Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Chelsea are the scum of the Earth

What can I say? Chelsea and Mourinho are the scum of the Earth, a cancer that we football fans are suffering. I just hope and pray that man never wins the Champions League backed up by the Russian money launderer. Drogba was a disgrace today. What a shame they scored in the fucking last minute. The refereed was a liability: at least we now know that he will not be refereing the final. What a shite performance.

And this is not even about Chelsea FC: this is about a man who does not know the meaning of sportmanship: Mourinho. I have always believed that what goes around comes around and I am positive that Mourinho and the current Chelsea team will get theirs coming sooner or later.

We may not qualify now for the knock-out stages, but it doesn't matter. We can held our heads high while Mourinho and Chelsea continue to bring the game into disrepute.
Time will put everyone in their place.
We will see where Mourinho and Chelsea are in 5 years time.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Financial markets, “nationalism” and ignorance

Today, I was struck by two comic cartoons in Spanish newspaper El País. I don’t read often this newspaper (I use the term generously), even though it is the least bad of Spanish newspapers, as it is nothing more than the spin machine of the PSOE and the nationalistic Spanish Left. Nevertheless, every weekend I visit the website and check out the comic strips for the last week. Today, I found two cartoons that caught my attention. One is about the stock market and the other is about so-called 'nationalism'.

Let’s deal with the one about the stock market first. Below is the comic strip.

In Spanish, the byline reads: “Do not worry about stock markets fluctuations: they only reflect the state of mind of the wealthy” (‘Bolsa’ is Spanish for stock market).

The drawing not only reflects the ignorance of the cartoonist in financial matters but also his prejudiced bias against something he does not understand yet seems to dislike profoundly.

El Roto is a brilliant cartoonist; his drawings are sparse, direct and without unnecessary additions. Often, I find myself in agreement with his simple, yet powerful messages. In this case, he misses the point. An artist should always research the subject matter; in this drawing, El Roto appears unable to overcome his own prejudices and investigate how financial markets work and why and how everyone is impacted by what happens in them. I guess that when he is ready to collect his pension, he will wish he had paid more attention to the stock markets when he was younger.

As there is plenty of literature that explains in lay terms the characteristics of financial markets and how they impact in everyday life, I will just provide a few links for the uninitiated.

Investopedia, in English and with a massive dictionary and beginner tutorials.
As always the Wikipedia is a superb resource to get to the basics of things. The Economist is always a reliable source and their books are superb for beginners.
In Spanish, I quite like Bolsamania and Cárpatos daily column, whenever I have time to read it.
In Catalan, we have a few sites: Entorns, a financial information portal; and Les Finances, operating as a ticker news service with graphs. On economics, we have the site of Professor Ramon Tremosa. Most of his newspaper articles are in Catalan or Spanish, but some of his academic work is in English. I like this one about the extent of the fiscal deficit Catalonia is suffering at the hands of Spain. He sounds too much of a Keynesian for my liking and a bit leftie but, hey, nobody is perfect: I am a bit of a leftie too (every now and then), and I have just become a member of The Co-op and I bank with the only ethical bank in the UK, smile, the internet bank. And anyway, who says that ethics and sustainability are a leftie thing?

But I digress. What I wanted to say is that El Roto exhibits his ignorance and prejudice with that particular drawing. I wonder what the newspaper's owner (Mr Polanco) thought today when he read it.

Then, we have this strip by Máximo, also in El País newspaper today Friday 27th October 2006.

The by-line reads: “Nationalist of the world: universalize!”
Now, I would not disagree the above statement. I believe in fluid international trade and relations. However, the cartoonist in this drawing, when he refers to ‘nationalists’, he excludes Spanish nationalists (like him or his newspaper). For many Spaniards (either on the Left or the Right) it is only Basques or Catalans who are nationalists, and apparently therefore not universal. They do not consider themselves to be Spanish nationalists, and as they are not nationalists, they become, magically, universal and cosmopolitan. This is the fallacy that the Spanish Left, and the media empire behind El País and Cadena SER radio network, has tried to convey to generations of young Spaniards. Yet, careful observation and analysis of their arguments leaves the discerning observer in no doubt they are as nationalists as any Basque or Catalan ‘nationalist’.

