Monday, October 31, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 31.10.16

SPANISH LIFE/CULTURE

Halloween Celebrations: Here's 10 ideas from El País. I might well try the Vigo one with my visitors this afternoon/evening.

The Clock: No sooner do I mention this than the New York Times offers an article on the subject. Click here for this.

La Leche. The Milk: Spain's language - if not Spanish as it's spoken elsewhere - is renowned for its everyday coarseness. Strangely, milk features a lot in this. Here's a useful guide from El Pais on the various usages.

SPANISH POLITICS

Corruption: Talking of his address to parliament last week during the investiture debate, one commentator noted that President Rajoy had 'tiptoed over' the crucial issue of corruption. I guess this is hardly surprising, given the accusations against him personally.

Austerity: The EU is demanding a further €5.5billion of public expenditure savings, in order to get the deficit down to the totemic level of 3.5% of GDP. Not everyone is happy about this, of course, as this article shows. Then there's the entire Opposition, whose seats outnumber those of the incoming PP administration. Interesting times. Incidentally, the article cites a number of 'up to 100,000 protestors', against 6,000 according to the police. And a mere 3,000 in another article I read. So, treat it like you do your promised wifi capability.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY

Macro v Micro: While the topline performance is impressive - set against the EU's low average growth rate - down at the coalface unemployment levels are horrific and I continue to hear stories of salaries as low as €15,000 a year being offered for jobs which require high qualifications and experience. As I've said before, when I came here, there was a lot of attention paid to fact that qualified people were only receiving €1,000 a month. The so-called mileuristas. Sixteen years - and much inflation later - there still is. This is the reality of Spain in 2016. And one wonders where all the increased GDP has gone and is going. And what will happen if the large and rapidly growing tourism sector is hit by a terrorist attack.

THE EU 

The Italian Banks: Don Quijones has reviewed these again. His view of the measures being taken to steady things? . . .  Put simply, Atlante I and II are the financial equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a gun fight. And his conclusion: Despite pressure from fiscally hawkish Eurozone countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland to put an end to the doom loop by removing the risk-free status of certain sovereign bonds, to the barely concealed horror of Italian and Spanish politicians and bankers, recent figures from Standard & Poor’s show that banks across the EU have continued to invest heavily in government debt, increasing their exposure to €791 billion. The total amount that international banks have lent to Italy is €550 billion, of which over €250 billion is sitting on the balance sheets of French banks. And that is why a nervous breakdown in Italy’s banking system could have very serious consequences for the rest of Europe, if not for the world at large. It’s also the reason why, when push comes to shove, European authorities, with the ECB leading the way, will do whatever it takes to stop Italy’s banks from falling. But as the scope and scale of Italy’s problems continue to mushroom and confidence in the system continues to shrink, time is fast running out. Click here for the whole article.

THE UK

This shares with Spain the honour of having the greatest cocaine consumption in the EU. Presumably per capita. Much, if not most, of this arrives via our coastline, of course.

GALICIAN STUFF

The AVE high-speed train to Madrid. On a whim, I checked earlier comments of mine on this and saw that:-
  • In 2006, I noted that Galicia's Xunta had told us we'd have an AVE down into Portugal by 2013. We didn't and don't. And the plan was abandoned several years ago.
  • In 2009, I noted that we pessimists didn't expect the AVE to Madrid to be operating before 2014, despite government assurances that it was imminent. It wasn't. And still isn't. 
  • In 2010, I predicted it would be at least another 5 years before the AVE to Madrid was operating and went as far as to predict it wouldn't, in fact, arrive before 2018. It hasn't so far. And no one believes it'll happen by 2018. Essentially because that's the government's latest promise. And everyone knows there are problems taking the line through the mountains.
So, it's hardly surprising that no one takes any notice here of official forecasts. Of anything. Meanwhile, it still takes 7-8 hours to get to Madrid by train. But at least this is better than the 12 hours of not so long ago. It's about 625km, or 390 miles.

Bank Branches: There were1,000 of these in Galicia in 1973 and 2,500 by 1998. This despite a static or even reducing population. During the phoney boom of 2000-2007, they proliferated further but have since been reduced to 1,550. And will surely fall further. If only because Banco Pastor/Popular is in serious trouble and has announced redundancies and closures.

FINALLY

DIY: I'm not fond of this. My latest incursion into the field has been to apply silicon gel to the holes between the cat flap and the door it's in. In the process, I managed to get some gel on my shoes and then onto various floor tiles. Where there now appears to be a permanent slippy surface. With neck-breaking potential. So, if this blog suddenly stops . . . 

THE CORRUPTION CAVALCADE

Another new one . . . 

The case
    The Accused
   Positions
 Allegations and Status

The Elcano Case

Spain's official training ship for her navy - The Juan Sebastián Elcano

Members of the crew
Various
Smuggling drugs.


THE GALLERY

Another cartoon:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 30.10.16

SPANISH LIFE/CULTURE

An Overview: At the end of this post is an article I found on my phone. I think it's from Justin of Just Landed and was written in 2012. I know I've read it before and I may even have cited it previously but it's worth a second read. I find it hard to disagree with a word of it - as you'll know if you're a regular reader - and I certainly agree with the Conclusion. And most of the Comments. Though not those from the Spaniards who don't know what 'tongue-in-cheek' means and don't recognise the writer's underlying affection for Spain. Worse, these demonstrate the very sensitivity they don't themselves show when it comes to foreigners. It's a fact of life that many of the latter do find the Spanish rather rude at times. And it's also true that - seeing themselves as 'noble' - nothing hurts/annoys the Spanish more than to be told this. So, it needs to be stressed that, when it comes to how you're treated as a stranger (whether Spanish or foreign), everything changes the moment you establish a personal connection. Which can happen via a simple conversation in a bar or restaurant. For this, as in every country, it helps greatly to have learnt the language. That said, not many of those of us who do learn Spanish advance to Catalan, Basque or Gallego. Which can be taken very personally indeed among the more nationalistic of the latter. Happily, these are not usually in the majority even in their own region.

The Time: I've said that Spain changed its clock - to align with Germany's - during Word War  2 and so moved out of its 'correct' zone. And that there's now talk of returning to it. Which seems to be going nowhere, in truth. Meanwhile, the Balearic Islands have proposed staying on permanent summer time but have been slapped down by Madrid. Explaining why Galicia shouldn't be back on its 'correct' Canarian/UK/Portuguese/ Moroccan time, the regional President retorted "I'm Galician, not Portuguese". Which presumably made sense to him. If not to the residents of the Canary Islands. More on the general subject here

A Southern Desert: Global warming, say some, will turn southern Spain into another Sahara. Click here for more on this worrying prediction.

Kids' Kostumes: I thought this sort of (pijo) thing might only happen in Spain but my elder daughter suggests it might be true of Italy as well . . .


THE EU

Refugees: There's an article at the end of the post from a columnist with whom I rarely disagree. And I don't this time. A sampler: There has never been a time in human history when there were more agencies and organisations dedicated to the cause of international cooperation and the welfare of the world’s peoples. The idea of moral responsibility, not just to those closest to us, but to the human race at large, has never had a more prominent place in political discourse. And yet, somehow, we are managing to make an absolute mess of this. The august bodies in which so much hope and idealism were invested, the United Nations and the European Union, with their high-flown rhetoric about global accord and delivering the populations of the world from war and want, have been almost entirely useless.

THE UK

Tattoos: If you'd told me as a young man that this would happen, I would probably not have believed you: The Police Federation says 52% of female officers have at least one tattoo, compared to 47% of their male colleagues. With only a third of British adults thought to have tattoos, the greater propensity among police officers is thought to be because many are recruited from the armed forces, where tattoos are popular. Allegedly, the majority of Brits don't mind this.

GALICIAN STUFF

Salaries: Government employees are generally believed to have far more job security than those in the private sector. Especially in these days of the zero hours contracts which seem to be a feature of most new jobs. And now we learn that the funcionarios here in Galicia earn on average 45% more than their equivalents in the private sector. No wonder everyone here aspires to be one. And that so much money can be made training people for the civil service exams, las oposiciones. Spain's labour market is normally said to have two tiers - the older employees on good contracts and the newer ones facing much greater precariousness. Perhaps the civil servants represent a third - even better - tier. By the way, civil servant salaries in Galicia are reported to be the 3rd lowest in the country. So, you can imagine what private sector salaries are like. Especially when you see jobs openly advertised at below the legal minimum wage.

LOCAL STUFF

The weather: The end of October and my daughter visiting from cold, grey Madrid went to the beach yesterday. And will go again today. AGW can't be all bad, then.

THE GALLERY

Another cartoon, in honour of Pontevedra's legion of beggars:


THE CORRUPTION CAVALCADE

No new case today. Just a laugh at the defence put forward by one defendant in the case of the huge illegal financing set-up of the PP party - that it all started because of campaign by a PSOE minister against the PP party.

ARTICLES

1. The Spaniards. Everything you need to know for dealing with the locals.

Who are the Spanish? What are they like? Let’s take a candid and totally prejudiced look at the Spanish people, tongue firmly in cheek, and hope they forgive my flippancy or that they don’t read this bit.

A typical Spaniard is courteous, proud, enthusiastic, undisciplined, tardy, temperamental, independent, gregarious, noisy, honest, noble, individualistic, boisterous, jealous, possessive, colourful, passionate, spontaneous, sympathetic, fun-loving, creative, sociable, demonstrative, irritating, generous, cheerful, polite, unreliable, honourable, optimistic, impetuous, flamboyant, idiosyncratic, quick-tempered, arrogant, elegant, irresponsible, anaficionado, hedonistic, contradictory, an anarchist, informal, self-opinionated, corrupt, indolent, frustrating, vulgar, voluble, helpful, friendly, sensitive, a traditionalist, insolent, humorous, fiery, warm-hearted, chauvinistic, bureaucratic, dignified, kind, loyal, extroverted, tolerant, macho, frugal, self-possessed, unabashed, quarrelsome, partisan, a procrastinator, scandal-loving, articulate, a bon viveur, inefficient, conservative, nocturnal, hospitable, spirited, urbanised, lazy, confident, sophisticated, political, handsome, chaotic and a football fanatic.

You may have noticed that the above list contains ‘a few’ contradictions (as does life in Spain), which is hardly surprising as there’s no such thing as a typical Spaniard. Apart from the differences in character between the inhabitants of different regions, such as Andalusia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia and Madrid, the population also includes a potpourri of foreigners from all corners of the globe. Even in appearance, fewer and fewer Spaniards match the popular image of short, swarthy and dark, and the indigenous population includes blondes, brunettes and redheads.

Although not nearly as marked or rigidly defined as the British or French class systems, Spain has a complex class structure. The top drawer of Spain’s aristocrats are the 400 or so grandees, who are followed at a respectable distance by myriad minor nobles, all of whom tend to keep to themselves and remain aloof from the hoi polloi. Next in pecking order are the middle class professionals, the lower middle class white-collar workers, the blue-collar working class and the peasant underclass.

These are followed by assorted foreigners, a few of whom have been elevated to the status of ‘honorary’ Spaniards (usually after around 100 years’ residence). At the bottom of the heap, below even the despised drunken tourists, are the gypsies (gitanos), Spain’s true aristocrats. Gypsies are treated as lepers by many Spaniards (except when they’re celebrated flamenco artists or bullfighters) and are even less desirable as neighbours than theMoros (Moroccans).

Spaniards are often disparaging about their compatriots from other regions. Nobody understands the Basques and their tongue-twister of a language, the Galicians are derided as being more Portuguese than Spanish, and the Andalusians are scorned as backward peasants. However, the most widespread antagonism is between the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, whose inhabitants argue about everything, including the economy sport, history, politics, culture and language. Catalans claim that Madrileñosare half African, to which they reply that it’s better than being half French. However, although they’re proud of their regional identity, most Spanish aren’t nationalists or patriotic and have little loyalty to Spain as a whole.

Most Spaniards live in harmony with the foreign population, although many foreigners (colloquially dubbed guiris, from the word guirigay meaning gibberish) live separate lives in tourist ‘ghettos’, a million miles away from the ‘real’ Spain. The Spanish don’t consider the concrete jungles of the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Majorca and parts of the Canaries to be part of Spain, but a plastic paradise created for and by foreigners so that pasty-faced tourists can fry in the sun and get drunk on cheap booze.

However, although the Spanish aren’t generally xenophobic, they’re becoming more racist and many would happily eject the gypsies, Arabs and North Africans from their country. They don’t care much for the Portuguese either, who are the butt of their jokes (when they aren’t about the Andalusians)[or the Gallegos]. It’s an honour for a foreigner to be invited to a Spaniard’s home, although it’s one rarely granted. Nevertheless, Spaniards do occasionally marry foreigners, much to the distress of their parents.

Usually when Spaniards and foreigners come into contact (conflict), it concerns official business and results in a profusion of confrontations and misunderstandings (few foreigners can fathom the Spanish psyche) and does little to cement relations. Spain has among the most stifling (and over-staffed) bureaucracy in Western Europe (even worse than the French!) and any encounter with officialdom is a test of endurance and patience. Official offices (if you can find the right one) often open only for a few hours on certain days of the week; the person dealing with your case is always absent; you never have the right papers (or your papers and files have disappeared altogether); the rules and regulations have changed (again) and queues are interminable (take along a copy of Don Quixote to help pass the time). It’s all part of a conspiracy to ensure that foreigners cannot find out what’s going on (and will hopefully therefore pay more taxes, fines, fees, etc.).

Official inefficiency has been developed to a fine art in Spain, where even paying a bill or using the postal service (a world-class example of ineptitude) is an ordeal. The Spanish are generally totally disorganised and the only predictable thing about them is their unpredictability. They seldom plan anything (if they do, the plans will be changed or abandoned at the last moment), as one of the unwritten ‘rules’ of Spanish life is its spontaneity. Spain has been described as part advanced high-tech nation and part banana republic, where nothing and nobody works.

Almost as infuriating as the bumbling bureaucracy is the infamous mañana syndrome, where everything is possible (no problema) ‘tomorrow’ – which can mean later, much later, some time, the day after tomorrow, next week, next week, next month, next year or never – but never, ever tomorrow (the Spaniard’s motto is ‘never do today what you can put off until mañana’). When a workman says he will come at 11 o’clock, don’t forget to ask which day, month and year he has in mind. Workmen (especially plumbers) don’t usually keep appointments and, if they do deign to make an appearance, they’re invariably late (and won’t have the right tools or spares anyway). The Spanish are good at starting things but not so good at finishing them (hence the numerous abandoned building sites in Spain).

The Spanish are dismissive of time constraints and have no sense of urgency, treating appointments, dates, opening hours, timetables and deadlines with disdain (it’s said that the only thing that begins on time in Spain is a bullfight). If you really need something done by a certain date, never tell a Spaniard your real deadline. It’s significant, however, that the Spanish have a much lower incidence of stress-related disease than north Europeans, which is somewhat surprising in the noisiest country in Europe and the second loudest in the world (after Japan).

