Friday, December 26, 2008

The Children are the Future

The good news is the Gypsies are no longer the most hated immigrant group in Spain among students aged 13 - 19 years old, according to a new survey by a Complutense University group written about in El Pais, now the Moroccans are the most hated.

The bad news is an average of about 20 percent of these enlightened young people think that pretty much all immigrants should be kicked out of Spain entirely - including the Asians and the Jews, although I think there are only about four Jews left in Spain, but still, they gotta go...

If we're only talking about the Moroccans, 40% of native Spanish students in 2008 think they must be kicked out of Spain. Wow! This is actually an improvement, in 2002 the figure was 48% of students who thought they should be sent packing.

How about the Latinos? They are brothers right? Same language, same religion, should they be allowed to stay? Nope. 25% of students said get rid of them. Nice! And this percentage is increasing.

They even write in the article that the results of the survey were so bad in 2002 and then again in 2004, that they did not dare to make them public. Well, that's one way of believing all is well, just don't talk about it.

I wonder what a year or two of the current bad economy will do to these figures? I'm thinking it could get ugly.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

World's Ugliest Christmas Tree

Would you buy this tree? This is almost criminal. How can you decorate a Christmas tree and make it look this bad?

I saw this tree display in a Madrid home improvement store. Granted, this one is really bad but even the one's I saw - that were much better than this one - just seemed to be missing a certain something. I'm not sure what it is exactly, maybe it's a delicacy, proportions of size of ornaments, tastefulness of lights, etc. I think Spain needs a few more years of the tradition to "get" the Christmas tree decoration gene.

On the other hand, something Madrid has been doing for a very long time (before anybody really had Christmas trees in Spain) is the holiday lights in the city. They do a great job on the lights. Even though they say they have been cutting back this year.

Merry Christmas - no matter what your tree looks like.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

El Muelle Lives Again

Well, not really. But there are at least two guys running around now in Madrid defacing the walls in Muelle's name - I assume as an homage. If you remember, I wrote about El Muelle here a while back. He was a young guy, a part time musician, and one of the first taggers in Madrid starting around 1985 but with a difference - he actually had some talent. All the rest, in my personal opinion, pretty much sucked, as they do now. The original Muelle, Juan Carlos Arguello, died young in 1995.

Here is a very badly done El Muelle imitation I found on Calle Fuencarral:

And a better one on c/ Relatores:

But none compare to the original:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

That Didn't Take Long

... For El Roto to get negative that is.

He is going for it only five days after the election. The cartoon guys sees out of his RIGHT eye - then he sees out of his LEFT eye, get it? Nice change.

Funny thing is .... I think I agree with him. There is a lot of drinking of the Obama kool-aid going on with very extreme expectations for his presidency. But I'm not so sure there will be a huge sea-change in actual policies. Of course there will be the usual Democratic party-line changes, taxes, social programs, environment, and everyone wants to end the war, etc. But on other foreign policy fronts, Obama will just be able to explain in a nicer way why he is going to do what he wants to do anyway. Bush just did what he wanted without bothering to explain to, or consult with, the rest of the world - knowing he's going to do it anyway (whatever "it" may be). So I guess he thought why bother? And his presentation skills were, shall we say, lacking. But you gotta at least act like you are listening ....

Obama does have some good presentation skills. Maybe that is enough of a change?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

California Gay Haters?

I'm sure everyone in Spain has now read that California has "Banned Gay Marriage". Sounds pretty bad huh? Sounds like the backward and provincial Americans really haven't changed much - even with the election of Barack Obama.

Some background for Spain. In California there are ballot measures that can make laws. The people vote on what they want - democracy remember? So, in 2000 there was a ballot initiative which stated that the definition of marriage was the "union of one man and one woman." This measure was passed by the voters to the great chagrin of the pro-gay rights people who proceeded to sue. Then in May of 2008, the California Supreme Court decided to overturn that voter made law. The judges said the definition of marriage is just the union of two people - no matter the sex - and no matter what the voters said.

This upset some Californians who asked themselves, "Didn't we just vote on this? Why are they changing our decision?" The only way to stop the judges from doing this again was to amend the California Constitution to define the word "marriage" again to the "union of one man and one woman."

Now, in California we still have a legal "Domestic Partnership". This provides, I believe, all of the same legal protections of marriage - without calling it "marriage".

So, I think two things upset the voters. The first was they did not like the judges changing the definition of "marriage" after it was voted on - essentially overruling the will of the people. The next is yes, I believe there are many Californians uncomfortable with the whole concept of same-sex "marriage", especially old-world newcomers. Remember, California is full of immigrants, traditional people from Mexico, Asia, well .... everywhere.

If the pro-gay rights people had just concentrated on making sure that "Civil Unions" meant that gay couples have all the same rights as traditional heterosexual married couples, then I don't think they would have had a problem. Then they could fight the "marriage" battle later. Remember, Barack Obama's own position is that he is against "Gay Marriage" but for "Civil Unions."

In Spain the people did not have a chance to vote on this matter. The parliament decided it for them. I wonder if they had voted on it, and they had a choice between "gay marriage" and "civil union" would it have been a similar result to California's? This article from El Pais says no. But people are pretty similar everywhere. Traditional views of very old institutions, like marriage, change slowly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back to the Important Stuff - Piso Work Update

Now that I've handled that little election thing it's time to get back to the more important stuff - What the "F" is going on with the Piso project?

Well, I was in Madrid in June / July and swore I was just going to hang out, relax, visit friends, eat menu del dia, drink wine, read El Pais and get pissed off, etc. and not work on the goddamned piso. But I couldn't take it. I decided to start on the cabinets in the kitchen. So, I made the long train trek to the dreaded IKEA, stressed out there, spent too many Euros, fought with the IKEA girls in the kitchen department, got a million boxes back to the house somehow, and got to work.

I tackled the hardest part of the job, the lower cabinets. This included new oven and cooktop, new sink, new dishwasher (gotta have wasteful American-style conveniences - including my garbage disposal I brought from the States), positioning washing machine and clothes dryer - yes a dryer, and a new very heavy solid oak countertop. I got it all installed but not fully working - then I ran out of time and energy.

Doing "obras" in a piso is a huge pain in the ass. You are working inside the house. If you cut a piece of wood the dust goes everywhere, if you have to get rid of some trash or old cabinets, it's five flights of stairs down to try to find a place to get rid of it. It's constant dust, dirt, and mess. Not to mention just getting the construction materials to the piso... there is no car, no elevator, no parking, en fin, it's rough.

I am not finished of course. I'll be back in early December to continue with the torture - but you know I love it.

Losing Streak Unbroken

I'm very proud to say that I continue to be in control of the U.S. Presidential elections.