Spanish nationalists believe and want a nation-state called Spain and that’s why the Spanish Left and Right unite in their common goal of suppressing any traces of Basque or Catalan culture and identity when voting together in the Madrid parliament or in Europe to recognise the Catalan language as an official language for use in Parliament. To them, Spain means Spanish language (mandatory by Constitutional Law for all), and Catalan is just an add-on, something optional and voluntary. They are pursuing the same objective for their nation (Spain) as we are doing for ours (Catalonia). The only difference is that they already have a State behind them. They control the public administration, the media, and capital flows through their investment allocation decisions. If Spain were like Canada or Belgium, there would not be many Catalans opting for independence. But, alas, as Spain digs deeper and deeper in its centralising and nationalistic hole, more and more people in the Basque Country and Catalonia, fed up with having tried to modernise Spain, to make it a normal European-style democracy, are willing to show their discontent and vote for political parties that do not adhere to this Spanish-centric vision of the Spanish State. And this is despite the threat of military intervention, the ongoing vitriolic anti-Catalan campaign, and the criminalisation of political parties. Perhaps, only the extremist Radio Marija in Poland is comparable to the lies, racist prejudices and hatred preached in the Spanish radio network COPE and the Madrid-based press like El Mundo, ABC, etc.

Elections in Catalonia are next week and polls suggests that not much is going to change from 2003. It remains to be seen what’s the performance of the Catalan parties CiU and ERC and the sitting-on-the-fence pseudo-communists of ICV. Also, there is growing anxiety of the results of the new party Ciutadans. This is the 21st century version of what Lerroux tried almost a century ago. They also have the support (financial and media-wise) of the Spanish Left and the Spanish Right. And like Lerroux, they want nothing more than dividing Catalans according to their mother tongue or place of birth. Fortunately, Lerroux was sent home “tae think again”, as a Scot would say, and I hope and pray that next week the despicable Ciutadans are also sent packing to Spain, where they belong, for their divisive policies and anti-Catalan agenda would bring nothing but misfortune to Catalonia.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Green Stained in Blood

The below is an article of Josep C. Vergés, you can read the original version published in the Racó Català following this link. (cat and eng). It is a bit strong for my liking but on the whole I agree with Sr Vergés that the communist falacy of ICV has to be exposed. I also fully support the idea of Green policies becoming mainstream and not a concept hijacked by unreconstructed marxists. My friends in Catalonia must be having a good chuckle right now reading this! Guys, do not worry too much: I am a shark -but still have a conscience.
"Don't go to the lagoons, because today there are hunters," I am warned on World Bird Day in the Ebro delta. The environment ministry of the Catalan government, controlled by the former communists of ICV, celebrates that we have the park with the greatest number of birds in Europe by killing them.

Greens have been the left wing appendages of socialists in Catalonia and all over Europe which uses proportional representation. When Angela Merkel failed to win a majority together with the Liberals last year in Germany, there was some desultory talk of bringing the Greens in, but the love-hate relationship of Greens and Liberals prevented any serious discussion. As liberal Oswald Metzger explains: “Both parties fish in the same pond and have similar basic principles. The Green voter base today is what once Liberals claimed for themselves: well educated, well off, well established and, of course, better paid. “

ICV in Catalonia, originally the communists and the bad guys in George Orwell's “Homage to Catalonia” during the Civil War, are still the bad guys today as far as I can see. In 1994 they added green to their traditional red flag to avoid extinction, which is what happens in democracies when voters can choose between freedom and despotism. The red-green Daltonic view of the world is really unadulterated Marxism as the ICV programme states: “We want a society built on democracy and socialism, sustained by true left values. The current economic system based on the profit logic and continued growth systematically destroys its own conditions for survival. We are the inheritors of the democratic and national trajectory of the communists and of a long tradition of the most select and noble values of Marxism, socialism, euro-communism and communism. Times have changed and the left must adapt in order to survive.” That is, the ICV excommunists cannot go on with State control, worker power and market controls for fear of the voters. Greens all over Europe have swallowed whole this bankrupt economic Marxism.

Once a year the entire Swiss government goes on walkabout to meet the people. This Summer I caught up with them at KZO College in Zurich Oberland. One graduating student, with a master project forming a real company –a trendy bag small-scale manufacturer- provided the gift carrier bags for each member of the Bundesrat, as they are known, in each party's colours- red for socialist president Moritz Leunberger, yellow for liberal Pascal Couchepin and green, no not for the Greens who are not in this collegiate body, but for firebrand Christoph Blocher, because his SVP was originally an agrarian party. In separate one hour meetings with student classes the latter gave a not very encouraging description of a politician. Asked whether he ever told the truth: “You are not yet of voting age so I have no problem telling the truth to you.”

