Sunday, July 27, 2014

Corruption problem; To pardon or not to pardon; Hurting Putin; & A sudden collapse.

The issue of corruption in Spain creates a quandary; how much of it to report or even just cite? For there's so much of it it could easily justify a separate blog. Indeed, there is one - El Espía en el Congreso. Last week, for example, we had the ex-President of Cataluña apologising for keeping €4m in a bank in next-door Andorra without telling the Spanish tax authorities about it. But that's not all, it seems. It's suggested that many years as the leading Catalan politician allowed him to accumulate 5-6 hundred million euros (yes, €5-600m!) in other offshore accounts. And on the day he said sorry for the lesser offence, his son resigned from political office because of accusations of corruption. This apple obviously didn't fall very far from the tree. And then there's the Malaya case down in Marbella - long a hotbed of corruption - where virtually every politician and local planning officer was involved in a humongous web of plunder totalling €2.4 billion. Same thing on a much smaller scale in Sanxenxo, just along the coast from Pontevedra. Anyway, the obvious question is - Although no one could resist temptation during the boom years, has the carousel of arrests, prosecutions and prison sentences stopped the rot? Or are politicians still gambling on the chances they won't be the ones to be caught? As with the folk who park their cars illegally in town. I guess we will see in a few years time. 

Meanwhile, as I've said, the most relevant question is - Which of the guilty will immediately be pardoned by the government and so allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. Possibly after making an illegal contribution to the party's black-money coffers.

One person we know who's not going to get any sort of pardon is the left-wing celebrity lawyer, Báltasar Garzón. He's so upset the judiciary and political hierarchies that there's no chance the government will reduce or reverse the sentence that barred him from his main job.

Here's one way to get back at Putin - Buy Moldavian wine. Not in Spain or France, of course, where you'll never find it. But look out for it in the UK. Why? Because, in a fit of vindictive pique, Putin's banned the import of Moldavia's wine into Russia, after the country declined to join the Russian equivalent of the EU. This despite the fact Putin owns his own cellar in the country and held his 50th birthday party there. Nasty little man.

Finally . . . There was a lot of excitement down in Vegetables Square a few days ago. The interior of one of the old houses that border it collapsed and the facade had to be shored up, disrupting the layout of the Sunday flea market. My guess is that it'll be years before anything is done to restore the house. This seems to be the way of things in the old quarter. Which is a shame.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spanish New; Fun with the staff; The EU; & a prancing priest.

Spain: Good/Bad News

  • The economy continues to grow, albeit slowly, and the government has increased its growth forecast (always wrong) to 1.2% for this year and 1.8% for next year. So far, none of this has done much for the country's astronomical levels of unemployment.
  • For the second year running, Spain's population has fallen, taking the total down to 46.5m. Part of the reason is that there was another 'negative migratory balance', last year, with the number of people leaving exceeding that of incomers.
  • Spain has been slapped down by Brussels over the stone blocks used by Gibraltar to create an artificial reef in what it says are its waters. The EU says it found no reason to interfere in this matter.
  • On the same subject, someone has reported that analysis of timings and flow rates confirms that Spain is manipulating things so as to slow down traffic during peak hours on the Spain-Gibraltar border. A la Franco.
  • Same subject: Although the current PP government has massively ramped up the number of incidents in and around Gibraltar - presumably for media consumption - Madrid has angrily criticised Britain for raising the temperature "between allies and fellow EU members" by regularly calling in the London ambassador for a talking to. Transference? Smokescreen?

One of the joys of Spain is that, in Galicia at least, if you josh with waiters or waitresses, they will invariably join in the fun. None of that snottiness for which their French (and English!) brethren are famous. Of course, it helps to do it in Spanish.

If you want to know why the EU "is not a torchbearer for human progress but a corporatist cartel divided by competing national interests. And its members are also far too myopic even to recognise what their interests really are", click here.

Finally . . . An about-to-retire priest down in Malaga has found a way to counter the Church's problem of rapidly shrinking congregations. Or his church's at least. He dances flamenco with the ladies who attend his services. Can't see it catching on in the Vatican. Although the new Pope seems willing to try anything to recover the lost faithful. The faithless?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Galicia mourns, a year on.