Yes, I did it. I voted for John McCain. Why? Very simple. My state, California, is a blue state. It always sends it's electoral votes to the Democratic candidate. My vote for John McCain could in no way actually help him. Likewise, my vote for Barack Obama would not really help him either since he already won California before the election even began. So I very logically decided that the only value my vote had was in it's "Jinx" value. I couldn't risk it and actually vote for the candidate I wanted. My strategy paid off handsomely and my candidate lost - exactly as planned.

Only In America

Truly, only in America. A self made, not rich, first generation immigrant (on his father's side), and a black American, is the president. Everyone was happy and excited it seems. Even on Fox News Channel, Carl Rove... CARL ROVE - Bush's guy! Was saying what an amazing moment this was, how historic, and how Obama simply kicked McCain's ass and we must support the new president and pray for him. John McCain was extremely gracious in his concession speech offering all his help and support for Obama. And of course, Obama's acceptance speech was good - but speaking seems to be so easy for him...

I definitely was touched again by our concept of the "loyal opposition". Even though the campaign was nasty at times, after it's over everyone says, "Well, he won so that's that. He's the President - and we will support him." It's a nice honeymoon period for at least a short while....

How long will the honeymoon period last in Europe?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Done

There was a lot of people in the middle of the day at my local polling place. Not like a huge line, but more than usual. There also seemed to be more poll worker volunteers. Voters were making sure that the ballot was correctly placed in the holder before inking, asking the volunteers to assist them, people were really into it.

Now we wait and see.

El Roto is Happy - Or is He?

Big day today. The whole world is watching. El Roto is watching too.

I can't quite figure out if this is a positive cartoon or not. I look at it and I'm not crazy about the cowering black man in the corner with the big nasty white dude in front. I guess the sentiment is positive - that a black man can become president of the United States. But I can't help thinking that it is also one last jab. The Spanish and Europeans love to remember slavery like it was yesterday. Everyone knows that only the Americans ever participated in this horrible pastime.... Right?

When I think about an Obama presidency the last thing that comes to my mind is slavery. Maybe that's because Obama's father came from Kenya in the 1960's - a little late to be a slave. And another reason - I feel like that slavery thing is kind of behind us now. Of course it is our history, it shaped us, we've struggled, it's been very rough at times. But the point is we're moving forward.

So, is El Roto happy or not?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I am in Control of the U.S. Presidential Elections

I’m a relatively old guy (46 y.o.) and have voted in every presidential election since 1980. Problem is, I have never picked a winner - not once. So, I’m going with the completely logical theory that I personally have the power to decide the outcome of the U.S. Presidential elections. The winner will be whomever I don't pick. Of course, I am not considering the theory that I just sometimes make boneheaded voting choices.

Let’s review my voting record. This by the way, is very personal information. You’re not really supposed to do this, voting is between you and the booth. But I don’t know you people so what the hell…

1980: Carter vs. Reagan - my losing pick? Carter

1984: Reagan vs. Mondale - my losing pick? Mondale

1988: H.W. Bush vs. Dukakis - my losing pick? Dukakis

1992: H.W. Bush vs. Clinton v.s Perot - my losing pick ? Perot (I can’t explain this vote)

1996: Clinton vs. Dole vs. Perot - my losing pick? Perot (Maybe it was Ralph Nader? either way - loser)

2000: G.W. Bush vs. Gore - my losing pick? Gore

2004: G.W. Bush vs. Kerry - my losing pick? Kerry

As you can clearly see, any candidate I pick for president will lose. This obviously is a very powerful position to be in. I must carefully consider my next decision – because I am in control. Should I vote for who I really want to win and risk jinxing it for everyone else? Or should I be smart this time and vote for the guy I want to see lose? I really have a problem here people.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm Not Popular

In Europe there are accepted political views that most people adhere to. People say they would vote Democratic in a U.S. election (if they could), they really don’t like George You-know-who, they think green house gases are bad and are man's fault, etc. They also have a sort of "group-think" opinion on America. You know, the usual... the U.S. is the problem (whichever the ailment), Americans aren't very bright, they're violent, shallow, greedy, etc. They don't want to hear anything positive about the U.S. or it's people because that would not fit their accepted views. This is why it is much more profitable for newspaper articles, magazines, and websites to take an anti-U.S. view. It's what sells.

But what if you express a differing opinion than this norm? It's clear to me that you will be regarded with suspicion at the very least, but more likely with scorn and derision. Needles to say, you won't be very popular among the European masses.

Luckily for me (and my lonely site-meter counter), I’m not trying to be popular. I can toil away in obscurity forever because I’m not trying to make a buck. But what if I were? Would it be wise to express my unpopular opinions on my potentially money-making website?

I have to say that business and "non-accepted" political views are not a good mix in Europe. I can't imagine a business venture-type web site doing well if it expressed unpopular political opinions - or if it had anything positive to say about America or Americans. Of course, it would not be a problem for that same web site if it expressed the usual negative views.

So listen up entrepreneurs in Europe! If you happen to think the U.S. is not the root of all evil, or not the cause of everything bad in the past and present ..... stay popular and keep it under your hat. A differing viewpoint will NOT be tolerated and you will be judged right where it hurts - in the wallet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obsessed with Race

I’ve noticed that many Spanish journalists seem to have a vision of America that they have a hard time letting go of. The vision they are clinging to so tightly is one of a fundamentally racist American society. I guess this view makes them feel comfortable, maybe a little superior, and probably safe in their own prejudices and long held beliefs. They really seem to be obsessed with race. Well, at least race in America.

When I read articles like this one from El Pais, I can’t help thinking that the writer had to go out of his way to find what he was looking for. He quotes Harley Davidson riders in the deep South, Rednecks in a gun store, and mentions the KKK several times like it actually has any relevance anymore. Maybe I’m crazy and I probably have been living in a racially mixed society for too long, but in my American world people are not running around talking about the colors of the candidates. They are talking ideology, experience, our taxes – the usual stuff.

There are also some quotes that are real gems in this article too:

“If God was black and Satan was white, there would be Americans willing to forget heaven and burn in hell at the hand of the white demon.”

And I love this one – the obligatory dig at fatso Americans:

“Susan, forty years old, enemy of diets and gastronomic moderation, sells clothes from the front of her house … etc. etc.”

It seems like the writer of the article really wants Obama to lose. If Obama loses – he will be correct in his beliefs. Americans will be proved racist and it will be clear for all to see. If the unthinkable happens (in his eyes) and Obama should win, then there will have to be an explanation. I wonder what that explanation will be? I’m sure El Pais will let me know.

Of course everyone knows that race does play a part in this election. There obviously are racist idiots in America who will vote against Obama because he is black – just like there are many people who will vote for him just because he is black. But can we get a little credit for how far we have come in the race relation area at least? A black American is the Democratic candidate for president after all. That's pretty good guys.

