Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ponters Pensées 28.5.16

Germany v. Spain: There is much Teutonic unhappiness that the EU Commission/government is delaying a decision on fining Spain for (again) exceeding deficit limits in 2015. They fear Spain won't be punished (again) and that the rules will be ignored. Funny, but I don't recall similar protests when Germany and then France were the first to flout the rules with total impunity. As was said at the time, this set an appalling example for less well-managed EU members. As someone once said: “Taxes are only for smaller people.”

Capitalism. Talking about the Germans. Here's a rather bleak view of what's going on in respect of Greece and also more widely. Some tasters from it, which is possibly a tad OTT. But certainly contains at least the proverbial grains:
  • Neoliberalism intends to reestablish feudalism—a few robber barons and many serfs: the 1% and the 99%.
  • Greece is being destroyed by the EU that it so foolishly joined and trusted.  The same thing is happening to Portugal and is also underway in Spain and Italy.  The looting has already devoured Ireland and Latvia (and a number of Latin American countries) and is underway in Ukraine.
  • The media persists in calling the looting of Greece a “bailout.”
  • To call the looting of a country and its people a “bailout” is Orwellian.  The brainwashing is so successful that even the media and politicians of looted Greece call the financial imperialism that Greece is suffering a “bailout.”
  • Everywhere in the Western world a variety of measures, both corporate and governmental, have resulted in the stagnation of income growth. In order to continue to report profits, mega-banks and global corporations have turned to looting.  Social Security systems and public services are targeted for privatization, and indebtedness so accurately described by John Perkins in his book, 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man', is used to set up entire countries to be looted.
  • We have entered the looting stage of capitalism. Desolation will be the result.

Gallego: In my midday bar yesterday, I yawned a couple of times and was then told by the barmaid - a friend - that the Gallego response to a yawn is that it indicates : Fame, sueno o ganas de coña. Or in Castellano: Hambre, sueño o ganas de cona. In English: 'Hunger, tiredness or a desire for c**t'. Or, as Google has the Gallego: 'Hunger, tiredness or a desire for Joke'. But at least it gets it spot on with the Castellano version.

Pontevedra's Francoist Vestiges: This, in fact, the escudo I mentioned yesterday. And not the one I thought it might be:


Finally . . . .Telefónica: A brief but telling conversation in the shop last week:-

Man next to me: Isn't there some cable TV with the €50 option this gentleman is talking to you about? I can't seem to get any programs.
Assistant: Yes but they withdrew it.
MNTM: But I only signed up last week.
Me: And I only got your flier citing it last week too.
Assistant: Yes but they just withdrew it.

No suggestion of anyone being advised. And this is when Telefónica is desperately trying to show it understands the phrase 'customer service'.

And now 2 treats:-
  1. A snap of a tired/bored art gallery attendant. I think the English should read. And Jesus was, like, “What is this?” Even He, it seems, is prone to the ubiquitous but redundant Americanism much loved by adolescents. And those down with the kids.
  1. An atheist cartoonist's view of the frequent theist explanation that God has a plan for every single one of us.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ponters Pensées 27.5.16

Spanish (non)Government: The writer of this article suspects the current uncertainty is here to stay for some time. Probably with due cause.

Spanish Government: There are 4 administrative layers here - national, regional, provincial and municipal. This naturally increases complexity, costs, inefficiency and - above all corruption. In comparison, the UK has 3 – national, county and municipal. But above all these is, of course, the EU and its overarching bureaucracy and parliament of unknown gravey-trainers. It's said to be felt in Brussels that the UK will need to lose one of its 3, the obvious candidate being the national government at Westminster. So . . . Does Spain have 2 superfluous layers? If so, which is the second one? For me, it would have to be the provincial one and its millionaire presidents.

Spanish Politicians: Is there an analogy between their (nil to short) prison sentences and the Catholic institution of Confession, which only ever involves the mere parrot-like repetition of short prayers? I'd say Yes, if the former involved any sort of admission of guilt plus a sincere 'Act of Contrition'. I smile just thinking of that (im)possibility.