Over half the inhabitants of Spanish cities endure noise levels well in excess of the World Health Organisation’s ‘healthy’ limit of 65 decibels. Most noise is caused by traffic, lustily supported by pneumatic drills, jack hammers, chain-saws, mopeds (usually without silencers), car horns, alarms, sirens, radios, televisions,fiestas, fireworks, car and home music systems, discos, bars, restaurants, incessantly barking dogs, loud neighbours, screaming children and people singing in the streets.
In Spain, a normal conversation is two people shouting at each other from a few feet apart (not surprisingly, Spaniards are terrible listeners). Spanish cities are the earthly equivalent of Dante’s hell, where inhabitants are subjected to endless noise. Maybe creating a din is the Spanish way of releasing tension? Spaniards don’t care to waste time sleeping (except in the afternoons) when they can party and cannot see why anyone else should want to.

Spanish men are world champion hedonists and are mainly interested in five things: sex, football, food, alcohol and gambling (not necessarily in that order). The main preoccupation of the Spanish is having a good time and they have a zest for life matched by few other peoples. They take childish pleasure in making the most of everything and grasp every opportunity to make merry. The Spanish are inveterate celebrants and, when not attending a fiesta, family celebration or impromptu party, are to be found in bars and restaurants indulging in another of their favourite pastimes: eating and drinking.

Spaniards have a passion for food, which consists largely ofpaella and tapas and is always swimming in garlic and olive oil. Like the French, they eat all the objectionable bits of animals that ‘civilised’ people throw away (e.g. pigs’ ears and bulls’ testicles) and will eat any creatures of the deep, the more revolting-looking the better (e.g. octopus and squid). They’re particularly fond of baby food (baby suckling pig, baby lamb, baby octopus), which is preferable to ‘grown-up’ food as it’s easier to fit into the ubiquitous frying pan (when not eaten raw, like their ham, all food is fried in Spain). Contrary to popular opinion, the Spanish are a nation of animal lovers: they will eat anything that moves. They do, however, have an unsavoury habit (at least most foreigners think so) of ‘playing’ with their food and can often be seen chasing their steak around a ring before dinner (¡Olé!).

When not eating (or playing guitars or flamenco dancing), the Spanish are allegedly having sex – Spanish men have a reputation as great lovers, although their virility isn’t confirmed by the birth rate, which is one of the lowest in the world. In any case, most of their conquests are drunken tourists (only too keen to jump into the sack with anything in trousers), so their reputation doesn’t bear close scrutiny. (A recent survey found that the average Spaniard makes love badly and infrequently: just 71 times a year compared with the world average of 109 – how do they know these things?) Their macho image has taken a further pounding in recent years as women have stormed most male bastions and today are as likely to be found in the university, office, factory, professions or the government, as in the home or the church.

Most Spaniards are anarchists and care little for rules and regulations, generally doing what they want when they want, particularly regarding motoring (especially parking), smoking in public places, the dumping of rubbish and paying taxes. Paradoxically they’ve taken to democracy like ducks to water and are passionate Europeans, firmly believing in a united Europe and the euro (so would you if you’d had to put up with the peseta!). However, like most sensible people they care little for their politicians, whose standing has plummeted to new lows in the last decade following a spate of corruption scandals.

The Spanish are sensitive to criticism, particularly regarding their history and traditions. Whatever you do, don’t ask an old man ‘what he did in the Civil War’ or mention Franco, the Falklands or Gibraltar. Spaniards are intolerant of other people’s views; criticism of Spain is reserved for the Spanish (who do it constantly) and isn’t something to be indulged in by ignorant foreigners.
Since throwing off the shackles of dictatorship in 1975, Spain has resolutely turned its back on the past and embraced the future with gusto. In the last quarter of a century, the country has undergone a transformation influencing every facet of life. However, although most changes have been for the better, many people believe that the soul of traditional Spain has been lost in the headlong rush towards economic development.

The modern Spaniard is more materialistic than his forebears and has taken to the art of making a fast buck as quickly as any North American immigrant ever did. Progress has, however, been purchased at a high cost and has led to a sharp increase in crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty, begging, and the devastation of unspoilt areas by developers hell-bent on smothering the country in concrete and golf courses. Despite being hard hit by the recession in the ’90s, the country has made a strong recovery in recent years and has one of the most promising outlooks of any EU country.

To conclude

Despite the country’s problems, the Spanish enjoy one of the best lifestyles (and quality of life) of any European country and, indeed, any country in the world; in Spain work fits around social and family life, not vice versa. The foundation of Spanish society is the family and community, and the Spanish are noted for their close family ties, their love of children and care for the elderly (who are rarely abandoned in nursing homes). Spain has infinitely more to offer than its wonderful climate and rugged beauty and is celebrated for its arts and crafts, architecture, fashion, night-life, music, dance, gastronomy, design, sports facilities, culture, education, health care and technical excellence in many fields.

For sheer vitality and passion for life the Spanish have few equals, and whatever Spain can be accused of it’s never dull or boring. Few other countries offer such a wealth of intoxicating experiences for the mind, body and spirit (and not all out of a bottle!). But the real glory of Spain lies in the outsize heart and soul of its people, who are among the most convivial, generous and hospitable in the world. If you’re willing to learn Spanish (or at least make an effort) and embrace Spain’s traditions and way of life, you will invariably be warmly received by the natives, most of whom will go out of their way to welcome and help you. Spain is highly addictive and, while expats may occasionally complain, the vast majority wouldn’t dream of leaving and infinitely prefer life in Spain to their home countries. Put simply, Spain is a great place to live (provided you don’t have to do business there).

¡Vivan los españoles!   ¡Viva España!

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.

John Mortimer
Total trash. This is a ridiculous article, none of it is true. I am a resident of Spain and disagree with every part of this rubbish, obviously the writer has never even visited!

male
REPORT. I agree with John, Yo don´t know at all Spanish people, at least the north of my country. It is a pity article,,,, en otras palabras no tienes ni idea de como somos los españoles, por favor, ,,,, NO GENERALICES ASI

Snopes
Alt least the north? So the south does match with the rubish this ignorant wrote? Eres tan ignorante como él entonces.

Jessey
Very Well Written Article. I think your article is great because it tells it like it is...both the good and the bad. Every country has its good points and its bad points and people should grow up instead of getting offended. I saw all of those exact same patterns when I lived there for 2 years. That is exactly how I saw the country as well coming from a North American perspective. I grew up a certain way and so, upon moving to Spain those same things really stood out to me as well. I don't understand why Spaniards get so mad at any little criticism about their country when they do the same thing constantly. They love to criticize other countries and say that Spain is the best in every way. So, they should be able to take it when other cultures criticize theirs. Its called maturity people. Relax and realize that NONE of our countries are perfect yet we ALL have wonderful beautiful things about our cultures as well. No country or people is any better than any other. We are all just people living in this world together. 

Creo que tu artículo está bien escrito porque lo cuenta tal como es…lo bueno y lo malo. Cada país tiene sus cosas buenas y sus cosas malas y la gente necesita madurar en vez de estar ofendida. Yo vi los mismos patrones cuando viví dos años en España. Es exactamente como me parecía el país desde una perspectiva norteamericana. Crecí de una manera distinta entonces al mudarme a España las mismas cosas me llamaron mucho la atención. No entiendo porque se enfadan tanto los españoles por un poco de crítica sobre su país cuando ellos hacen lo mismo constantemente cuando hablan de otras culturas. Les encanta criticar a otros países y decir que España es lo mejor en cada sentido. Entonces, deberían ser capaces de aguantarlo cuando otras culturas critican a los suyos, si no es un poco hipócrita, no? Se llama madurez gente. Reléjense y dense cuenta de que NINGUNOS de nuestros países son perfectos pero también que tenemos TODOS cosas bonitas y maravillosas sobre nuestras culturas también. Ningún país ni gente es mejor que cualquier otro. Nada más somos gente viviendo juntos en este mundo.

