.

"The message is progressive, in favour of equality and in favour of women," a source there said. "That's what matters."
Er, can you be in favor of both at the same time?

I personally agree that government officials should be judged for their performance at work, and not for how they dress or whether they like to sit on the cadavers of formely living creatures while having pictures taken at them. And I think that criticizing them for wearing expensive clothes while being Socialist is bogus and demagogic. But I don't agree that this bizarre episode doesn't reflect on their performance: if newly appointed ministers decide to spend 8 hours of their workweek in this glamorous but futile thing instead of being at their office or in meetings, it does tell something about their ability to set their priorities straight, doesn't it? After all, they've all taken over only a short time ago and I'm sure there are still plenty of things they need to take a look at. It's not like they've already done all their homework (can any government official ever consider he's done it all?)

UPDATE. Wait, it gets better. It was not only one, but TWO magazines, and all on the same week. Besides Vogue, Spain's women ministers have been on another of the country's major fashion magazines, Marie Claire. The editor said that the ministers accepted to pose "only if pics were not frivolous and didn't make them look like top-models". Take a look, for example, at Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, deputy prime minister, and tell me if this requirement was a token of the minister's arrogance, or if there was indeed any risk that she could be mistaken for Claudia Shiffer:

Not even in your dreams, darling; not even in your dreams.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

IT'S A HONOR TO ANNOUNCE that I have been asked to contribute to the Command Post, a well-known website covering up-to-the-minute news and commentary on terrorism, the Iraq war and related subjects, as well as the 2004 presidential election (though not being an American citizen, and living in Europe, I doubt I can contribute much to that one beyond some occasional reference to how it's covered in the Spanish press).

I'd like to thank Alan, who founded the CP with Michelle, for his offer; it's great to be a part in a project I have followed, and admired, since it started.

My first entry is here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

THE FAHDIL BROTHERS (MOHAMMED Y ALI), of the great Iraq The Model blog have just announced their candidacy for the Iraqi National Assembly, for the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party they founded some time ago.

Considering the petty politics, absurd quarrels, manipulation and demagogics in the supposedly more mature democracies all over the Western countries, it's refreshing to see such enthusiasm for helping their country, which g*d knows it needs it.

It almost makes me feel like getting the Iraqi nationality so that I can vote for them.

I don't know if there are any campaign financing rules and whether they allow foreign contributions, but they list ways to help.

Jeff Jarvis, who has played a big role at helping the guys heard and known all over, comments.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

THOMAS LIPSCOMB HAS PENNED a not very flattering article on John Kerry:
Selective memory is everyone's' secret enemy. Kerry hadn't been challenged in his selective recall since he left Vietnam, and his stories kept getting better and better. No wonder Kerry told the Washington Post interviewer, "I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."

But what is now clear is that Kerry has gone a step farther. Kerry lies. He not only lies to the Senate, the press and historians, he lies to his own press people, and he lies to himself. And he has been lying for years. And whenever one of Kerry's lies is under attack, he attacks every one else -- as liars.
The rest is not milder.

Monday, August 16, 2004

THE NEW INSTALLMENT OF ARTHUR CHRENKOFF'S "Good News from Iraq", the eighth, is a superb job as usual:
As "Boston Globe" columnist Jeff Jacoby writes, "The press tends to emphasize what's going wrong in Iraq because of an inbuilt bias for the negative - only the plane that crashes, not the 999 that land safely, make news. The result is that while the bad news in Iraq gets reported everywhere, the reports of good news you have to look for." For the sake of fairness, one might add that in Iraq it's perhaps 10 or 20 planes that crash, yet even with that caveat the mainstream media coverage often gives ones the impression that the whole Iraqi air fleet has gone down in flames.

The past two weeks have not been an exception, with the news from Iraq dominated by more hostage crises, the oil shock, continuing terrorist campaign and a sequel to the Shia uprising. Good news, once again, was few and far between. Yet progress continues to be made on the ground in Iraq, even during the most dangerous of times and often against the odds that we - so insulated by the safety, comfort and predictability of life in the West - can hardly even begin to comprehend.

The challenges still ahead in Iraq are considerable, but the media in its manic rush from one disaster to the next and from one "quagmire" to another rarely provides the context that would help us understand the situation. Having followed the mainstream media coverage, one can be forgiven for thinking that our task in Iraq is merely to return the country to its pre-war status quo. More often than not lost in reporting is the realization that Iraq has to recover not just from the violence and destruction of the last year and a half, but of the past 30 years. Iraq of March 2003 was not a normal, well-functioning state thrown into chaos and mayhem only by the arrival of the Coalition forces. In reality, the pre-invasion Iraq was a wreck of a country whose great potential of the 1950s and 1960s has been all but completely squandered for the sake of the aggrandizement of one man and the hegemony of his party. It's important to bear that in mind before rushing to criticize the Coalition authorities for failing to rebuild in a year what took three decades to destroy.

That the Iraqi people are not giving up on their desire to overcome the tragic and soul-destroying legacy of the Baath Party misrule and are courageously forging ahead with their new lives is truly a testament to the power of the spirit and human tenacity.
It certainly is. Read the rest, it's well worth it.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I FINALLY MANAGED TO LEARN how to post images here, so here's the picture of the day (rather, the picture of the decade!) in its full glory. Posted by Hello

YET ANOTHER BOMB in Northern Spain allegedly by the Basque terrorist group ETA. This one was very small and no injuries were reported. But it's been four bombs in one week.

I think this really proves we're stuck in a quaaaaaaaagmire and that the fight against terror has proven a failure; there's no way we can win the hearts and minds of these guys. My question is, why do they hate us? Let's withdraw!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Members of the Iraqi delegation pose with members of the United States' delegation during the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games (news - web sites) in Athens, Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Can't post photos here, but go over there and see for yourselves.

Friday, August 13, 2004

CASTRO LIVESTOCK is Cuba's laughingstock, writes Carlos Alberto Muntaner (free reg. req.):
Bravo. Fidel Castro now has the dwarf cow for which he has struggled so long. A few days ago, Cuban news agencies told the story of a happy peasant who had managed to raise a new and adorable breed of domesticated cows barely 28 inches tall, capable of giving milk to a family trained by socialism into the healthy habit of eating little.

The creature will provide anywhere from 6.4 to 7.4 quarts of milk a day, and it will be possible to milk her with one hand and applaud with the other, a trick that's always healthy in that type of regime. After the cow goes dry, it can be conveniently consumed, since the animal is small and has an atrophied pituitary -- hence its size -- but is otherwise delicious. It is even estimated that the cow's skin can be used by the family -- which I presume is named Crusoe -- to make two pairs of shoes and a bongo to cheer up the Sunday get-togethers.

It has been a long time since Castro made the brave decision to remake cows. At the start of the revolution, he attempted to create a breed of giant cows that could provide both milk and meat. He himself conducted the experiment on the roof of one of his houses in central Havana, an anecdote that Gabriel García Márquez incorporated, in disguise, into The Autumn of the Patriarch, one of his better novels.

It was a disaster. Castro soon discovered that if he killed the cow he lost the milk. Later, he found out that cows specialize: Some give good, abundant milk; others are an ample source of meat. The breed he engineered, in the best Marxist-Leninist tradition, barely gave milk and barely provided meat. It was a mess and, as such, was abandoned.
Read the rest.

AFTER THE TWO BOMBS BY ETA last week, and the prank call which caused a false alarm, two more bombs went off yesterday in Northern Spain (but outside the Basque country, the homeland of the ETA terrorists):
Small bombs rattled two northern cities Thursday, one hidden in a bush at a Santander park causing no harm and a second at a beach in Gijon slightly injuring an elderly man, the Interior Ministry said.
And, as usual, the "forbidden" terrorist word is avoided:
Bombings along Spain's coast at the height of the tourist season are a hallmark of the Basque separatist group ETA, which has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in its campaign for an independent state.
(emphasis mine)

¿A "separatist group which has killed more than 800 people"? Look, media guys: separatist groups don't kill people, it's terrorist groups who do. Separatism, in Spain or anywhere else, is a political position which you can agree or disagree with, but which is perfectly legitimate and civilized as long as it is defended by peaceful, democratic means.

Any group who kills people for a political goal, even if the purpose is independence from another territory, deserves no other qualification than terrorist.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

MADRID (Reuters) - An anonymous caller, claiming to belong to violent Basque separatist group ETA, warned 330 lbs. of explosives had been planted on a popular beach on the Mediterranean coast on Wednesday, police said.

A Civil Guard spokesman said police had received the warning and were searching a beach in the province of Tarragona.
This item was written before it was clear, as it is now according to the Spanish press, that it was a false alarm.