Francoism: It's taking a while but Spain is gradually getting shot of the vestiges of this. That said, there are at least 2 escudos on Pontevedra walls with Francoist elements. This is possibly one of them:


But, anyway, the Catalan town of Tortosa has decided - forty years after the dictator’s death - to strip Franco of his honorary mayorship. He must be revolving in his grave. Unless he's been burnt to a crisp.

Pontevedra Cyclists: So few of these actually use the road that I regularly feel like stepping off the pavement/sidewalk to give them a medal. Except for the gypsies who ride home from the city at night without so much as a reflector. Members of the 3 or 4 police forces do nothing about any of this, of course. They prefer to pursue easy-to-fine motorists who are 'distracting themselves' from driving properly. Possibly by blinking from time to time.

Poio Wifi: After 15 years of 0.5megas('Up to 6megas') and 1 year of 0.5-2.0megas ('Up to 3megas'), I now have cable-supplied capacity of 'Up to 30megas. Or, in practice, a pathetic 2.5megas at 7 this morning. By 8, this had risen to a magnificent 2.8 megas. Is every one of my neighbours (illegally) downloading a film overnight? Or does nothing improve until someone at Telefónica gets to the office? Around 10am. I'll let you know.

Pontevedra Customer Service: Changing back to Telefónica for both my fixed line and mobile phone naturally took 4 trips to the (franchise) shop. The last centred on my question: Why has my fixed line number been changed? The answer was that this was necessary and unavoidable. To which I replied that it obviously wasn't for the neighbours on both sides of me. Cue the first (laughable) lie that came into the young woman's head. Which is when I realised it wasn't worth pursuing further, especially as I get very few calls.

Finally . . . Spain's Queen. The lovely Letizia is widely felt to be a sufferer from anorexia. But she looks positively fat against recent fotos of the once-very-beautiful Angelina Jolie. Sad. For all sufferers, of course.



Technical Note: Google Stats tells me there where was a record number of page views yesterday – at 1,525. But Google Analytics offers me an analysis of a much smaller number. Can anyone account for this difference, assuming it's not just a reflection of hundreds of bots 'viewing' my page? Incidentally, most of the Google Stats readers come from Russia(43%), followed by the USA(28%). Odd. Perhaps the Kremlin regard me as important enough to track. Perhaps I'll appear on RT News one of these days . . . .

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ponters Pensées 26.516


It being Thursday, I'm again indebted to the latest issue of Business Over Tapas, from Lenox Napier

Venezuela: Not normally a topic for this blog but yesterday I saw this cartoon while reading the (very) right-wing ABC newspaper, while waiting (of course) in a bank. 


Admiral: With just 30,000 Spaniards, I defended Cartagena [against the British, as it happens]
Conquistador: That's nothing: With just 500 Spaniards, I conquered Mexico.
President of Venezuela: That's nothing: With just 4 members of Podemos, I ruined Venezuela.

And then, this morning, there was a harrowing account of the parlous state of the nation on Sky TV. The reference in the cartoon is to the members of Spain's new Far Left party, Podemos, who are said to have been handsomely paid to advise the Venezuelan president on economic policies. Not terribly well, it seems. Which is rather worrying because of the real possibility that a Far Left coalition will emerge victorious in June's repeat elections.

Spanish Stats: It's reported that:-
  • The average monthly salary in Spain, at €1,640 is 17.8% under the EU average of €1,995. Bulgaria is bottom at €357 and Denmark is the top, with € 3,553. 
  • Almost 30% of Spaniards are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
  • The average annual household income stands at €26,000. [Not 12 x 1.640]
  • There are 1.4m unemployed in Spain who've not had a job in the last three years or more.

Administrative Transparency: As you'd expect of a country with astronomic corruption among politicians and businessmen, this is not a major feature of Spanish life. So, it's no great surprise that relatives of the huge train crash here in Galicia 2 years ago are finding it next to impossible to get a copy of the official investigation. So, we remain ignorant of why only the driver has been prosecuted and none of the people implicated in reports of negligence on the part of politicians and ADIF executives. More on this here.

