Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Sp. judicial system 1 & 2; Religion 1 & 2; The Middle East; & The original EU con

THE SPANISH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 1: Well into judge Garzón's book Fango now, I realise that the system was designed by Robert Mugabe to ensure that neither he nor any of his mates would ever be successfully prosecuted for anything. If practice, if not in theory. Elements include: woefully inadequate resources; changes of court; replacement of effective judges; and constant attempts to slow down things so that a statue of limitations comes into play. And then there's the fact that national and regional politicians - as aforados - have the right to be tried in certain (superior) courts. Above all this, there's the constant political pressure through media campaigns. Finally, there's the thousands of presidential pardons granted each year to those dumb enough to not only get caught but also to hire lousy lawyers. All in all, something truly more appropriate for Zimbabwe than a modern European state of law. Not surprisingly, only 32% of Spaniards think their courts functional well. Well, that is surprising, really. 

THE SPANISH JUDICIAL SYSTEM 2: A while ago, a lawyer friend assured me that an accused person here has the legal right to lie. I was sceptical but this week the Minister of the interior, no less, told us that members of the Pujol family - accused of humungous corruption in Cataluña - have the right not only to defend themselves but also to lie when doing so. No oath that they're going to tell nothing but the truth, then. Not that anyone would believe them if there were.

RELIGION 1: I was rather surprised to see a centre-page El País article headed: Religion is not a subject. It could be if it were taught under the history of mythologies or something similar. In which case, the teachers should be selected for academic reasons and not designated by an archbishop. Spain's concordats with the Holy See must end as soon as possible. Of course, these sentiments have been present in Spain for decades but this is the first public attack I can recall.

RELIGION 2: Three Spanish women are to face a court in early 2016, charged with insulting the Catholic religion, or something like that. Perhaps "Provoking discrimination, hate and violence." Click here for the details I'm reluctant to post here. How about "Provoking laughter at the Catholic Church"?

THE MIDDLE EAST: I believe, though many don't, that ISIS can eventually be battered out of existence, though with what consequences no one knows. Against that, I don't believe the West can do much about much bigger issues that will mean regional warfare for many decades yet:- 1.The fundamental Islamic schism between Shiites (Iran) and Sunnis (Saudi Arabia), and 2. The sub-schism between the Wahhabi Sunnis and other Sunni sects. The former has been running for almost 1400 years but the latter is only 100 or years or so old. It's anyone's guess what these will yet produce - possibly an Iran-Saudi war - and what the consequences of developments will be. The sooner we move away from oil the better. Meanwhile, it's good to know that the running sore of Israel and Palestine is being rapidly healed. As if.

FINALLY . . . From a British eurosceptic:- 

How a secretive elite created the EU to build a world government

As the debate over the forthcoming EU referendum gears up, it would be wise perhaps to remember how Britain was led into membership in the first place. It seems to me that most people have little idea why one of the victors of the Second World War should have become almost desperate to join this "club". That's a shame, because answering that question is key to understanding why the EU has gone so wrong.

Most students seem to think that Britain was in dire economic straits, and that the European Economic Community – as it was then called – provided an economic engine which could revitalise our economy. Others seem to believe that after the Second World War Britain needed to recast her geopolitical position away from empire, and towards a more realistic one at the heart of Europe. Neither of these arguments, however, makes any sense at all.

The EEC in the 1960s and 1970s was in no position to regenerate anyone’s economy. It spent most of its meagre resources on agriculture and fisheries and had no means or policies to generate economic growth.

When growth did happen, it did not come from the EU. From Ludwig Erhard's supply-side reforms in West Germany in 1948 to Thatcher's privatisation of nationalised industry in the Eighties, European growth came from reforms introduced by individual countries which were were copied elsewhere. EU policy has always been either irrelevant or positively detrimental (as was the case with the euro).

Nor did British growth ever really lag behind Europe's. Sometimes it surged ahead. In the 1950s Western Europe had a growth rate of 3.5 per cent; in the 1960s, it was 4.5 per cent. But in 1959, when Harold Macmillan took office, the real annual growth rate of British GDP, according to the Office of National Statistics, was almost 6 per cent. It was again almost 6 per cent when de Gaulle vetoed our first application to join the EEC in 1963.
In 1973, when we entered the EEC, our annual national growth rate in real terms was a record 7.4 per cent. The present Chancellor would die for such figures. So the economic basket-case argument doesn’t work.