Monday, August 09, 2004

EUROPEANS AS CULTURAL APPENDAGES of America's liberal elites in blue states. The magnificent Victor Davis Hanson absolutely nails it in his article on today's OpinionJournal:
McDonald's is prominent among the stylish cafés of Luxembourg. Dubbed-in "Friends" and "Jerry Springer" blare from hotel televisions. Bare navels, Ray-Bans, pierced everything, and baggy jeans suggest a studied effort to emulate the look of Venice Beach. For a bewildered American, the key in squaring the anti-American rhetoric with the Valley Girl reality is simply to understand Western Europeans as elite Americans. Their upscale leisured culture is not much different from Malibu, Austin and Dupont Circle, that likewise excuse their crass submission to popular American tastes through the de rigueur slurs about the "corporations," "Bush-Cheney," and "Halliburton." Perhaps this notion that Europe itself has become a cultural appendage of the U.S. explains why it views our upcoming election as a referendum on its own future as well.
He also notes, and I can attest, that Europeans are following this election as never before because of this perception that it's also about Europe's future, though I dare to add that it is also partially because of the Iraq issue, which has inflamed the passions all over the place. And because as compared with previous elections, even the last one, Europe's media landscape has changed a lot: there's access to tons more information, with more and more media outlets. And then there's the Internet (and blogs!) making it even more so.

Hanson also warns the Europeans banking too much on a Kerry victory because it won't mean the Copernican turn they expect in the trans-atlantic relations. And he writes: "As never before the Europeans have unabashedly called for the defeat of an incumbent American president in the next election. They better hope that George Bush loses." Well, I can tell that Zapatero is toast no matter who wins; he was openly rooting for Kerry until Kerry criticized him for pulling the Spanish troops from Iraq. To be fair, maybe he now understands that he must be more discreet and responsible after taking office and seeing that things perhaps must be seen in a more nuanced way, or perhaps he's just hedging his bets; but the truth is that neither he nor anyone in his party hardly talks about their preferred candidate for the American election anymore.

Zapatero is still waiting by the phone for that call he said he was going to get from Kerry to attend and speak at the Dems convention. But if Bush gets re-elected, it's going to be much, much worse. For him, and for all Spaniards.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

ETA REAPPEARS with a double bombing in Northern Spain this morning. Luckily, there were no casualties:
The armed Basque separatist group ETA claimed responsibility for two small bombs that exploded Saturday in two northern tourist towns, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

The attacks were the first claimed by ETA since September 2003. Authorities briefly suspected the separatist group of involvement in the Madrid railway bombings in March before blaming Islamic extremists.

The explosions occurred around 1 p.m. in the coastal resort towns of San Vicente de la Barquera and Ribadesella. Minutes earlier an anonymous person claiming to represent ETA called police and two newspapers with a warning.
By the way, note the infuriating terminology, calling ETA an "armed Basque separatist group". This is like calling al-Qaeda a "plane-piloting Islamic religious group". A f*cking stupid thing to say.

Sorry for the cursing, but this thing really infuriates me. Hasn't anybody learnt anything about how wrong it is not to name terrorists for what they are?

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS is right: Spaniards are unhappy with the probe investigating the March 11 bombings:
Five months after the worst terror attack in Spain's history, a parliamentary inquiry into the March 11 Madrid train bombings has little to show save a spreading discomfort among Spaniards about its members' jockeying for political gain.

The inquiry now recessed after a month of hearings has drawn unflattering comparisons to the recently concluded U.S. 9/11 investigation, which was perceived here to have been far more comprehensive, forward-looking and bipartisan.

[...] A poll published last week by the state-run Center for Sociological Studies indicated 58 of every 100 rate the commission's chances of clearing up what happened as either "poor" or "not at all." The poll surveyed 2,487 adults and had a two percent margin of error.

"They really weren't looking for what happened, the truth," said Alcaraz of the victims association. "What they wanted was to blame the other."
Anyone who followed the two commissions, as I have, cannot arrive to a different conclusion.