Buying a Property In Spain: If you've already done this you'll know that transaction costs here are very high. Double the EU average, de verdad. This is in line with the fact that – having always found it difficult to get taxes from those who should pay them – the Spanish government has long gone to town on those it can squeeze. Everyone involved in any official transaction, for example. See here for more on this, though the link wasn't working early today.

Brexit: As I've said, poor Richard North. At least he garners some sympathy for the failure of his titanic – if ultimately abrasive – efforts to get a Brexit plan officially endorsed and issued.

Finally . . . Tiny 'dogs': British vets are said to be calling for 'healthier breeding standards' for pugs and shitzus, in light of the 'crippling health problems' they suffer. There are a lot of these repulsive lapdogs being dragged or carried around by Pontevedra pijas and, pending the changes demanded by said vets, I have a radical solution. Drown all the puppies at birth. Then shoot the parents. And jail the owners for cruelty to both animals and humans

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ponters Pensées 25.5.16

The Spanish are So Rude: Well, no. They're not really. And they can be extremely polite. 'Noble' even. The trouble is that 3 factors combine to make Spaniards do things that other people don't do – like virtually walk into you in the street – and this certainly makes them seem rude. With apologies to long-term readers who've heard all this before, these are those factors:-
  • Spaniards have no concept of personal space. They have no problem with people being 'in their face'. Or with strangers only making a (reciprocal) half-attempt to move out of the way at the very last moment. That's just life here. Irritating as it can be.
  • Spaniards don't have a good radar system. Nor antennae. Until you're introduced to them and things get 'personal', you really don't exist. So no consideration is owed to you. Once things are personal, they are extremely polite and gracious. So, rather black and white.
  • Spaniards can be very thought-less. By which I mean they don't think much about the interests of others. This, I believe, stems from their upbringing. One rarely hears Spanish kids being told to be quiet because there are, say, adults in the place trying to read. Or listen to the music. Or even watch one of the ubiquitous bloody café/bar TVs. Nor do you see kids being reprimanded for kicking a ball into your shins. Or for cycling across your path, within a foot(30cm) of your legs. And even in school corridors you don't see the teachers telling the little rug-rats to be quiet. Or at least less noisy.

That's my take anyway. Feel completely free to disagree.

Not only in Andalucia: No, not corruption this time, but house demolitions. HT to reader Siera for the news that 154 buildings have recently been knocked down here in Galicia because they were illegal. Or because the owners weren't powerful enough. I don't see any mention of the house of an ex-Minister built and expanded illegally close to the sea along our coast.

Driving Licence Points: Another HT to Sierra, I think, for the rider that one's 12 points can increase to 15, if you keep your nose clean for a few years. So, a mixture of losses and gains. How do you achieve this? – with apologies again for repetition – You never take your hands off the steering wheel nor your eyes off the road; you never switch on anything that might distract you; you never move your head; and, most importantly of all, you never, ever drive above 50km outside a town or above 30 in a town. Possibly 25 in some. That should keep you safe from blood-sucking. Of course, the alternative is just to get on with life and regard the fines you'll surely accumulate as a part of your total income tax.

Spanish Banks: Still in trouble. Well, the BBVA anyway. Here's Don Quijones on their latest woes and moans.

English, Spanglish: I was, anyway, going to provide this list of words that the Spanish Royal Academy is very unhappy about. But now I read that it has initiated an ad campaign against the 'invasion' of English words. Which will surely be a glorious (vainglorious?) failure. You can see it -and laugh at it? - here. And these are the detested words. Or some of them, at least. Since the acronym of the academy is RAE, I call this RAEling against English. Geddit? . . . ecofriendly, light, influence, founder, cool, vintage(meaning 2nd hand), spot, after, after-work, hipsters, streaming, running, casting, selfie, and underground.