Caroline
Beware the Spanish male's need for total authority and dominance
On May 1st, 2012, I was sitting in a dining room and overheard a conversation between several adult couples from Canada, America, and Germany. ALL of them has suffered from the same treatment is Barcellona and that involved sitting for hours in restaurants and waiting for service or food while local patrons were well catered to. I joined in the conversation stating that we had shared the same type of experience the previous night and when I complained to management (after 80 minutes), he asked me if I had ordered in Spanish. I respectfully responded that I was most limited in Spanish as Canadians spoke English and/or French primarily and I added that the waiter had interacted with us and I was confident he understood the order. Within minutes, all of our courses were dropped on the table( cold and piled one next to the other as it was a table for two. We left the restaurant and did not pay the bill which was well over a hundred Euros. I told him to call the authorities if he wished but he declined. The hostess walked us to the door and said there is a great deal of anger towards tourists, especially women who appear affluent!!! In this economy, how can they possibly develop such a mind-set??? We found a lovely place nearby and had a very late but enjoyable dinner. Avoid places on Avenidad Diagonale as several had nasty experiences.

Valerie
Trip to Spain cancelled for 2013
After witnessing violence is prominent restaurant between staff, being ignored as patrons in other establishments, and discussing very negative experiences that dozens of other tourists had been subjected to in several Barcellona restaurants, we shortened our trip last week , returned to Canada, and cancelled our accommodations for April- May 2013 in Marbella, Barcellona, and Madrid.

Steve
"Maleducados": I agree with most of what you said. I have been living in Spain for 8 years and have met very few "polite" Spaniards. I think the term "maleducados" fits. Very proud and insular.

Manuel
No estoy de acuerdo
Todo esto es una basura de artículo.

There are many types of spaniards. This is a typical vision of a arrogant british.

andreas
pais de retrasados
The main problem with the spaniards is still their unbelievable arrogance and complete lack of manners towards any person they don't know. The last 10 years I've visited the country on a bi-monthly basis, and it's just shocking to see that despite the billions of european funds poured into their systems, the inhabitants remain as backwards as ever... Whereas they believe themselves to be at the top of Europe. PS a typical phenomenon I see also in the reactions here... the spaniards have to react in spanish of course

Meg
Too unfair to generalize
I also disagree. People everywhere are much more understanding when you speak their language. It's only human. It's also understandable that tourists would be offended. We forget how the same situation might be in our own culture. I'm sure plenty of non-English speaking Japanese tourists also think the British are rude. Of course, I've heard that in Britain people can be very outgoing and friendly even if their dog died and their mother is on her way. In Spain you also meet friendly people but it's more often the case if you find the person in a good mood that day. They value expressing their true feelings because they see it as honest. Besides, from that perspective, everyone else should understand that not everyone has a good day and shouldn't hold it against Spain. These feelings are probably heightened around tourists when the economy is like it is.

Jessica
So right: The article is right, Spanish people are rude and do not consider the language barrier that the tourists have, very inefficient and absolutely no organisation, i should know as i am an Erasmus student here and nothing is ever going right. So yes i agree totally with thsi article.

Pablo
Who's rude? If you think spaniards are rude, don't come, as easy as that. But if you ever come, don't leave your manners at your country, because the most part of tourists, when they arrive at Spain, they lose their manners, for example, when you do what you know in a corner or in the middle of the street because you have get so so so drunk you can't stand on your feet. If you're so polite, why do you do that? Don't deny it, any spaniard who watch tv ONCE a MONTH, especially at summer, will know this.

Asi que quereis enseñarnos algo, predicad con el ejemplo.

So, WHO'S RUDE?

Martin
It´s all in good fun Spaniards. Spain is a great country, as a Britton who´s basically grown up here I can confirm, I agree with almost everything said in the `To Conclude´ section. Lifestyle wise it is better that Britain and many other countries, even though Spain are now having their economic problems and all.

But I also agree with many parts of the article, and I found some bits hilarious. I used to hate Spain not that many years ago because of some of the things, mentioned here, but I have overcome these things and now like it quite a lot. However there is one thing about Spain that is just annoying to the core: It´s the way that they are the best, their sportsmen, are the best, their food is the best, their culture is the best, etc, and they will boast about these fake ideals with real pride (not all Spaniards, but many) and if you happen to be a foreigner they will still say it to your face too which is both untrue and rude. I am amazed at how many sportsmen (champions even) who are not Spanish are actually crap (or so they say) in the eyes of Spaniards when their athletes are the best. Also when talking about food they will say "You won´t eat anywhere like in Spain" which is complete patriotic bullshit IMO. There are plenty of places that have to be as good as Spain in many aspects (food of all of them, something so universal ...) or else half the planet would live in the peninsula.

All of this wouldn´t be so bad if the Spanish people (who may have previously rubbished your country) took anything anyone says about their great country with HUGE OFFENCE (as you can see here)

So calm down, no os ofendais por una pagina web que dice cosas parecidas de unos 30 paises, these descriptions are mostly hyperboles, I myself have read the US and UK ones already and laughed a lot there too. Peace. Paz



2. Narcissistic guilt in the West is creating the lawless chaos of the migration crisis   Janet Daley

Let’s stop accusing each other of lack of compassion, shall we? If we are sincerely interested in finding a solution to this horrendous migration crisis, then hurling insults is not going to help. Compassion is the beginning of this discussion, not the end. We all start from there. The next question should be: what would constitute a humane and just outcome?

Can I establish my credentials at the start, in the hopes of avoiding just the sort of incendiary fulmination that is wasting so much time and energy? I am the grandchild of refugees who fled from persecution and genocide in the last century. As such, I have pretty much limitless sympathy for those who are doing so today. I also believe that human progress is largely a story of the migration of peoples.

I am particularly favourable to the idea of economic migration: it is a testimony to individual courage, fortitude and endeavour and almost inevitably results in greater prosperity for the countries and populations which accept it.  None of what follows should be seen in any way as a repudiation of those views. On the contrary, what I am asking for is a proper argument rather than a phoney one.

In the midst of all the shrill noise, there is scarcely any useful conversation taking place about what is happening and how we might deal with it. This is quite extraordinary considering that there has never been a time in human history when there were more agencies and organisations dedicated to the cause of international cooperation and the welfare of the world’s peoples. The idea of moral responsibility, not just to those closest to us, but to the human race at large, has never had a more prominent place in political discourse.

And yet, somehow, we are managing to make an absolute mess of this. The august bodies in which so much hope and idealism were invested, the United Nations and the European Union, with their high-flown rhetoric about global accord and delivering the populations of the world from war and want, have been almost entirely useless. Nothing has slowed, or even adequately dealt with, the millions displaced by war, and the further millions who are, as they say, just “seeking a better life”.

Any proper moral debate must establish some basic premises. Otherwise we end up where we are: talking at cross purposes. It would be useful to get right down to the most fundamental questions.

What is the desirable end result? Do we believe that it is an unalloyed good thing to encourage huge tranches of poor or endangered people to abandon their own countries and settle, almost certainly permanently, in the rich parts of the world? Given that these migrants are likely to be among the strongest, healthiest, most highly motivated individuals in their unfortunate home countries, wouldn’t it be plausible to describe the diaspora as an abandonment of those who are most disadvantaged? Because the truth is that the men – and there is a great preponderance of young men – who arrive on Europe’s shores with smartphones having had enough cash to pay the people traffickers are not generally the most deprived or the most deserving of compassion.

