Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainSpanish Politics
- Well, that didn't take long. But, then, execution concentrates the mind, as they say. They couldn't manage it last time round over several months but, chastened by Sunday's results, the parties of the Left have agreed on a formal coalition in the space of a few hours. But it's still a minority administration needing the support of smaller parties to get anything done.
- Reader María here addresses here the spectre haunting us all in the longer term.
- The New York Times has a good overview of this here, and the estimable Guy Hedgecoe notes the 3 main election takeaways here. In brief:-
- A governing majority will be elusive
- There's been a re-ordering of the Right, and
- The Catalan crisis will continue to dominate political debate.
- Think Spain gives us here the 10 key 'foundational' aspects of the PSOE-Podemos coalition, on which there will be 'discussions'.
- Here's quite a bit from El País on the execrable Franco family.
- Sevilla, Granada, Cadiz and Salamanca are not beautiful Spanish cities? And San Sebastian is prettier??? I don't think so.
- A growing Spanish problem. Not much of a Mediterranean diet approach down near the Med it seems.
- Our Oz friend gets back into gardening, in a conducive climate.
- That the government will allow a few serious epilepsy and multiple sclerosis sufferers to get cannabidiol medicine to relieve their symptoms is good news. That is all that can be said. Once more a decision emerges from the caverns of Britain’s NHS that reveals the evils of a politicised, centralised, deadened health service. More here.
- Using the Constitution is unconstitutional, say some barrel-dredging Republicans.
- One useful aspect of having many hours to kill on a boat is that you can tidy up your files. Here's a couple of articles I've been meaning to read for a while:-
- How can I remove Google from my life? See the first article below.
- The Overton window is the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse. . . . .It contains the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion. See the 2nd article below on how powerful folk try to limit the breadth of this window. Or click here.
- And we thought we had problems with wild boars . . . Wild boars dig up and destroy £17,000 worth of cocaine stashed in forest in Tuscany.
How can I remove Google from my life? Jack Schofield
Google’s motto used to be “Don’t be evil”, but in the eyes of some it has now taken on the mantle of the “evil empire” from Microsoft, which Bill Gates and crew inherited from the IBM mocked in the Mac’s launch advert in 1984.
The EU has fined Google €2.4bn (£2.2bn) for abusing its search monopoly by favouring its products. Most recently, Google was fined €4.34bn for “very serious illegal behaviour” in using Android “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, according to the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, a charge the company contests.
Google started by taking over the search engine market. It now dominates smartphone operating systems (Android), browsers (Chrome), web-based email (Gmail), online video (YouTube) and maps. It is also challenging in other areas with its own cloud platform, an online office suite, Chromebooks, Waze, Nest and so on. Google is far advanced in driverless cars (Waymo) and artificial intelligence (DeepMind). Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
We can probably agree Google has won by delivering high-quality products, and more than 40 corpses in the Google Graveyard – soon to be joined by its awful social network, Google+ – prove it doesn’t always win. But there are other problems.
First, Google now controls web development to the point where not even Microsoft can compete, as shown by the latter’s recent decision to replace its EdgeHTML browser engine with the open source Chromium on which Google’s Chrome browser is based. Users were supposed to benefit from competition between rival implementations of open web standards, but today Chromium and therefore Chrome is the standard.
As Firefox-developer Mozilla has pointed out, “from a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective, ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible”.
Second, many of us have problems with Google’s business model, which the Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has called “surveillance capitalism”. Google finances its free services by tracking users and targeting them with advertisements. In fact, it tracks you across the web even if you never visit any Google properties because other websites commonly use Google AdWords, AdMob, DoubleClick, Google Analytics, and its other tracking or advertising products.
From your searches and site visits, Google probably knows more about you than your mother or your spouse, and there’s no telling where that information will eventually end up.
If you use an Android phone, Google can also track your physical location, and if you turn that off, you lose directions, “find my phone” and other features.
So, remember that avoiding Google products is only part of the problem. You will need to protect your privacy in other ways, too.