Spanish English: Not to be outdone, The Local has come up with 10 words that were originally English but have now been taken into Spanish and re-invented. See here

Finally . . . Daft English Words: Advertising is, of course, rife with nonsensical words and phrases. The most recent I've heard is your hair-cleaning ritual. Or 'shampooing' as we used to call it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ponters Pensées 24.5.16

Spanish (non)Government: Can it be that the charisma-less Marion Rajoy is about to emerge triumphant from the repeated elections next month, having seen off – at least for now – the prospect of a Catalan referendum and the threat from the Left? Much as I hate to admit it, this is looking more and more likely, as what's left of Spain's middle class is increasingly viewing the right-wing PP austerity party as the the least worst option. Especially when compared with the Podemos-IU coalition, which makes Jeremy Corby's UK Labour party look like neo-conservatives. Said middle class, by the way, is said to have lost 3m members, as result of the economic havoc wreaked by La Crisis.

More Police Abuse: Down in Madrid, a woman has copped an on-the-spot fine for carrying a bag that declared "All Cats Are Beautiful", plus the acronym ACAB. Despite the fact it also carried the image of a cat, the police claimed this stood for "All Cops Are Bastards". The relevant law is the ludicrously misnamed Citizens Security Law, which criminalises 'disrespecting' the police. In their judgment. I'd hazard a guess the police are even more disrespected now, as a result of this action. Can one imagine this happening elsewhere in Western Europe? Not sure about Eastern Europe.

Spain v the USA: My net colleague Lenox of Business Over Tapas cited this blog post the other day, describing it as 'silly'. I think it's very illustrative.

The EU: See The Times article at the end of this post for a sceptical view of what's being done – or not – to solve the Greek debt crisis.

The Brexit: My personal view aside, I've always insisted this isn't going to happen. The leading brain of the Out camp, Dr Richard North, long ago despaired of the strategy and tactics of his (estranged) colleagues in this movement. Today he sums things up thus: All Vote Leave needed was a sensible exit plan and most of the scaremongering would have evaporated. Instead, they based their campaign on a lie and chosen a serial liar[Boris Johnson] to lead it, having rejected the very idea of an exit plan. The last comment is a reference to his own detailed plan, Flexit. You can read this here. Though I very much doubt that (m)any of you will do this. The guy deserves a medal of some sort.

Galician Gypsies: Shoot-outs between different clans are not uncommon here. But I imagine everyone in an Ourense hospital was rather surprised by the one which took place there a while ago. At the trial last week, the defence of the accused was based on the claim that “They started it a while ago. In another place”.

Pontevedra Internet: After 16 years of complaints about only getting 0.5 megas, Telefónica have finally extended their cable network up our hill overlooking Pontevedra. Given that they'll surely get 100% take-up of '300 megas' at €62-82 per month, I'm lost as to why this took so long . I say €62-82 but the flier from Telefónica neglected to tell us there's also a 30 megas option at €50. Much better, of course, than €25 for 0.5 megas but still probably way above what you'd pay elsewhere in Europe. Is it any surprise that the Telefónica board is stuffed with ex-government ministers?

Finally . . . RT TV: Yesterday morning: Russia hasn't invaded any country – not Georgia, not Crimea, nor Ukraine. Anyway, Georgia started that war. Russian is not guilty of any aggression at all. It's all anti-Russian Western propaganda. Reflective of the meme of a 'dangerous Russia'. It's laughable. Thank God younger people have access to get the truth from the internet.


Why the EU is keeping quiet about Greek debt.     Ed Conway

In the 5th century BC the Greek philosopher Zeno described what became known as his paradox. An arrow fired towards a target will cover half the distance to the target, then half what remains, then half what remains after that, and so on. On this basis, while the arrow might get ever closer to its target, it will never actually hit it.

Zeno’s paradox isn’t much cop in the real world, or archery contests, but it does at least help to explain modern Greek economics: the closer we get to a deal, the more apparent it is that the country’s crisis will never be fully resolved.

