Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pontevedra Pensées: 26.1.17

For one reason and another, I decided to look for an overnight place halfway between Leeds and Harrogate last night. But there was nothing on the main road between them and I ended up making a rural diversion just south of Harrogate, in search of the signposted Harrogate Country Motel. This turned out to be a riding and summer-language-school with rooms attached. Other than the car leaving as I arrived, there appeared to be no one on the – rather extensive - premises. Apart from 15-20 horses in their stables.

The reception desk was grilled shut and none of the phones offering assistance in the absence of a receptionist showed any sign of life. Bearing in mind it was a motel, I began to feel like an extra in Hitchcock's Psycho.

Wandering around the stables – and wondering how easy it would be to ride off with at least one horse – I was eventually hailed by a young woman who took me back me to the reception area and gave me a key. Plus the news that the electricity line had been cut by some people working nearby.
But it was due back on and she'd slip details of the required wifi code under my door as soon as it was - during my siesta.

But she didn't and, after a while, I went in search of someone to question. Luckily the contact phones in the reception area were now working and I spoke to someone who said he'd come and get something from the office. But he couldn't find it. So, he called the owner, who said he was printing off some slips and would bring one. Which he did. And, at 5.15 – 3 hours after checking in – I finally got onto the internet. All's well that ends well, they say.

Anyway . . . Back in Spain, here and here is the same bad news on corruption. And here's a disappointing report on the reading habits of the Spanish.

Against that, if you're old and living in Spain, here's some good news. Tough titty for the rest of you.

Always-informative reader Sierra has provided this news of yet another new Modelo (tax form): Received the latest government "scam" yesterday - Modelo 990 - Pay us €60 for regularising alterations you've carried out to your property. Is it worth the hassle of appealing - probably not - and if you don't pay, it rises to €6000!! 

Up in Galicia, the dry weather has had a predictable consequence - the falling reservoirs have revealed hamlets, villages and even towns that were flooded for their creation. Click here for examples.

Here's an observation on Brexit I think I've made myself a couple of times:- May conveys a sense of resolute purpose, even though she cannot have a clue how Brexit will work out because no one has a clue.

At the end of this post, there's a fascinating global overview, post Trump's arrival in power.

Today's foto. Some good advice for male readers from my friend Richard:-

Finally: A few days ago I mentioned an article on flirting that I was going to post here. I finally found it last night and here it is:-

When did flirting become a crime? Celia Walden.

There you go, my lovely,’ says the greengrocer, handing over the sweet potatoes.

‘Is the “lovely” for me or her?’ I ask playfully, gesturing at my five-year-old daughter. Whereupon an odd  thing happens. The greengrocer blanches, swallows and stutters, ‘I didn’t say “lovely”.  I didn’t call anyone “lovely”.’

And what was a good-natured little interaction between two people on a bright and frosty Saturday morning has suddenly been warped into something strained, worrisome.

Why? Because the man thinks I’m going to ask  to speak to his boss, accuse him of a smorgasbord of ‘isms’ and demand some form of retribution/compensation for the affront suffered.

Welcome to 2017, folks:  the year flirting officially became a crime. Now let me be clear: after reading and running, flirting is one of my top three pursuits. I’d even go so far as to call it an addiction.

Ever since I first felt the peculiar biochemical change that occurs when two people engage in playful banter, at 13, I have scoured pretty much every occasion – social, professional or otherwise – for the pilot light that will allow me to engage in what I see as one of the purest celebrations of life that there is. I flirt with men; I flirt with women.

I’d flirt with a table leg if it had a nice line  in badinage. Because it’s not about sex. It’s not even about seduction. It’s about veering off into a little cadenza that may mean everything, or, most probably, nothing at  all.

It’s about – as Wikipedia will remind you – ‘a social and rarely sexual activity involving verbal or written communication as well  as body language by one person to another, either to suggest interest in a deeper relationship with the other person, or if  done playfully, for amusement’. 

Amusement – remember that? And I’ll  tell you something that’s not covered by that definition; something so deeply off-message that I’m half expecting my keyboard to rise up in PC outrage and auto-delete the following words: when talking to a man, I like to be reminded that I am a woman.

I like there to be an implicit nod to my femininity, an appreciation that I am a different creature – not inferior, just different. Rarely will young men engage in that subtle and sweetly antiquated doffing of the cap now.

It would be inappropriate, the girls warn – before posting pictures of themselves naked and wrapped in toilet paper on Instagram.

And so those tender little exchanges – homages really, to women and womanhood – are left to the men of over 50, who – sentimental fools that they are – will occasionally still be ignorant enough to call a woman ‘my lovely’. 