First, because the Madrid probe is taking place too soon after the atrocities, while there's still a parallel police and judicial investigation about its criminal aspects going on. And this invites for pure political manoevering. Only the foot soldiers have been caught, but there's no way that these bunch of lowlifes, of 2nd rate thugs, could have managed to pull such a devastating act with such decisive political repercusions on their own, with no support and no help in the planification. So we still don't know who the intellectual authors were and, if one considers some information which has been appearing in the Spanish press and applies some critical, sherlockholmian thinking, some of the possibilities are indeed worrisome, and not all of them involve al-Qaeda: from a possible ETA / Islamists joint job (which some are dismissing too soon with arguments that are too similar in their simplicity to the canard that "there's no way that secular Saddam could have links with a religious fanatic like Osama bin Laden"), to the collaboration from some third countries, or to some support within the country, from some underground elements with, perhaps, political connections. Won't go any further now because there's not enough evidence -at least not yet. But I will, don't worry.

Another reason why the 9-11 and the 3-11 are so different is that, in the former, the commissioners were especially appointed according to their previous experience and knowledge in anti-terrorism and intelligence affairs. Yes, you could also notice a political side of it, but it was a hundred times better, and more professional, than seeing 'regular' congressmen chosen in the same proportion than the parliament composition; chosen only because of the party they belong to, regardless of the fact that most of them don't have a clue of what intelligence or law enforcement work really means. You could see in their questioning: they were clearly speaking of something they rushed to learn in a couple of reports and books just to get ready for the probe.

A complete disgrace altogether.

I'M A BIT IN A SLOW GEAR these days, so I hadn't mentioned that I finally was fifth in the Watcher of Weasels contest I mentioned a few days ago.

More than the final result, just being there tastes like a victory.

Friday, August 06, 2004

CASTRO, THE LONGEST LIVING DICTATOR? Click here and you'll know why.

Via Mario Noya (link in Spanish)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

REUTERS HAS AN REASONABLE OVERVIEW of the freezing state of the Anglo-Spanish relations:
Tony Blair and Spain's Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ought to be ideological soulmates -- both are reforming Socialists who led their parties back to power after years in the political wilderness.

Instead, Anglo-Spanish relations are at their coolest in years, chilled by divisions over Gibraltar and Iraq.
Of course, being Reuters means including the canard that bringing the troops home the day after taking office was carrying out a campaign pledge; as I explained, it would have been if he had pulled out the troops on June 30 and there had been no UN resolution. I personally would have respected that decision under these conditions, though strongly disagreeing with it; what I find contemptible is that, for political and electoralist reasons, he rushed out without waiting for that UN resolution to be passed, which eventually was.

SINCE TAKING OFFICE, the new Socialist government has tried hard to prove that Spain is best friends with Morocco, the country where the direct perpetrators of the March 11 massacre in Madrid came from. Rabat was the destination of Zapatero's first official trip abroad; then a joint military operation in Haiti was announced; there's also been strong indications that Spain is planning to abandon its traditional support of the Baker plan for the former colony of Western Sahara (and therefore joining the position of Morocco, who is illegally occupying the territory after Spain left the place in mid 70s, and wants to keep it).

Some say all this is supposed to create a new climate in the bilateral relations, an alleged welcome change after decades of tensions and mistrust; others say its only another facet of the Chamberlainesque attitude adopted by Zapatero against anything that is remotely threatening and worrisome; others would prefer to see some investigation first in order to make 100% sure that there were no links, even remote, between the bunch of Morrocans who murdered 200 innocents back in March and the policymakers of the country where they came from, particularly when there's such a remarkable U-turn in foreign policy, from the US and the UK to Morocco as the main partner, benefiting precisely the country of origin of the guys whose attack on innocent civilians changed Spain's political landscape forever.

Well, you know what happens when you feed the crocodile hoping it eats you last: you're seen as weak. You're easy prey. Niceties don't work:
SPAIN has asked Morocco for information about agreements the Moroccan government has signed with British and Australian firms which could affect Spain's territorial waters, a diplomatic source said.

[...] Spanish newspaper Expansion reported yesterday that Morocco had given a concession to British oil firm Afrex and Australian companies Pancontinental Oil and Gas and Cooper Energy to prospect for oil on its eastern Mediterranean coast, from the Spanish enclave of Mellila to the Algerian border.

The newspaper said the 6457 square kilometres included "waters that Spain traditionally considers as its own: those surrounding Melilla, the Chaffarinas archipelago and Alboran island".
As Trevor at Kaleboel says, when you announce that nothing, absolutely nothing merits any violence, and when you excoriate the US for making war only for oil and that "no blood for oil", it's understandable when others start acting accordingly. Plus,
How does Zapatero expect to get Gibraltar back if he's not even prepared to defend Spanish territory? (Howls of laughter, cat rolling around on floor.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

THIS IS SO COOL: I've been told that one of my earlier posts has been nominated to the Watcher of Weasels contest, together with other posts by several of the biggest fish in the blogosphere.

