Monday, March 05, 2012

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland has said a number of outrageous things about the UK government's plans to legalise gay marriage. This, according to the Cardinal, is "against the natural law". What, and celibacy isn't?

Now that the manager of Chelsea football club has finally been fired, speculation is rife as to who'll replace him. Odds have naturally been attached to each of the possible candidates, who include Pep Guardiola of Barcelona and José Mourinho of Real Madrid. I can't for the life of me understand why either of these would want to take hold of this particular poisoned chalice, even if Mourinho and his wife have been inspecting properties in parts of London where the prices are at least eye-watering. But we'll see. Perhaps one of them will go for the lucre.

Juan José Padilla is a Spanish bullfighter who lost an eye when he was gored through the jaw last October. Despite the lack of binocular vision, he's gone back into the ring and performed well enough to earn the traditional accolade of an ear from each of his taurine opponents. Whatever your stance on bullfighting, you'd have to concede this is one brave man. Or do I mean stupid? Possibly both.

Another Spaniard being admired for courage this week is the President Mariano Rajoy. To say the least, this is an unusual situation for a man universally suspected of not being able to take a decision. Presumably seeing his deficit defiance as the thin end of an EU-wide wedge, various Brussels bigwigs have said that the "serious, grave" 2011 overshoot needs explaining and that raising the 2012 target from 4.4% of GDP to ("a more realistic") 5.8% could mean penalties. Rajoy's "bombshell" has excited Ambrose Evans-Pritchard so much that he's pronounced:- In the twenty years or so that I have been following EU affairs closely, I cannot remember such a bold and open act of defiance by any state. Usually such matters are fudged. Countries stretch the line, but do not actually cross it. With condign symbolism, Mr Rajoy dropped his bombshell in Brussels after the EU summit, without first notifying the commission or fellow EU leaders. Indeed, he seemed to relish the fact that he was tearing up the rule book and disavowing the whole EU machinery of budgetary control. He is surely right to seize the initiative. Spain’s economy will contract by 1.7pc this year under his modified plans and unemployment will reach 24pc (or 29pc under the 1990s method of counting). To compound this with manic fiscal tightening – and no offsetting devaluation – is intellectually indefensible. There comes a point when a democracy can no longer sacrifice its citizens to please reactionary ideologues determined to impose 1930s scorched-earth policies. As for the "Fiscal Compact", it is rendered a dead letter by Spanish actions. If the text were enforced, the consequences would be ruinous. It enshrines Hooverism in EU law, and imposes contractionary policies without the consent of future parliaments. But it won’t be enforced in any meaningful sense because the political realities of the EU are already intruding, and will intrude further. A president François Hollande of France will rip it up. The Latin Bloc is awakening.

So, is the Fiscal Compact already a dead letter, less than a week after it was signed? And after months of negotiation behind the scenes? I guess we'll soon know.

Finally . . . We've all been assaulted by numerous acronyms and predictions over the last few months. So perhaps it's time to remind ourselves of a few mot justes from J. K. Glabraith:- "The only purpose economic forecasts have is that they make astrology respectable". Which makes it all the more ridiculous that the EU and Spain should go to war over this year's uncertain deficit. But wars have started for lesser causes, I guess.

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