By the time my daughter is a teenager,  I’m not sure there will be a cabbie alive who will have the temerity to call her ‘love’, the disrespect to help her with her bags or the condescension to wait until she lets herself into the house of an evening before driving off.

And I can only hope that she has enough ‘impropriety’ in her soul to make her own fun in what looks likely to become a very brittle world.

A Strategic Overview  

The D.C. Power Establishment Seems Totally Bewildered and Impotent in the Face of Trump's Agenda   By Vijay Prashad & Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

The old establishment seems sidelined and the “deep state” appears bewildered.

Reactions to Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States oscillate between great trepidation and great mockery. Will Donald Trump do something outlandish—something with terrible consequences—or will what he does bring discredit on himself? Uncertainty dogs the next US president and his administration. The old establishment seems sidelined and the “deep state” appears bewildered.

The Bush Years

George W. Bush had evoked similar feelings of fear and hilarity, although his administration seemed handpicked by the establishment and Bush made no noises about changing the broad parameters of the world order. There was, from Bush, no gesture against the European Union or NATO nor against the major trade agreements or the security arrangements. That Bush would illegally invade Iraq in 2003, preside over the emergence of the BRICS in trade discussions, and stand—a deer in the headlights—as the Western financial system metastasized was not entirely predictable when he took office.

What had become clear during Bush’s eight years was that the United States was no longer the first amongst equals and that US-driven unipolarity was slowly unraveling. Russia, devastated in the first decade after the fall of the USSR, had rebuilt its military strength through high commodity prices and was more confident in its dealing with other powers. China’s economic ascent in the decade of the 1990s gradually provided its leadership with the urgency to change the geopolitical balance of power. India, Brazil and South Africa—disadvantaged by the global economic rules—pushed for their own interests in the multilateral forums.

These powers, i.e., the BRICS, exerted themselves at different tempos against the unipolar set-up. It was Russia and China, with an assertive Latin America, that seemed prepared to challenge the West for the right to set trade rules and to claim territorial sovereignty over parts of the world far from their own boundaries.

The Obama Years

Barack Obama’s decidedly more attractive personality could not, of course, clean up Bush’s messes. He was not able to settle the contradictions opened up by Bush’s wars in West Asia, nor was he able to control the ambitions of Russia and China.

Not that Obama did not try, for Obama’s White House drove a fierce policy to encage both ends of Eurasia—with NATO being pushed closer and closer to Russia’s western border and US ships aggravating the Chinese in the South China Sea. It was under Obama that the US poked its stick into Russia’s bear cave, provoking Russian intervention into the Crimea. Attempts to get the Chinese to revalue their currency to help a spluttering US domestic economy through threats about intellectual property piracy, currency manipulation, and internet hacking came to naught. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even egged on the Japanese to set aside an elected government so that its bases in Okinawa would remain—these bases being a challenge to the Chinese and Russians. The Chinese would not be swayed. Even the ships in the South China Sea did not scare the Chinese to do as Washington bid.

Europe, which has not recovered evenly from the great recession of 2007/08, was disadvantaged by a set of policies that it had endorsed. Bush’s illegal war against Iraq (2003), famously supported by what Bush called “New Europe” and the United Kingdom, allowed Iran to flex its ambitions across West Asia. The US, then, tried to push Iran back to its borders with the Syria Accountability Act (2003), the Israeli war on Lebanon (2006) and the sanctions regime on Iran (2006).

Sanctions on Iran removed it from the ledger of suppliers of energy for Europe’s market. When NATO destroyed Libya (2011), another major provider of energy slipped off the European map. NATO’s eastward move created the crisis in Eastern Europe, which led to the sanctions on Russia (2014). The Kremlin moved closer to China and began to sell its energy to the Chinese. Iran, Libya, and Russia were three major energy sources for Europe. Now, in the space of a decade, all three went off-line. Pressure on the Obama administration to undo the Iran isolation led to the Iran deal (2015). These European contradictions, rather than the principles of international law, pushed the Obama administration to do the Iran deal.

The Trump Years

How will Trump manage these important shifts in the world order, with the Russians and Chinese—and other parts of the Global South—in ascendance, and with the Europeans turning inwards and in disarray? Would he continue to pressure Russia and China with military force at the two ends of Eurasia?

It is clear that Trump is not as concerned as the “deep state” in the United States is about Russia’s return to the world stage. Whether he will be able to override the mainstream consensus that Russia is a grave threat to the United States remains to be seen. Threats against Russia for the alleged hacking of the Democrats will force Trump to respond in some way, either with sanctions or with some kind of secret intervention. How he will respond to the deep state’s rhetoric on Russia is an open question.

