What with all the horrible things happening — the neglect of Puerto Rico, North Korean threats, Healthcare Torture bills, and the great NFL twitter war — I thought you all would enjoy some lighter news.
Over in the upper right hand corner of Spain, the autonomous region of Catalonia wants to hold a referendum on Independence. Support for independence has been building for years. Since 2008, support has increased dramatically. The Catalans are 15% of the population of Spain and produce 20% of the national GDP. They also pay more taxes than the other regions. This means that they pay more in taxes to the central government than they get back in services (Californians take note).
After 2008, the Spanish government adopted a program of austerity in order to bail out the French and German banks. This program rescued the corrupt bankers in Madrid and Frankfort, but created massive unemployment in Spain. This program was supported by both the center-left socialists and the right-wing party.
Catalans, however, voted for regional parties whose influence in national policy is minimal.
So, with the bankers using Catalonia as a cash cow, imposing severe austerity, and creating brutal levels of unemployment, the situation is intractable.
- The Catalans would greatly benefit from independence. They would collect their own taxes and spend the revenue locally. They would probably also default on their unsustainable debt.
- The central government cannot let Catalonia secede because it must have the money to prop up their bankrupt financial system.
So, the right-wing and left-wing of Catalonian politics came together in the last legislative election on a single issue: independence. With 70% of the Catalonian legislature controlled by secessionists, they voted for a referendum on independence to occur on Oct. 1.
Mind you, they voted for a referendum, not for a declaration of independence. They reasonably wanted a vote first.
And the outcome of the vote was by no means certain. Some polls indicated that less than 50% of the public wanted outright independence. One thing was certain, however, an overwhelming majority of Catalans wanted to vote.
That is where this story gets a little silly…
A reasonable person would expect the central government to negotiate. But Madrid is controlled by people who have internalized the anti-democratic values of the European Central Bank. As Schauble said during the negotiations with the Greek government, “Elections cannot be allowed to change economic policy.” Democracy is just fine so long as it does not threaten the real power and privilege of the ruling caste.
The central government reacted to the proposed referendum by sending in the Guardia Civil. They raided government buildings, seized ballots, confiscated ballot boxes, and arrested government election officials. Significantly, they incarcerated the Catalonian economics minister, seized the treasury, and froze bank accounts.
The Prime Minister in Madrid reared back on his hind legs and thundered that the idea of a referendum was undemocratic. Really, I am not making that up.
The central government also tried to take over the local police forces (the Mossa). That is not going well. When the Guardia Civil invaded the treasury building, they were surrounded by a mob of patriotic Catalans. The Guardia forces were trapped inside the building. The mob cheerfully and playfully vandalized the Guardia vehicles with stickers and posters while the local police watched and did nothing.
Since the central government needed barracks for the approximately 5,000 Guardia Civil and other riot police, the government leased three large ferry boats for the purpose. One of the ferry boats was decorated with images of Warner Bros. cartoon characters (see photo at the top of the diary).
This led to a barrage of ridicule. Someone but together a video of Spanish soldiers marching to the Looney Toons theme (The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down). The Guardia Civil is not known for its sense of humor or patience. Their reaction to the ridicule was to drape black tarpaulins over the faces of the cartoon characters.
When the sepulchral shroud fell over the face of Tweety, however, something snapped.
Immediately, Tweety became the unofficial mascot of Catalonian Independence!
The twitter hashtag #Freepiolin began posting images of Tweety (Piolin in Catalan) as a champion of free speech and Sylvester as an agent of government repression.
A popular poster featuring the faces of people with a red smear across their faces was quickly modified.
We even have a Star Wars reference:
Meanwhile, street vendors are doing a brisk business selling inflatable Tweety dolls and Catalonian flags with Tweety silk-screened on them.
The government of Catalonia has pledged to go ahead with its scheduled referendum.
The central government, however, has complained that any referendum will be illegitimate. The Prime Minister says that Catalonia cannot hold its referendum because it does not have ballots, ballot boxes, or election officials to supervise the vote.
Really, I am not making that up.
One last note, the people who support a unified Spain and the establishment are typically older, more male, and more belligerent. In other words, they are Trump voters.
Catalan Independence supporters are better behaved, younger, more cosmopolitan, and cuter.
One of my heart-felt principles of political action is that you should always side with the faction that has the cute girls.
I mean really, just look at this comparison posted on Twitter:
So, this is not going to end well. The good people of Catalonia will try to vote. The Guardia Civil will break heads. It is probably going to get ugly.
But until then, let us all have a chuckle thanks to the creative and light-hearted advocates of local government in Catalonia.