In the Calais Jungle evacuation, it became clear that children had been left behind in the scrum, and the voluntary workers who had real knowledge of who was most needy were scarcely being consulted. It is a fairly sound assumption that men between the ages of 18 and 30 are in less potential danger than women and children under most circumstances – and that girls are in the greatest danger. It is surely those left behind in the hell holes created by civil war and despotism, who do not have the wherewithal or the insane willingness to risk their lives and those of their families, who should be the first in line for generosity.

It is precisely because the rich Western nations, awash in their narcissistic guilt about the visible crisis, have had no rational plan or discussion that those hapless people have been left out of the equation almost entirely. When Britain proposed taking families from the refugee camps on the Syrian border rather than illegally trafficked migrants from Greece and Italy, this was roundly condemned in the European Union as pure cynicism and a refusal to meet our obligations.

What they meant was that it was unhelpful to the EU, whose chaotic handling of uncontrolled mass migration had got completely out of hand. In all the breast-beating and mutual recrimination, there has been almost no consideration of the consequences of this movement of the able-bodied and relatively affluent (with enough money to pay for their transport) out of what used to be called the Third World. What will become of those left to their fate among marauding warlords? It might be argued that we in the West have a greater responsibility for them since it was often our interventions that destabilised their countries.

There has not even been the universally agreed global action on the people-smuggling industry that should, by rights, be comparable to the slave trade in international ignominy.

In fact, dreadful as it is to have to say this, the charities whose ships wait just off the coast of Libya to pick up the smugglers’ desperate passengers could be described as aiding and abetting the crime. Stamping out this wicked trafficking in human life should be among the top priorities in the migrant crisis. At the very least, one would have expected the UN and the EU to have agreed on an effective programme of action for eliminating it, rather than simply “condemning” it and then picking up the detritus left in its wake.  

So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, history is not much help. The United States, famously “a nation of immigrants”, is not a useful model. When my grandparents arrived at the turn of the twentieth century, there was an established and rigorous procedure at Ellis Island – and it was not the unbounded open door that sentimental Europeans might think.

No one could be admitted to the US mainland from the island reception centre who might prove to be, as the rules put it, “a charge upon the state” either through mental unfitness or ill health. (Because my grandmother’s cousin had measles, the whole family was held in the quarantine centre until she was deemed non-infectious.) Perhaps more surprisingly, prospective migrants were not permitted to have pre-arranged jobs. This was to prevent the importation of cheap labour gangs into the country: if you wanted to come in, you had to take your chances for survival with the indigenous population. There would be no state support and no employment stitch-up.

The system was designed to stress independence and resourcefulness. Modern European societies with their extensive welfare provision and employment protection laws are a world away from this mentality. And, of course, those European entrants had paid for legal sea passages in steerage: they were not fodder for smuggling gangs. This was a well-supervised operation with rules and regulations, not lawless chaos. Now the US is deeply troubled by the sort of migration that is much harder to control: from Mexico and points south, the border with which (no matter what Donald Trump claims) is impossible to police. The lesson is, unsurprisingly, that there may not be easy solutions to this great mass movement of peoples but there are worse and better ways of dealing with the political pressures that it raises.

It is imperative that decisions are made – and stuck to – about what “dealing with migration” should mean: about what we want the end result to be. Otherwise it will remain a brutal fight to the front of the queue for those who may not be most deserving, and a collapse of trust in government and the rule of law which could undermine the most compassionate intentions.                       

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 29.10.16

SPANISH LIFE/CULTURE

Accuracy: About such things as how many will turn up for an event, what time an event will start, or what time they'll arrive at a meeting Spaniards can be - shall we say - quite lax. But sometimes the degree of precision can be astonishing. It's not uncommon for statistics here to be quoted to not just 2 but 3 decimal points - even when the chance of error is 3-5%. Reader Sierra has kindly provided this foto of a sign saying the 80kph zone will stretch for 19.3km, which I have to admit is an example of something I haven't seen. Yet.


Buying Property in Spain: This is always fraught. More so in some areas than others. It all depends on how many crooked sellers, builders, developers, bankers, lawyers and even notaries are operating where you plan to buy. Here's one cautionary tale. The lessons to draw? 1. Always use (an honest) lawyer, and 2. Make sure someone is managing your place in your absence - to receive mail, tax demands, etc.

SPANISH POLITICS

The Socialist Stance: As mentioned, both the PSOE and Podemos plan to make life very tough for the imminent minority PP administration. This will be done 'for the good of the country', they say. Click here for more on this. And here for a reprise of a Guardian columnist's view back in 2011 of what could be next for Podemos, the party of protest. We'll soon know what it will do with its degree of power.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY

The Forbes View: Click here for this.

THE EU

Immigration: The founding principle of free movement of people - in a continent of vast economic differences - has produced some very regrettable consequences. No more so, perhaps, than in lovely, charitable, rich Sweden. Click here for one of many articles on this. The policy, of course, has also been the main impulse behind the rise of extreme right-wing parties in Europe. So, a major success, then. No wonder they don't want to dilute it.

ELSEWHERE

Putin: Aware that Mrs Merkel - after a childhood attack - was afraid of dogs, at their first meeting in Moscow he had the door left open so that his large labrador could wander in and approach her. And then sat back with a smug look on his face. Nice man.

Russia: Thousands of confidential emails between President Putin’s advisers exposing the Kremlin’s efforts to break up neighbouring states have been leaked by Ukrainian hackers. The hack reveals Moscow’s control over pro-Russian breakaway regions in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Emails to Mr Surkov show that the Kremlin was asked to approve ministerial appointments, laws and even press statements for the supposedly independent statelets. Funny, I haven't heard anything about this on RT. Or on its hilarious web page. So, it can't be true. More seriously, it's worrying to read of RT's success with young people on social networks. Or to see that RT TV is one of the more popular channels on the Filmon TV streaming facility. The viewers can't all be amused sceptics like me.

GALICIAN/LOCAL STUFF

Fines: It's said that Galicia is right up there at the head of the list when it comes to handing out these for (alledged) motoring and parking offences. I thought of this when a postman arrived at 5pm yesterday with a special delivery of the official notification of the €200 fine I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. He was obviously touring the area with his latest batch of certified letters. Needless to say, I had to give my ID number and also provide my signature. Twice. First on a piece of paper and then - using a fingertip! - on a PDA. You can imagine what the latter looked like. This was because the postman had a PDA and he entered everything not only on the written documentation but also into this. Making the process twice as long as it used to be. This tends to be how new technology is used by Spain's infamous bureaucracy. To entrench their employment.

THE CORRUPTION CAVALCADE

Spain's First Corruption Parliamentart Commission: From El País in English:- The members of Spain’s first-ever anti-corruption commission plan to start work this week on a project they hope will boost the ailing health of the Spanish democracy and restore the trust of the electorate in its country’s politicians. [Quite some hope] The historic initiative was set up in parliament in early October with the backing of all Spain’s main parties except for the conservative Popular Party (PP), whose leader, Mariano Rajoy, is currently acting prime minister following inconclusive elections in December 2015 and June this year that have left the country without a government for 10 months. The PP has a poor record on transparency initiatives. You can say that again. More here. As we know, Rajoy will be back in power next week.

Meanwhile . . .  In Spain, even the priests get in on the act . . .


  The case
    The Accused
   Positions
 Allegations and Status

The Thieving Cleric of Lugo
José Alonso Silvaje Aparisi
Parish priest
Robbing stuff from every parrish he served in.