Trump is certainly incoherent in his views. He appears friendly to Russia but has great antipathy towards China, particularly on trade. Russia had tasted humiliation after the fall of the USSR (1991) and after its expulsion from the G7 (2014). Rather than go into the wilderness, Russia formed an enduring bond with the Chinese on military, economic, and diplomatic grounds. This bond is very strong and appears to be strengthening. Trump is hallucinating if he imagines that he can break the link between Russia and China—two powers with some harmony on their views of the world order, more harmony than during the early years of the Cold War before the Sino-Soviet break.

It will be difficult to force China to revalue its currency to the advantage of the United States. No previous administration, with US battle ships close to the Chinese coastline, has been able to force the Chinese into this—for China—suicidal policy. Trump, short of a war against China, will not be able to force them to act to benefit the US heartland. This is more rhetoric from Trump than policy.
The administration assembled by Trump is united by a great hatred of Iran. Will they be able to renege on the Iran nuclear deal and perhaps go to war against Iran?

It is unlikely that Trump will be able to even cast the deal aside. He will find no partners in Europe, where the energy shortfall has constrained policy options. There is no appetite in the European capitals for a return to sanctions. Neither Russia nor China—both of whom rely on Iran for their West Asia policy—will allow United Nations sanctions on Iran. Trump might want to go alone in his crusade against Iran, but he will not find many Arab allies—apart from a handful of Gulf monarchies—who would endorse such a war. Egypt, Algeria, and Iraq would be steadfast against it. Hezbollah, from Lebanon, would threaten Israel, which is not prepared for a return to hostilities on its northern perimeter. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed his belligerent rhetoric, but it is clear that he hid behind Obama. Now he shall have no one to hide behind. Nor will Trump.

Harsh rhetoric against Mexico as an alibi for the weaknesses of the fortunes of ordinary Americans is not going to bear Trump much fruit. He has miscalculated on Mexico, believing perhaps that it is an isolated and poor country. Mexico is well attached to the agenda of the Global South on several major issues, namely Northern subsidy reform, Northern financial system reform, and renegotiation of the intellectual property regime that benefits Northern pharmaceutical and high-tech firms. Corn subsidies in the US and liberalized trade due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) spurred the migration of impoverished Mexicans to the United States. Any change of the trade regime would have to take into consideration the advantages to Northern capital of the liberalized trade environment.

Trump’s call to renegotiate treaties is welcome news in many of the capitals of the South, but what they mean by renegotiation is very different. Mexico is a founding member of the G20 group of developing countries within the World Trade Organization (WTO), which held its own at the 2003 Cancun (Mexico) WTO ministerial meeting, where under the leadership of India, Brazil, and South Africa the G20 pushed back against the Northern agenda. Mexico has vacillated in the G20, but Trump’s insults and his policies on immigration and trade might push Mexico into the front ranks of the G20. This would be welcome news to other Latin American states.

Even if the era of US unipolarity is now over, the period of US-driven imperialism is not at an end. The United States still possesses the largest military force, has tentacles across the planet through its bases and aircraft carriers, and is the biggest dealer of weapons. Power will be exercised in various forms by the United States to maintain its declining authority. Trump could very likely have a dangerous trigger finger. But fewer allies and less legitimacy might make it harder for him to pull that trigger. In the end, he might find himself more victim of the world than its assassin.


Maria said...

It was reader Sierra who handed you that nugget of information about Hacienda. It's just their usual form of extortion.

I agree with the flirting article. What I don't agree with is being a sexualized object or an inferior being that needs protection from the nasty world. I do like an intelligent bantering, and I won't say no to help when I need it. All things in good measure.

Trump will get a rude awakening one day soon. What he's doing already, prohibiting or making it harder for Moslems to enter the U.S., goes against the Constitution's First Amendment. A person has the right to freely exercise the worship of any religion, and the State shall not give ascendancy to any one religion over another.

Colin Davies said...

Oh, dear. Will correct immediately. Ta. Rushing again . . .

And I agree totally with you re banter. One of my main reasons for loving Spain.

And, of course, re objectivising women.

And on Trump . . .

Sierra said...

Guess the outcome of publishing articles about the drought in's raining today (probably snow at higher levels!)

Perry said...


Here is a post from the Antipodes with insider information about President Trump's agenda over the past few days. He's getting on with the job. As they say in Oz "Give a bloke a fair go". After all, Spengler has shown you & me that Europe as we know it, is a lost cause, even with a resurgent USA under President Trump. You & I are some of the last members of the comfortable society. Two generations from now,---- well you know what's coming over the hill.

I think that hastening to reject something about which one knows nothing is not smart. When one cannot see the facts because one's beliefs & prejudices block the way, it means missing out on much of life's rich pageantry.

J Wapatoo said...

Another example of professional misconduct in Spain and from my perspective of corruption too:

Colin Davies said...

@Wapatoo: Thank-you for that.