Saturday, 10 November 2007

Time is a scarce resource

Regular readers will have noticed that I have been not very active of late. There are a variety of reasons:

+ Work: the credit liquidity squeeze and the return of volatility have resulted in longer hours at work.
+ Studies: the MBA thesis on credit default swaps is also taking longer that expected. Final deadline (I have already had a couple of extensions…) is 7 December 2007, so not a lot of time left.
+ Commuting: normally I drive from the outskirts of Glasgow to Edinburgh. This month, however I am trying to commute by train. Next year, if/when I have more time, I will write about public transport provision in the UK.
+ Too much to write about: frankly, there is too much happening. I feel overwhelmed with developments in Scottish/British politics and Catalan/Spanish politics. Where should I start. Thus, I feel easier to reply to other people’s blogs, even if they are slightly bonkers. Hello John and Trevor.

If all that was not enough, to be brutally honest, the few spare hours I have I’d rather spend them with my gorgeous, lovely, pretty and extremely patient girlfriend.

It has been a few interesting weeks. I have been accused of being both “obviously right-wing” and a “far-leftist” by Iberian Notes because of this post. Iberian Notes is a blog by a north American expat living in Barcelona which regurgitates the same bile and hatred towards Catalonia and its sense of nationhood and cultural, social and political identity as the most vicious and aggressive Spanish nationalist portals like Libertad Digital. Well it seems the guy used to work for them so no surprises there.

What I did not expect when I set up this blog (in September 2003 no less) is that I would be quoted out of context by El País newspaper: (Spanish)

The post the article is referring is this one: It’s time. I notice the journalist cites the comment left by Ox, but not my reply with web links, or Ox’s lack of counter-reply. I will dedicate another post to this article next week.

In any case, for the benefit of Mr Delclós and Ox, I did not equate political independence to a complete assurance of improving life expectancy; rather, the crux of the post, for anyone that wants to read it properly, is that +50 years of Labour rule in Glasgow has failed to address this and many other social issues, that a change in policy is required and that only the SNP can provide the cathartic change Scotland so much needs.

Can anyone argue back that keeping Labour in power will resolve the many social issues we face in the west of Scotland when they have proved to be incapable of doing so in +50 years?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

PSC has alzheimer - a borrowed post

Regular readers will have noticed the absence of new posts.

The credit liquidity squeeze and the increased volatility in financial markets have resulted in longer hours spent in the office. Not to mention a certain master’s degree thesis in credit default swaps that is taking a bit longer that anticipated…..

Until normal services are resumed, I copy and paste another article from from Josep C. Vergés, a regular columnist in the Diari de Girona. The issue I have with the post is that according to a poll published today, PSC-PSOE and Ciudadanos would not lose representation in the Catalan Parliament. I don’t trust any polls, let alone one published by La Vanguardia but if you are interested, you can read about it in Racó Català. In summary, not much change. However, Spanish elections are to be held in March and that could be a different ball game....

The post is taken from the Racó Català, a Catalan portal.

PSC Has Alzheimer

Former PSC member and founder Pasqual Maragall, the Catalan president overthrown by Zapatero, who had made Zapatero PSOE president against the wishes of Jose Montilla, has announced he has the initial stages of Alzheimer, a slow degenerative disease which ultimately paralyzes the entire brain. The PSC is already in an advanced stage of Alzheimer, declared when it fearfully integrated with the PSOE Parliamentary group in Congress after the coup d'Etat of the King's preceptor General Armada in 1981. Last year the PSC gave up Catalan nationalism by accepting the barrio Jacobin Montilla instead of Maragall. The excuse was that with the new Statute of Autonomy there was no further need to defend Catalonia and it was time to "manage" what citizens really wanted. For example, airports. Well, better another. Electricity. No good. Freeways. None there. Well then trains. Oops what a disaster!

The PSC has undergone a full lobotomy, left without a voice in Madrid, without Catalan nationalism and without managerial ability.The worst president in democracy, quite something, before betraying Maragall threw out Carod. A costly mistake because Esquerra renewed the pact with PSC after the early Catalan elections while Zapatero has been left in a lonely minority and done nothing since a year and a half. Impossible to do any worse. Or maybe it is as the worst minister in history shows, Andalusian Magdalena Alvarez, with her Catalan airport, road and train chaos. She promised that after the 11th September Catalonia would go on wheels. She has certainly kept her word because Madrid monopoly Renfe has abandoned train services forcing all of us to take the car. To doubly guarantee this, Madrid monopoly Adif has collapsed a Catalan Railways tunnel, forcing cancellation of their services so that Madrid has no bothersome train competition.

PSOE has caught the Alzheimer infection from PSC. PSOE has also lost the majority in the Senate with the added setback that the PSC is grouped with Esquerra there, not with the Jacobins. They can vote against PSOE, which is not possible in Congress. This explains why minority leader Zapatero has sent to the Senate anaesthetist Joan Clos, who has no responsibilities in transport with the hope that PSC will show compassion with the grey "Catalan minister" and PSC member.

The disapproval which cannot be ducked by socialists is that of the voters. The broken down services managed by the Madrid monopolies affect directly towns with the heaviest socialist vote. Zapatero's betrayal of Maragall already lost the socialists the Catalan nationalist vote. The latest betrayal by Magdalena Alvarez has now lost them the immigrant vote. Winston Churchill said governments lose elections, not opposition parties win them. The PSOE will emerge further weakened from the elections. PSC governs tied hand and feet by Esquerra, not the other way round as Jacobins would want. PSOE will be equally tied down after the elections in March, because the PP troglodytes will be unable to govern with no Catalan party willing to ally themselves to the anti-Catalan racists.

Minority ruler Zapatero has still time to halt the slide as I proposed in Diari de Girona (26th August) by naming Joaquim Nadal Public Works Minister:

"Perhaps it is impossible for Zapatero to stop his talante and start
telling the truth, but if he fires his minister for centralism who visits
Catalonia like an Andalusian grandee in her estate, we shall see a hard
working Catalan in Madrid's Public Works Ministry and celebrate Christmas in
the height of summer."

Nadal will have the credibility to transfer Renfe to Catalonia and the responsibility to do a good job, so that he can become the natural replacement for burnt out Montilla, a bad manager and mediocre president. A shock cure for socialist Alzheimer in both federated parties, PSC and PSOE, with no idea where they are or where they are heading in an advanced stage of the degenerative disease of lost votes.

Josep C. Vergés

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

US foreign policy: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Today, I have heard one of the most chilling programmes on the radio for a very long time. I used to work in a local radio station, and I listen to the wireless all the time, as I hardly watch much TV, apart from the news and Still Game.

It was a long day at work today, and I finished about 19.45h. On the way back, I realised that Hecklers, the new Radio 4 debate program was on. Excellent, I thought: long day in the office, but a pleasurable drive back from Edinburgh to Glasgow listening to informed opinions and intelligent debate.

But the proposer of tonight’s programme was one of the most dangerous and deluded people I have ever heard on the BBC.

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that
it would be better to have a war with Iran than to allow its government to
develop nuclear weapons. He debates the issues with a panel of hecklers,
including George Galloway, in front of an audience at Chatham House in London.

This individual argued, in his soft American tone and paused, affable, if slightly irritating speech, that it would be in the best interests of the West to go to war against Iran rather than to allow that country to develop nuclear weapons. Patrick Clawson is deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. More info on the interesting views espoused by Mr Clawson here
Don’t want to go into a tangent here... but Near East? I always thought it was Far East but never mind...

After a few minutes listening to his disparaging arguments I started to feel sick. My legs were trembling. Listening to that man gave me the creeps. I was listening to a man advocating going to war against Iran as a pre-emptive step to bring stability to the region.
Now, where have we heard this line of argument before?

Although the program is called Hecklers, it is nothing of the sort. The proposer has three slots in which he can develop his argument and the ‘hecklers’ (panellists) are not allowed to interrupt during the first 3 minutes or so of each slot. Then a bell goes off and the panel guests are allowed to raise questions. Today, George Galloway MP was always the first to speak up after the bell rang.

Whatever one thinks of Mr Galloway and his politics and media persona, it is undeniable that the man is a great orator, and one of the few MPs in Parliament willing to challenge the establishment. If only there were a few more like him, perhaps this country would not be now fighting a pointless and illegal war based on false “intelligence”. As much as I disagree with the majority of Gorgeous George’s politics, today he was top notch. He tore apart every one of the arguments put forward by Mr Clawson.

I recommend that you set aside about 1 hour of your time to listen to the program via the BBC Radio 4 website.

It shows to what extent American foreign policy is the cause, rather than the cure, for most of the ills in the Middle East and the Gulf region. For Mr Clawson, it is quite alright that Israel already has nuclear weapons pointing at Iran and other states, and that we (as in the US and the UK) are supplying conventional and nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The former is a theocracy where women are second class citizens. The regime in Saudi Arabia is probably the most tyrannical in the region, and certainly the least accountable to the population. As for Pakistan, it is a breeding ground for Al-Qaida terrorists, and a country divided between a secular or moderate population and the mullahs supporting Islam fundamentalism. What happens if the latter ever get into power and get control of the nuclear weapons supplied by the US and the UK?