Swiss politics is truly a fine art, but even finer is the evolution, the first I know of, of some Greens towards liberalism. Since 2004 there exists a new Green Liberal party: “We are green, but we serve caviar with our salad. We are the bridge between green politics and economic sense. Our heart is green but we are liberal in economics. Freedom lies at the centrepiece of a liberal point of view. If we take responsibility for ourselves this should be enough to be able to live together.” Green Liberals split from the Greens because of their Marxist policies. Green Liberal Parliamentarian Martin Bäumle: ”Green cannot be exclusively left of the socialist party.” The Swiss Green coordinating body calls the new party “irresponsible” and with Soviet efficiency has voted 100 to 1 not to have any contacts stating that the Greens stand clearly to the left and that the differences with the Green Liberals on economic and financial policies are too large. Green co-president Tiana Moser: “Our diverging objectives and paths are not compatible.” So it is heart warming to learn that in Switzerland some greens are willing to stand up and fight for freedom. Of course if they succeed there will be a diplomatic problem in the next Swiss government walkabout. What colour bag should they be given full of economic liberties? The Green Liberal breakthrough in Switzerland makes more sense than the regurgitated Marxist fare of the greens all over Europe and worse still in Catalonia with ICV celebrating World Bird Day rifle in hand with their green flag stained in blood.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Thin-skinned candidate leaves interview in a huff

My goodness, there seems to be no shortage of news stories in this heated election campaign!

The story of the last hours is the following.

Xavier Sala i Martin (english) is a Professor at Department of Economics at Columbia University. He is something of a celebrity in Catalonia and in Spain because:

- He dares to challenge the Left on their ‘social’ economic policy.
Just to put you in the picture, in Catalonia it is becoming something of a struggle not to be a communist or a pseudo-socialist, progressive, anti-globalisation, pseudo-leftie. The word liberal (which in the US the Right uses to refer to the Left or the Progresives in a derogatory manner) in Spain and in Catalonia is used as a quasi-insult to refer to those who believe market forces is often a better resource allocation mechanism than the State. This simple concept is anatema to many in Catalonia and Spain, where some people still fly the Communist flag as a symbol of freedom. For them, private capital is bad and public good is achieved through public allocation and management of resources.
Mr Sala is a liberal, or worse still, a neo-liberal! (A neo-liberal in Spain is like a neo-con; bad). His work on global wealth distribution and poverty indicators is often quoted in the FT, The Economist, etc.

- He was interim President of the FC Barcelona at last elections. He has a few good pictures of himself with the club touring the USA on his website.

- He wears extremely colourful jackets. Check his site if you want to see the ultra-bright jackets for yourself.

Now we know a wee bit about colour-mad Mr Xavier Sala i Martin.

La Vanguardia is a Barcelona-based, Spanish-language newspaper. It is a middle-of the road, quite centrist newspaper, as opposed to the left-leaning, PSOE-controlled El Periódico and El País. La Vanguardia is against independence but moderately in favour of improving the political settlement between Spain and Catalonia towards a more devolved framework. La Vanguardia has a good business and literary section but its sports coverage is rather poor. La Vanguardia was the only Catalan newspaper that was not banned under Franco. Its owners have always had the ability to get on well with whoever was in power: Franco, or PSOE or CiU or more recently the tripartite coalition in Catalonia. La Vanguardia is pragmatism and moderation.

Now we know a little bit about La Vanguardia.

Well, La Vanguardia commissioned Mr Sala to conduct interviews with the 5 main candidates at the next Catalan elections.
Mr Sala interviewed the socialist candidate (José Montilla, PSC-PSOE).
It turns out that Sr Montilla lost his temper during the interview and left in a huff accusing Mr Sala of being “sectarian”. The newspaper published the interview except the last exchanges, in which Mr Montilla insults Mr Sala. The word in the street is that this was due to lobbying by the PSC-PSOE apparatchik. Being a true liberal, Mr Sala duly uploaded the interview onto his own website at the University and also a transcript in Catalan and Spanish. Sadly, Mr Sala has not found the time to translate it into English for the benefit of his University colleagues. Perhaps he wants to avoid the ignominy of having to explain to them that Mr Montilla will probably become President of Catalonia on November 2nd.

