Thursday, September 09, 2010

Here’s a thing . . . The Andalucian parliament may have to consider the banning of bullfighting down there. It all rather depends on whether the Association for the Protection of Animals and Plantas (CIMA) can get enough signatures on a petition, within four months. If they do, the politicians have said they “will give it some thought”. Anyone like to bet on the outcome?

Prompted, no doubt, by the reaction to Stephen Hawking’s dismissal of God’s role in the Big Bang, the Times columnist, David Aaronavitch, has penned these rather incontrovertible comments – “Surely the most useful perspective from which an atheist or a light agnostic should look at religion is an anthropological one. That is to say, what functions in human society do religion and the institutions of religion fulfil? Any intelligent non-believer must note the universality of a creation myth. And similarly there is a near-universality of societies, priesthoods and associations organised to deliver the ethical and social rules said to derive from the supernatural. Fellow atheists (and friendly agnostics), if I may address you directly, once we have agreed on secularism — that no religion may dominate political life — we should take note of why zillions of our fellow human beings require churches, mosques or meeting houses. And we should think very hard about whether life would really be better without them. We may not, in that sense, need religion, but we do seem to need something. I am not saying that Man is “naturally” selfish and bad and requires correction, but simply that it can be easier to live well if you have a framework to help you. If that’s right, then an atheist assault on religion is harmful — because what the intelligent atheist wants is not no religion, but good religion.”

Bankers are not the most popular of people at the moment. But, as Anatole Kaletsky wrote today in The Times, “Banking and finance will always be among the most important and profitable business activities in any market economy. The prosperity of banks and bankers follows inevitably from their role in allocating capital in a market economy and converting personal savings into commercial investments. Just as politicians and state planners are always among the richest and most powerful people in communist states or corrupt oil-producing dictatorships, so financiers will always be among the rich and powerful in a market economy.” That said, he goes on to admit that things are being made pretty easy for them to make a packet right now – by borrowing at low rates and getting risk-free returns at a lot higher rates. Results – “A large part of the guaranteed profits racked up by this simple strategy is then distributed to their employees as salaries and bonuses. These false prescriptions will shift the pain of economic adjustment from financiers on to relatively low-paid public sector workers and beneficiaries of the welfare state. Meanwhile, the bankers will be laughing all the way to their ever more powerful banks.” In the UK, at least. Though much the same may be happening elsewhere.

Here in Spain, it doesn’t get any easier to understand what’s happening in the area of local government expenditure. And the debts required to finance this. The central government, it seems, has done a U-turn and announced that many urban and local administrations will, after all, be allowed to take out loans to permit them to go on spending. Though perhaps not those – Madrid and Valencia – which are of a different political stamp from the government.

At the national level, it looks like Sr Zapatero will only be able to get his government’s 2011 budget approved by parliament with the help of the PNV Basque nationalist party. Which will presumably lead to some horse-trading and pork-barrel politics with a Basque flavour. In the worst case (for Sr Z) his administration will forfeit this support, lose a key vote and then be forced to call elections next year. Which no one would bet on them winning. Interesting times. Especially as 76% of Spaniards are reported not to want either the current president nor the leader of the opposition to stand.

And, talking of (alleged) percentages of Spaniards . . . . More than a third admit to being anti-Semitic and more than half of them don’t much like Muslims. But everything’s relative; far higher numbers admit to being anti-American.

Finally . . . Filling up with petrol this evening, I asked the attendant whether she knew the meaning of what she had across the front of her T-shirt – YOU make me happy. “No idea”, she said. “I don’t speak much English.” So I told her and it made her very happy.

Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published three chapters of a novel she describes as “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published one chapter per week. Click here, if this entices you. If you do go and you enjoy it, please comment. It’s tough being a novelist. And the father of a novelist.

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Traction Man said...

Bankers: my bank in Portugal has just written to tell me that unless I lodge €2,500 with them as a free loan, they'll charge me €15 every quarter for looking after my money. I wish my careers adviser had told me banking was a one-way bet.

Colin said...

When I moved my savings from mine - because they refused to offer more than 1% - they initiated a 7 euros a month charge on my current account, without having the decency to mention this to me.

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