Easy does it
The simplest way to avoid most Google products is to switch to the Microsoft or Apple equivalents, in whole or in part. Some would see this as jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. However, Satya Nadella’s new Microsoft is different from the old one, and driven by other metrics (usage instead of units). It is building a broader cross-platform ecosystem than either Google (everything online) or Apple (everything on Apple).
The web-based Outlook.com email service is still not as good as Gmail, but you can use it from a desktop email client, and there’s a decent Mail app in Windows 10. There are also plenty of alternative services, including FastMail and ProtonMail.
Android smartphones are a problem because Google controls the system. However, you can run the Microsoft Launcher and dozens of Microsoft apps on Android, and connect it to Your Phone in Windows 10. Apple’s iPhones are less of a problem because they are not preloaded with Google apps, though Google does pay Apple billions to be the default search engine. Again, Microsoft provides dozens of apps for iPhones and you can also connect your iPhone to Windows 10.
Cyanogenmod, an open source ROM to liberate Android phones, bit the dust a while ago, but the project is continuing as LineageOS.
Google controls the browser market, so the best alternative to Chrome is Mozilla’s Firefox. With Opera and now Microsoft capitulating, Mozilla is the only major provider still committed to building its own standards-based browser.
Fortunately, Chrome’s rendering engine has open source origins – Apple forked KHTML to create WebKit for Safari, then Google forked WebKit to create Blink for Chrome – so the base code is available in the form of Chromium. This has enabled lots of companies to build browsers based on Chromium, without the proprietary stuff that Google adds to create Chrome. Opera and Vivaldi are the most obvious examples, though you should also look at the privacy oriented Epic, among others.
You will not be entirely free of Google, as you would be with Firefox, but it seems to me an acceptable compromise.
Either way, I avoid using Chrome because now when you sign into a Google site, it signs you into the browser as well, unless you deactivate the feature.
Google still has the best search engine, but Bing and DuckDuckGo are viable alternatives for the majority of searches. If you can’t avoid Google search completely, you can certainly reduce your usage.
DuckDuckGo is a good choice because it is privacy oriented, and you can run Google searches from DDG by using a !bang command. (A bang is an American exclamation mark.) However, DDG’s sources include other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo and Yandex.
StartPage – formerly ixQuick – is a Dutch-owned privacy-protecting search engine, while Qwant is a French one. Both get some results from other search engines, but Google still won’t know about you. (Qwant seems to be pretty good.)
Mojeek is a British search engine that has its own web crawler, called MojeekBot.
For image and reverse image searches, I recommend Yandex, which is Russian, Bing and TinEye.
YouTube kills it
Almost every attempt to avoid Google products dies a painful death when it comes to online video, where YouTube reigns supreme. There are plenty of long-running online video sites including Vimeo, Dailymotion and Facebook, but YouTube is unbeatable for its breadth of content. And there’s no way around that.
There have been plenty of websites that will download the videos you want to watch without you having to go to YouTube. Years ago, I used KeepVid. However, this approach does not suit Google because you never see any adverts. Also, these sites – which could be flaky to start with – tend to stop working properly, and/or pop up multiple ad pages.
The indirect approach does not suit users either because the whole idea is that you go to watch one YouTube video then get sucked into watching another dozen through random browsing.
Web traffic statistics suggest there’s one property with both the technology and the capacity to take on YouTube, and that’s PornTube, but it’s not quite the same.
2. The Incredible Shrinking Overton Window: Caitlin Johnstone
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Noam Chomsky
The plutocrat-owned narrative managers of the political/media class work constantly to shrink the Overton window, the spectrum of debate that is considered socially acceptable. They do this by framing more and more debates in terms of how the oligarchic empire should be sustained and supported, steering them away from debates about whether that empire should be permitted to exist at all.
They get people debating whether there should be some moderate changes made or no meaningful changes at all, rather than the massive, sweeping changes we all know need to be made to the entire system.
They get people debating whether they should elect a crook in a red hat or a crook in a blue hat, rather than whether or not they should be forced to elect crooks.
They get people debating violations of government secrecy laws, not whether the government has any business keeping those secrets from its citizenry in the first place.