Exactly this is what happened a few decades ago. In order to overthrow the Soviets from Afghanistan, the US financed and supplied the Mujaidins with training and conventional weapons. Once the Soviets were expelled from the region, they turned against the US and the West. These are the origins of Al-Qaida: US finance and training. The US trained and armed Osama Bin Laden. That is the result of US foreign policy.

You may be too young to remember: Iran was a democracy a long time ago. However, its leaders did not yield to US and UK foreign policy so the US&UK instigated a coup after Iran's elected government renationalised the oil industry; then the Shah took over and instituted a dictatorial regime. Read more about Operation Ajax in the Wikipedia. Yes, we (the US and the UK) instigated a coup against a democratically elected government to get control of Iranian oil.
The people of Iran rebelled, both the secular moderates (yes, there was a Communist Party in Iran...) and the Islamists joined forces and they did overthrow the dictator; sadly, the radical Islamists won the internal battle for government control. Then they turned against the US and against the West.

Remember the Iran/Iraq war of the ‘80s. Well, guess what: Saddam Hussein was supported by the West and supplied with the conventional and chemical weapons he used in the bloody war against Iran. We (US and UK) supplied Saddam Hussein and his regime with weapons. A few years later, the US and the UK bombarded Iraq, causing mass civilian casualties but without deposing the dictator. In 2003, we then have the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition and the country is now is a much worst state, on the brink of civil war and engulfed in sectarian violence, than it was with Saddam in power. And now the Iraqis are turning against the US and the West.

Do you see a pattern emerging?

You can read all this and much, much more in the extraordinary, priceless, colossal book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" by Robert Fisk.
Admittedly, I have not yet started reading the book. A certain master degree thesis on Credit Default Swaps is taking a lot of my spare time –about 1 year and 4 months to be exact.

So you can imagine my anger when this very dangerous man was arguing live on BBC radio 4, the moral and cultural backbone of Britain, that a US strike against Iran would somehow encourage middle-class Iranians to rebel and overthrow the tyrannical dictatorship of the Council of Guardians. It was frightening.

However “imperfect” (a word he constantly used to refer to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) the Iranian electoral system is, at least people can and do vote. The same cannot be said of Saudi Arabia, apparently the West's ally in the region, with its total disregard for human rights and lack of any progress towards democracy or a more equal society for men and women.

He also said that an attack against Iran would prevent the NPT from becoming irrelevant, even though there are “imperfections” (i.e: non-compliance) in the system. He said something along the lines of “I would hate to lose that imperfect instrument in the pursuit of the perfect instrument”. In other words: it is ok for the UK, the US, France, Israel, India, Russia and others to violate the terms and the spirit of the NPT, but not for Iran. Some hypothetical, yet-to-happen, imperfection is punished by war; current imperfections are ignored. To say this smacks of double standards would be an understatement.

We are told that Iran, according to Mr Clawson, is an “irrational player”, behaving according to an “apocalyptic theocratic view” of the world. At this point I almost choked on my chocolate bar. Is it not the President of the United States who had claimed that God had given him permission to go to war in order to prevent the threat of an Iraqi attack against the West? To me that sounds pretty much like an irrational player with a theocratic apocalyptic view of the world.

No nation has behaved more irrationally in the Middle East than the US. Supporting and arming some dictatorships; going to war against others; and doing both with some, as in Iraq. Yet, Mr Clawson, and the US political establishment, either Democrats or Republicans, are in complete denial about the havoc, mayhem and suffering US foreign policy has created around the world, especially in the Middle East.

The last point put forward by Mr Clawson is beyond surreal. He argues that an US-led attack against Iran would unite Iranians in blaming their own government for developing nuclear weapons and thus provoking a crisis. This popular rebellion would result in the Iranian regime engaging (i.e: yielding to US foreign policy) with the West. For someone who claims to be an expert in the Middle East, this is surely a joke.

But the warmongering lunatic goes on: according to him, an attack against Iran should not mean a land invasion of the country, but rather targeted, high-precision attacks against military objectives. Have we not heard this before? Yes, we have. As recently as 2003, when the US-UK coalition targeted attacks against Iraqi military infrastructure resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and the destruction of hospitals. I also remember a certain aspirin factory in Sudan that was targeted with a combination of intelligence and high-precision weaponry.

Mr Clawson also argued that not only Iran’s population would rebel against their elected leadership following a US attack, but also that Iran’s neighbours would rise to the challenge and support US action too. This is the world of fantasy inhabited by the neocon revolutionaries in the US.

This last point was absolutely demolished by all panellists. One by one, audience members and panellists reduced Mr Clawsonlightweight argument”(quote from a former correspondent of the FT in Tehran) to what they are: absolute warmongering shite. The only voice of support came from, wait for it... an US Embassy employee.
Priceless if it was not so depressing.

What is scary about this man and his ilk is their level of delusion; their disregard for the facts about the Middle East, and the loss of human life; their arrogant ignorance of the damage US foreign policy has caused in the region in the last 40 years, 20 years or even since the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. As with the Iraqi non-existent weapons of mass destruction, an enemy is created and the threat is hyped up in the friendly press, and thus war is justified. Their irrational minds see no flaw in this perverse logic, despite its disastrous consequences in Iraq, or in Iran decades ago.

War is still another option in the US foreign policy toolkit and the neocons have not learnt anything. And now they want to start another war against Iran. History will not be kind to these despicable people.

And the question for us in Britain is: what will PM Gordon Brown do? Will he be America’s lap dog like former PM Blair, or will he have an “ethical foreign policy”, as New Labour promised in 1997? I am not sure I want to know.

Next week, Hecklers will hopefully be less frightening and distressing. Tax specialist Richard Murphy argues at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs that Britain should stop trying to woo the foreign super rich with tax breaks.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Spanish censorship alive and well (II)

Well, one things we know for sure: we cannot say that Spanish/Catalan politics are boring. Definitely not boring.

Yesterday, the Catalan chairman of the PP (Josep Piqué) and secretary (Francesc Vendrell) resigned. Huge coverage in the press:
Avui (Catalan)
Vilaweb (Catalan, with links to other media)
El Periodico (Catalan, Spanish)
El País (Spanish)
El Punt (Catalan)
Resignation letter from Piqué (Spanish)
For your translations, you can use the on-line translator in the Generalitat website or Translendium.

This event has huge significance for Catalan and Spanish politics as it signals a radicalisation (yes, I know, even more than until now…) of the discourse of the Partido Popular. This could have disastrous consequences for the party in Catalonia, where it is already a marginal force. They may attract a sector of the electorate which feels alienated by the “moderation” of the recently deposed leadership, but the new extremist line will alienate the most moderate sector of their electorate which will go, undoubtably, to CiU or to a lesser extent to the PSC-PSOE.

But just as we were coming to terms with the internal coup in the Partido Popular in Catalonia (the hardliners in Madrid are now in charge), another massive story breaks out: a judge in Madrid has decreed a prohibition order (secuestration) on satirical magazine El Jueves. The media is full of this, it is a massive story. It is unbelievable, an episode of Francoist censorship in the 21st century, but then again, this is Spain! As regular reader Roger wrote a few days ago, Spain is more like Turkey and less like a Western democracy.

A judge in Madrid has decreed, following a request from the Prosecution Service, that the latest edition of satirical magazine El Jueves contains a cartoon that is defamatory and libelious towards the Príncipe Felipe and his wife and the Monarchy. The official document is available in Vilaweb, via this link (PDF file in Spanish). Believe or not, this action has been instigated by the Prosecution Service (Fiscalía) and Judge del Olmo, known for his Spanish nationalism, has followed the Fiscal instructions without hesitation. Freedom of expression? This is Spain my friend!

A satirical magazine (similar to Viz in the UK), which has published hundreds of cartoons about the Monarchy before, gets a sequestration order, with Spanish Police raiding newsagents and bookshops. Yet, media outlets which promulgate hatred and bile everyday, like radio network Cadena COPE and Libertad Digital are allowed to regurgitate their anti-Catalan, anti-Basque extremism, their fascist message of hatred against anyone who does not agree with them, and get away scot-free.

As I have mentioned several times (one, two, three and four) in this blog, in Spain you can be an extremist and enjoy freedom of expression to the limit –as long as you are on the side of the Spanish State. In practice it means that Batasuna are banned but all the openly fascist parties like Falange, Democracia Nacional, are allowed.

I wonder how long it will take the international press to report on this shocking event. Spanish democracy? Don’t make me laugh! (and five) .

Well, the BBC has been first! (Friday night)
The Times and The Guardian has been second (Saturday editions)
Other media: France 24, and International Herald Tribune. (By the way, according to the IHT, Franco was still in power in 1977....)

The cartoon is available below; the text goes something like this and it follows the Government's announcement of granting a benefit of €2,500 for every new child:

While shagging Letizia from behind, Príncipe Felipe says:
- “Do you realise? If you fall pregnant… this is going to be the most similar thing to a full day’s work I have done in my life!!”

