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.