Well, if El Pais won’t say it I will. No matter what happens in this election - Nice work fat Americans! You have come a long way trying to get along together – now go on that diet.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Keeping it Interesting

Well, at least the Americans give the rest of the world something to talk about. It might be about complete world financial ruin and how did those Cowboys do it to us? Or maybe it’s where the latest war is going to be, etc. But there is no denying that when we cause stories – they are big ones. The world should thank us. We’re keeping it interesting. Face it, life would be so boring without us.

There’s the presidential race that the whole world wishes they could vote in with a cast of characters right from an American movie. We’ve got the semi-hot vice presidential nominee who it looks like might be an air-head (we’ll find out more tonight). There’s the war hero who has to remind everyone every five minutes of his time spent in a Viet Nam prison. There’s the son of an African immigrant with the pushy wife who was abandoned by his father as a child but may be the next President of the United States. In short, interesting.

What else is fun for you guys to talk about? People can walk around with guns in their pockets in some states - legally. That is always good for a newspaper story at least once every month.

There’s the movie and music business. People in Europe know much more about it than I do, and I’m from L.A. Everyone has an opinion too. They may say that all American movies suck but they still watch them – and talk about them.

We have last season’s characters in the persons of George W. and Dick Cheney. Wow, did they ever entertain the folks for the last eight years! There really is no denying that.

It’s always fun to blame us too. That never gets old (and sometimes we deserve it). Global warming, terrorism, financial ruin, rampant racism, greed. I’ll let you decide which ones we deserve the blame for … (I know you'll say "all of the above"). You guys can discuss it at the bar.

What's coming next? I know the world will be glued to their TV’s, laptops and newspapers waiting to find out. I wish we could sell this stuff and make some money… It might help pull us out of our latest catastrophe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some Links to Check Out

Roberto Says the current Wall Street news is the death of capitalism. There is a lot of shit going down on "C/ Muro, 1". I hope it is not the death of the market system but it sure seems like those greedy idiots need some more rules to keep them in line. This sounds like an issue Obama should jump on and milk.

I remember writing a short while back that I didn't hear the word "crisis" bandied about in the states as much as I did in Spain - or so I thought. I stand corrected. Now it's a crisis. Maybe those soup lines are coming after all.

Pajamas Media has something on Europeans' views of America which contribute to them being disgusted with us - problem is a lot of their facts are wrong. It seems they are as ignorant of us as we are of them... (I have known this for a long time).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Europe is Gonna Hate This Lady

I'm afraid we have a real race on our hands. Everyone in the Obama camp (and the U.S. media) was feeling pretty cocky right after the Democratic National Convention. It didn't last very long.

McCain really pulled a fast one on us with this conservative lady governor. Everyone's first reaction was, "What an idiot McCain is! Does he think we're stupid"? Then she got up to speak. And the chick can speak.

The media instantly piled on trying to bring up any dirt they could - and there is some dirt - but everything they said only hurt Obama more. Sarah Palin is a tough one to beat up on. The Obama-supporting media actually called her a bad mother because she has a job! Now that's a tough sell - and a very hypocritical position for the Democrats to take. They have to be very careful here or it will continue to jump up and bite them in the ass.

I do know one thing though. Europe (and the American Left) is going to hate this lady. She possesses a boatload of the "typical" American stereotypes that Europe hates. Like:

1) Conservative Politically
2) Religious (Christian, of course. The religion they can't stand the most)
3) Goes Hunting!
4) Comes from a small town
5) Only been out of the US one time.
6) Is against abortion
7) Has a bunch of kids
8) Chose to have a Down's Syndrome child instead of aborting.

I know she will be dismissed as a conservative religious fanatic by most Europeans. The same is happening in the U.S. media. But, she's different. She's a mother, not rich, not male, not Washington. She may be more religious than you or me, but she is more "real" than all of those other politicians. People tend to identify with that. Can she "Be the leader of the free world" as they say? Is she qualified? Who knows? But who the hell is!

This is going to be very interesting. The Obama camp is praying (yes, they are praying now) that she will just make a massive mistake. We'll see. If she puts McCain in the white House many people are going to be in total shock - in the U.S. and in Europe. And boy will they be pissed!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still Too Shallow to Appreciate Woody

I saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona last night and I have to say I still don’t get Woody. I must be too shallow. I love his early stuff though – when he was funny - movies like Annie Hall, Sleeper, and Love and Death. But now I just get irritated.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is about obviously rich and spoiled broads, who have all the time and money in the world to just hang out and worry about things, complain and whine, cheat on their boyfriends / husbands, and basically be ungrateful for everything they have.

As a guy who knows how much things cost in Spain, and most importantly, how expensive time is, the time to do what you want, time to hang out, time to think instead of working, etc… It really annoys me that everyone in this movie is seemingly filthy rich with lots of time on their hands. They stay in virtual palaces, go to hotels that would easily cost 600 Euros a night, they fly in private planes, go to quaint private Spanish guitar performances, they spend money on the town like drunken sailors and all with no visible means of support.

The same goes for the painter, Javier. His house is amazing, he drives a vintage 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto in perfect condition (no maintenance there, ha!), flies a plane, and all without ever selling a painting (they all looked pretty bad to me). He’s not exactly a poor, suffering artist….

I know I’m supposed to suspend disbelief but I couldn’t do it. There was nothing real people could relate to in this movie.

In short, everyone is a self-obsessed whiner, especially the Americans. Honestly, they are an embarrassment – and boring to watch. The only character that was interesting, who actually moved around a little and said something different was Penelope. She looks good angry too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Woody Happily Takes Barcelona's Money - While They Go Broke

It’s a tough contrast to see Woody next to those two. I considered cutting him out of the picture but news is news. Just hold your hand over Woody’s face so you can enjoy the view.

Allen’s latest movie premiered in L.A. this week. As you remember, Woody got paid from the guys in charge in Barcelona / The Generalitat, to make the movie. You would assume Allen has a special place in his heart for Barcelona or something, but it turns out that Woody would have gone to any ol’ city to film – just as long as they picked up the tab:

Quote Allen, “People from Barcelona called and said if I was interested in making a film there, they would finance it, so I said, ‘sure’,” he admitted at Cannes. “If someone had called me from Rome or Venice or Stockholm or god knows where, I probably would have agreed to it just as readily.”

Nice Woody! You should at least lie a little and say that Barcelona is the greatest place in the world and you would’ve spent even your own money to film there.

What’s funny about this (not funny, ha, ha, but funny ironic) is that on the same day, in the same newspaper (El Pais), the front page headline is the following:

Catalans’ “basic services” threatened by cash shortfall

It seems that the down-turn in the economy could effect education and even healthcare. Of course they are blaming Madrid for taking their money but what about bone-head moves like this one?

I wonder if Woody shares any of the money the movie makes with Barcelona. If he does, I’m sure the “usual” Hollywood accounting practices will be in place, i.e., even if it makes a ton of money (which it won’t) – Barcelona will be told it was all spent in distribution, sorry!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Does Anyone Else Think This is Nuts?

