Spain

Greeks Accept Their Newfound Austerity
July 30, 2010

The long, hot Greek summer just got hotter. A strike by fuel tanker drivers has paralyzed the country, stranding tourists, causing food shortages, and leaving 70 percent of gas stations without any gas to pump. In the simplest terms, this is about new austerity measures, in this case, higher fees for truck licenses. But more broadly, it is about the government’s assault on a lifestyle Greeks, rich and poor, have come to take for granted. As one Greek businessman put it to me, "the party’s over." Greece is broke. The signs are big and small.

Ellsberg, Assange, Manning: The Pathetic Search for Heroes
July 29, 2010

I'm in Spain and my copy of the Daniel Ellsberg edition of the Pentagon Papers is in Cambridge. So I do not have access to what I recall as the five volume edition he gave us. He had inscribed in the first volume his "personal thanks for your help in ending the Vietnam War." Unlike Ellsberg, I never was for the Vietnam war. I was against it from the beginning...and worked (not so modestly) to end it. Still, I recognize the importance of Ellsberg's turning. After all, he had been in the small Washington entourage of Robert McNamara and later in the Vietnam circle of Edwin Landsdale.

Obama's Strange Defense of the Hijab, and Syria's Defiance of It.
July 20, 2010

One of President Obama's weirdest causes is his defense of the hijab or the niqab. Not that I want to take the veil away from any Muslim women... anywhere. Still, he is president of the United States and might just want to limit his special pleadings to truly significant ones. Anyway, he didn't. He tried out the trope in Cairo last year and followed it up during the Ramadan fest at the White House. These turned out to be not very successful interventions. As we learn from this morning's newspaper, even Syria has turned its back (or Bashaar Assad, his) on Obama's pleadings.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

A Deal With The Devil
July 17, 2010

Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

Homage to Catalonia. Disregard Your Rulers
July 15, 2010

"Catalans should disregard rulings by Spanish judiciary" is the headline to a letter in the Financial Times. It is signed by Gustau Alegret who wrote from Washington, D.C. I do not know him.

In The Shadows Of The Sacred Family, Catalonia Rises
July 14, 2010

The first time I saw Antoni Gaudi’s phantasmagoric Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona it was unfinished. That was 1965. On another visit, perhaps two decades later, it was still unfinished. And when I returned there on Monday it was not yet completed, although I heard from the conversational buzz around me the years 2012 and 2013. One dour looking pessimist uttered “2017” as the first possible date that the cathedral would really match its dreamer’s vision.

A Reaction From the Streets of Catalonia
July 13, 2010

Standing on the streets of Barcelona – capital of Spain’s Catalonia region – last Saturday, one would have had no idea that the country was preparing to watch its national team compete in the World Cup the very next day. That afternoon, over a million people flooded the downtown to protest a decision issued Friday by the country’s constitutional court striking down some provisions of the territory’s 2006 autonomy statute. That legislation devolved a number of important powers to the region, but was challenged by the country’s conservative political party, the Partido Popular.

James Downie's Best and Worst
July 12, 2010

Best Goal: By miles (which, ironically, seemed like the distance the ball traveled), Giovanni van Bronckhorst against Uruguay. Simply unstoppable. Most important goal (to Americans): Landon Donovan against Algeria, of course. To prove that soccer is now "mainstream," all you have to do is look at the many sports columnists (Bill Simmons, most notably), in their obligatory Lebron articles, using Donovan's goal as an example of what sports can be.

Did Spain Deserve to Win?
July 11, 2010

The best part of this match was that it ended before penalty kicks, where the Dutch could have squeezed out a win and enjoyed the fruits of their goonish performance. Simon Kuper wrote a great column in last week’s Financial Times, where he bemoaned how Holland had turned away from idealism in its football and in its politics. This performance should bury the myth of Dutch Total Football for good.

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