An mp3 file of the interview can be found here (mp3 file, 9MB). The interview was conducted in Catalan.
An audio transcript of the interview in Catalan can be found here. And the translation in Spanish, here.

All in all, it is quite amazing stuff. What surprised me when listening to it is how quickly Mr Montilla loses his temper; how he struggles to keep composure under intense questioning (for Spanish standards anyway, nothing of the kind of interviewing you find on the BBC). I fear to think what could happen to our thin-skinned candidate if he ever appears in the BBC News 24 Hardtalk programme or in Radio 4The Moral Maze’. No way José!

Mr Sala also questioned Artur Mas, the candidate of the CiU party. This is the party (two parties in fact) that ruled Catalonia for 23 years. It is a pity we cannot hear the audio of the interview. But in print at least, Mr Mas appears to have more resilience to answer uncomfortable questions than Mr Montilla. Now, Mr Sala has been accused in the past of being close to CiU, and probably he is, if not by conviction at least by default: he would find difficult to support any of the three left-ish parties or the Spanish nationalists of the PP).

The campaign is being quite nasty for Catalan standards. There is a lot of vile and aggression. Whoever is the most voted candidate, it will probably fall short of an absolute majority. A coalition government after all what is being said will not be easy, although we all know by now that politicians have a short memory span…

Sunday, 15 October 2006

I want a state for Catalonia: because we deserve better

A month in Catalan politics is a long time.

A local meeting of the PP in Martorell (a town 25Km from Barcelona) is met with a protest outside the venue. Tempers flare and some punches are exchanged.
The PSC-PSOE expels a youth militant that was part of the protest outside, even though there seems to be no actual evidence to the extent of his involvement.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the PP fails to expel a local councillor and member of the party (and not of the youth wing precisely) that was caught on camera throwing a right hook. Despite the glaring evidence, the party fails to take any action and even give this violent man (his name is Xavier Garcia Albiol) its support. Then it transpires that this same man had been involved in another (cat) violent incident in his local town of Badalona, just north of Barcelona.

The message is clear: a PP sympathiser is allowed to use violence and nothing happens; meanwhile other folk standing in the street shouting are branded terrorist just because they happen to exercise their right to freedom of expression against the PP.

Not surprisingly, this was topped up by our sectarian press as “radical pro-independence hooligans”. Yet, there were many PSC-PSOE supporters participating in the protest.

Thus, both parties achieve their objectives: PSOE-PP, and their pro-unionist media, working in tandem to tarnish the image of the pro-independence movement and to portray the Spanish nationalists of PP as victims of 'Catalan' intolerance. However, the TV images don’t lie: Mr Albiol is a violent thug yet his party is happy to condone his antics. Again. And the only individual member of a party that has been caught in the fracas is a former member of the PSC-PSOE.

Then, we have the moderate nationalist, regionalists or whatever they want to call themselves now, of CiU. In case you are new to Catalan politics, this is the coalition (they are two separate political parties) who ruled Catalonia for 23 years. After 3 years in opposition, they have changed many internal structures, and brought in new people and, apparently, new methods.

Their campaign manager is David Madí (cat). He is a typical rich kid of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie. It appears he has lived in the US. He has had the idea of launching a DVD, “ConfidentialCAT”, to launch the electoral campaign of CiU. I have not had the pleasure to watch the video -my audio driver is gone and I can’t find another one!

Some folk are saying it is a Goebbelian manipulation. Some others say it is just the plain truth of 3 years of incompetent government. It is a 55 minutes “documentary” split into different chapters, each chronicling an episode of the last tripartite coalition government until the end. Even a TV news broadcaster has threatened (cat) to sue for improper use of his image.

Then I read that the PSC-PSOE candidate has the temerity to say that “Companys would be happy with the Estatut”. Lluís Companys (eng) was the president of Catalonia (by ERC) that proclaimed the ‘República Catalana’ What an insult to the memory of the great president Companys, who was later captured by the Nazis in France, and handed over to Franco. Companys was duly executed, 66 years ago today. And now this man, José Montilla, wants us to believe that the great Companys would be proud of the miserable Estatut we have achieved. Some people know no shame, and in the case of the Spanish labour party (the PSOE) this is more true than ever.

Again, I am of the opinion that there is only one party that will defend our interests, both as individuals and as citizens of a stateless nation: Esquerra.
Comic strip from El Periodico.cat (a newpaper supportive of the PSOE...)