Well, he only killed twenty five people, it's not like it was a really awful crime. He also was a nice guy in prison, working in the laundry and so on, so that really counts. And he did do 14 months for each of his victims (21 years for 25 murders). So, what more do you want?

Seriously, what the hell is Spain thinking? Is this some kind of joke? Symbolic prison sentences of 3000 years, time off for "good behavior" in murder cases, child rapists let out after a ridiculously short sentence - or doing no time at all! I know we Yanquis are brutal barbarians with the death penalty and all (not in all states), but I'm sorry, this guy should not walk out of prison ever, neither should child killers. Pedophiles can not be "reformed" and guys who kill 25 people revoke their right to live in society with the rest of us, even if they convert into Mother Teresa in jail.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What's He Gonna Say?

From Bloomberg about Obama's big Berlin Speech:

``We may be in for a rude awakening,'' said Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a member of parliament's foreign affairs committee from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. ``Obama views cooperation as anything but a one-way street.''

Obama ``wants to make the old alliances more meaningful by asking more of the allies,'' said Jan Techau, a transatlantic affairs expert at the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations. ``He will try and softly prepare the Europeans for what's going to happen as soon as he enters the White House, if he does so.''

Obama may demand ``greater burden-sharing'' from European allies in Afghanistan, said Eckart von Klaeden, foreign-affairs spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats.

``Obama has made it very clear that he will channel the resources from Iraq into Afghanistan, because Afghanistan in his eyes is the right war to fight,'' said Techau. ``And for that right war to be successful, he will ask for more.''

``I'm somewhat wondering about how realistic our expectations are,'' Stelzenmueller said, adding that she expects ``nothing concrete'' in terms of policy proposals. ``Ultimately, Obama has no choice but to pursue U.S. national interests, even though he displays multilateral instincts.''

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nice Post Over at Hermann's

Some people are pissed off that Iraq is going well. I know the newspapers really don't like to mention it. Clarsonimus notes how the Germans don't want to talk about it but they will gladly go to Iraq and drill some oil.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama the American

Europe is excited about a possible President Barack Obama. This is something they did not think was possible, after all it has been shoved down their throats for decades what an unfair and racist society America is. Another thing shoved down their throats is that President Bush is the most evil, arrogant, violent, stupid, imperialistic and greedy man in the world.

Enter Obama stage-left politically, or so Europe hopes. Here’s the guy that is going to fix it all. He’s going to pull out of Iraq, he’s going to be Mr. Environmentalist, he's going to be some kind of new American Socialist. (What’s funny about this is that now that Bush is leaving most of Europe has conservative governments). They think he is just going to toe the line on what the world wants.

In Madrid recently, I had a conversation with a Spanish friend who was going on about Obama’s ethnicity and rumored (incorrectly) religious beliefs. He was describing him as black, as maybe Muslim, as a minority, just as “different”. So I told him, “You’re forgetting one thing. Above all that - he’s an American.”

I think Europe could be making the same mistake. If they think there is going to be some huge sea change in American policy due to an Obama presidency – they’re wrong. There will be changes of course. But there is no way he’s going to bail on Iraq immediately, he is already basically saying as much. There is no way he won’t continue in Afghanistan. He is not going to suddenly stop the fight against terrorism. He already voted for Bush’s renewal of the FISA electronic surveillance bill, the same goes for economic policies, etc. Obama has started his inevitable move toward the political center so he can get elected.

So in short, I’m expecting a nice honeymoon period for Barack Obama in Europe right after he’s elected. He will be seen as being able to do no wrong, as somehow just not like those other Presidents. Then there will be the gradual realization, issue by issue, that things really haven’t changed too much – just the packaging has.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Europe is going to miss George W. Bush. Now there was a guy everyone could agree on hating. Judging a book by it’s cover is just so much easier than reading it. George Bush's book cover was clear - Republican, white, rich kid, etc. Obama's cover looks easy to judge also - but is it?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Photo Exclusive! U.S. Illegal Workers Running in Fear

"Hispanos have become the invisible minority. Fear of the raids and of being deported have created an historic withdrawal .... Latinos have disappeared due to pure fear..." - El Mundo, June 2008

As you can see El Mundo is right on the money. Look at those poor bastards running in fear from the evil American "Domestic Security Squads." Oh the humanity! They have obviously disappeared due to pure fear ....

Well seriously folks, those are illegal immigrant workers in Los Angeles waiting for contractors or homeowners to drive by and give them work for the day, or week, or whatever. The police and the evil domestic security (Homeland Security) don't do jack squat to them. Everyone knows that these guys just want to work for an honest buck.

Is it a problem if every street corner in L.A. fills up with guys standing around looking for work? Of course. So some kind of order (and limits) have to be brought to the immigration system (or lack thereof) but mass deportations will never be a part of any "solution." All those guys probably have family members in L.A. - legal voting family members. McCain and Obama want those votes.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sunday Spanish Lunch - Before and After

Not a very "hard hitting" post subject, but isn't that a great looking couple of appetizers? That's a plate of Iberian cheeses and cured meats like Iberian bellota ham of course, and a few others I can't name right now. The salad is cogollos or heart of lettuce with tuna or bonito. Everything looks so organized at the beginning, but then it ends up like this:

Actually, the "after" part is my favorite time since that is when they whip out the booze and the coffees and we sit around wasting time. The booze is an herbal liquor that is supposed to help with digestion. I'm not so sure about that, but I do know it does the trick in the "getting a buzz on" department.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Check Out This El Pais Headline!

Now that I'm off reading El Mundo because knowledgeable Blog readers say it's a rag (panfleto) I've turned my attention back to my preferred foil, El Pais. So I'm reading along expecting to see the usual bad information about the U.S. in there, and I see this evenly balanced article with a very positive headline, "The US Begins to Win the War." They even have a second descriptive headline that calls the Iraq war, "The Conflict in Iraq." Hey, it's not even a war anymore!

They talk about the improvements, they talk about the decreases in deaths, they talk about increased oil production, they talk about how in the U.S. we hear less about the war (like Spain since the news is better reporters don't want to talk about it). They also (very reasonably) say that it ain't won yet, shit could still go down.

Good article. The only thing I was not crazy about was their description of "". This organization was created when President Clinton was being hunted down for getting a, well, you know. I really liked them then. Now they have turned into something else... El Pais calls them, " The most powerful group for the support of the Democrats." Well maybe. Except I think they would elect Hugo Chavez if they could.

I tell you truthfully, the article did not have any of the usual shenanigans in it. Nicely done! And I have definitely never seen an article this positive - even in Yanquilandia.