I really appreciate the nomination; just being there is a prize in itself (but I won't complain if for some once-in-a-millenium planet allignement I end up winning!).

Results tomorrow.

The Spanish world seems to have a talent for diplomatic grievance, prolonged beyond the point where even well-wishers lose patience. Argentina's obsession with possession of the Falklands is a case in point. Motherland Spain's refusal to accept Britain's rights over Gibraltar is another.
Read the rest, where he goes through the diplomatic, historical, strategic and political context.

He's wrong in one point, though, when he makes a parallel between Gibraltar and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa. First, because of historical reasons: Ceuta and Melilla were Spanish territory centuries earlier than Morocco existed as such, while Gibraltar was acquired by Great Britain in a treaty with an already existing Spain. I'm not sure whether this makes much of a difference in terms of the UN de-colonization principle, but it's a detail that should be noted. Especially because at the same time it makes a stronger case for Gibraltar remaining British, being its transfer the product of a treaty (Utrecht's) and following the principle that agreements must be enforced over time, even of one doesn't like it anymore.

Second, because Keegan doesn't mention that one of the issues is that Gibraltar's territory has been extended beyond the agreed territory, which was smaller than the one it currently occupies. For example, the airfield is located in that overextended area, one of the complaints that even those of us who understand the UK's general position on the issue find at least questionable.

And third, because the crucial difference is that Gibraltar is a colony, while Ceuta and Melilla are not. A colony is a body of people living in a new territory but retaining ties with the parent state and the territory inhabited by them (Merriam-Webster). It is also a territory that, while keeping its administrative ties to the mainland, is ruled by a different legal regime than that of its metropolis. This is the case of Gibraltar, whose set of laws have turned it into an offshore banking point, with all its implications in money laundering and tax evasion.

But Ceuta and Melilla are two integral parts of Spain's legal regime, and so they are subject to the same set of laws as the mainland territory (including a remarkable degree of de-centralization; as you know, Spain is organized in 17 Autonomous Communities, roughly similar to the US organization into states). They are both represented in the Spanish Congress and Senate as the other mainland autonomous communities are. Just like, say, Alaska (Hawaii is an archipelago so the analogy doesn't work), they may not have a contiguous border with the mainland territory, but they are an integral part of its legal, fiscal and political system at the same level, with the same rights and obligations, as the rest of the country.

UPDATE. Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, was until recently EU's envoy to the Middle East, and has the questionable honor of being the Western politician more often photographed with Arafat. I guess spending so much time together made Moratinos infected with the same rhetoric, and it shows when he talks about the Gibraltar issue:
"It is very strange that, in the European Union of the 21st century, one member state should be celebrating the military occupation of part of another member state," Mr Moratinos wrote in El País newspaper.

He complained of Britain's "clear lack of sensitivity" in permitting a visit to Gibraltar by Princess Anne and allowing another visit by the submarine HMS Tireless, which sparked a huge row when it was repaired there several years ago.

The frigate HMS Grafton became the first Royal Navy vessel to fire a 21-gun salute in Gibraltar's harbour for 54 years when it arrived at the weekend.

This has also riled Spain - which wants a return of the sovereignty lost in 1704.

Mr Moratinos said the British government "should have made some gesture" to the descendants of those who fled, or were expelled by, the Anglo-Dutch forces who stormed Gibraltar.

The loss of the region's main port had, Mr Moratinos said, condemned locals to centuries of poverty and had blighted the local economy ever since.
Doesn't that sound creepely as Arafat-speak? After its foreign relations u-turn, is Southern Spain going to become the new Palestine? (there's a fence involved, too!) Are we going to see exploding Andalusians?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

THE DIPLOMATIC ROW between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar's 300 anniversary (see my previous post on the issue) is reaching to the US' participation in the festivities:
Gibraltar's government yesterday accused the United States of a craven retreat before Spanish pressure after Washington cancelled a naval visit to celebrate the British colony's tercentenary celebrations.

The USS McFaul was due to call at Gibraltar to take part alongside the frigate Grafton in the 300th anniversary tomorrow of the Rock's capture by an Anglo-Dutch fleet on Aug 4, 1704.