What about geopolitics? What argument in the cold light of hindsight could have been so compelling as to make us kick our Second-World-War Commonwealth allies in the teeth to join a combination of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Italy?
Four of these countries held no international weight whatsoever. Germany was occupied and divided. France, meanwhile, had lost one colonial war in Vietnam and another in Algeria. De Gaulle had come to power to save the country from civil war. Most realists must surely have regarded these states as a bunch of losers. De Gaulle, himself a supreme realist, pointed out that Britain had democratic political institutions, world trade links, cheap food from the Commonwealth, and was a global power. Why would it want to enter the EEC?

The answer is that Harold Macmillan and his closest advisers were part of an intellectual tradition that saw the salvation of the world in some form of world government based on regional federations. He was also a close acquaintance of Jean Monnet, who believed the same. It was therefore Macmillan who became the representative of the European federalist movement in the British cabinet.

In a speech in the House of Commons he even advocated a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) before the real thing had been announced. He later arranged for a Treaty of Association to be signed between the UK and the ECSC, and it was he who ensured that a British representative was sent to the Brussels negotiations following the Messina Conference, which gave birth to the EEC.

In the late 1950s he pushed negotiations concerning a European Free Trade Association towards membership of the EEC. Then, when General de Gaulle began to turn the EEC into a less federalist body, he took the risk of submitting a full British membership application in the hope of frustrating Gaullist ambitions.

His aim, in alliance with US and European proponents of a federalist world order, was to frustrate the emerging Franco-German alliance which was seen as one of French and German nationalism.

Monnet met secretly with Heath and Macmillan on innumerable occasions to facilitate British entry. Indeed, he was informed before the British Parliament of the terms in which the British approach to Europe would be framed.

Despite advice from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir, that membership would mean the end of British parliamentary sovereignty, Macmillan deliberately misled the House of Commons — and practically everyone else, from Commonwealth statesmen to cabinet colleagues and the public — that merely minor commercial negotiations were involved. He even tried to deceive de Gaulle that he was an anti-federalist and a close friend who would arrange for France, like Britain, to receive Polaris missiles from the Americans. De Gaulle saw completely through him and vetoed the British bid to enter.

Macmillan left Edward Heath to take matters forward, and Heath, along with Douglas Hurd, arranged — according to the Monnet papers — for the Tory Party to become a (secret) corporate member of Monnet’s Action Committee for a United States of Europe.

According to Monnet’s chief aide and biographer, Francois Duchene, both the Labour and Liberal Parties later did the same. Meanwhile the Earl of Gosford, one of Macmillan’s foreign policy ministers in the House of Lords, actually informed the House that the aim of the government’s foreign policy was world government.

Monnet’s Action Committee was also given financial backing by the CIA and the US State Department. The Anglo-American establishment was now committed to the creation of a federal United States of Europe.

Today, this is still the case. Powerful international lobbies are already at work attempting to prove that any return to democratic self-government on the part of Britain will spell doom. American officials have already been primed to state that such a Britain would be excluded from any free trade deal with the USA and that the world needs the TTIP trade treaty which is predicated on the survival of the EU.

Fortunately, Republican candidates in the USA are becoming Eurosceptics and magazines there like The National Interest are publishing the case for Brexit. The international coalition behind Macmillan and Heath will find things a lot more difficult this time round — especially given the obvious difficulties of the Eurozone, the failure of EU migration policy and the lack of any coherent EU security policy.

Most importantly, having been fooled once, the British public will be much more difficult to fool again.

Alan Sked is the original founder of Ukip and professor of International History at the London School of Economics. He is presently collecting material for a book he hopes to publish on Britain's experience of the EU

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Sp. Military; Fraud news; Bankrupticies; A judicial advance; Never too late; & Nail wars.

THE SPANISH MILITARY: While Spain havers over its initial proposal to send troops to Mali to replace French counterparts, Germany has announced it's sending 650 soldiers to allow some of the latter to return to France for anti-terrorist duties. A bit embarrassing for President Rajoy but, as I've said, he does have a looming general election and this will outweigh all other considerations for the next month.

FRAUD NEWS: The latest - utterly predictable - scandal centres on subsidies for cinemas based on customer numbers. Lo and behold, these were inflated to the tune of many millions of euros. So cheeky/confident were the perpetrators, they reported the numbers before the relevant film was even out.