Today is Galicia's 'Saint's Day'. Inevitably, it's dominated by yesterday's first anniversary of the horrendous train crash at Angrois, near Santiago.

As I mentioned yesterday, the officials and politicians responsible for an accident that was waiting to happen have obstructed the judicial enquiry at every turn. And no one has admitted anything or resigned. This is the way things are here. Which, along with the rampant corruption of the politico-corporate casta, explains why the Spanish are so cynical about not only their politicians but also their judicial system.

As one commentator in today's Voz de Galicia put it: It is the first duty of public officials and it has not been fulfilled. To answer all the questions, however many times it's necessary. To do your duty to those who won't complete any more years because their stories ended on a curve. Galicia did respond with its love - 'Thank-you, people of Galicia, for drying our tears" was heard yesterday in Santiago. But no one could give thanks for having their questions answered. A year ago they cried "Why?", but there is only silence. For one day, for so many lives cut short, the political class should rise to the level of the heroes of Angrois and of the extraordinary common people. And Answer.

It's at times like this that it's driven home that Spain is not the fully functioning democracy it appears to be on the surface. Perhaps that's too much to expect only 40 years after the end of a dictatorship.

Finally . . . Here's a letter also published in the Voz de Galicia today. It's from a grieving father to his deceased son. As a father, I couldn't bear to finish it. And I certainly couldn't manage the task of correcting the usually useless Google translation.

Carta a mi hijo virtual, héroe del Alvia 04155

Hola Tommy, hoy me he decidido a escribirte, entre lágrimas y sollozos, triste, sí, pero orgulloso por sentir la belleza más que nunca, esa que duele, por efímera e intangible. Siento esa sonrisa permanente que tenías de pequeño y ese olor de recién bañado cuando llegaba a casa después de un día de duro trabajo y me esperabas para jugar un poco antes de dormirte. Siento lo mucho que duele perder lo más preciado que pueda tener un padre, pero me armo de valor para escribirte y contar al mundo lo que llevo dentro, con el fin de que tu muerte no sea en vano y ayude a que tu espíritu siga vivo. Desde aquel maldito día en que te fuiste, no puedo dejar de llorar tu pérdida y a la vez celebrar que tu hermana Laura se haya salvado, quizás gracias a ti, porque estoy convencido de que si tuviste algún momento de consciencia de lo que estaba sucediendo en ese fatídico momento, tu primera reacción fue proteger a tu hermana, lo sé y por eso eres un héroe para mí. Que por cierto está bien y sigue creciendo, está hecha una mujercita, ya cumplió los quince años. Ella siente también mucho la pérdida de vuestra madre y aunque aparentemente lo lleva bien, yo sé que en el fondo lo siente mucho. Pero como es tan joven y tan inteligente sabe que tiene que mirar hacia adelante y ser positiva, por lo que se encierra en el estudio y siempre tiene la mente ocupada y además saca muy buenas notas. Pero el pasado ya es una realidad que no se puede cambiar y tenemos que mirar como evolucionar con esta nueva situación, por el bien de Laura, sobre todo, puesto que tiene una vida por delante, llena de posibilidades y ahora solo me tiene a mí en el día a día para ayudarla a que se vaya creando expectativas de futuro, a través del conocimiento propio y del ajeno. En este sentido quiero centrar el objetivo de esta carta, y dado que me he convertido en un ?padre virtual? para ti, quiero plasmar algunas enseñanzas que la vida me ha deparado para que otros jóvenes como tú encuentren una fuente de inspiración para encontrar sentido a la existencia humana en una sociedad un tanto enferma y absurda como la actual. De esta manera siento que mi labor de padre continúa y tu papel de hijo permanece. 
Nada es para siempre, la existencia es efímera, eso es una gran verdad que te lleva a pensar si la cantidad de años que uno vive es realmente determinante o es la intensidad lo que realmente importa. De alguna manera tenemos que superar esta angustia existencial que nos atenaza porque conocemos la única verdad absoluta que existe y es saber que todos vamos a morir, más tarde o más temprano. Dentro de 1000 años, tanto tú como yo seremos iguales, igual que nuestros antepasados y los que están por venir, lo que hayamos vivido será lo de menos. Nadie sentirá nuestro calor, nuestro olor, nuestra energía. Lo que te lleva a pensar que todos formamos parte de un solo organismo, al igual que las células que se renuevan y contribuyen a mantener una estructura superior, y solo así todo parece tener sentido. Venimos a este mundo a aportar nuestro granito de arena y ya está. Todos somos necesarios y prescindibles a la vez, es la gran paradoja que rige el universo y nuestro destino, el principio de acción y reacción. A los humanos nos corresponde contribuir a nuestra especie como cada uno pueda. Tú lo has hecho, la vida para mí, para tu hermana, tu familia, tus amigos y la sociedad ya no será igual sin ti. Tu contribución dejará un poso que será exclusivamente tuyo y para siempre.