In case you haven’t been following Greece recently, here are the three things you need to know.
First, in spite of various “deals” hatched over the past few years, most recently the bailout last summer, the country still faces the same problems it always has. Growth is non-existent. In fact the economy is shrinking again, by 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. Total national income is smaller than it was before the turn of the millennium. House prices are still falling and are now barely more than half their pre-crisis value. Shop prices are down too, leaving the country in deflation, while unemployment is still running at almost 25 per cent, or more than 45 per cent of under-25s. The national debt is set to reach about 200 per cent of gross domestic product this fiscal year according to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent analysis, which is already out of date.

The second thing to remember is that Greece’s creditors are divided. Most economists believe the country cannot recover unless a significant chunk of its debt is simply written off. However the majority of that debt is now owed not to private investors but to other eurozone governments. The Germans have resisted any immediate effort to cancel the debts; the IMF says it will not take part in future bailouts unless Germany does precisely that.

Third, the participants are doing everything they can to disguise the crisis until Britain’s referendum is out of the way. One thing worse than Greece being thrown out of the euro would be Britain leaving the EU, so the more they can suppress news of the continent’s own entrenched problems the better. It is worth being more sceptical than usual about any apparent breakthroughs in the coming weeks.

There are two ways of helping Greece, both of which originate from the UK

Eurozone finance ministers meet on Tuesday for another effort to resolve the crisis. We are told that creditors seem to be putting aside their differences, which is excellent news if it is to be believed. Behind the scenes they are hatching plans to extend the maturity of Greece’s debt so that some of it is not repaid until as late as 2080. Another idea is to hive off some of the debt owed to other eurozone countries to the European Stability Mechanism, which is more or less the same as mutualising it into Europewide debt.

While such proposals would be progress, they pussyfoot around the real issue, which is that Greece will never be able to pay off its debts. Quite simply, the liabilities have risen far beyond the country’s capacity to service and repay them.

Since the crisis began half a decade ago, the strategy has been “extend and pretend”: keep Greece on life support and hope that the country’s economy eventually recovers. In some cases, such plans work a treat, but in Greece it has clearly failed. Some 16 years of economic progress has been wiped out; national income has collapsed by 28 per cent — greater than anything witnessed in a developed economy. Now, once again, Greece is close to running out of money, unable to make its July debt repayments of €300 million to the IMF and €2.3 billion to the European Central Bank.

Yet there are at least two other ways of reducing the effective debt burden without forgetting it entirely, both of which originate not from Brussels but from the UK.

The first would be to do what Britain used to do when faced with enormous war-sized debts, and issue war loans. Consols, as they are sometimes called, are perpetual loans for which the borrower makes regular interest payments but does not repay the debt itself until they see fit, perhaps centuries later. George Osborne repaid some of Britain’s First World War debt only a couple of years ago.

Far better for Greece to convert its debts into consols and remove those painful capital repayments altogether than to pretend that they will be repaid in 2050 or 2080.

The second idea comes courtesy of the Bank of England, which for the past year or so has been quietly working on plans to create bonds linked to gross domestic product. Given that a country’s capacity to pay its debt often hinges on its national income, the attraction of such instruments is clear. Borrow in GDP-linked bonds and when your economy faces a recession, your liabilities shrink alongside your economy rather than ballooning out of control as they did for Greece.

Some countries, Greece included, have issued some primitive GDP bonds in recent years but they have been crude and niche. With the Bank poised to agree standards on such bonds, that might be about to change.

Such ideas might seem outlandish but finding a remedy for unsustainable sovereign borrowing is not just a Greek imperative. From the UK to the US and beyond, the world is more mired in government debt than it has been for decades. Either it will need to be paid back or, like Zeno, we must find a way of ensuring the arrow never reaches its target. Greece might be a useful test case for the rest of us.

I mentioned that Telefónica is bringing cable up ou hill: Here's a view or 2 from my eyrie above Pontevedra:




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