BANKRUPTCIES: These continue to happen, of course. And Spain's biggest ever is now unfolding before our very eyes. This is of Abengoa, a multinational outfit specialising in renewable energy and 'environmental services'. The government is expected to do whatever it can to prevent it collapsing ahead of the December elections. Though a bank-like bailout is thought to be too sensitive right now. Maybe in January. Abengoa owes huge sums to Spain's banks, with Santander leading the pack, at €1.56 billion. It's reported that none of them have provided for their imminent losses. Taxpayers - with €740 million at stake - can't make such provisions, of course. And we may yet have to fund a bailout.

A JUDICIAL ADVANCE: In a case in which a 90 year old woman sought permission to disinter Republican victims of Franco's murder squads, a judge has surprised everyone by pronouncing that she can go ahead. A first in determined-to-forget Spain. After her the deluge?

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE: Another nonagenarian has been prosecuted for scratching more than 20 cars badly parked in her barrio. A temptation which some of us have to regularly suppress. Especially when you can't park because drivers have left 2 or 3 metres between the cars in front of or behind them.

FINALLY . . . . NAIL WARS: I used to walk past a nail bar in our shopping mall in which an Asian chap occasionally had a customer. Yesterday, I saw it'd closed. I suspect this would have happened anyway but the poor bugger never stood a chance once a snazzy place called something like Global Nails opened right next door. It reminded me of a joke which features Burtons Tailors, Jacksons The Tailors, and 'Main Entrance'. Write for details. Though it's ruined now.

Query: How did my rather-easily-irritated elder daughter get past the 2 PIN numbers on my 'smart' phone to change the Notifications tone which was driving her mad?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Sp. military contribution; The Sp. timetable; Odd Sp. airports; Corruption; & The Sp. timetable.

THE SPANISH MILITARY CONTRIBUTION: A week or so ago, the Spanish government announced it had offered to take over patrol duties from France in Mali, so that French troops could be used back home against terrorists. Then came the incident in Mali and the offer was suddenly withdrawn. The French government says it's surprised and that it's awaiting clarification from its Spanish counterpart. Well, I think we know what this will amount to. Especially as there's a general election imminent 

ODD SPANISH AIRPORTS: I mentioned the 'ghost airport' of Castellón yesterday. Reader Sierra has cited a facility up in the Galician hills near the city of Lugo which I didn't even know existed. This is an airport built by the Nazis during WW2 in which the regional government is investing €55m to convert it into an 'Aero Transport Centre'. Some this total may well get to be used for this purpose. It will, it seems, be dedicated to the development of drones. And I thought we had quite enough funccionarios in Galicia.

CORRUPTION: The left-wing, campaigning judge, Baltasar Garzón, gives these as the perfect recipe for the appearance of skulduggery:-
  • A local planning officer with low ethics. (Hardly a rare creature)
  • A businessman with good connections to a political party
  • A city that's developing rapidly
  • A property market that's taking off
Well, he should know, having been in charge - until relieved of his responsibilities for being over-zealous - of at least a couple of the major cases of recent years.

FINALLY . . . THE SPANISH TIMETABLE: My elder daughter has visited me for a couple of days, en route to a tango session in Oporto. Taking her to the bus station this morning, I was surprised to see the number of people out and about at 7.30, given that this is the equivalent of 5.30 in other countries. I apologise, by the way, for writing 'the number' of people, when the standard (but wrong) phrase these days is 'the amount' of people. I simply can't override that bit of my education, 'back in the day'. Which reminds me, a Sky News reporter this morning - reading from an autocue - spoke of someone who'd been fatally murdered in Paris. As opposed to the unfatally murdered survivors, I guess.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Spain's treasures; Changing Spain; An airport deal; Breasts exposure; Russian propaganda; & Facebook again.

SPAIN'S TREASURES: The Local gives us 15 of these here. I'm pleased to say I've seen most of them. 

CHANGING SPAIN: My Ferrol friend and regular reader, Richard, has reminded me that Spain is getting better at allowing people to set up businesses and at making it "easier to pay taxes"(!). But very slowly. Per the World Bank, Spain has recently moved up one place in their rankings of ease of doing business and now rank a still-lowly 33rd. Things remain particularly bad for those wanting to set themselves up as an autónomo, or sole trader in UK terms. Not only is it mired in bureaucracy but also expensive, at c.€300 a month in taxes from the word go, even if you don't turn a penny. 