Oh, and at least compared to this article, El Mundo does seem like a panfleto.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Immigration Hypocrisy

Reading the Spanish Press can really make a guy irritable. After seeing these kinds of articles for at least 25 years, I thought the press in Spain would ease up on trying to show the Yanquis in the worst possible light – at least in areas where Spain is facing exactly the same problems as we are, and when Spain and Europe are acting more harshly than we ever have.

An article in El Mundo with the ominous title of, “From ‘Yes We Can’ To The Fear of The Round-ups” is filled with desprecia for evil racist Americans who hate Hispanics, are hunting them in the streets, building fences, and trying to require employers to actually hire legal workers (shocker!), etc.

Taking a page from the playbook of John at Iberian Notes, here are some maddening quotes from the article - with my witty commentary:

"It was an historic harvest in 2006, millions of Hispanos coming out of the shadows to take Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, etc. to the cry of “Yes we can!” Obama took this slogan as his own two years later….."

Hispanos coming out of the shadows? They own Los Angeles! They came out to demonstrate with absolutely no fear of being “rounded up”. In fact, in Los Angeles there is a specific law that the police cannot even ask if you are legal or not, let alone arrest you for being undocumented. And I thought Obama’s slogan was something about change?

"Hispanos have become the invisible minority. Fear of the roundups and of being deported have created a historic withdrawal .... Latinos have disappeared due to pure fear..."

Give me a freaking break! Has this guy ever even stepped foot in the US? If they dropped you in most parts of LA you would think it was Mexico. Everybody is Latino and everything is in Spanish. I’ll tell you where they better have some fear. In Europe they can now throw you in jail for 18 months if you are undocumented. In Italy it’s going to be a crime to not have papers. In France they are bragging about how many they are tossing out of the country.

"There are more than 12 million illegal aliens in the US. Attempts to regulate the situation or to create a legal way out for at least some of them have been a failure in the midst of a climate of complete Hispanophobia created by politicians like ex Republican presidential candidate Tony Tancredo and the ultra right wing Pat Buchanan..”

What a complete exaggeration – Hispanophobia my ass! What the F? Tony who? I swear I don't even know who this guy is. And who cares what Pat Buchanan says – no one! He doesn't even hold an office now. Does anyone remember that Ronald Reagan (an evil Republican) gave amnesty to hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers – my friend Agapito amongst them – like 25 years ago? Yeah, we hate Mexicans! Here in Spain, they love everyone – except the poor bastards in the cayucos.

"Both Obama and McCain are in favor of construction of a third portion of wall between the US and Mexico … both consider this a priority of “national security."

No kidding! How horrible of them! Of course there are no walls between Spain and North Africa. The fact is this is only a tiny length of fence they are talking about. Do you know how hard it would be to actually build any worthwhile fence between the US and Mexico? There is only a decent fence in the areas where the most people cross over.

"The Department of Domestic Security has launched an offensive that resonates like a military operation, "Operation Streamline", it's mission to detain, imprison, and deport immigrants without papers..."

If they really did this on a large scale there would be some major complaining going on.. They did it in one town, at one factory.. And even if there are more of these, what the hell else are we supposed to do?

"In New York, the Jesuit Joel Magallan, working with the “Asociacion Tepeyec”, has decided to act first and start a campaign to educate Hispanic children and adolescents. “2009 is going to be the year of immigration reform and we have to be ready. We have to register all young Hispanics so they can vote and fight for their rights.”

Wait a minute. I thought they were hiding in the shadows? They can vote? Of course El Mundo doesn’t remind their readers that anyone born in the US is automatically a citizen. Is this how it is in Spain? I didn't think so.

Everybody wants a rational solution to this problem and that will never mean kicking out everyone who is in the US illegally. Evil Republicans and Democrats alike want some kind of amnesty. Americans know better than anyone that our country was created and built by immigrants - but it's kind of hard to take in all of Mexico and South America. Maybe Spain has some advice for us. On second thought that's alright, but how about a little understanding at least?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Real Conversation

So I was out doing errands today and in so doing I had to go into an official City of Madrid building. Of course they have security and a metal detector, and as I passed through the metal detector - it beeped.

“Do you have anything metalico?” Asked the guard.

“I have llaves.” I replied.

While I removed my keys and went through the archway a second time a conversation was struck up between us based upon my accent and strange looks.

Noting my white-boy face the guard joked, “Where are you from? Almeria?

People from Almeria are more on the Moreno side.

Flattered that he didn’t say North Dakota, and not quite realizing the joke, I responded, “No California.”

This of course is an invitation to immediately launch into the usual “Bush comments”. The guard was enjoying himself now.

“Bush, he’s your friend huh? You know he’s crazy.”

Ignoring the “crazy” part I said, “Obama’s my friend now, haven’t you heard of him?” Trying to let him know that the amount of “hate Bush days”, are numbered. This kind of stuff used to bother me but now I’m over it. More good-natured banter ensued while I gathered my belongings out of the machine.

“Am I in the right place to pay the IBI (a kind of tax)?” I asked.

He assured me that I was, but he wasn’t done with me yet. He had a new line of questioning to pursue.

“Hey,” he said. “My friend in Long Island says that there are two kinds of Social Security taxes in America, one for the rich people and another for the poor people."

“Oh yeah”, I replied, “Is this friend of yours American or Spanish?”

“Neither, he’s South American" ( I can’t remember the country).

“Well,” I broke the bad news, “You are not getting good information. There is only one Social Security tax, it’s just that the rich people are probably not going to depend on the benefits.”

Undaunted he continued, “ You know, whenever I tell my friend in Long Island that I don’t really like Americans (me caen mal), he gets real mad at me. He says that everyone is very nice to him over there."

Amazed that he would say this to my face, for once I didn’t completely stand there at a loss for words.

“Hey, what’s your name?” I asked.


“Encantado Jose, soy Carlos. Hey Jose, How many Americans do you know?"

“ I only know the ones on TV.”

That’s what the man said, gentle readers. I shit you not.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Obligatory "Where to Eat in Madrid" Post

Every Madrid-centric website has one of these kinds of posts - so now it’s my turn.

When I am in Madrid I only want Spanish food. I don’t want to try some weird pizza with tuna or anchovies on it. Likewise, I would never go to a Chinese restaurant unless Spanish friends insist. I know that the food is terrible, drowned in starchy sauce, and the Chinese people are laughing at what they are giving us white ghosts. Besides, Los Angeles (Monterey Park) has some great Chinese food - maybe even better than Hong Kong.

Continuing with the rant. I also don’t want other kinds of Italian. Why waste my time on pasta that I could get anywhere? And there is no way I’m trying Mexican food again. Maybe someday Madrid will catch up with Los Angeles in the Mexican food department, but I haven’t seen it yet. I also don’t really understand – and therefore don’t appreciate - French food, so that’s out. It’s possible that Sushi might be OK because the Spanish do know fresh fish, but I can’t chance it unless I see real Japanese people behind the bar (and eating in there too). The Indian food (called Hindu here) might be OK except that it’s usually made by Pakistanis. I don’t know anything about Pakistani food or if it is even different than Indian – but I should know this. The Arabic food has got to be good. Must get up the nerve to go into some of those places with the water pipes.