There must be a better translation, it does not read well in English, does it?

If you want to see the cartoon, several websites have started scanning and uploading the whole magazine into the Web, before the Spanish State makes it an illegal publication. There are rumours that some people are already selling it on eBay.

Here is my contribution to freedom of expression...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


This is an article dedicated to my friends with whom I shared the last weekend in June. It was a fantastic occasion, and I hope we all meet up again. It is also for the groom’s friends who had to put up with a couple of drunk numpties at the back of a coach shouting extremist anti-Catalan abuse.
It is a bilingual article, first English version, then version in Catalan.

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

I have been quite busy over the last few weeks, which explains the lack of postings. Late in June, I went to a wedding in Reus, a city near Tarragona, and that weekend is going to be the conduit for this post.

The groom is a Catalan lad. He met his wife in Glasgow, Scotland, while on Erasmus. A group of guys, all friends of the groom went to the wedding. We are all from different areas of Spain. We all met in Glasgow while working for a doomed internet bank. Some travelled from the UK, others from the south of Spain. We all have differing political views, but we are all good friends and it was a wonderful occasion to meet up again.

But this weekend reunion with my friends also made me realise that there is no hope of Spain ever becoming a modern western, civilised, truly democratic, respectful of its cultural and linguistic diversity, at-ease-with-itself, multilingual and multinational state. Never has happened and never will. Many Spaniards favour an expression that roughly translates thus: “Nationalism is an illness that is cured travelling” (El nacionalismo se cura viajando). What they don’t realise is that their nationalism has no cure. It is embedded in the Spanish psyche, inherent to the existence of the Spanish state in its present form since the Wars of Succession 1700-1715. It does not matter if a Spaniard is well educated and has travelled around Europe. Spanish nationalism is very persistent.

For most of my dear friends, Catalan language is a nuisance, not something to be cherished or protected by the Spanish State. In Spain, in Spanish, end of story. For them, anyone speaking Catalan in public is a show of defiance, an example that something has not been “resolved” in Spain. The mere existence of Catalan language in the same terms as Spanish in some aspects of public life in Catalonia irks them and fills them with animosity.

When one suggests that if Spain were like Switzerland or Canada language would not be an issue, they protest: “Canada, Belgium, Switzerland… bla, bla, bla, Spain is Spain cojones”. And that is the problem: Spain will never change. Spain will never accept Catalan culture and nationhood as an equal part of the Spanish State cultural framework. It never has, it never will.

On the way back from the wedding, the groom’s friends sang some songs. The same songs people sing at every wedding. The same cheery, silly, embarrassing, apolitical, childish songs everyone sings at weddings throughout the world.

However, some of the songs, God forbid!, were in Catalan. Fuelled by alcohol, my esteemed friends’ true feelings came to the fore. A stream of abuse started, snide abusive remarks were made and the true extent of their disliking of anything Catalan became apparent. It is a great credit to the groom’s friends, to whom this post is dedicated, that there was not any confrontation despite the constant and unnecessary provocation. More so when you consider we were all pretty drunk. As for myself, I was sleeping for most the journey, trying to forget about the excruciating pain in my stomach. Only when I woke up and heard my friends embarrassing themselves, I realised what we, as Catalans, are against. Not even successful, educated, travelled people will accept Catalan as equal to Spanish in public life. For them, Catalan is a “family language”, a folkloric, slightly irritating historical legacy that is a thorn on Spain’s side. It is as if for some Spaniards the sound of Catalan being spoken pierces, literally, their ears.

The next day, when we were all sober and I was up for a good debate, we talked about politics. Nationalist Spaniards have a great arsenal of quotations, metaphors and paradigms to use when advancing their case. Fair enough, they have over 300 years of practising, developing their own national discourse, and the full support of their public and private TV stations and radio networks, and dozens of newspapers. We, tiny Catalans, with two TV stations controlled by the PSC-PSOE, and a handful of newspapers and radio stations, cannot compete in equal terms against Spain’s nationalist rhetoric.

My favourite one is when they use the artificial carve-up of Spain into 17 Autonomous Communities (administrative regions) to level down Catalonia to the same status as Murcia or La Rioja. By doing that they try to portray Catalonia as irritating and selfish. Or when they use the metaphor of the block of flats, and arguing that Catalonia is akin to the neighbour from hell; the one that wants to change the rules for everyone. (Perhaps we want our own key to open the door?) Language is obviously a favourite, and bilingualism is the greatest thing to happen to mankind… as long as it is confined to Catalonia, and more specifically to Catalan speakers. I always wonder… if bilingualism is so good, surely the Spanish State would make more of an effort to ensure EVERYONE in Spain was bilingual in two of the official languages of the Spanish State? Canada or Switzerland spring to mind.

And yes, you find the odd Spaniard who understands, the one that does not succumb to Spanish nationalism, the one who sees languages as mere tools of communication and not a political weapon. But they are the tiny, silent minority. For every Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón, there are 1000 Fraga, or Bono, or Acebes or Aznar. For every Spanish democrat, as understood in the true sense of the word, there are 1000 Spanish nationalists. And I keep saying this to my friends and they keep ignoring me: if Spain was like Switzerland, if Spain was a neighbourhood and not a prison, to keep the metaphor going, a pro-independence party like ERC would not be the third party in Catalonia. The truth, my dear Spanish friends, is that the PP, the main representative of Spanish nationalism, is a marginal party in Catalonia, and most people regard the PP for what they are: a bunch of unreconstructed Francoist who would not hesitate to send the Army to Catalonia to crush the wish of the people. Again. Like their forefathers did.

I am sorry, my own parents are immigrants from the south of Spain, but this enforced union has not worked, it is not working and will never work. We should follow separate paths as nations, each freely to choose its own destiny. Spain is Spain and will never change, and Catalonia is Catalonia and probably it will never change. We should part amicably. We should be free of each other. Catalonia tried to change Spain and some still do, like CiU. It is a mistake. Catalonia should leave Spain behind and join the club of the free nations in Europe. We should be friends and good neighbours. Nothing more, nothing less.

This post is for all of the groom’s friends that were inside that coach. And also to the ones that were not there but have probably heard about the disrespectful, abusive and quasi-fascist chants coming from the back of the coach: there is no hope for Catalonia in Spain. No Hope. Nope. The only hope for Catalonia is to become an independent state in the EU. Sovereignty and Independence. Via democratic means. Dialogue, negotiation, debate, “federalism” do not work. Spain does not want to become a federalist state like Germany or Switzerland or Belgium or Canada. Catalonia should not try to change Spain again.

Remember your history lessons at High School. The Lliga Regionalista tried to “reform” Spain, but it did not work; then it was the pre-Civil War ERC, with Macia and Companys, who tried to “engage” with Spain; and after the end of Franco’s 40 year dictatorship, it was CiU who tried to “explain” it to Spain. They achieved nothing. It has been over 100 years of different Catalan moderate parties trying to make Spain more like the rest of Europe. It has not worked, it is not working. Look at the PSOE or PP: as the great Josep Pla said: “nothing is more alike to a right-wing Spaniard than a left-wing Spaniard”.

It will never work. Let’s give up on Spain. Let’s secure Catalonia’s future in Europe as a free nation.
Sense esperança

He estat bastant ocupat durant les darreres setmanes, la qual cosa explica la manca d’articles. Cap a finals de juny, vaig anar a un casament a Reus, una ciutat prop de Tarragona, i aquell cap de setmana serà el fil conductor d’aquest article.

El nuvi és un noi català. Un grup de xicots, tots amics del nuvi vàrem anar al casament. Som tots de diferents àrees de l’Estat espanyol. Tots nosaltres ens varem trobar a Glasgow mentre treballàvem per un internet bank condemnat al fracàs. Alguns viatjàvem des de el Regne Unit, altres des del sud d'Espanya. Tots nosaltres tenim diferent idees polítiques, però tots som bons amics i va ser una ocasió meravellosa trobar-se una altra vegada.

Però aquest cap de setmana de reunió amb els meus amics també ha fet adonar-me que no hi ha cap esperança que Espanya mai es transformi en un estat occidental modern, civilitzat, veritablement democràtic, respectuós de la seva diversitat cultural i lingüística, sense por de si mateix, multilingüe i multinacional. Mai no ha passat i mai no passarà. Molts espanyols afavoreixen una expressió que aproximadament es tradueix així: "El nacionalisme és una malaltia que és curat viatjant" (El nacionalismo se cura viajando). Allò què no s’adonen és que el seu propi nacionalisme no té remei. Està arrelat en la psique espanyola, inherent a la pròpia existència de l'estat espanyol en la seva forma present des de les Guerres de Successió 1700-1715. No importa si un espanyol té una bona educació i ha viatjat per Europa. El nacionalisme espanyol és molt persistent.

