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VIDEO of this program

Especially to my friends and other contacts abroad:

The Catalan Interior Minister, Joaquin Forn, presided over the response to the August terrorist attacks in Catalonia that quickly rounded up or killed all the terrorists involved. The Spanish state was furious at the efficiency involved.  Abundant actions of the Spanish authorities before and since lend credence to the idea that terrorism in Catalonia could allow them to justify taking greater control of the territory before the referendum on independence that had been legislated by the Catalan Parliament, but—against all the impediments put in their way—the Catalans themselves dealt with the emergency as none of the other places that have suffered terrorist attacks have done.

The Spanish authorities have now admitted in their Congress that the imam who organized the terrorist cell was in the pay of the Spanish secret service. They had chosen not to notify the Catalan authorities of that or of the possible terrorist plot (while also barring the Catalan police from Interpol intelligence, which European police have a right to have). Under Mr. Forn’s direction, the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra) earned the admiration of the world—but the enmity of Madrid, which has harassed them ever since. Their heroic commander, Major Josep Lluís Trapero, was demoted to an office job in which he now makes photocopies instead of deploying his skills and knowledge in defense of the people, and the Minister has been imprisoned without bail or trial since October, in an unheated cell during the notoriously bitter Madrid winter. Unsurprisingly, he now has contracted tuberculosis, and the Spanish authorities refuse to let him receive treatment.

Mr. Forn was thus also a member of the Catalan government that allowed the people to vote in referendum on October 1, and this is the given reason for charging him and others with “sedition and rebellion” and holding them until a trial that is promised for next year! (As you probably know, other members of that Catalan government have been forced into exile in three different democratic countries in order to avoid that treatment and to be free to communicate to the world what is happening.) But the revenge against Mr. Forn now becomes particularly inhumane. The details are too much for me to go into here, but they are shocking—as in fact they are for all these innocent prisoners, separated from their families by 504 kilometers (313 miles) and unable to be seen all through the months and the holidays, even by their small children and a tiny infant, except in short visits through glass.

An appeal to the glacially moving European Court of Human Rights is clearly not the answer. Quim Forn doesn’t have eleven years to wait for medical care, or at least a cell whose temperature is above freezing. Why is the world standing by while this sort of thing proliferates daily under the persistent cruelty of Franco’s heirs who are in control of Spain?

If you have any influence with authorities or media that might help expose such horrors as are going on under Spanish rule at this moment, please use it.

With thanks,



A little later:

I’m often asked by Catalans why I, an American citizen, take this whole matter so much to heart and why it inhabits so much of my time and activity, and I usually answer with a bit of history of the United States and of my own family. But I am far from alone. The leading non-Catalan advocate here for Catalonia’s rights is another American, my friend Liz Castro, and many others—notably in the Nordic and Baltic countries—are energetic supporters. Just today has come this magnificent interview (in English) with a German professor whose thoughts exactly mirror my own:

A Half-Hour Life

February 1, 2018


Have you ever undertaken to account for your whole life and career in a half hour—and in public? I had that experience the other day with a very genial interviewer whom I was meeting for the first time. The necessary over-generalizations and omissions in such a situation were affected by the fact that, just as we finished the interview, they came out of the control room to tell us that there had been a computer failure and that we had to do the interview all over again. Since both Nicole Millar and I felt awkward going over the same material as though it were a script (complete with her acting surprised by things that she already knew), I said rather different things—though she sometimes prompted me a little with material from the previous go.

Fortunately, viewers sent messages indicating that they found the summary plausible and not uninteresting:

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Bon Nadal! / Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2017

May we all take advantage of the blessings available to us in the celebrations that approach!


The Long Arm of Childhood

December 9, 2017



I don’t know whether you share with me the trait whereby characteristics of your parents increasingly emerge from you unexpectedly and unbidden, but that’s certainly true with me, and I find it endlessly fascinating. This morning, an English acquaintance passed me in a café and asked the routine “How are you?” not expecting, I’m sure, the answer that he got: “Not bad for an old man.”

His eyes expressed surprise, and I didn’t detain him to explain that, from the time when my father was in his forties, perhaps, that was a stock answer of his. I’m sure I have never given it two seconds of conscious thought in my life, and if you had asked me if my father had any habitual answers to such a greeting, I’d have come up with nothing. But there it was on my lips—another person’s voice coming out of my mouth. And this is not just a sentimental invention: my mind’s eye saw him smiling. The subconscious is a marvelous thing, and results of its nurture in the far past can be fascinatingly mysterious.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, both in the media and in personal comments—always from citizens of a close sister-nation that is often called our mother-country—that “Americans can’t do irony.” That’s meant as a putdown, but it’s actually a compliment that I wish we deserved more than we actually do. Verbal irony is a negative and often cruel thing. It establishes distance from its object and allows us then to tear the object apart from that safe distance. It simultaneously undoes the thing criticized and raises up the one doing the criticizing. I’d say we have more than enough irony and that when we boast about excelling at it we might profit from some self-examination of our motives.


Here’s your link to hear and see the English writer Matthew Tree leading a discussion of civil liberties and their repression, with a Swedish-born environmental sociologist brought up in England, an Irish lawyer, and an American musician—all now living in Catalonia: