Friday, October 14, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 14.10.16


Two Enormous Accolades have been awarded to Spain this week:-
  1. The healthiest country in Europe, and
  2. The third - if not second - ranking country in the world for sex tourism, after Thailand and, perhaps, Brazil. See El Mundo on this here, in Spanish.
I'm assuming there's no connection between these two honours. The UK is 12th and the USA 17th in the health rankings, by the way. No data on prostitution at the moment.

Gypsies: These are said to be leaving their traditional settlements in Spain. This is certainly true of the dozen members of the one near me who were shoved into jail last week for drug dealing.


An Operating Administration at last?: The king has had a word in the shell-likes of political leaders and the betting now is that we won't have a third general election in December, because the PSOE party will allow the PP party to stay in power as a minority government. What will happen to the self-destructing PSOE party is altogether another question. Meanwhile, acting President Rajoy has said the best thing he can do is to say nothing. At which he's always excelled, of course.


Relations with Spain: Mrs May visited this week and was told by President Rajoy not to worry about us Brits living here post Brexit. Mrs May thanked Sr Rajoy for this. And not inviting Gibraltar-obsessed Motormouth Margallo to the lunch and presented the Spanish president with a mouse mat, for when he's using an interactive Learning English program . . . 


Russia: See the article at the end of this post, entitled: The West’s hubris has created the Russian monster. Meanwhile . . . The EU parliament has passed a resolution noting that Kremlin propaganda seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. The resolution expressed concern about the rapid expansion of pro-Kremlin disinformation and noted that the Russian government uses a wide range of instruments to achieve their goals, such as think tanks, TV stations, social media and online trolls, inter alia. True to form, the head of RT TV said the resolution was a poorly-researched attack on free speech. Which is a Russian speciality, of course.


Corruption: Good news! Cases of corruption here have fallen for the first time in 15 years. Though 'gender crime' continues at previous levels and may yet rise this year.


The 40kph Sign: Here's a foto of the sign further up the hill, for those of us going down and trying to keep to the ridiculous 30kph limit:-

And here it is, back where I first saw it - towards the bottom of the bill. But I was wrong to write yesterday that it had been moved; it had simply fallen over:-


A Conundrum For You, Dear Readers. In particular Sierra and Maria, who know a lot about these things . . . . Yesterday evening, I called at my neighbour Ester's house, to introduce her to a newly arrived couple and their daughter, who's the same age as Ester's younger daughter. To say the least, Ester was reluctant to open her door and, to put it kindly, then tore a strip off me in front of them for arriving unannounced. So much for Mi casa es tu casa. But anyway, I really couldn't understand this outraged reaction but eventually concluded we might have been operating on different assumptions. Mine was that intros would take place in the garden and we'd be gone within a couple of minutes. Whereas Ester assumed I wanted to impose people on her – and, worse - to have them to come into her untidied house without notice and for whatever passes for a decent minimum time in Spain. Maybe 15-30 minutes. So, over to you folks. Was this or was it not another cultural mismatch?


More examples of Finnish/British nightmares:-


The West’s hubris has created the Russian monster

The serious side of Boris Johnson was on display in his Commons debut as foreign secretary this week. Moved by TV images of suffering in Aleppo — images that should carry the health warning “there is no strategic analysis here” — MPs lined up to tell him that “something must be done”.
Hackneyed analogies with Guernica and the Nazis were bandied about, when the Russian flattening of Grozny in 1999 was more apposite. Tom Tugendhat, a callow colonel-turned-Tory-backbencher, demanded that our Navy’s ship (sic) in the region fire missiles at Syrian and Russian aircraft to stop the killing.

Mr Johnson was right to say that a no-fly zone is not only unworkable but might trigger a global conflict (President Obama, whose F-22 fighter aircraft would have to be involved, dismissed such a zone as “ill-informed . . . mumbo jumbo”). But the mask soon slipped and he revealed his own callowness by calling for demonstrations outside the Russian embassy. Has he forgotten the harassment of British embassy staff in Moscow by Vladimir Putin’s thuggish youth league? Since the Conservatives’ Saudi friends slaughtered 150 Yemenis attending a funeral last week, perhaps he could encourage demos outside their embassy too?

Under Putin, Russia has entered a dark time. His foreign adventurism remains popular, so long as the official body count in Syria is 21 Russians and the war is presented as a computer game on state-run TV.

He has created a series of costly frozen conflicts, and grabbed Crimea, while asserting Russia as an “unavoidable” power in the Middle East. Russia’s “anti-globalist” summits of French fascists and Texan nationalists may be a joke, but its increasingly sophisticated cyber and financial subversion of western democracies is not. Frequent statements about its nuclear arsenal and modernised conventional weapons are designed to disconcert the West.