They get people debating how internet censorship should take place and whom should be censored, rather than whether any internet censorship should occur.
They get people debating how and to what extent government surveillance should occur, not whether the government has any business spying on its citizens.
They get people debating how subservient and compliant someone needs to be in order to not get shot by a police officer, rather than whether a police officer should be shooting people for those reasons at all.
They get people debating whether or not a group of protesters are sufficiently polite, rather than debating the thing those protesters are demonstrating against.
They get people debating about whether this thing or that thing is a “conspiracy theory”, rather than discussing the known fact that powerful people conspire.
They get people debating whether Tulsi Gabbard is a dangerous lunatic, a Russian asset, a Republican asset gearing up for a third party run, or just a harmless Democratic Party crackpot, rather than discussing the fact that her foreign policy would have been considered perfectly normal prior to 9/11.
They get people debating whether Bernie Sanders is electable or too radical, rather than discussing what it says about the status quo that his extremely modest proposals which every other major country already implements are treated as something outlandish in the United States.
They get people debating whether Jeremy Corbyn has done enough to address the Labour antisemitism crisis, rather than whether that “crisis” ever existed at all outside of the imaginations of establishment smear merchants.
They get people debating whether Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren would win against Trump, rather than whether either of those establishment lackeys is a worthy nominee.
They get people debating whether politicians should have corporate sponsors, rather than whether corporations should be allowed to interfere in the electoral process at all.
They get people debating if the US should be pursuing regime change in Iran or Syria, rather than whether the US has any business overthrowing the governments of sovereign nations to begin with.
They get people debating how many US troops should be in Syria, rather than whether that illegal invasion and occupation was ever legitimate in the first place.
They get people debating whether to kill people slowly by sanctions or kill them quickly with bombs, rather than whether they should be killed at all.
They get people debating whether or not some other country’s leader is an evil dictator, rather than whether it’s any of your business.
They get people debating the extent to which Russia and Trump were involved in the Democratic Party’s 2016 email leaks, rather than the contents of those leaks.
They get people debating what the response should be to Russian interference in the election, rather than whether that interference took place at all, and whether it would really matter if it did.
They get people debating how much government support the poor should be allowed to have, rather than whether the rich should be allowed to keep what they’ve stolen from the poor.
They get people debating what kind of taxes billionaires should have to pay, rather than whether it makes sense for billionaires to exist at all.
They get people impotently debating the bad things other countries do, rather than the bad things their own country does which they can actually do something about.
They get people debating what should be done to prevent the rise of China, rather than whether a multipolar world might be beneficial.
They get people debating whether western cold war escalations against the Russian Federation are sufficient, rather than whether they want the horrors of the cold war to be resurrected in the first place.
They get people debating what extent cannabis should be decriminalized, rather than whether the government should be allowed to lock anyone up for deciding to put any substance whatsoever in their own body.
They get people debating whether or not US troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan, rather than whether or not there should be any US troops outside of the US.
They get people debating whether or not Julian Assange is “a real journalist”, rather than whether or not they should set legal precedents that necessarily criminalize acts of journalism.
They get people debating the subtle details of bail protocol, political asylum, embassy cat hygiene and leaking rather than whether it should ever be legal to imprison a publisher for exposing government war crimes.
They get people debating what the punishment should be for whistleblowers, not what the punishment should be for those they blow the whistle on.
They get people debating whether Fox or MSNBC is the real “fake news”, rather than whether the entirety of mainstream media is oligarchic propaganda.
They get people debating about how the things everyone is freaking out over Trump doing were previously done by Obama, rather than discussing why all US presidents do the same evil things regardless of their parties or campaign platforms.
They get people debating what should be done with money, not whether the concept of money itself is in need of a complete overhaul.
They get people debating what should be done with government, not whether the concept of government itself is in need of a complete overhaul.
They get people debating whether the status quo should be reinforced or revised, rather than whether it should be flushed down the toilet where it belongs.
They get people angrily debating things they can’t change, rather than constructively working on the things that they can.
They get people shoving against each other in opposite directions, while they swiftly build a cage around us all.