THE GALLERY

Another random cartoon . . . 


Friday, October 28, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 28.10.16

SPANISH LIFE/CULTURE

Health Tourism: In the UK, this is decidedly a bad thing. Whereas in Spain - or in Murcia, at least - it's a decidedly good thing. But the animals are different. In the UK, it's about non-EU foreigners who go there to abuse the public system by getting free treatment they're not entitled to. In Spain, it's about attracting foreigners to come and use private facilities. The favoured targets appear to be Russians.

Depopulation: Click here for the forecasts for the next 15 years around Spain.

SPANISH POLITICS

A Bright Future? Or Just Different?: Driving into town the other day, I listened to a political address in parliament by a voice I didn't recognise. It was full of fine sentiments and I eventually decided it was Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the newish very-left-of-centre party, Podemos. Per The Local, this sees itself taking over from the traditional leftish opposition party, the PSOE. Well, maybe. If so, it will have to end the factionalism innate to left wing parties in its own ranks.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY

Unemployment: Some good news at last. If you disregard the quality of the vast majority of jobs created.

The Banks: Don Quijones takes a jaundiced look at the IPO plans of one of these here. DQ mentions the scandals surrounding Bankía, which stars in the Corruption Cavalcade below.

ELSEWHERE

Russia: Amazing how RT News can highlight the 'anti-Russia' build up of NATO forces on its border without ever mentoning the massive increase in Moscow's 'defence' spending over the last few years. Well, not really; it all fits with the local line that the West is out to crush the cuddly Russians.

The Russian Threat to the West: As for how great this really is, see the article at the end of this post.

GALICIAN STUFF

Disenchanted Youth: Sad stuff, to set against the headline good news of lower unemployment. The reality.

Porcine Lords of the Flies: Just off our coast, there's an island - Cortegada - which has been taken over by wild boars which have swum from the mainland. And the locals are not at all happy about what this means for their shellfish harvesting. More on this here, in Spanish.

Which reminds me . . . . 

LOCAL STUFF

That Controversial Football Match: My apologies to my Porcos Bravos friends for not saying there were a lot of Comments in Gallego, as well as in Spanish and English.

FINALLY

A Rare HeadlineWoman smashes into police car while taking topless selfie.

Ashes to Non-Ashes: The Vatican has instructed Catholics not to do bizarre things with the remains of their cremated loved ones and has told them their ashes can only be stored in hallowed places. Given the numbers of Catholics who ignore the far more serious injunction about birth control, for example, I think we can safely assume this nonsense will be honoured more in the breech than in the observance. Catholics might continue to worry about their immortal souls but not their mortal remains. After all, it's not as if an omnipotent God couldn't put their bodies back together from whatever has become of them. Even if they've become a diamond in a distressed daughter's ring. As it were.

THE GALLERY

Another random cartoon from my collection:-


THE CORRUPTION CAVALCADE

As mentioned, this stars Bankía today - a big rubbish bank forged from several small rubbish banks. Its creation and financing involved massive skulduggery on the part of the government and the bank's directors. This is quite separate, by the way, from the previously featured Black Cards case, in which several Bankía execs are being prosecuted for hidden, tax-evading payments via company credit cards.

So, are you finally getting the impression there's hardly a politician or businessperson in Spain who isn't corrupt? And do you still wonder why the EU, with all its subventions, is much loved here?

The case
  The Accused
Positions
           Allegations and Status

Directors of Bankia

Senior executives
Mis-selling

1. The 2011 IPO:
The Supreme Court has ordered Bankia to reimburse two small investors for misleading them during this. The court said that the prospectus had contained “serious inaccuracies". The bank has set aside €1.84 billion in provisions for claims , after announcing it would fully compensate minority shareholders.

2. Preference shares:
Bankia sold c. €5 billion in complex financial products such as preference shares and subordinated debt to customers. Most of these products suffered enforced writedowns. The bank began an arbitration process in 2013


ARTICLE


If Russia looks strong, remember it’s weak:    David Aaronovitch

They were digging the dead children out of the rubble of a school just south of the city of Idlib in Syria yesterday, as the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier and the Russian fleet entered the Med on their way to help to bomb some more Syrian towns. Could their ships, the Russians asked the Spanish government, a member of Nato, stop, as they have in the past, and refuel at the Spanish naval base at Ceuta?

Yesterday we also carried a report on the publishing by Russia of images of their brand new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat, which according to the Russian defence ministry could obliterate an area “the size of Texas or France”. But just in case the inhabitants of Laredo or Lyons feel a bit paranoid about this, it should be pointed out that the Russians could just as well have said “the size of Spain”.

The point is not the payload, it is, if you like, the great big multiple war-headed phallic symbol. We reported the words of a nuclear weapons specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, Igor Sutyagin, when he said: “Russia wants to tell the world: ‘We are a great power, we are scary, don’t ignore us’.”

It took me back. When I was eleven or so I was into planes and statistics. As a Russophile I would take vicarious pride in encyclopaedia entries showing that the USSR was the top manganese producer in the world (even if I had no good idea what manganese was) or that the MiG-21 had a top speed of 1,200mph. The point was that Russia was a superpower, almost equal in status and potency to the United States itself.

We know what became of that. By the time I first travelled to the Soviet Union as a journalist in the early 1980s it was apparent that it was a country that didn’t work. It might have MiGs but it didn’t have soft toilet paper. Its factories were crumbling, its shops were empty, its black markets were easily the most dynamic thing about it. But every May Day the mobile predecessors of the RS-28 were driven in front of Lenin’s mausoleum to be saluted by his successors.

In the reign of Empress Catherine the Great the myth was spread that her minister and favourite, Count Grigory Potemkin, had erected idyllic-looking plasterboard villages on her route around the Russian provinces. It was a myth that was easily believed in Russia. Even if something didn’t really exist, what mattered was whether other people could be gulled into believing that it existed.
So Russia’s fleet makes for Syria, its planes bomb Syrian cities, its soldiers die in Ukraine in the guise of “separatists”, its aircraft buzz ours off our own coast, it intimidates its neighbours and its hackers break into American political email accounts. Are these not the actions and capabilities of a superpower?

Stop and ask yourself how powerful you feel as a Briton these days. Do you consider yourself to be a citizen of a country with the resources to intervene in the Middle East, to send aircraft carriers round the world, to build new generations of tanks and ICBMs? No? Then consider that Russia’s GDP is half the size of Britain’s, just less than South Korea’s and a tenth the size of those of the United States and the European Union. Its GDP per capita is about the same as that of Hungary. Russia has been in recession for two years now, 2015 having been particularly bad.

And yet the Russians are spending more on defence. During the good oil years Russia doubled military spending in a decade. By 2014, with oil prices slumping, almost all areas of Russian government spending were cut in real terms — except the military. That maintained its rise. Putin explained to his people that he saw defence spending as “a locomotive that will pull the various industries: metallurgy, mechanical engineering, the chemical and radio-electric industries, the entire IT and telecommunications range”.

The very fact that a Russian fleet should need to refuel at a Nato port en route for a country just a Turkey-width away from its southern border tells you a great deal

Manganese and MiGs. There are plenty of people in the West today who see Russia and its leadership as a sort of success story. Putin looks like a winner to them, a man who has “given pride back” to his countrymen. He is decisive. Clever. Cunning. He got the Crimea “back”, he took the initiative in Syria, he basks in the admiration of most Russians. And we would do best, rather than “demonising” him, to do business with him more or less on his terms. I hear it everywhere.