Ok, so I think it’s pretty clear that it’s going to be Spanish. One more thing, I’m not a fan of fancy and expensive restaurants. I may try to fly business class whenever I can, but I am just not impressed with expensive places when you can get great eats in Madrid at normal, not big money, restaurants. The truth is I’m not a gourmet kind of a guy (which may mean everyone should stop reading this post right now).

If you are still there, here are my picks for regular, good Spanish food, in restaurants filled with Spanish people:

La Sanabresa – c/ Amor de Dios, 12

Mano a Mano – c/ Lavapies, 16

Finca de Susana – c/ Arlaban, 4 (This one looks fancy but the prices are great. For some reason the waiters are all Filipinos and very surly.)

La Puebla – c/ Ventura de la Vega, 12

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Gods of Business Class

As anyone who has ever flown in the good seats can attest, once you fly Business Class to Europe, it is VERY difficult to go back to the economy section. There is nothing like actually sleeping to Europe.

I have flown to Madrid really a lot of times over the years. And, like most normal turistas, I always flew economy. But then I got a little older, a little wiser, more spoiled, and finally joined the frequent flyer club. I also signed up all my credit cards, business expenses and personal, in the frequent flyer program so every dollar I spend goes toward miles - because it is now my goal to only fly Business Class to Europe. This is not an easy goal. It takes planning, perseverance, money, and luck. I have never actually paid a full fare to fly business class. I always have been able to use points, maybe points and some money, maybe find a deal, and the best of all worlds – just getting lucky.

This brings me to this trip. I was screwed. I did not have enough points and I could not use some points and some money because they did not have any available “points seats”. I was resigned to fly with the civilians and suffer to Madrid.

As a last ditch effort I called British Airways the day before my flight and asked the dude if there was any chance I could get in with the rich people by using points, money, flattery, whatever. I said that this call is just a shot in the dark, etc. He said that the only thing I could do is buy a seat for $14,000! I joked with him and said, “Is that all! No problem!” Then I said, “Well maybe next time. I tried, no big deal.” I then thanked the British Airways man and hung up.

As a last, last ditch effort, I also asked at the airport if there was any possibility of upgrading and basically got the same reply – pay an S-load of money and you can. Oh well, it looks like the cattle car for me.

Then an amazing thing happened. As I gave the lady my boarding pass for her to scan at the gate there was a curious beep and she said, “ Mr. Carl, we have a seat change for you. Please step inside the gate for a moment.” Holy Shit! The Gods of Business Class smiled upon me and upgraded my seat for NADA!

Now I’m trying to figure out the mysterious ways of the Gods. Why did that happen? I’m thinking it was because I was a human being to the British Airways man on the phone. I’m sure he talks to a bunch of Dicks all day long giving him a hard time about their stupid seats. I was polite, joked with him, told him that it was no big deal, etc. What I didn't realize until now is he probably has it in his power to put a little tick in my computer record that says, “Give this guy a seat if one is open”, etc. In short, he is an angel of the Gods of Business Class.

Moral of the story: Always treat people well, they may be messengers to the Gods.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bullfighting – If You’re Not Spanish, You Can’t Understand

There’s a small brouhaha going on over at Notes From Spain. Ben can always get the natives riled up over a nice discussion about the evils of bullfighting - and related pastimes. There were many comments from non-Spanish newcomers denouncing the practice, and a mix from Spanish people alternately denouncing and defending la corrida de toros. As usual, the Spaniards doing the defending were getting pretty offended and I think this time I am on their side.

I was wondering if it is even possible for non-Spanish people to really understand the fiesta nacional. I mean, we probably just don’t get it and never will get it and should just stay out of it. I for one like that Spain has the bullfight. It sounds terrible, but I am willing to sacrifice a few bulls to keep Spain “Spain”. We would not be fascinated with the place if it were not for all this interesting stuff going on. I have only been to two bullfights in my life and they were great, exotic and Spanish. However, I did not catch the bug, but I don’t want them to end either. I like the idea of the bullfight. Are they brutal? Hell yes! That’s life! I think the Spanish people should not try to “defend” bullfights anymore. They should just say, “ Yeahh, they’re nasty, and beautiful, a lot of fun, all ours, and what a show!”

Now here’s where I’m going to lose you if I have not lost you already, I draw a very tenuous parallel between a common Yanqui custom that I do not believe the world can ever fully understand – gun ownership. Yeah, some Americans like guns, they like to hunt, they use them as tools, they like to hone their skills, they think of them as fine machinery, they can be a hobby and a pastime, they are a part of some people’s lives, they are a responsibility. Most of the world dismisses the gun-toting Yanquis as barbarians, or red-necked, violent simpletons (and some are I’m sure). And of course many Americans also think this same way. Sound familiar? There are more and more Spanish people who do not want the Bullfight to continue.

So, just as I wish the rest of the world would at least consider the unique cultural and historic aspects of the gun in America and not judge too harshly, I’ve decided that we non-Spanish types need to keep our noses out of the fiesta nacional and let the Spanish decide when it dies. Likewise, the Americans will decide when to ban the guns. Both are coming of course.

Update: Good Bullfight Article.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama's Dirty Secret

Spain dwellers will probably be surprised to hear that a very common Spanish pastime that Barack Obama indulges in is something that he is desperately trying to conceal from the American people. Smoking.

This is a big deal over in Yanquilandia because many people see smoking as a very nasty habit only partaken in by weak-willed individuals. Presidents don’t smoke, at least not modern day Democratic presidents. Smoking is for shady, back-room dealing Republicans.

Obama says he is trying to quit, or has quit, or something. The Barack-obsessed American media sure isn’t going to out him though. They consistently only have great things to say about ol’ Barack. I bet if Hillary even looked at a cigarette it would be all over the papers about what white trash she is.

One good thing they say the cigarettes do for Obama is they make his voice all maple syrupy and smooth, like some kind of jazz radio disk-jockey. People really do love his voice. If he quits smoking he may lose that rich, resonant, authoritative sound that some people say intones “president.”

Maybe Hillary should pick up a pack of Ducados. Her voice could use some toning down. People may be voting solely on which voice they will be subjected to for the next 8 years.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bota - Is there Anything More Spanish?

Well maybe there is, but the Spanish wine skin, or Bota, has got to be one of the most Spanish icons out there. And I'm not talking about the crappy plastic-lined imitations. No, it has to be the real deal, hand made, with tar inside, or pez.

I bought these two at a Boteria in Madrid, kind of a while ago. The workshop was over in the South of Latina area - one of those streets above Puerta de Toldeo. Like most places in Madrid, I knew more or less where it was but not the exact street or address. I tried to find it once again after many years but had no luck.