Given Russia’s abundance of oil and natural gas, she is not in the Middle East for economic reasons, except to sell arms and to make mischief at America’s expense. It is all about being taken seriously as a superpower again. Putin calculates that Obama’s attention will be focused on this weekend’s expected big push to liberate Mosul from Isis, which the president hopes will rank alongside the killing of Osama bin Laden as one of his legacies. The Russian leader is focused on reclaiming “useful” Syria, notably a military port and airbase on the Mediterranean, leaving anti-Assad rebels to fight over “useless” desert. The West’s problem is that there are so many jihadists among the rebels that we dare not give them the anti-aircraft missiles they need to fight back.

Rather than glibly dismiss Putin as an unreconstructed tyrant, we should face up to the fact that he is, in many ways, our creation.

Loss of empire, which for Britain and France was a messy but protracted process lasting half a century, happened to Russia almost overnight with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It took Britain decades to alight on a role as the virtuous provider of liberal values to the rest of mankind (except people in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Yemen). Russia has found a new role much faster but it is rooted in the virtues of authoritarianism.

The existential shock to the Soviet system’s true believers was enormous. One was Major Vladimir Putin, serving in a backwater KGB station in Dresden. Confronted by an angry crowd, he telephoned HQ in East Berlin for instructions. “Moscow is silent” was the response. Reflecting on these events in 2005, Putin said the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

Loss of empire, which for Britain and France was a messy but protracted process lasting half a century, happened to Russia almost overnight

The economic chaos that followed saw Russia transformed into a casino culture, with local gangsters and foreign vultures despoiling its assets. It was the West’s great opportunity to sell the benefits of the rule of law and free trade to a struggling nation but it blew it in the hubristic belief that Russians would naturally come around to its way of thinking. Faced by mounting instability, Putin swapped his allegiance to Boris Yeltsin’s liberalising reforms for a cocktail of moral conservatism, Orthodoxy and military might that struck a chord with ordinary Russians fed up with a know-it-all western arrogance. After demonstrations of US unilateral power turned to dust in Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin resolved to draw lines around Russia herself, while exploiting his countrymen’s view that the liberal West is too decadent to stamp out the Islamist menace.

An armed clash between the West and Russia over Syria could easily escalate out of control. Insulting Putin’s undoubtedly bloody conduct may make MPs feel better about themselves but does nothing to change his ways. Instead, we should make our red lines abundantly clear — from the independence of the Baltics to the unacceptability of cyberwarfare. Reducing our dependence on Russian energy, with alternative sources, is vital to reducing the Kremlin’s power to hold us to ransom.

Getting embroiled in Middle East conflicts is no way for a post-imperial nation to acquire a new role and recover its self-respect. That is one lesson Britain and its historian foreign secretary are qualified to teach.

Michael Burleigh: Author of Small Wars, Faraway Places


Maria said...

In my view, neighbors generally don't bring over people they want you to meet without asking if it's a good moment, first. There's no problem with you going over unannounced, but you have won her confidence and your status as a neighbor-friend. Only close relatives have the prerogative of bringing over strangers for their relatives to meet. Family is family, and while you and your immediate family, by extension, have gained her trust, other friends of yours are not automatically her friends to have them simply show up at her door. We're still very clannish in this respect.

Sierra said...

Search me!

Meanwhile, wonder how the conversation went - looks like Theresa stepped in some dog's mess, and ruined one of her shoe collection:

Colin Davies said...

@Maria: Many thanks. I understand things rather bette now and will tell Ester that we were operating on different cultural assumptions. Of course, I knew that the Spanish only rarely entertain at home and are less informal that Anglos are about people coming over. But the excessive )to me) nature of her reaction rather shocked me. Ironically, it was - tome - bad manners on her part to tear me off a strip in front of third parties.

It takes a long time to find out what is done and 'not done' in any culture.

Ferrolano said...

Colin, I would have phoned first and the lovely E would probably have said to wait for half an hour. It is her palace and it has to be on show. You and I don't care but we have to think of others!

Colin Davies said...

There was no chance to do this. They were dropping me off and going.

Perry said...


Perhaps not what you might want to hear, but in your place, I'd have telephoned from the street & asked your neighbour if she'd like to pop out of her house for 2-3 minutes & meet your friends on neutral ground. If a phone wasn't handy, then I'd have gone alone to her door & asked the same question. No pressure. OTOH, my home is with my three sons & it is never tidy, so when people arrive, expected or otherwise, what they see is what they get. A building site!

Colin Davies said...

Perry: That's what I did from the entry phone.

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