Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bits & Pieces.

You have crooked teeth; we have crooked dentists: Thirteen directors of another nationwide dental franchise company – Vitaldent - have been arraigned, presumably for not being shining white. Still less their income. Thirty six luxury cars and a million-euro private jet have been seized, fifteen dental surgeries raided and 124 properties all over the country embargoed. The good times might well be over. Whether anyone goes to jail will depend on all sorts of things. Least of all, perhaps, the law. The Pontevedra clinic is still open for business, it says.

Residence in Spain: If you're already a resident or thinking of it, take stock of these comments from my web colleague, Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas: To become a fiscal resident in Spain is now an invitation to buy into a living tax trap, and at the end, potentially serious inheritance grabs. Whatever emerges from the current political confusion is unlikely to make the situation better for expat purchasers who are considering permanent residence. Quite the contrary. It seems the regime wishes to micromanage the financial affairs of Spanish citizens and residents, when it is clear they can’t manage the political, economic and financial affairs of the country - or most parts of it. The lesson to draw is - Get professional financial and legal advice, even before you sign a private contract and make a deposit. Or even before you talk to any of the many charming, deceitful agents.

Odds & Sods: With another HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for some of these:-
  • Spaniards are doing well in England's Royal Ballet. The director is Pilar Rojo and one of the pupils – at 47,000 quid for the course – is actually a young Galician woman.
  • The S&P people feel Spain should take a hard look at the AVE high-speed network and decide whether this is a fantastically expensive political project or a commercial venture. As the moment, it's certainly the former.
  • 80% of Galician couples are said to need family help to achieve a work-life balance.
  • The Father of the Catalan nation – ex President Pujol – is threatening to bring down Spanish democracy, if he's prosecuted for massive financial skulduggery over several decades. He says he knows where numerous bodies are buried. Nice chap. No wonder he throve for so long in politics.
  • Having no experience of forming coalitions, the PSOE party and, particularly, the new Podemos party continue to make unmeetable demands of each other. At least in public. It could be a long time before the Spanish have a new government. They might even beat the Belgian record.
  • Things don't look good for Mr Cameron in his fight to get a deal with the EU that will prevent a Brexit. The betting is back on the referendum not taking place until at least next year.
  • I'm told that lots of surnames in Ribadavia - up in our hills - are related to occupations, such as Zapatero(shoemaker) and Carpintero(guess). This is said to reflect the fact that these were names assumed by those Jews who wanted to stay in Spain after 1492 and were willing to convert to that fine crusading faith, Christianity. I must check this out.
  • So Mexico was delirious about the Pope's visit. Isn't it interesting that Catholicism - a relic, along with Castellano, of vicious Spanish colonialism - is now valued so highly there? I'm not sure this is so true – at least as regards religion – in ex British colonies. India is hardly full of Anglicans, for example.
Just a ThoughtHow sophisticated we think we are, at least in the developed world. How primitive we'll seem in only 50 years's time. Aboriginal in a century's time.

Finally . . . . A nice article from David Aaronavitch The Times on Russia:

Where are all the protests over Putin’s bombs?

Despite Russia’s appalling record of bullying and tyranny, the regime still has its loyal apologists in the West.

At a disco in a medieval tower in the town of Weimar in January 1980 a student from the French Communist Party and I fell into conversation with a young East German. “Well,” said the French comrade (or words to this effect), “this doesn’t look too bad! Not at all like the image of the German Democratic Republic we are fed in the West!” “Yes,” said the German youth, “but the difference is that you are allowed to come and see this. But I cannot come to you.”

The Frenchman had already, like the rest of us attending the International Education Conference, crossed a Berlin checkpoint in the snow, watching the anarchic rabbits bobbing freely from wire to wall, had also had his magazines confiscated by border guards, and will have noticed the oddly redundant men in raincoats sitting silently in the lobbies of the hotels where we stayed. But for all that, when he saw the dancers in the renovated tower, he was easily reassured. Socialism worked.

It struck me then in a normal bat-squeak way and later in more of a bellow, how some people from the West both took their own liberties for granted and failed to understand what a society without those liberties was like.

So it is with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Of course, if you say it now, you’ll be accused of “demonising” the man. Back in 1980 the word “demonise” was not in common use as a way of pre-emptively rebutting unpleasant truths about someone or something. If someone is being “demonised”, then you don’t have to bother listening too hard to the charges made against them.

Putin and his regime have destroyed Russia’s nascent democracy. They have taken over all the most important media outlets and appointed stooges to run them as propaganda organisations, peddling nationalist myths and conspiracy theories. They have broken down any separation between government and the judiciary and used the courts to pursue political opponents. They have stolen tens of billions of dollars’ worth of assets and moved the money to the despised West, where they are protected by the rule of law. They have, in effect, prevented the work of human rights organisations, of necessity part-funded by donations from abroad, by classifying them as “foreign agents”.