So, the other day I was looking at my botas, and I did what everyone does now if they are trying to find something, I Googled "boteria" and came up with several things. One of which was a post that I missed from Sal's Virtual Tapas Bar. It seems that Sal is an aficionado of the bota too and he did a great job of laying out the do's and dont's of bota use and maintenance.

Proper Bota Boozing Technique:

Sal also says that as of 2004 the boteria is called:

Botería Julio Rodriguez
Calle Aguila, 12
28005 Madrid
Tel: +34-91-365-6629

I have to check that out when I am in Madrid next - hopefully this June.

I also came up with this great link to a video - complete with flamenco guitar accompaniment - of the bota fabrication process.

I do have to say that I am a bota snob though because mine not only are authentic hand made piel with tar inside, but they also have tapones made of bull horn (asta de toro), not plastic. Jealous?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Interesting Language Story

The Portuguese have decided to go Brazilian - at least in how they speak and write. They are going to adopt Brazilian Portuguese as their official language.

They've done the math, and came to the conclusion that Portuguese from Portugal with it's 10 million speakers, just can't win in the face of Brazilian Portuguese and their 190 million speakers. So, they are going to change about 2,000 words from "Portugal Portuguese" to "Brazilian Portuguese".

Can you imagine a similar thing happening in Spain? There is no way they would adopt "South American Spanish", not that I'm saying they should. Of course there would be the problem of which brand of South American Spanish to adopt?

How about the Brits? That one is a little more clear cut. We all know they should give up on the "organise" and spell it "organize" etc., and just speak like the Yanks already (wink).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Slacking Off

Well, not really. One thing about vacations - it takes too damn much work to prepare for them, go on them, then recover from them. It's almost not worth it.

My real life has been seriously getting in the way of my pathetic web life. I planned a long weekend in Maui but then had to work my ass off at the day job to be able to leave town, then I get back and have to work my ass off because I was gone. And this is just for a lousy self-made "puente" of four days!

Anyway, That's Maui up there, it was nice, etc.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Freedom From Religion

"Freedom of Religion" is on some people's minds these days in Spain, but I think what Spain needs is a little freedom from religion.

This article from El Pais explains that Muslims in Spain want their piece of the subsidy pie - right now mostly reserved for Catholics. They want the State to pay for religious instruction in Islam (which in fact is what the current law says Spain will do). This is in the name of freedom of religion. So, who's next? the Buddhists, the Hindus, the Scientologists? Of course the answer is there should be no public money for ANY religious instruction.

I feel compelled to mention again that in Yanquilandia, where we are all supposedly a bunch of religious fanatics, there has been no public money for teaching religion for, let's see .... never! And yet, freedom of religion is alive and well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The More Things Change ....

You know the rest…. All right, it’s, “The More They Stay the Same,” especially in politics. That is a genuine poster from the 1982 Spanish general election when Felipe Gonzalez began his long fourteen-year tour of duty. I was a student wandering the streets, usually after a long night of learning a lot of new information in Spanish bars and pubs. Around 4 AM or so, they would start plastering up the political posters all over the city. I would ask the poster hangers for one of whatever they were plastering that morning. Then, I proceeded to hold on to the damn things for about 26 years. Crazy huh?

I framed one of the coolest PSOE political posters and put it in my Piso - so I don’t have a scan of it now. It is one of the “Juventudes Socialistas”. It's very colorful, and “Movida” looking, with a whole group of very happy and youthful people holding up sparklers. I’ll scan it one day. Update: I found it online. They are selling it for 50 Euros at

As you can see Felipe Gonzalez’s slogan was “Change”. Hmm, I wonder where I’ve heard that one before? Barack Obama ripped Felipe off!

For you history buffs, here is the predecessor to the Partido Popular. The party head was Manuel Fraga, a former Franco minister. He's the one that made the slogan "Spain is different" popular as minister of tourism. Hey Pedro Schwartz! You don't run into that name too often in Spain.

Check out this guy. Talk about a major-league Facha. It says, "Spain United and in Order." I bet! I actually love this one - it is so military looking although this guy, Blas Piñar, was no military man. He was a notary (kind of like a lawyer/judge). Needless to say this party, Fuerza Nueva, did not have major success at the polls and was soon disbanded. It continued on only as a publishing house for very right-wing writings. I considered framing this one too and putting it up in my house but had second thoughts. Guests may not understand that it is interesting to me only because it is so outrageous. I have enough problems being an American in Madrid without putting this guy on my wall. Besides, this gentleman is not that pleasant to look at.

I saw that Tom over at Simbolos y Senyals likes this kind of stuff, so I thought I would post them. He is welcome to them if he is interested.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dateline Vegas, Baby

Las Vegas is a trip. You have to check it out at least once if you are ever over on the West coast of the U.S. It’s a Disneyland for adults. I am not a gambling fan but the pure spectacle of the place is fascinating. True, more than a few days in Vegas may drive you nuts.

For the uninitiated, each hotel has a theme that carries through all aspects of design, such as a Venetian theme, Paris theme, New York theme, Pirate theme, etc. That's supposed to be St. Marks Square in Venice up there.

And the place looks like China in terms of how much construction is going on. How the hell are they going to fill up all those buildings?

Lots of Europeans running around there too. All kinds of languages are heard. It’s pretty expensive but if you are spending Euros, you’re in luck.

You don’t have to gamble. There are all manners of ways they get your money. You can hang out at the pool and drink, go out to nightclubs and drink, go to very good restaurants and drink, shop and drink, go to Broadway quality shows and drink, and of course gamble and drink. I think you can see a common thread here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spain Machista? – Hell Yes!

One thing that has always impressed me about Spain is how you can see attractive women doing jobs that they would rarely be doing in the U.S. I have turned my head many a time to check out female workers in jobs that I just wouldn’t expect them to be doing, like security guards, letter carriers, cops, and even street sweepers, etc. Now this could be because jobs are scarce so woman will take what they can get, or it could be because there are just more good looking woman in Spain. I’m not sure. But does it prove that Spain is not Machista?

Let's take a look at Zapatero’s new cabinet. But first, let me show you what we are used to in the U.S. in terms of females working for the president - just to put this in context:

That's Janet Reno and Medeline Albright. Competent, smart ladies I’m sure, but not very easy on the eyes. I think you would agree.

Now compare to some of Zapatero’s picks:

Ok, maybe they are not ready for the Paris runway but I think the improvement is obvious. Check out this one. Her name is Bibiana. I guess not in Spain, but around these parts (LA) "Bibiana" is a porn-star name:

These are not bad-looking broads. They are feminine, know how to dress, and are kind of sexy, to tell you the truth. Of course there are some older gals on the cabinet also (conveniently not shown). But even some of those woman, although past their expiration date, used to be not bad - you can tell. I can’t see this level of looks on a US cabinet any time soon.