AN AIRPORT DEAL: The Local tells us here that the ghost airport down in Castellón is now not quite as useless as it was. A deal has been struck with Ryanair which will bring an income of €600,000 a year. To Ryanair, that is. As I say, I guess it makes sense to someone. In Spain, I mean. Ryanair's logic is obvious. At €10 each for 600,000 projected customers.

FRAUDULENT BRITS: Hard as it is to believe, there are Brits - surely all down on the south and east coasts - who indulge in benefit fraud. Essentially by forgetting to tell the UK government they've moved to Spain and lost their entitlements. Anyway, they've been warned they face jail sentences, like the woman who's just been given this treatment, after collecting €58,000 over 8 years.

CLEAVAGE v BOOBAGE: New to me but there seems to be a difference between these concepts. I guess everyone knows what the former is but here's the definition of the latter:- The exposure of vast amounts of breast in dresses that squish unattractively rather than hugging sexily. It's said that the former is for film stars and the latter for mere 'celebs'. I don't suppose many men care about this distinction.

FINALLY . . . RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA: Here, again, is the site of the European organisation which tracks Moscow's preposterous - and sometimes hilarious - disinformation. They can also be followed on Twitter. Whatever that is. At @EUvsDisinfo

FOOTNOTE: Another Facebook 'success' this morning. I got a friend acceptance from a lady in Madrid whom I now see has 1,360 'friends'. So I don't feel terribly exclusive and will now defriend her. Nice to see my spellcheck doesn't recognise defriend. Or spellcheck.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cataluña; Corruption; Brexit; Health services; Healthy food; Pontevedra shops; & Facebook.

CATALAN INDEPENCE: The principal driver of this - the President of the regional government - has a couple of major problems. Firstly, he's been blocked by one of his coalition partners from re-election as president. Secondly, his party is shrouded in corruption allegations. While this isn't very different from any other major party in Spain, he's decided to go with what may well be known in future as The VW Option - a change of name/'brand'. He's disbanding his CDC party and forming the Democracy and Liberty party. Good luck with that.

CORRUPTION: The perfect recipe for this, says judge Baltasar Garzón, is a combination of 'A civil servant responsible for urban development, a businessman closely linked to a political party, a growing town or city and a property market on the rise'. He should know; he's presided over some major cases. Being the victim of serious government dirty trick campaigns in the process.

BREXIT: For the first time, surveys suggest more than 50% of Brits support this. David Cameron continues to support staying in the EU, provided his demands for structural reform are accepted. Given that he must know which way the wind is blowing - in the direction of the collapse of the institution - I've begun to wonder whether his real purpose is to avoid the UK getting most of the blame for this, and losing out in the new inter-state trade agreements which must follow.

HEALTH SERVICES: There was a time when the UK national health service was the best in the world, if only because it was unique. There are many in Britain who think it still is and they're supported in this by virtually all politicians, who feel obliged to repeat this nonsensical claim whenever the elections come along. As anyone who's experienced one of Europe's health services knows, this belief/claim/lie is far from justified. This week, it's reported that the UK is in the bottom of the OECD third when it comes to 5-year survival rates in colorectal cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer. And survival after hospital admission for a heart attack or stroke is also worse than in many OECD countries. Most European health schemes are, I believe, a mix of public and insurance scheme services, an option which is anathema in the UK, where 'insurance' is widely interpreted as 'privatisation'. Is there a public service anywhere in the world where discussion is as curtailed by (self)deceit and mendacity?

HEALTHY FOOD: " It is a fabulous racket", says the Guardian. Click here for the details of this claim.

PONTEVEDRA'S RETAIL SCENE: I wouldn't want to give the impression it's all closures. Many shops are taken over by new owners. These, though, all seem to be women who offer yet more expensive dresses and accessories. So, we have El Armorio de Audrey (Audrey's Wardrobe) or La Tienda de Raquél. (Raquel's Shop). One could be forgiven for suspecting these are not genuine outlets but fronts for drug money laundering purposes.

FINALLY . . . FACEBOOK: Someone asked me yesterday how to get rid of the French flag behind their foto. I said I hadn't the faintest idea, never having succumbed to the temptation to show solidarity in this way. But, then, I have a knee-jerk reaction to anything suggested by Facebook. Incidentally, yesterday I saw that an English chap had been befriended by 37 people, all of them women. So, I sent friend requests to the 5 most attractive, to see what would happen. Four of them immediately accepted my request. What this means, I really don't know. Other than it's easy to ring up the thousands of friends some pathetic folk feel the need for.

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