||[ Monday, 27 Nov 06 | 16:01 ]
It was three weeks ago today that I flew back to the Bay Area for 10 days. I arrived Monday night, in time to vote in person the next day with my absentee ballot. Previously I had downloaded the California Voters Handbook to familiarize myself with the contentious Propositions. So I already knew about the issues, except for the local ones. There is always a separate mailing from the country that covers local races and propositions. And that was waiting at my son's place along with my absentee ballot to be filled. It still took about an hour to get it ready to submit. Alameda County has switched to a new voting technology. Fortunately they still use paper, so there is a physical record of the vote. I walked with my son to the polling place the next morning.
I was surprised at how many political ads were on TV. Nearly all of them were political and many were negative. I had heard that $1B USD was being spent on this mid-term election. There were also three "robo-calls" that my son got that night. This is in stark contrast to the recent election here in Catalunya which had very few TV ads (only presented at certain times) and more posters and banners. Most of these were merely of the nature of the name of the party (there are six here) and their candidate for President. The CiU party did have a DVD that they distributed with one of the major newspapers here, La Vanguardia (part of Grupo Godó and backer of the CiU).
I am convinced that the US needs to strictly limit campaign financing, both in terms of money and accountability. But I am not very sanguine that there can be any meaningful changes. The money and power connection is just too strong to allow any significant alteration to the status quo.
On election day the TV ads went back to a preponderance of ads for prescription drugs. You just don't see this type of ad here in Spain as the government negotiates with the drug companies for the prices charged. That obviates the need for marketing. In the US people wonder why drug costs are so high. I guess they don't make the connection between marketing and prices. And I couldn't believe some of the conditions that they were touting drugs to alleviate. These "syndromes" certainly weren't that important when I was younger.
By the time of my return flight, I was ready to come back to Barcelona. It feels more and more like home here. And I find myself more at odds with US culture and politics as time goes on.
While I was back in California, I did visit with my family. They now give me a list of things to bring from Spain (mainly food items) that either aren't available or are much more costly in the States.
I took Amtrak from Oakland to Sacramento to see my daughter and her husband. On the way back I talked to the "conductor" (called a "supervisor" in Spain.) I asked when they were going to electrify the line and get rid of the grade-level crossings. (The train horn is blowing almost all the time because of the number of these crossings.) He said that would probably require a completely new alignment. I replied that was what they were doing for the AVE (TGV or high-velociity train) that is scheduled to reach Barcelona next year. (There is a lot of skepticism on the completion date here.) Of course they have been talking about such a train between SF and LA for at least 30 years, but so far there has only been talk.
The day after I arrived back in Barcelona, I had two people (non LJers) from the Bay Area arrive for a short vacation. I went to the airport to meet them and to escort them to their hotel downtown. On the train trip out I chatted with a couple of security guards who were riding on the train. At the Sants station (main train station in Barcelona) where the construction for the AVE starts, I asked what year (¿qúe año?) they thought it would be completed. The response was ¿qúe siglo? (what century?)
I took the visitors out to sample the night-life here in Barcelona. The high-light for them was Tatu, a disco that caters to the "older crowd" (maduros). There's not a similar venue in the Bay Area. They enjoyed watching people dance the Paso Doble and Flamenco to Latin music. This is in contrast to the usual "house" or "techno" (referred to as "Euro-trash" in the US) music one encounters at most discos here.