So is Spain Machista? Well, are they trying to fill a quota of women? I wouldn't like the sound of that. Also, are these gals good at their jobs? I hope looks are not playing a part in who gets hired. If so, Spain is just about as Machista as this post.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Things That Piss Me Off About Madrid

Well, not really. Actually, these are things that Piss Roberto off about Madrid. He’s over at Diarios de Tetuan, a Blog where you can actually learn something. I think he got up on the wrong side of the bed one day and decided to vent a little about Madrid.

Warning: This is not how I feel about Madrid. I love it. I’m not sure what his problem is …. ? So all nasty comments please direct them to Roberto, a real live Spanish person, at his original post here. All nice comments can be left below for me.

Apologies to Roberto for my translation, I have done very little translating in my life so I just do it in my own writing voice.

Here are the things that Piss Roberto off about Madrid:

1) Either there are too many people in Madrid or the city is too small. I think the city’s too small. Most other European cities with the population of Madrid are at least double or triple Madrid’s geographic size. The only thing I know is that there are definitely way too many of us.

2) Madrid has really crappy public services. I’m talking about the health department, the courts, the school system, local government, even the county and national services. All of them are overwhelmed. There are ridiculous rules meant only to make you lose half the day trying to do a simple task. The so-called ”public servants” treat you like shit because they are fed up and angry at life. And the worst part is the people don’t even complain, they don’t even realize that they are being treated like crap – and get to pay for the privilege through taxes. They have never known it any other way.

3) The people are loud and like cattle. Everyone goes to the same place at the same time. It’s amazing that in a city of almost 6 million people there is so little diversity.

4) Everyone is rude, aggressive, ignorant and selfish. Even those of us born outside of Madrid don’t take long to learn new bad habits from the locals.

5) There is a lot of racism here. Surprisingly or not (I’m still not sure) the newcomers are at least as racist, or more racist, than the Spaniards. A lot of the locals consider the newcomers as a threat so they make things difficult for them – just because. A lot of the recent arrivals feel transient and don’t even try to integrate themselves into Spanish society because it doesn’t seem worth it to them, or even possible. This is not good.

6) The food in Madrid is terrible and expensive. The drinks are just as bad and more expensive. Housing sucks and it's way too expensive. The quality of life in Madrid is lousy and costs too much.

7) Madrid is dirty and noisy. The dogs shit wherever they damn well please and dog owners don’t care either. Cars speed by at 80 KPH burning rubber at one in the morning right through quiet residential neighborhoods.

8) Kids think that splashing nasty graffiti all over the place is art.

9) People mix less and less. Social groups are more and more separate. Ghettos are starting to spring up separated by nationalities, or by level of income. People are marking their territory like dogs. This is a recipe for disaster. Just give it time.

10) Traffic here is crazy and the drivers are psychopaths. This is not a pedestrian friendly city. The car is king, cross-walks are rare. The sidewalks and parking lots are merely improvised. I sincerely hope that some future Mayor has the balls enough to charge 5 or 6 Euros for people to enter downtown in a car. I shouldn’t have to put up with some dude from Las Rozas or Getafe who comes in every morning with his SUV to MY city where I pay taxes so I can then breathe HIS exhaust fumes and deal with HIS honking. He should pay to come, or take the train, or buy a goddamn smaller house in Madrid! You can’t have it all in life.

11) Downtown Madrid is turning into some kind of theme park for tourists. It’s filled with dive-bars, pickpockets, hookers, and small-time drug traffickers.

12) There is no longer a sense of community in Madrid. Everyone does his or her own thing. We think that if we vote every four years – that’s enough. And since the politicians feel no pressure from us they do whatever they want. This is why we have a far-right PP and a PSOE that acts like some comedy routine from Pajares and Esteso. We get just what we deserve.

They say “After Madrid there is only Heaven.” Let me tell you, after living here – we’ve earned Heaven!

Wow! Roberto is pissed off! I think he needs a weekend away in the Sierra. He assures everyone that he is feeling better now though.

Just remember folks, I love Madrid and there is no way I agree with any of these complaints. That would be wrong. Especially for a foreigner like me to stick my nose where it doesn't belong.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

La Inmobiliaria Bubble Revisited

About a year ago I wrote about the coming so-called Real Estate Burbuja in Spain. What have I learned since then? Did any of what I said hold up? Well, the main point of my post then was … it’s always something you didn’t expect – that’s what jumps up and bites you in the ass!

The real estate market is cyclical. People get greedy and think it’s never going to end, so they jump in expecting to make easy money. This always happens. Warren Buffet says something like, “Be cautious when everyone else is greedy, and be greedy when everyone else is cautious.” This works for real estate as well as for stocks. I knew prices were going to fall, but I thought (and still think) that if you buy real estate correctly, and can afford it, and can hold on to it - it will continue to rise in the long run, and out grow any short-term losses.

But I will tell you what I did not expect. And honestly, I still really can’t quite wrap my mind around it. It’s this “sub-prime” business. I thought bankers were not complete morons, and maybe they are not. I would say, however, that whoever gets stuck with the bill for the mortgages people can’t pay - might be the morons. I’m just afraid it will be the taxpayers – in the US and Spain.

So what happened (as far as I can tell)? I think two main scenarios occurred to create the sub-prime problems in the U.S. (By the way, “sub-prime” just means lending money to people who really couldn’t afford it in the first place).

1) Greedy loan sellers lent other people’s money to homebuyers just to get the commissions. They came up with shaky, creative ways to sell people loans – loans the people could not really afford. They got their commissions and split. Still not sure why the people with the money would give it to these hucksters to loan out in the first place.

2) Greedy banks or loan sellers gave out a bunch of bad loans then sold them in a bundle, to other investment banks (like Bear Stearns). Bear Stearns thought the loans were OK and that they would be getting a bunch of interest off of them. All the loans were crap though.

Blame the Americans

There’s a lot of talk in the Spanish press about this and how all Spain’s problems can be blamed on our situation. It seems to me that banks and people are pretty much the same all over. Our mistakes will be their mistakes. In Spain, they have sub-prime also. They just don’t call it that. Spain’s “sub-prime” were the very low interest, variable-rate loans commonly available during the boom. Buyers qualified for these low introductory rates and now can’t afford the payments after the Euribor rose – so they don’t pay. Especially since their piso is not worth so much anymore. That’s sub-prime.

Remember that variable-rate interest loans are the majority in Spain. In the U.S., they are not. I have not figured out why fixed-rate interest loans are not commonly available in Spain, other than the banks can screw you better with variable -rate loans.

I don’t pretend to fully understand the whole situation. And I’m sure the people writing about it in the press don’t understand it either. They just scream and yell. I do know that if you stick to the fundamentals and have some common sense – you will survive the horrible “Bubble”.

Coming next, Rules to Survive the Bubble.