Per a la majoria dels meus estimats amics d'altres zones d'Espanya, la llengua catalana és una nosa, no quelcom que ha de ser celebrat o protegit per l'Estat Espanyol. A Espanya, en espanyol, i s’ha acabat. Per a ells, que hom parli català en públic és una demostració de desafiament, un exemple que alguna cosa no s’ha "arreglat" a Espanya. La mera existència de llengua catalana en els mateixos termes que la llengua castellana en alguns aspectes de vida pública a Cataluny els fastigueja i els deixa farcits d'animositat.

Quan hom suggereix que si Espanya fos com Suïssa o el Canadà la llengua no seria un assumpte a debatir, protesten: "Canadà, Bèlgica, Suïssa... bla, bla, bla, Espanya en espanyol, collons". I aquest és el problema: Espanya mai no canviarà. Espanya mai no acceptarà la cultura catalana i el nostre sentiment nacional com a una part igual del marc cultural de l’Estat espanyol. Mai no ho ha fet, i mai no ho farà.

Durant la tornada del casament, els amics del nuvi cantaven algunes cançons. Les mateixes cançons que es canten a tots els casaments. Cançons igual d’alegres, ximples, avergonyidores, apolítiques, infantils que tothom canta a casaments arreu del món.

Tanmateix, algunes de les cançons, Déu meu del cor!, eren en català. Encesos per l’alcohol, els veritables sentiments dels meus apreciats amics van sortir a la llum. Un riu d’insults començà, els comentaris injuriosos i sarcàstics es feien en veu alta, i el veritable abast de la seva antipatia per tot el que sigui català es tornà aparent. Diu molt dels amics del nuvi, a qui aquest article va dedicat, que no va haver-hi cap confrontació malgrat la provocació constant i innecessària. Més si tenim en compte que anàvem tots una mica bufats. Pel que fa a un servidor, vaig estar dormint duant la major part del trajecte de tornada, intentant oblidar el dolor insuportable al meu estómac. Només quan em vaig despertar i vaig escoltar els meus amics deixant-se en ridícul, vaig adonar-me'n contra què, com a catalans, estem lluitant. Ni tan sols gent reeixida, educada, brillant, que ha viatjat una mica pel Món, acceptarà el català igual que el castellà a la vida pública. Per a ells, el català és una "llengua familiar", un llegat històric folklòric una mica irritant, i que és una espina per a Espanya. És com si per a alguns espanyols el so de la llengua catalana foradès, literalment, les seves oïdes.

Al dia següent, quan tothom estava seré i jo tenia ganes per a un bon debat, vàrem parlar de política. Els nacionalistes espanyols tenen un gran arsenal de citacions, metàfores i paradigmes per a utilitzar en la seva causa. No és d’estranyar, tenen prop de 300 anys de pràctica, desenvolupant el seu propi discurs nacional, i el ple suport de les seves cadenes de TV públiques i privades, cadenes de ràdio, i dotzenes de diaris. Nosaltres, els pobrets catalans, amb dues estacions de TV controlades pel PSC-PSOE, i un grapat de diaris i emissores de ràdio, no poden competir en igualtat de condicions contra la retòrica espanyolista.

La meva tàctica preferida és quan utilitzen l'artificial divisió administrativa de l’Estat Espanyol en 17 Comunitats Autònomes per provar de rebaixar Catalunya al mateix nivell que Múrcia or La Rioja. Fent això proven de representar una Catalunya malficiosa i egoista. O quan utilitzen la metàfora del bloc de pisos, i argumenten que Catalunya és com el veí que no deixa de tocar els collons a tothom; el que vol canviar les regles per a tothom. (Potser nosaltres volem la nostra pròpia clau per obrir la porta?) La llengua és òbviament el tema favorit, i el bilingüisme és la cosa més gran per a la humanitat... sempre que es limiti a Catalunya, i més específicament a catalano-parlants. Sempre em pregunto... si el bilingüisme és tan bo, segurament l'Estat espanyol esmerçaria més esforços per a assegurar-se que TOTHOM a Espanya fos bilingüe en dues de les llengües oficials l’Estat Espanyol? El Canadà o Suïssa em venen al cap.

I sí, a voltes trobes l'espanyol que entén, el que no sucumbeix a nacionalisme espanyol unitarista, aquell que veu llengües com a simples eines de comunicació i no una arma política. Però són la minoria minúscula, silenciosa. Per cada Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón, hi ha 1000 Fraga, o Bono, o Acebes o Aznar. Per cada demòcrata espanyol, entès en el sentit veritable de la paraula, hi ha 1000 nacionalistes espanyols. I continuo dient això als meus amics i em continuen ignorant: si Espanya fos com Suïssa, si Espanya fos un veïnat i no una presó, per a anar jugant amb les metàfores, una partit independentista com ERC no seria el tercer partit a Catalunya. La veritat, estimats amics espanyols, és que el PP, el representant principal de nacionalisme espanyol, és un partit insignificant a Catalunya, i la majoria de la gent considera el PP com el que són: un grapat de nostàlgics neo-Franquistes,que no dubtarien a enviar l’exèrcit espanyol contra la gent a Catalunya per aixafar la voluntat popular del nostre país. Una altra vegada. Com els seus pares i avis.

Em sap greu, adés els meus pares són immigrants del sud d’Espanya, però aquesta unió per la força no ha funcionat, no està funcionant i mai no funcionarà. Hauríem de seguir camins separats com a nacions, cadascuna lliure per a escollir el seu propi destí. Espanya és Espanya i mai no canviarà, i Catalunya és Catalunya i probablement mai no canviarà. Ens hauríem de separar amigablement. Hauríem de ser lliures l’un de l’altre. Catalunya ha provat de canviar Espanya i alguns encara ho estan intentant, com CiU. És un greu error. Catalunya hauria de deixar enrere Espanya i unir-se al club de les nacions lliures d’Europa. Hauríem de ser amics i bons veïns. Res més, res menys.

Aquest article és per a tots els amics del nuvi que eren dins d’aquell autocar. I també a aquells que no eren allà però probablement han sentit parlar dels cants irrespectuosos, injuriosos i quasi feixistes que venien del darrere de l’autocar: no hi ha cap esperança per a Catalunya dins d’Espanya. Cap Esperança. Res de res. Com diuen en anglès, "fuck all". La única esperança per a Catalunya és convertir-se en un estat independent dintre de la UE. Sobirania i independència. Democràticament. Diàleg, negociació, debat, "federalisme" no funcionen. Espanya no vol convertir-se en un estat federal com Alemanya o Suïssa o Bèlgica o el Canadà. Catalunya no hauria d’intentar canviar Espanya una altra vegada.

Recordeu les lliçons d'història a l’Institut. La Lliga Regionalista va intentar "reformar" Espanya, però no funcionà; després va ser la ERC de la República, amb Macia i Companys, que intentaven “treballar amb” Espanya; i després de 40 anys de dictadura franquista, ha estat CiU qui ha intentat “fer pedagogia” a Espanya. Cap no ha aconseguit res. Han estat més de 100 anys de diferents partits catalans, moderats tots ells, que han intentat fer Espanya més com la resta d’Europa. No ha funcionat, no està funcionant. Mireu el PSOE o PP: com el gran Josep Pla deia: "el que més s’assembla a un espanyol de dretes, és un espanyol d’esquerres.”

Mai no funcionarà. Deixem estar Espanya. Anem a assegurar-nos el futur de Catalunya a la Europa de les nacions lliures.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Whatever next?

I am watching Question Time, tonight, Thursday 5th July. I cannot believe my ears. Davina McCall, host of the UK version of Big Brother, has morphed into a political pundit. What next?

The debate has started around the topic of the terrorist threat from the fundamentalist Islam, and the interventions of some members of the audience show their delusion and lack of knowledge.

As much as I despise the New Labour government that took this country into an illegal and ill-advised war in Iraq, I do not share the view this country’s foreign policy is somehow responsible for our becoming a terrorist target.

The crazymen who tried to kill as many innocent civilians as possible last weekend in London and Glasgow do not care about the UK’s foreign policy or anything else for that matter, not even their own lives. Whatever this government does in terms of foreign policy, the nutters will continue to blow themselves up trying to kill as many innocent civilians as possible. End of story.

I used to have a lot of sympathy for Palestine, I used to despise the West’s foreign policy in the Middle East. I still do. It has been a shambles and a disgrace. I attended the big demonstrations against the illegal war in Iraq, and I still attend the anti-Trident (Trident is a UK government sponsored system of nuclear weapons of mass destruction based in the Clyde, near Glasgow) rallies. But the nutters will not hesitate to kill me, you and all of us just because of the simple fact we are infidels. It is that simple.

There is a numptie talking, telling off a young guy. What he said is spot on, but she ticked him off because his language was aggressive. Well, at least he makes his point of view known by debating in a TV programme, rather than blowing himself up in Harvey Nichols. I was once on the Left, but not anymore. It has taken a while, the best part of about 10 years. But the discourse of the so-called ‘Left’ and its apostles is as irrational as we hear from the ‘neo-cons’. Softly-softly approach with the subhumans who support Jihad will not get us anywhere. Islam will have to sort out this problem internally.