But a year ago a Russian economist, Pavel Medvedev, noting the “enduring opinion” that the economy could be led by the defence sector, questioned whether it was true. Putting money into tank production, say, actually did little for domestic consumption. It was still guns or butter, gun sights or broadband. You still couldn’t spend the rouble twice.

Even spending it once is a problem in a sector as problematic, crony-ridden and beyond scrutiny as Russia’s defence procurement sector. There are grandiose and over-expensive programmes, such as the creation of the new Armata super-tank, whose $5 million unit cost has led to orders being slashed from 2,300 to 250. The mighty Admiral Kuznetzov, completed in 1991, is a mechanical disaster area with poor engines and an obsolete launch system. The very fact that a Russian fleet should need to refuel at a Nato port en route for a country just a Turkey-width away from its southern border tells you a great deal.

For some time now the Russian government has been cushioned by a large reserve fund arising from energy production and sales, but this is now depleting. As a consequence other spending areas, such as the Russian health service, are suffering badly. Mothers to be in Moscow are having to wait for up to six weeks for an ultrasound scan, x-rays and blood tests have to be paid for and doctors and nurses are being laid off. A third of Moscow health workers will have gone by next year.

MiGs and manganese. We have been here before. Our danger, as ever, is overestimating an opponent and despairing about ourselves. But thirty years ago the realisation that his country could not compete with the West in technological innovation and defence spending, spurred the reform programme of Mikhail Gorbachev. It wasn’t accommodation by the West that achieved change, it was clear-eyed competition.


I am not advocating confrontation or sabre rattling. I am saying that Russia’s position is much weaker than it appears and that ours is much stronger. We must be clear that the advantages of Russia behaving in a responsible way will be friendship, co-operation and mutual security. The disadvantages of belligerence will be to find themselves caught up in a competition that they cannot win and — as of yesterday — with no room at the port.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 27.10.16

SPANISH LIFE/CULTURE

Those Russian Ships: Expert as they are in deceiving themselves about the difference between Gibraltar ('An unacceptable colonial relic') and Ceuta ('Just an enclave in North Africa') the Spanish government clearly felt the world would fall for their line that, unlike Spain, the latter wasn't tecnically covered by NATO treaty principles. It must have been quite a surprise, then, for the relevant Minister - the execrable Motormouth Margallo – to discover that no-one outside Spain and Russia fell for this specious nonsense. Cue quick re-think in Madrid. They must have been mad to think they could get away with it. So, reviewing all the conflicting comments and denials:-
  • Did Russia make a request but then withdraw it?
  • Did Russia never make any request?
  • Did Russia receive an invitation from Spain but never respond to it?
  • Did Russia never receive any invitation from Spain?
  • Did Spain issue an invitation but then withdraw it?
  • Did Spain never issue an invitation?
  • Did Spain receive a request from Russia?
  • Did Spain initially agree to a request from Russia?
  • Did Spain refuse a request from Russia?
  • Did Spain agree to a request but then change its mind?
Above all . . . Did Spain act unbelievably stupidly? That's probably the only one of these questions we'll get an answer to.

Flamenco and Jazz: I'm not a great fan of either of these art forms. At least when the jazz is very 'jazzy' and so performed more for the benefit of the musicians than for me. But, thanks, to Lenox of Business Over Tapas, I've enjoyed to a bit of fusion this morning. Though admittedly only as background listening.

Places to See in Spain: Out of the goodness of its heart, Travago has given us these 30 suggestions, all beautifully snapped. By pure coincidence, I've been pondering going to either Finisterra or El Cañon del Sil today. But, as this depended on the decision of a Latin lady friend, it seems neither place will enjoy a visit from me this week.

SPANISH POLITICS

The Next Government: The right-of-centre PP party will be back in power by next Monday but the left-of-centre parties who have more seats have said they won't approve its budget. As someone has asked, what's the point of allowing the PP to stay into power if you're going to then stymie them at every serious turn? Doubtless it'll all come out in the wash. Meanwhile, it's correctly been said that deadlock had been converted into gridlock. While all the while the EU it telling Madrid it had better start soon on expanding its austerity measures. The very policies resisted by the parties of the Left. What fun.

THE EU & THE UK

What the Eurocrats Fear Most: See the first article at the end of this post.

Humiliating Mrs May: The second article probably represents the majority British view of last week's development. Or mine, at least: Taster: This week, through all the worrying, I remembered that I voted Leave because I felt strongly that it was our one chance to get out from under an increasingly powerful yet perennially ridiculous superstate marching us forward to a decaying hegemony of paper-pushers armed with tanks and tax control and more competing agendas than a series of Celebrity Big Brother.

GALICIAN STUFF

Los Ancares: This is a beautiful area in northern Galicia, famous for its wildlife. And houses made of straw. I went there, full of animal expectations, about 10 years ago. Didn't even see a sparrow.

A Strange Castle Tale: Would you believe that a government-owned Parador hotel has been declared illegal? Of course you would. It's Spain.

LOCAL STUFF

Saturday's Football Match between the Porcos Bravos and the Sheffield Stags: This travesty of justice is covered in depth – occasionally hilariously - from Comment 84 to this page, some in English but most in Spanish. Anything which produces so much good humour can't be bad. I particularly enjoyed the brief but accurate comment that: The referee John Doe wasn't allowed time to settle into the game. Incidentally, one of the Shefield lads told me before the match that they'd arrived 4 hours early at Liverpool airport and gone straight to the bar. Once in Pontevedra, they were kindly taken out on the tiles all night. When I hinted this hadn't been exactly accidental, he replied: “Yes, we knew it was their strategy but we still went along with it.” So, perhaps they deserved to be robbed.

FINALLY

Practical Advice:-
  • When cutting superglue off your finger, be careful not to take off a centimetre of skin in the process.
  • When cutting the plastic off the top of a bottle of Modena vinegar with a carving knife, be careful not to take off the entire top of said bottle and spray both the kitchen and yourself with black stuff.
  • If you've been adopted by a male kitten, don't leave your leather jacket where it can leap up, pull it down and chew holes in it.
You're welcome.

THE GALLERY

Random item from the collection of a twice-married man . . . .



THE CORRUPTION CAVALCADE

Here's the latest case:-

The case
The Accused
   Positions
 Allegation
  Status

Caso Majestic
Two ex-mayors and 7 civil servants in Casares
Various in the town hall
- Money laundering
- False property classifications
- Bribery


The hearing has been postponed until March.


ARTICLES

Brexit could pull the pin out of the EU grenade. That's why the Eurocrats are terrified: Asa Bennett

Britain is leaving the European Union, and the great and good in Brussels are on edge. The move could be "the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also Western political civilisation in its entirety", Donald Tusk warned just before the referendum. Jean-Claude Juncker was more restrained after the vote to leave, but conceded that "there are splits out there and often fragmentation".

The EU is in crisis, and its leaders know that Britain's departure could be the bloc's breaking point. Mr Tusk and his fellow Eurocrats know that many citizens are unhappy with the way things are going, and so could be inspired by Britain if it can show that a better future awaits outside of the EU. A successful Brexit could in effect be the start of a stampede of member states towards the exit door that could see the EU crumble. 

So they will find little to rejoice in new research out today from think-tank Demos, which sheds light on how many European citizens are feeling as averse towards the bloc as British people are.

Britons are most keen for their country to be out of the European Union, with 45 per cent saying it should be its "long-term" aim. This remains higher than the proportion who want Britain to remain in the EU (39 per cent). Fewer people in France (22 per cent) and Germany (16 per cent) feel their country's destiny is outside of the bloc - although many more of them want to see the its powers curtailed (33 per cent in French and 23 in Germany). This latent Euroscepticism is remarkable enough given that these two countries have been the linchpin of the European Union.