[...] The US embassy in Madrid appeared to admit yesterday that it had caved in to Spanish pressure: "We do not want a US ship visit to be perceived as upsetting sensitivities, so no US ship is scheduled to visit Gibraltar during the ongoing commemoration.

"US policy towards Gibraltar is unchanged and we feel hopeful that our two great friends and allies, Spain and the UK, can resolve any differences between them. We appreciate the welcome our men and women have always received [in Gibraltar]."
If this is true, this is a weasel attitude by the State Department and/or the Pentagon (yes, you guys; from this site's statistics I know you're reading this!). It'd be a real shame caving to any pressure by a government which has proven not to be a friend during a crucial moment of the war on terror, by pulling the troops from Iraq in advance from the pledge issued during the electoral campaign (which was to withdraw only if on June 30th there was no UN Security Council resolution).

Clearly, the UK's gestures are a way to show displeasure at the Spanish government attitude, which beyond quitting the Iraq war alliance includes such niceties as then Zapatero's team official and current Defense minister, José Bono, calling Tony Blair a "complete dickhead" inadvertedly on live TV, and in general the Spanish rapprochement to the Axis of Weasels in all matters related to international affairs, breaking the tacit alliance between Blair and Aznar.

No wonder why Blair, during Zapatero's one-day official visit to the UK (the first after taking office), spent only slightly more than one hour with him and sent him home without dinner: Blair cancelled the programmed banquet which was supposed to be celebrated before the Spanish PM took the plane back to Madrid. It was an unmistakable diplomatic gesture which, by the way, was hidden by the Spanish media.

So, my humble advice to the US and the UK over this controversy is: hey, guys, why not holding one of these days a Blair-Bush Summit in Gibraltar?

Monday, August 02, 2004

IT'S THE SEVENTH INSTALLMENT of Arthur Chrenkoff's Good News From Iraq series:
Over a month into sovereignty and Iraq still continues to generate a flood of bad news stories, at least as far as the mainstream media are concerned. Foreign workers keep getting kidnapped and occasionally executed; terrorist bombs continue to explode throughout Baghdad and other cities, although the victims are now overwhelmingly Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, learned commissions deliver their reports, providing the media with fresh opportunities to talk about intelligence failures and strategic blunders.

And yet, for every foreigner taken hostage there are stories of hundreds of Iraqis who can now enjoy in many different ways their regained liberty. For every terrorist attack with all its terror and bloodshed there are countless stories of courage, determination, and resourcefulness on the part of the Iraqi people. And for every intelligence failure by the government agencies then, there is an intelligence failure by the media now. Which is why you are likely to have recently missed some of the stories below.
And what a magnificent job does Arthur. You don't want to miss a bit of it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

THIS IS ONE OF THE SICKEST THINGS I've read in a long time: a message from the wife of a martyr to the widow of Paul Johnson, the American who was beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

EVEN THOUGH Spanish officials presented their decision of withdrawing from Iraq as something that wouldn't bring any consequences for the country in the international relationships arena, the truth is that leaving the allies in the middle of what at the time was a sensitive moment has not, and will not, be gratis.

Great Britain has, for the third time in a few weeks, made some 'undiplomatic' gestures over the controversial issue of Gibraltar: first, the visit of Princess Anne; second, the arrival of the Tireless nuclear submarine (a huge controversy last year when it spent several weeks there in order to be repaired; this time there was no problem with her, it was merely a kind of diplomatic declaration). And now this:
A diplomatic row over Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's visit to Gibraltar has escalated, according to reports.

[...] On Friday Mr Moratinos [Spain's Foreign Minister] told a news conference it was "not easy to maintain normal relations with Great Britain" because of the Gibraltar issue.
Cry me a river, Moratinos: neither it was easy for the UK to maintain normal relations with Spain after the Spanish government decided to pull out the troops in the middle of a crisis, before the agreed date and before giving a chance for a UN Security Council resolution that you said it wouldn't happen, but that became UNSC Res 1546. What did you expect, Moratinos? You are reaping what you sawed. Take it like a man and don't complain when somebody reacts to your previous unfriendliness.

UPDATE. Welcome to all Roger Simon's readers (and thanks Roger for the link; no, it's not only that Spaniards cannot take criticism; it's that they simpply filter out anything that makes them uncomfortable, they prefer to live in the fetal position).

Hope you like the site and that you'll come back often; please bookmark it if you like it, and don't forget to tell your friends too!

UPDATE II. Celebrations 'None of Spain's Business', says Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's chief minister.