Thank goodness the debate is about to end. What a waste of time.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Spoilt generation

This is why the Financial Times should be a mandatory read in all schools.

In an editorial published on 6 June 2007, an imaginary "Junior" wrote a letter to his parents complaining about how difficult is to make our own way in this world.

Today, a tongue-in-cheek reader has replied to Junior with this brilliant response:

And another:

Bloody right.
We (age 20-35) have been spoilt like no other generation in history. Our parents gave us anything we asked them for. And now that some young people have to make their own way, they complain and sulk.
Stop moaning like a little brat.
Read the FT and The Economist often.
Work hard, try harder.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Fading nation

I have not posted about Catalan politics for a while. To be honest, it is disheartening.

To compound the misery, we had local and regional elections on Sunday 27 May.
There were local council elections for the whole of the Spanish state and regional parliament elections for a few “comunidades autonomas”, the official name of Spanish autonomous regions and their devolved parliaments.

There are hardly any positives to take from the elections. Some of the highlights are:

- Record low turnover in Catalonia, the lowest in Spain.
- Record blank votes in Catalonia, about 3%, compared to the Spanish average of about 1%.
- The status quo pretty much unchanged except that absolute majorities are becoming a scarce luxury for the mainstream political parties.

Then we have the really bad news from Valencia: the PP (Spanish nationalists – Conservatives) have increased their absolute majority in the Valencia region, País Valencià, or Comunitat Valenciana, the sterile official name for the country that comprises the provinces of Castelló, Valencia and Alacant. The Wikipedia has a decent article explaining the complexity of the naming of Valencia, here.

The results from Valencia have been a surprise and a big upset to many Valencian folk. Valencian people, whether by residency or by birth, have voted in massive numbers for the continuation of the PP government in the region. Many commentators have written this is akin to blacks voting for the KKK. But it is simpler than that.

After 40 years of Fascist dictatorship by Franco, the language and any sense of identity was already dying. To compound the problem, massive demographic changes and migration from other areas of Spain have diluted the native population to a level where the Valencian/Catalan language is all but an anecdote. Add to that a self-hating, staunchly pro-Spanish press and media and you get the picture: Valencia never stood a chance.

After about 30 years of Spanish democracy (and I use the term loosely), the native language of Valencia has all but disappeared. Spain has won the Battle of Valencia, and now the region is just like any other province of Spain, just like Toledo or Guadalajara, a Spanish-speaking territory and a population that has rejected the notion of being anything other than a Spanish province. Catalan language is deemed a folkloric annoyance, a distraction. Thus, in this historical and demographic context, the PP has increased its absolute majority in the regional Parliament. To keep the comparison going, there are few blacks left in Valencia.

One feels sorry for the handful of Valencians who still put up some kind of resistance to this cultural genocide. But their attempts are futile, like trying to stop a tsunami: no bloody chance mate. Hence why there are so many Valencians in high-profile positions in Barcelona: their language and culture is being obliterated in their native land so they emigrate north, where it is still alive.

Spain has a well thought out plan and will implement it. The objective is to eliminate Catalan language and culture in order to assimilate all Catalan speaking territories, the Catalan Countries, into a homogenised, unified, and, crucially, Spanish-speaking only Kingdom of Spain.

First it was the outlying counties of El Carxe (in the Region of Murcia) and the Franja, in Aragon. No legal recognition or even any kind of acknowledgment exists for Catalan language in these areas. Nothing whatsoever after 30 years of Spanish democracy.

The French have managed quite successfully in the Rosselló counties, Northern Catalonia. Spain hates Catalonia so much that even ceded Catalan territories to the French. Divide and Rule indeed.

Then it has been the Valencia region. Spreading from south to north, from Alicante to Castelló, Spanish has eroded Catalan usage over the last century to the point that Valencian has disappeared from Alicante and Elx, the main towns in the southern-most province. Then it has been the city of Valencia itself, where violent assaults against libraries who dare to sell books written in Valencia/Catalan continue to this day. Notice the Spanish press just ignores the issue completely. Next it will be in the Castelló province, south of Tarragona and the Ebro river.

In this fashion, slowly but surely, Catalan has been eliminated from the Valencia Country, and with it any sense of pride in the common bond that unites Valencians and Catalans. Valencian identity has been morphed into a folkloric pastiche, designed to fit into the Spanish nationhood without providing any challenge or any notion of self-confidence or self-belief, reneging of its own past and cultural roots. The process is almost complete and this latest electoral result will only accelerate its foregone conclusion. As the official Valencian anthem imposed after democracy, Valencians are meant to “ofrenar noves glories a Espanya” (“offer new glories to Spain”).

At a less advanced stage in this process of Spanish-ation, (and by implication de-Catalanisation) are the Balearic Islands. The language is still spoken in the towns and villages, although not much in Palma and the tourist hotspots. Being an island maybe has helped to prevent the cultural decline but where Valencia led, Mallorca and the other islands will surely follow. The PP may have lost their absolute majority in the regional government after the last elections but they are still the biggest party by far. They too will take a lead from their Valencian colleagues. Catalan will be made an irrelevant language and their local accents, beautiful and unique, will be lost, deemed another historical anecdote.

And then, the big prize: once the Spanish state has managed to completely assimilate Valencia and the Balearics, even more than they are now, it will be the turn of central Catalonia. The process is well underway. It is taking Spain about three centuries to finally kill off our culture and national identity but we just cannot cope anymore with the political, economical and cultural onslaught being inflicted upon us.
Three hundred years after this edict was issued by the victorious Spanish king after the Wars of Succession, the Catalan Countries are on their knees. Catalonia, understood as the present administrative region, may be still holding on, but it will not be for long.

The same social and cultural changes that have happened in Valencia and the Balearics will also lead to the end of Catalan nationhood in the old stronghold. To be honest, it is a miracle that we have survived for so long given the circumstances we have been in for the last three centuries.

ERC, the only mainstream party that wants to challenge and change the constitutional relationship between Spain and Catalonia has suffered losses at the last local elections, mainly in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, where the majority of the immigrant population from southern Spain reside. It is still the third biggest party across Catalonia and it has not been a total collapse but it has been a warning sign of the times ahead.

The only positives one can take from the election is the appearance of the CUP, a radical left, pro-independence party, even if they have arguably taken a share of the vote from the now mainstream ERC. While I have no time for pseudo-communists and their silly views on the economy and the world, at least this party has gained much more support than the pro-Spanish and anti-Catalan Ciudadanos, the darling of the pro-Spanish media. Or much better than the populist, quasi-xenophobic (muslims and blacks not, Spanish-speaking south Americans are ok though) Plataforma por Catalunya (PxC), a party led by a former member of Falange, the historical Spanish fascist party. Yet, the electoral success of the CUP is ignored and blanked out by the mainstream media while Ciudadanos, despite their electoral failure, are given plenty of airtime to air their lies, manipulations and anti-Catalan diatribes. This is the way the Spanish media fight their battle: permanent hostility or blank coverage towards pro-Catalan parties like ERC and CUP, but generous airtime to those who seek to undermine Catalan nationhood, like Ciudadanos and others. Concepts like fairness and proportional airtime to political parties are just unheard of.

They are winning, and stretching their lead. For the last few decades, if not centuries, Catalans have been too coward and too weak and it is only due to Spain’s incompetence that we have not been completely defeated long ago.

So here we are. Watching from afar how the homeland is fading out, how Catalonia follows the path of the Balearics, which follows the path of Valencia, which follows the path of La Franja. Catalonia was once a nation, and it still is for many of us, but I wonder for how long Catalonia will survive as a unique cultural identity until it becomes part of a Spain that is Una, Grande y Libre.

What the fascists wanted but failed to get, it is being achieved in this so-called democracy.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Blogus interruptus: common sense is so scarce

Sadly, Ian has decided to discontinue his excellent blog. It is a pity for there are not many people with the ability to put a point of view across in such a concise and smart manner. I am often slightly jealous of Ian’s posts, thinking to myself: “I wish I had written that”.

Whatever the reasons, best of luck Ian.

Then, I notice that another top blogger, Curious Hamster, seems to have stopped posting too, but with no previous warning. It is slightly concerning. Not sure whether it is a voluntary or involuntary hiatus. Another loss for the blogosphere, for Curious Hamster’s blog was a pleasure to read. He always provided a different viewpoint and his posts contained informative links to check his quotes and references.

It is a pity that people with so much to say, and who talk so much sense, are so scarce.

Goodbye Lenin


News article from the BBC News website:

A Polish man has woken up from a 19-year coma to find the Communist party no longer in power and food no longer rationed, Polish TV reports.

Read the full story here:

Life imitates art. It is almost like the script of a German movie, Goodbye Lenin. In the movie, an East Germany woman (and a Socialist Unity Party of Germany member) who has been in coma for eight months, is never told about the demise of the country she was so proud. Her son keeps her in the dark about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism...