This research may, if anything, present too rosy a picture of how Europeans feel about the EU's future. A survey by the University of Edinburgh found that 33 per cent of French people would vote to leave the bloc in a referendum, not too far behind the 40 per cent that would vote to remain. It wouldn't be hard for a "Frexit" movement to make their case to voters given that - according to the Pew Research Center - over 60 per cent of French people feel unfavourably about the EU.

France isn't unique as a hot-bed of pro-Leave sentiment, as Ipsos found that a similar proportion - 33 per cent- of of citizens in the European nations it surveyed would vote to get out of the EU. Nearly half (48 per cent) thought that other countries would end up following Britain out of the exit door, so the Brexit process is being watched by Eurosceptics across the continent. 

France and Germany's leaders have consistently sought to defend the EU and further its powers, but many of their citizens feel the enterprise is pointless, or should at least be cut back. They have been making their feelings known at the ballot box by voting for far-right anti-EU parties like the Front National and the Alternative for Germany. They are not alone in their Euroscepticism, as YouGov found that 32 per cent of those in Poland, 31 per cent in Spain and 32 per cent in Sweden want the EU's wings to be clipped. 

EU leaders are for now pledging to stick together in response to Brexit in order to keep the bloc alive, but they should be worried as many Europeans are feeling the same disaffection and anxieties that drove Britons to vote for Brexit. 

YouGov finds palpable concern in its polling for Demos among voters across the continent about the impact of immigration - an issue many Britons voted to leave the EU over - and multiculturalism on European society. 

Nearly half of those polled in France said that their society had changed "for the worse" by becoming "more ethnically and religiously diverse", 40 per cent of those say in the same in Poland, as do 37 per cent in Germany. Border control, is not solely a British concern. 

Europeans don't just feel ignored by their leaders over issues like immigration, but worry that they aren't leading them towards a better future. 

Do Europeans think things will get better or worse for the following over the next twelve months? -
Almost half (47 per cent) of the French people surveyed thought things would get worse over for Europe over the next year, with fractionally more (53 per cent) thinking their same about their own country. Similar pessimism is rife among the other European nations, as 45 per cent in Germany think the next year will only see things get worse across the continent, and 43 per cent say the same in Sweden. The most optimistic country is Spain, where just over a third (36 per cent) of those polled feel things will improve in Europe and at home (32 per cent) in the next year.

Voters love to give their national leaders a kick, but the European Union fares little better in Demos' research. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of those in France say they have low trust in the Commission and 66 per cent in the European Parliament. If the EU can't enthuse citizens in one of the countries at the heart of its creation, something has gone deeply awry. 

Mr Tusk and his fellow Eurocrats are itching to ostracise Britain after its vote to leave the European Union, but their desperate rush to tar it as a pariah is a sign of something more: panic. The EU's leaders know that Britain's exit could inspire many European citizens who have little but scorn for the bloc, so are rushing to put them off getting any ideas. 

The EU is in a parlous state as it is, so Britain's exit will unsettle it even further. If the bloc was a grenade, Brexit could be the pin. That's why the Eurocrats are terrified about it.



This week's preposterous EU summit reminded me exactly why I voted Leave in the first place: Ayesha Vardag


The first European Council meeting since the EU referendum was marred with the indignity of the European leaders snubbing Theresa May. Leaving her to wait until the waiters were standing by to clear for the night before letting her speak.

Greeting her short, functional speech with a planned stony silence. It was petty. It was designed to humiliate. It looked rather like a bunch of schoolboy louts ganging up and bullying.

And for someone like me who initially regretted my vote to Leave, it could not have been more calculated to remind me why I chose to get out. Indeed, I feel, for the first time since the vote, that I did the right thing. That bunch of codgers trying to insult Theresa May made my head echo, on her behalf and our own behalf, with a resounding "screw you".

It felt like all those times when I was starting in the very old-guard male world of the law, and I'd be in rooms full of middle aged lawyers in grey suits who'd been complacently under-performing for years, telling me I didn't know what I was talking about, telling me I couldn't be successful as a single mother, or with a new legal argument, or a new law firm with a new way of doing things, until I beat the hell out of them, again and again, in business and in court, and then they had to console themselves with sniping behind my back.

So I can imagine how May feels. But I hope she doesn't let those old muckers get her down. Things have been run by bitchy old men protecting their patch for far too long. And what a remarkable PR own-goal for the EU club – to turn May from Cruella de Ville into Boadicea overnight is an achievement that Blair's finest spin doctors could only have dreamt of. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm still not happy about the way the referendum was fought, about the untruths that flew hither and thither, the drumming up of hatred and contempt by both sides. I still can't help feeling it was all so casual for such a big decision, and wish the threshold for leaving had been higher (in a global economy, our stability has a high value).

I still wish, too, that people had really known what they were voting for – that there had been any way of asking Leave voters what kind of Brexit we actually wanted, what price we would put on controlling our borders versus staying in the single market.

I even wish young people had been more organised, that our system of voting was not so slanted towards older people used to plodding down to the post office in person rather than doing everything on their phones. 

But this week the EU reminded me what a millstone, what an albatross around our necks, it always was. It has allowed a trade deal between Canada and the EU, seven years in the making, to founder in the Walloon-Flemish tensions of Belgium – apparently Wallonia thought Canada wasn't socialist enough to do a trade deal, or the trade deal wasn't socialist enough, or something wasn't socialist enough.

It's a tyranny of incompetence and vested interests. Nobody can get anything done. It is, as the Canadian Foreign Minister pointed out, hopeless.  


Because the EU's herd of bad-tempered cats can't get their act together, the entire trade deal is off. Because, of course, the EU blocks all member countries from conducting negotiations or deals on their own account. Fortress Europe brooks no side deals. 

Instead, all the EU's power is concentrated in the Commission, and the Commission is a bunch of bureaucrats who have been given massive power over the lives of the ordinary people of Europe.
They trashed Greece. They're trashing Italy. They've started to mutter about trashing Malta. They're trying to run Ireland's taxation policy. They're even planning to set up their own army. Jean-Claude Juncker is drunk on power that no one meant to give him.

Am I worried about rising racism in Britain? Yes, just as I worry about it in the US, in France, in Austria, throughout the Middle East. There are a lot of reasons why racism and tribalism is on the rise, and Brexit is not any sort of root cause, even if the vilest and basest elements of our politics have tapped into Brexit as a rallying cry.

Equally, a few of those who advocated Brexit did tap into this racism and xenophobia, but the racism was created in the first place by a poverty and by a failure to invest in communities.

Ironically though, this failure was partly rooted in the EU's own ban on state aid to national industries – even if Remainers would prefer to blame it purely on the Tories.

So yes, of course I'm worried about the pound dropping below what can be seen as a useful readjustment helpful to our manufacturing industries. Of course I am worried about European talent leaving Britain, and about bankers bailing on us, and about credit flowing out.

I'm worried that the Commission is too egotistical and too stubborn to give us any sort of free trade deal. I am worried sick about all of these things. 

But God, this week, through all the worrying, I remembered that I voted Leave because I felt strongly that it was our one chance to get out from under an increasingly powerful yet perennially ridiculous superstate marching us forward to a decaying hegemony of paper-pushers armed with tanks and tax control and more competing agendas than a series of Celebrity Big Brother.

For the first time since the sick feeling I had when Boris folded and the Brexit leadership crumbled, I am bloody, righteously glad we're getting out from under that bunch of offensive, mediocre, self-exonerating old buzzards. And I pray that the other nations, the other peoples of the Europe I really do love and passionately want to be part of, get out from under them too.

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