They have annexed the territory of a neighbouring sovereign state, conducted war within its borders and are almost certainly responsible for the shooting down of a civilian aircraft with the loss of hundreds of lives of mostly EU citizens. They vetoed any action designed, in the early days of the Syrian protests, to put pressure on Assad to instigate full reforms. This week TV pictures showed them bombing civilian areas of Aleppo with cluster munitions killing dozens, possibly hundreds.

And yet, for all this, a significant section of opinion leaders in the West insists on suggesting that a recitation of these truths is “demonising”. Late last week on the BBC the former ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, who believes that the answer in Syria is to back President Assad, offered the firm view that Russia was being “demonised” in Britain to help the government win the battle to renew Trident.

The exculpation of Putin, whoever it comes from, has the eternal qualities used when excusing authoritarianism. One: he’s not that bad when seen in appropriate context. Two: he’s no worse than us because we’re very bad too. Three: in so far as he is bad, it’s our fault anyway — we provoked him, or otherwise made him do it.

For number one take your pick from the left-wing film-maker Oliver Stone, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front or Donald Trump. According to Stone, visiting Russia not long after the shooting down of flight MH17 (which Stone blamed on Ukraine) Putin has “returned a sense of certainty, harmony, and pride to Russians”. Ms Le Pen agreed. “I admire that he has managed to restore pride and contentment to a great nation that had been humiliated and persecuted for 70 years,” she said. As for Trump, last month he questioned whether Putin had any responsibility for the Litvinenko murder, adding that Putin is “an absolute leader, respected in his own country and abroad”.

For a perfect example of authoritarian-excuse-making number two, we can take the statement made this week by the man who took over from Jeremy Corbyn as chairman of the Stop the War organisation. Andrew Murray allowed that the recent bombings of Syrian towns (known to have been carried out by the Russians) seemed “most likely” to have been Russian in origin and deplored them for a microsecond before moving smartly on. British public opinion should not “be diverted into thinking that Russia is the main problem in Syria. Western intervention is longer-lasting, deeper-rooted and just as malign in its effects.” Murray then went on to outline an approach that would mean, in effect, the victory of the Assad regime, exactly as Putin would want (but not, alas for him, as Putin or anyone else can actually make happen).

Let us note that if Israel bombs Gaza and kills a dozen poor Palestinians then the streets of Kensington will be full of furious demonstrators, plus Mr Murray, demanding action; but when Putin bombs Syrian hospitals, the streets will be silent. Silent as the grave.

As for number three, it’s our fault anyway, well you take your choice between the left-wing version and the right-wing one. In 2014 and 2015 the new leader of the opposition wrote several times that the Russian incursion into Ukraine was the result of “Nato’s eastward expansion”. Ukraine he said (without evidence) had “been put under enormous pressure to come into the EU and Nato military orbit”. In any case Ukrainian borders had always been a bit wobbly, the place had always been full of fascists, the Crimea had always been Russian really, and so (the clear implication was) just let Putin alone.

The right-wing version, well expressed by Le Pen, was to substitute Nato with the EU in the demonology of western provocation. It is a view you will often hear from Ukip supporters. It stinks.

I don’t want to stop any of these people saying any of these things. It’s their right, even if they give effective propaganda support to one of the most dangerous politicians in the modern world. Even if, as I see it, their obfuscations and untruths have an immense influence on the social-media susceptible voters of Europe and America. Who need to be reminded, as that Frenchman was in 1980, that demons are demons, not misunderstood angels.

Problems once again with Facebook. So, here's me and an owl. I'm the one on the left. Marriage proposals should be sent to the owl. For vetting.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

In fact the entire area hugging the border between Portugal and Spain is dotted with towns and villages holding Jewish communities and/or vestiges of Jewish habitation. This is the result of the healthy habit of moving across the border whenever the Inquisition in either of these countries became a little too active for comfort. Rivadavia is, admittedly, one of the most famous of these.

For the Jewish names see:

The list there does give Zapateiro, but does not mention Carpintero. Which is only logical, as Carpintero derives, of course, from fishermen who caught and traded carps, and Hebrew biblical food prescription has an uncomfortable relationship with things that come from the sea.


Lenox said...

Lenox Lewis here... I'll box your ears if you have confused me with that Lenox Napier fellow down there in Mojácar.

Colin Davies said...

Sorry, Lennox. Quite a slip. I'll change it now . . .

Lenox said...

Better... But just the one 'n' :)

Colin Davies said...

Ah, I checked the text and confirmed there was only one N. And then I made the mistake in the comment!


Collin (Davis)