What a story, Mrs Grzebski looked after her husband for 19 years, and now her determination and love has been rewarded. Extraordinary.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Scottish Labour MP disgraces herself

I could not believe my ears when BBC Radio Scotland played the clip during the drivetime news. On Wednesday 23rd of May 2007, during Scottish Questions at the House of Commons, the Labour MP for East Lothian, Anne Moffat, said the following:

Anne Moffat: Did not proportional representation give Germany Adolf Hitler? To a lesser degree, we have been given the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). Can that be a good example?”

Amazingly, the SNP’s Angus Robertson, let this go unchallenged:

Angus Robertson: The hon. Lady has made her own point in her own way. Perhaps she will reflect on that later.”

And that was it.

You can read it yourself in the Hansard website. Hansard is the official transcript service of the House of Commons.

But then I kept reading other interventions by Anne Moffat MP during the session and came across this one, a reply to the LibDem MP Jo Swinson :

“(...) Is that not jumping on the Tory bandwagon? May I tell the hon. Lady that she should be very afraid of opening Pandora’s box when it comes to the Scottish parliamentary elections, because we made the amendment to introduce first past the post.”

To her credit, LibDem MP Jo Swinson, only replied:

Jo Swinson: I welcome the hon. Lady’s intervention, and her warning, which I am sure was kindly meant.”

Certainly Ms Swinson has a sense of humour. (But more on humour later…)

Yes, you read it correctly: Anne Moffat MP (Labour - East Lothian), threatening to change the process of the Scottish Parliamentary elections to a "first past the post" system and abandon the "Additional Member System" in the regional lists.

And I hear you ask: Anne who? Exactly.
A parasite Labour MP who has not achieved anything for Scotland. This nobody is apparently threatening with bringing back the “first past the post” system so that she and her corrupt and incompetent Labour croonies can continue to lead this country to economic, social and cultural decline.

But when I thought I had read enough nonsense, I come across the following intervention by the Labour MP from Glasgow South-West:

3.41 pm (link)
“Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Given that time is short, I shall make only a few points. First, I ask that the investigation examines the decision to have both ballots on the same day, not only in the context of possible erection irregularities —[Laughter.] I know what I meant. [Hon. Members: “Keep it up.”] I will endeavour to do so. That is a fair point —[Interruption.].”

Erection for Election. Very funny Mr Davidson. Now will your party apologise for the chaos and the shame they brought to our country if not for your cheap joke?

Now, I am the first one to come up with a bad joke and crap wordplay, so I plead guilty in advance to the charge of trying to be funny. I wonder if this clown is really a MP or he was impersonated by a fellow called Jim Davidson. The latter is only marginally funnier I must add.

But a MP, debating the shambles of the Scottish Parliament elections in which about 140,000 votes were rejected and which made this country the laughing stock of Europe?

This silliest of jokes by a MP from the Labour party, the party that rejected the recommendations of the Arbunoth Commision and the Electoral Commission warning about this very scenario (see my earlier post). Surprisinly, the BBC News website has not reported on any of these latter two interventions, and only carries a small piece on Anne Moffat’s disgraceful remark.

So this is the Scottish Labour party show in Westminster: a clown and a disgraceful, vindictive and venomous little nobody waste of space who has not digested the news that the SNP is now the dominant party in Scottish politics.

Ms Moffat, I have news for you: goodbye and good riddance.
People like you have kept this country in the doldrums for too long. You and your party have been a liability for Scotland for too long. Your stupid and braindead remarks show the kind of person you really are. I feel sorry for your constituents, being represented by such a miserable loser.

The Herald printed two Letters to the Editor in the Thursday editon. (today).
Link: The Herald - Wicked slur on the SNP
PS: it turns out thas Anne Moffat MP (Labour, East Lothian), along with other Scottish Labour MPs voted in favour of replacing Trident. Full list of Labour MPs voting in favour of the Trident system of WMD to be based in Scotland can be found on this link from the New Statesman. Shame on all of them. An insult to the memory of the Labour party.

Monday, 21 May 2007

The Immigrant President

The below text is from Josep C. Verges. It was published in the Catalan portal, Racó Català today, Monday 21 May.

I don't always necessarily agree with his views but I like to recycle his articles as there are not many opinion articles about Catalan politics available in English.
In this case, I broadly agree with the underlying premise of the article: millions of Spaniards emigrated to Catalonia yet, instead of adopting the cultural, social and political values of their host country, they still support the policies of the same state that expelled them from their land and made them destitute.

My parents are just another example of this. Destitute in Andalucia, they emigrated to Barcelona when there were early teenagers and met a few years later. My mum has adapted to Catalonia pretty well, and regularly votes for IC-V or ERC, and is fully aware of the issues. She speaks Catalan and regularly listens to Catalan radio or TV. My dad however is from the Troglodytes tribe and votes for the Spanish nationalists of the PP, even though he flirted with CiU in the ‘90s. After over 50 years in Catalonia, he hardly understands Catalan, let alone speak the language.

You can bet there are rather interesting discussions about politics at my parents. They don’t last too long though as inevitably someone storms off the living room sooner or later. I vote ERC and my brother Ciudadanos or PSOE, I am not too sure.

Anyway, here is the article from Mr. Verges. Some of the idioms read a bit awkward, not sure about the translations. Suggestions are welcome!

The Immigrant President
Josep C. Verges

“France has given me everything and now it's my turn to give everything to France” comments an emotional Nicolas Sarkozy, son of a Hungarian father fleeing from communism. The French voted massively with their head, not with their bottom as they say of Segolene Royal, wiping out the programmeless smile of the Socialists. Few immigrants govern in ethnic Europe. Not in Germany where the Eastern citizen Angela Merkel is seen as something exotic. Only in the United Kingdom you will see Scottish Gordon Brown as future prime minister, like the Welsh and Scots who preceded him.

The Europe of ethnic cleansing contrasts with the American melting pot. Two Irish, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, have governed despite being a minority and the mulatto, of Indonesian father and white mother, Barack Obama, may reach the White House a generation after the murder of Martin Luther King. America has obtained a huge amount of energy, economic and political, from its immigrants which explains why they are the only world power. Europe would like to be one but will never get there constructed by its ethnic States. The English have understood this and have become the most dynamic in Europe. After twenty years of Jacobin stagnation the French have finally had enough throwing themselves into the American adventure symbolised by Sarkozy.

Spain liberated with democracy the repressed energy of Franco's racist State, but we have reached the ceiling with the State of Autonomies, as can be seen with the bikini sized Statute of Catalonia which the troglodytes and Jacobins want to cut up leaving us with one hand in front and the other behind in ethnic Spain.

Spain is the most racist State in the European Union. You will never see a Catalan president in Madrid. France collaborated with the Spaniards in eliminating Catalan freedoms, because alone they never succeeded. Catalans are the only case in Europe of a people occupied by force. Imported Jacobinism only resulted in three centuries of despotism. 25 years of democracy have maintained traditional ethnic discrimination. Only one Catalan has ruled Spain in three centuries, General Prim, who set the foundations of a liberal State which took another century to translate into a democracy. He was assassinated precisely for being a liberal. Catalans are not Spaniards because they are too liberal. We want the Rule of Law, not the law of the ruler; we want equal opportunities, not sharing out the spoils among the Madrid crowd; in short we want a State that is efficiently run. Which Catalan can say today “Spain has given me everything and now it is my turn to give everything to Spain”?

Spain does not want us, but has stolen our constitutions, like it has stolen our language and steals our taxes and public investment. Look at Gas Natural, doubly rejected by the PP troglodytes and the PSOE Jacobins when it wanted to expand into ethnic Spain. Look at the daily incompetence of Renfe and the barefaced discrimination by Aena. Democracy has given us a freedom on parole. Welcome freedom, but unwelcome parole. What a contrast the welcome of millions of Spanish immigrants in Catalonia, expelled by the big landowners who live in Madrid, today subsidised by the European Union. They have little to thank Spain.

We have an immigrant president, from an Andalusian village submerged by Franco. Jose Montilla is no longer a Maoist who wanted to throttle the Catalan bourgeoisie. He has found jobs for the old socialist apparatchiks like Narcis Serra of GAL State terrorism, now president of the socialist Caixa Catalunya, but he has belittled Pasqual Maragall for his Catalan nationalism and he will now found a Democrat Party like François Bayrou. The immigrant president has never said: “Catalonia has given me everything and now it is my turn to give everything to Catalonia”. He prefers the ethnic Spain which expelled him to liberal Catalonia.

Monday, 7 May 2007

The incompetence of the Labour party knows no bounds

Well, even in defeat, Scottish Labour has managed to take the shine of the historic SNP victory on the May 3 elections. I am referring of course to the voting and counting fiasco involving about 100,000 of rejected ballot papers, a ten-fold increase from the 2003 elections. But I will come back to this issue later.

When I wrote my previous post, at about 3am in the morning, it was looking like Labour would just squeeze in. The west of Scotland has not turned away from Labour in sufficient numbers. Fortunately, the SNP did pretty well in the regional lists in the Highlands & Islands and a solid performance in the Lothians list.