Tomás López Lamas 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Santiago train crash; Caliphate atrocities; Sign success; & House insurance.

It's a year since 80 people lost their lives in a train crash close to Santiago. It's now accepted that the driver's distraction by a phone call was only the proximate cause and that there was contributory negligence on the part of politicians and rail company executives. That said, none of the latter have cooperated with the investigating judge and all look like getting off scott free. Victims and heros were scheduled to receive medals tomorrow but many have refused, seeing the ceremony as political exploitation. Who could blame them? Anyway, here's the BBC's report.

The man who would be Caliph has ordered that all women and girls over 10 in Mosul undergo genital mutilation. Or ablacion, as it's euphemistically called in Spain. ISIS has also trumpeted its intention to take back El Andalus from Spain. It takes something to be more extreme than Al Qu'eda. Cue condemnation from around the Muslim world. Maybe.

Well, the huge For Sale sign on my neighbour's gate must have done its work at the speed of light. For now it's tacked up on the wall of another neighbour. I'm discounting the possibility that one family was daft enough to buy not just one but two expensive houses at the height of the boom.

Finally . . . I'm reviewing my house insurance policy. Happily, I've started to do this - by chance - more than 2 months before the expiry of my current policy. For, if you don't, you'll run into all sorts of problems, under regulations that don't seem to have been drafted in the interests of consumers. See here for all the details.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Language; Jail-bound?; Customer orientation; Disrespect; Gib; & Vaping.

Yesterday I re-read Orwell's essay on language that obscures meaning, including his famous statement that Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. Later, I saw this example in Private Eye's Pseuds Corner; John Osborne: I propose that Philip Larkin developed a set of techniques that allowed him to instantiate unfixity in the very fabric of his verse. These techniques include ellipsis, a four-act structure with closing reversal, asysmmetrical stanza lengths and rhyme schemes, plus a battery of disaggregative linguistic devices such as split similes, negative qualifiers, oxymora and rampant paronomasia. Together these techniques constitute the implements of a home-grown deconstructionism.

Possibly good news: The man responsible for one of Spain's notorious ghost airports - and a lot else besides - has had his 4-year jail sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court. We now wait to see if he ever sets foot in any jail and how long it is before friends in the Cabinet issue a pardon. I doubt he's on tenterhooks.

Spain: I sent an email to my home insurance company today. I got an automatic response which didn't just say they'd answer as soon as they could; it cited the law under which they're obliged to do do. I wonder what this adds to my satisfaction/expectation. One gets the impression that, if there were no legal compulsion, they wouldn't do it. Said law: El artículo 10.3, capítulo II de la Orden ECO/734/2004, de 11 de marzo, sobre los Departamentos y Servicios de Atención al Cliente y el Defensor del Cliente de las Entidades Financieras

I'm told you can be arrested in Spain for a 'lack of respect towards authority', usually in the form of an unfriendly Guardia Civil officer. Who would seem to have a good deal of scope. Especially when it's his word against yours. Here and here (para 4) are a couple of examples.

I mentioned Gib the other day. Specifically, the failure of the Spanish authorities to comply with EU instructions around the frontier queues. Here's an article which claims to provide the proof of borderline skulduggery.

Finally . . . A new verb for me: 'To vape'. This is to smoke an electric cigarette and there are now vape cafés all around the UK. And a Vape Room in London airport. Progress?

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