The final result of the elections, in number of seats, is:

SNP – 47
Labour – 46
Conservatives – 17
Liberal Democrats – 16
Greens – 2
Independent – 1 (Margo MacDonald, a former SNP MP)

It is worth pointing out that the SNP also has the highest number of votes, both in the constituency and regional lists:

SNP – 664,227– 32.9%
Labour – 648,374 – 32.2%
Conservatives – 334,743 – 16.6%
Liberal Democrats – 326,232 – 16.2%

SNP – 633,401 – 31.0%
Labour – 595,415 – 29.2%
Conservatives – 284,005 – 13.9%
Liberal Democrats – 230,671 – 11.3%
Greens – 82,584 – 4%

Full details of the results are in the BBC News web site.

Little mention has been made of the fact that the SNP is also the biggest party at the local council level: 363 local councillors for the SNP against 348 for Labour. The Tories now have 143 councillors, and the LibDems 166.

So let’s celebrate that, finally, after almost 50 years, Labour is no longer the dominant party in Scottish politics. Certainly it was about time!

The SNP now have the moral authority to try to form a government and Labour are licking their wounds. Their absence in the media is conspicuous. The daggers must be flying right, left and centre, and the future of Jack McConnell as leader of the Labour party in Scotland looks uncertain to say the least.

Still, Labour could not help but bring chaos to the election. Despite the concerns raised by the Electoral Commission and the Arbuthnott Commission review of the Scottish voting system, the Scottish Office, ruled by Labour MPs David Cairns and Douglas Alexander, decided to push ahead.

This article on the BBC News site is self-explanatory, even though it avoids to clearly identify the people responsible for this fiasco:

- the Labour-ruled Scottish Office for ignoring the advice of the Electoral commission to hold the local council elections and Scottish parliament elections on different dates; and

- the Labour-controlled Scottish Executive, who ignored the recommendations of the Arbuthnott Commission and other campaigners to invest more in voter education campaigns.

Another show of incompetence by our Labour masters. When will the people of Scotland, and more specifically, the people of Glasgow & Strathclyde, wake up and realise that Labour is a liability to Scotland?

Nevertheless, one could sympathise with those who argue that if people cannot read the instructions in a ballot paper, then they should not be entitled to vote. I’d rather side with Melanie Reid, who in her article in The Times, explains that it has been the poorest and most disadvantaged members of our society those who have had problems filling their ballot papers properly. Read the The Times column here.

Although Ms Reid clearly points the finger at the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive, she fails to mention that the communities with the highest percentage of rejected ballot papers are those that have been ruled by the Labour party for decades: Glasgow and west central Scotland. Why, after decades of rule by the so-called people’s party, are people unable to fill in a ballot paper?

In my own constituency, Glasgow Shettleston, the percentage of rejected papers was about 12%. This ties in with the unemployment and social poverty statistics for this area of Glasgow. That’s what decades of Labour rule have achieved for communities across the west of Scotland: people are unable to fill in a ballot paper.

Sadly, although they have lost the election, Labour has not sunk. It will take a great deal of effort, vigorous campaigning and building trust and relationships with the poorest communities in the west of Scotland for the SNP to bring about the change this country so desperately needs. Breaking the cycle of poverty and dependency will be extremely hard in Glasgow and Strathclyde. More hard work will be required. I for one am considering joining in this effort. It is time for a change. It is time to work for a better Scotland.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Another 4 years of Labour-LibDems decline?

Well the first results are coming in and it does not look good for Scotland.
Labour are holding onto their seats in their heartlands in the west of Scotland. The SNP swing predicted in the polls has not materialised and it is now unlikely that the SNP will be the biggest party.

This is disappointing but it shows what a complex country Scotland is. Despite being in power for over three decades in the Strathclyde area, their policies unable to halt the economic and social decline of this area, Labour keeps getting elected. Well, that’s democracy for you.

In any case, and as I wrote in my previous post, the break-up of the United Kingdom is inevitable. The minute we have a Tory administration in Westminster and a Labour-LibDem or minority SNP administration in Edinburgh, the Scottish Labour party will join the pro-independence camp. For Scottish Labour, it is not about Scotland or even the UK, it is about self-preservation.

The time will come when Scotland will join the rest of the world in its own terms.

The danger, witnessing the results today, is that we could end up in a few years with an independent Scotland, or even a federal Scotland, with a perpetual Labour government. Given the state of Glasgow and Strathclyde after three decades of Labour rule, sometimes I have doubts myself about the best way to go.

People in Strathclyde will vote for a monkey if it wore a Labour rosette. Such is the state of social and emotional dependence from the poorest and unhealthiest communities in Scotland towards the very people that are keeping them in such a condition.

It will take more than a confident and positive campaign for the SNP to make inroads in these areas. I read an article in The Times a few days ago along the lines of “things have to get worse before they get any better”, referring to the French presidential elections. Perhaps that applies to Scotland: we need to be kept in economic and social decline for a little bit longer before people wake up and realise that Labour policies are failing the communities in the west of Scotland.

Perhaps the time is not now, but sure that the time will come.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

It is time to vote for Scotland

Another day in the Scottish elections campaign, another pathetic effort by New Labour at scaremongering and manipulation.

Now it is the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The man who led this country to an illegal and ill-conceived war in Iraq; the man who lied to Parliament about WMD; the man at the helm of the party involved in the “cash for honours” scandal; the man who said “Education, Education, Education” and got us into PFI schools, faith schools, and tuition fees; the man who said “the UK will have an ethical foreign policy” and ordered to stop an inquiry into the dealings between BAE Systems and the corrupt and tyrannical Saudi regime. The leader of a so-called Labour government who will spend £20bn in Weapons of Mass Destructions that will be based in the Clyde. Ad infinitum…

Now Tony Blair tries to scare us into not voting SNP.
And his sidekick, Gordon Brown, openly says that he will not work with a SNP-led Scottish Executive. So, Gordon Brown, current Chancellor and next Prime Minister, refuses to work with the elected representatives of the Scottish people. What a shame for the Labour party to be ruled by such despicable people.

In any case, it is inevitable: Scotland is marching towards independence –regardless of what happens on Thursday.

For years, I have been saying that the minute a Conservative government gains sufficient majority in Westminster, the loudest defenders of the Union hitherto will become its coffin bearers. Once the Conservative forms government in London, Scottish Labour will unashamedly drop their pro-Union stance and push towards Scottish sovereignty. For Scottish Labour, principles are negotiable and flexible, self-preservation is what matters and they will do whatever it takes to keep themselves in power, as they have successfully don in the west of Scotland. It was with a smile that I read the following paragraph in The Times:
“Ten minutes after any future Conservative government is elected by English voters, the Scottish Labour Party (never mind the SNP) is likely to bolt for the door marked “Exit”.

The above is exactly what I think. Labour will switch sides to the pro-independence camp the minute we have a Tory Prime Minister. To me this is as clear as spring water.

By we don’t need to wait. It is time to end the rot, time to put a stop to Scotland’s decline. It is time to make things happen, time to release our potential, time to join the rest of free nations in Europe.

It is time to vote for the future. It is time to vote SNP.

The Herald – Salmond challenges Brown to work with SNP.
Financial Times – Union Blues
The Times – Braveheart on the march
ScotlandVotes – interactive tool
Adam Smith Institute – A road to riches

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Rest in peace

A great man has died today.

I met James for the first time in The Grove pub, in Kelvingrove St, in the West End of Glasgow in September or October 2000. I was with a friend watching the Spanish football game in Sky Sports and he overheard us talking Spanish.
He introduced himself to us and I immediately recognised his name from BBC News stories about Scots serving with the International Brigades. We talked about the Spanish Civil War and the infighting within the Republican side. We also talked about politics and the demise of Communism. Although we disagreed on the issue of Communism, I had the utmost respect for him and his comrades who fought against fascism in Spain.

He was not fluent in Spanish but he could recite Lorca and Machado by heart, with soft Andalusian tones. You could tell he had learnt Spanish from an Andalusian person. Whenever he recited some verses, his eyes would well up a little bit. You could tell he had many stories to tell. I wish he had written a book about it.

I bought him a drink that night in The Grove, and thanked him for his courage and bravery in fighting for Spanish democracy. In fact, every time I saw him in Glasgow, I repeated the same procedure: I shook hands, sometimes a hug, like in the annual International Brigades gathering in Glasgow, and always thanked him.

Thank you James Maley.

The Herald
BBC News (and here)

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

It's time

It is time. Quite right it is time. Personally, I can’t wait.

It is time Scotland gets rid of the culture of dependency and subsidies.
It is time Scotland gets rid of the Labour mafia that dominates our local government and politics.

It is time that the city of Glasgow, where I have lived for the last 7 years, got rid of the local Labour mafia that has kept the city at the bottom of the table of living and social standards.

After 30 years of a Labour-dominated council, Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy in the UK. Some Glasgow wards have living standards below developing countries. This is the record of the Labour party in Glasgow: Easterhouse, Ruchill, Sighthill, Ruchazie, Parkhead, Ibrox.

This is what the Labour party has achieved for Glasgow: poverty, social exclusion and record levels of unemployment, record levels of alcohol and substance abuse, the shortest life expectancy, record levels of heart disease, record levels of knife crime and violence.

We can see what are the results of 30 years plus of Labour government in the city of Glasgow and the west coast of Scotland. For as long as we have a Labour dominated devolved government in Holyrood, where Glasgow leads (or rather sinks), Scotland will follow.

The Union has run its course. England and Scotland have different social priorities, different foreign interests and allies. England is truly becoming the 51st State, attaching itself to US foreign policy regardless of whoever is in power in the White House.

Any Westminster government (Labour or Conservative) is going to look after the interests of England, specifically the interests of the south-east, when determining economic and social policy.

I could write about the rights and wrongs of ending the Union from an economic perspective. But that would be missing the point.

For all the economic potential an independent Scotland would have, it is not about money. It is about being your own, doing your own, being responsible for your own decisions. Scotland’s economy is highly dependent on the public sector. At 51%, public sector spending in Scotland is one of the highest in the EU. Yet, the quality of public sector delivery (large class sizes, crumbling NHS hospitals, expensive and unreliable public transport) is low by EU standards.

It is time to change Scotland’s mindset. It is time to stop blaming Westminster for all our ills. It is time to start being a normal country in the EU. It is time to stop the decline.

Doubtless any split is painful and uncertain. I personally have nothing to gain from Scotland achieving independence. My pension entitlement will be at risk from the political negotiations that will settle the post-Union scenario. The industry I work in (investments and finance) is highly dependant on English clients. However, for the sake of Scotland’s future, it is imperative that something is done to stop the cultural and economic decline of this country. If I were lucky enough to have children, I would have no hesitation to vote for Scotland’s independence. I would not want my children to inherit the country as it is now: a subsidised, public-sector dominated economy; a country lacking self-confidence; a country with a permanent chip on the shoulder about England but also a country that hates itself; a country where success and economic profit is criminalised by the so-called Left, who have a quasi-total monopoly of local power in the central belt; a country with people whose life expectancy is lower than some places in the third world.

It is time to end the rot.
It is time to join the club of free nations in the world who determine their policy according to their needs, and not those of a bigger neighbour.
It is time.

I will be voting SNP on May 3.

Two articles from economist John Kay in the FT: here and here.
How the UK government lied about oil revenues.
The result of Labour policies in Scotland.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Spanish censorship alive and well…

Another political party supporting independence and freedom for the Basque Country, another Spanish judge ordering that party is banned –even before it has been officially formed.

This is the nature of the Spanish ‘democracy’: political parties are allowed, but not if they threaten the “unity” of Spain. The excuse of banning Batasuna because they advocate violence is a joke: I don’t see any judges banning the far-right extremist parties (Falange, Democracia Nacional, Espana 2000, etc) that advocate the use of violence and make use of it regularly in their demonstrations.

This inequality is what is revealing about Spain: you can be an extremist but only if you are on the Spanish side. Thus, Falange and Democracia Nacional are allowed. Batasuna is banned. Fascists newspapers are allowed to print xenophobic and racist vile; on the other hand Basque newspapers are closed.

This is democracy, Spanish style.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

And thus the cultural genocide goes on

So there we have it. TV3 is being banned from the Valencia region. It was inevitable. It was far too normal to be allowed. Far too European and modern. A TV network broadcasting in Catalan in Valencia? No. No chance.

The regional government of the PP has finally decided to close down the transmissions of TV3 in the Valencian area. More proof, if it was needed, of the neo-fascist attitudes of the PP. But that is not the end of it. The PSOE government in Madrid could resolve this ‘crisis’ in 2 minutes: the digital frequencies used by TV3 and the Valencian cultural associations that maintain the transmitters are owned and managed by the Spanish government, not the Valencian government. It would be that simple. But “our friends” of the PSOE will do nothing to prevent this injustice, this exercise of fascist prohibition, this expression, another one, of the ongoing cultural genocide against the Catalan language.

Because this is what is going on. Spain, regardless who is in power, PP or PSOE, has one objective and they pursue it restlessly: they want to ensure that Catalan dies as an everyday language. They have already achieved that in Alacant (Alicante) and in most of the Valencia region (País Valencià), they are on their way to achieve their objective in the Balearics and they are making good progress in the area around Barcelona.

Thus, little by little, by overt action (PP) or wilful inaction (PSOE) Catalan language and culture is being eroded, obliterated from its natural and historical heartlands.

What is most disheartening is that this is happening while the party that thousands of people voted so that we would not back down against Spain, (ERC) the party I have supported for many years, is in power in Catalonia. That is what saddens me, and many other fair-minded Catalans the most. When we thought we had finally a political party ready to defend our interests, it turns out that they cling to power, they befriend our Spanish oppressors, and they back down at every single opportunity, very much like the 23 years we endured of CiU and President Pujol.

It makes you wonder how long our agony will last, how long until the language disappears from public life, how long until Catalonia is just like Occitaine, another historical folkloric anecdote from the past.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Shame on New Labour

If there was any doubt, if you were so naïve to think that the Labour party had any decency left, and that is stretching one’s imagination, it was put to an end today.

The Labour party and their allies, the Conservative party, have voted today to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system based in the Clyde, near Glasgow. (BBC News)

This means an expenditure of £20m (€30m) on a nuclear weapons system, effectively Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) based about 30 miles from where I live.

I am tuned into BBC Radio Scotland (Scotland at Ten), listening to the speeches made in the Commons and I am sick to the teeth of the Labour party. They get this country in an illegal and ill-advised war in Iraq, without UN mandate, and now we get £20 billions (£20,000,000,000) in WMD. Then we complain if Iran wants to develop their own system.

I have never voted for Labour and never will. These despicable people are ruining this country, makes us more vulnerable, not less.

We have the worst train service in the EU 15, yet this Labour government will spend £20bn in WMD.
We have MRSI viruses in our hospitals, yet this Labour government will spend £20bn in WMD.
We have increasing problems with anti-social behaviour, lack of street-policing, yet this Labour government will spend £20bn in WMD.
We have underpaid, and over-worked nurses and teachers, yet this Labour government will spend £20bn in WMD.
We have areas of poverty in Glasgow worse than developing world standards, yet this Labour government will spend £20bn in WMD.

And the people that have voted for this call themselves Labour.
Labour my arse.
They are a disgrace to the proud history of the Labour movement; they are the worst kind of traitors, cowards and self-satisfying bastards on earth. 20 years ago they were campaigning, together with the CND, against nuclear armament.
Now they vote to spend another £20bn on nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction.
What the hell has changed in 20 years? That the Bitch (Thatcher) was in power and now it is the people's party?

Nuclear deterrent”, they call it. To deter who? Al Qaida? The monster they created and financed in the first place? And who are going to attack in retaliation? Who will press the button that will kill thousands of innocent civilians somewhere else?

Unlikely as it is, I really hope, no, I pray with all my heart, that the SNP will win the next Scottish elections on May 3. Yet, I am doubtful. I am afraid that the Scottish people are too afraid of change now. Too afraid of getting rid of the people that have governed the UK for the last decade. Take Glasgow as an example. The local Labour party has been in power in the City Council (or in the previous regional authority) for over 30 years. In all these 30 years, the so-called Labour party in Glasgow have been unable to do anything to improve the quality of life of the people living in this city. Glasgow was at the bottom of the poverty tables 30 years ago, and it remains in exactly the same position now. And they still blame the Tories, or Thatcher, or the SNP or… anybody else but themselves.

And still, what disheartens me the most is that the Labour party, this Labour party that has been unable to do anything to lift Glasgow off the bottom of the poverty league table, the same people that are selling the nation’s assets to private financiers (PPI, PFI, etc), the same people that are privatising our hospitals, the same people that sell honours for cash loans to the party, the same people that got us involved in a stupid, illegal war against a country who had no WMD (unlike ourselves), the same people that have voted to spend £20,000,000,000 on a nuclear weapons of mass destructions system… this people, the Labour party, are going to be returned to power.
That is the sad thing.

It is never wise to get into politics in a foreign country. But I have had enough. I cannot stand being governed by such a bunch of incompetent, corrupt and morally devoid people. I have always voted for the SNP since I arrived to Scotland (except a moment of weakness when I cast a second vote for the SSP…) but this time round I am going to go to the local branch and I am going to offer helping out with whatever they need.

Except I can’t do that because I am writing a thesis for my masters’ degree (part-time student as well as working full-time) and I don’t have any spare time. Damn.

I have been over here for over 8 years, now, always working and paying my NI and Income Tax, even when I was a studying. Never claimed benefits or anything from the state, apart from my 25% single person discount for my council tax. I think 8 years is enough time to get involved, even if I have a rather silly foreign accent. But I am so fed up, I am so raging at this country being held back by these despicable people that I cannot stand it anymore.

Roll on May 3 and let’s all vote SNP and kick the Labour-WMD party out of power. Let’s tell them where to stick their Trident nuclear system of WMD.
Aye, up theirs.