I've drafted this post between 6 and 7am on Brittany Ferries' flagship boat, the Pont Aven. Despite numerous attempts, I've failed to get the internet on either my Mac or my Samsung phone. And have now given up all hope of doing this until I get to Santander in 4 hours' time. They tell me I'm not alone but that some people have been able to get access. However, they can't give me any explanation for this, beyond the excuse that the at-sea internet service is supplied by a private company in, probably, Finland. Very frustrating.
The Guardian, reporting on the trial of Spain's Princess Cristina and her husband, avers that: The trial has done little to allay public concern over the apparent ubiquity of corruption at the highest levels of Spanish society. You can say that again. Despite being found innocent of a crime, the princess has been fined €265,000 for indirectly and unknowingly benefitting from her husband's malfeasance. I assume this is a civil offence. As I say, I'm not sure there's anyone in Spain – least of all the princess and her lawyer – who believes that she was unaware of what was going on as her husband embezzled more than €6m. Where's that gone, one asks, noting that he's only been fined €500,000.
As we know, the AVE high speed train Madrid-Galicia route won't be operating until at least 2020, though the official prediction remains 2018. In this light, it's amusing to read this bit of info I found on my laptop last night, from the Voz de Galicia of 22nd of October, 2006. In other words, more than 10 years ago:-
This is the current situation with the various stretches:-
Santiago-Vigo: Was promised for 2007, now 2009
Santiago-Ourense: Should be finished in 2008
Vigo-Ourense: Should be finished in 2010
Lubián- Ourense: Should be finished in 2010 It’s in the tender phase but there’s no budget for
works in 2007
Madrid-Lubián-Vigo: The most optimistic forecast is sometime in 2010
Santiago-La Coruña: Forecast to be completed by Dec 2011 [= 2012]
To this info from the local newspaper, I'd added:-
Vigo-Cerdedo branch: No indication of when. Has been ‘under study’ for 2.5 years
Vigo-Tui-Portugal ‘God knows’
All these dates were hopelessly missed and the Madrid-Galicia line will be operating, it's believed, a full 10 years later than the forecast of 2010 provided in 2006. Which helps to explain the Spanish public's lack of confidence in their government's statistics and forecasts. The last 2 lines mentioned - to Cerdedo and Tui/Portugal - have been completely abandoned. Against that, I think all the tracks except that that between Lubían and Ourense have now been laid, even if we don't actually have AVE trains running on them yet. Just faster versions of normal trains. But without the safety system designed for AVE trains. Hence the tragic accident near Santiago a couple of years ago. For which no government or corporate official will ever be found accountable and punished.
On to madness on a wider scale . . . . I also found on my laptop this draft letter on Britain and the EU, penned by me in October 1999, just before I moved to Spain. But, as far as I can recall never actually sent:-
Dear Sir: The prolonged period of peace we are now enjoying is in danger of becoming the Age of the Bureaucrat, as the exercise of power moves relentlessly from great men and major issues to small men and little issues. From leaders to focus groups.
This is a global phenomenon, of course, but it seems to me that the UK has a competitive disadvantage that is hastening its own relative decline. In contrast to most other countries, we have a stable, largely incorrupt bureaucracy which has taken more than 200 years to establish its entrenched power in almost every facet of our daily life. Its (rather self-serving) purpose is to create and implement regulations to the letter, albeit fairly.
At a time when - on a purely domestic front - we should be vigorously fighting the trend towards greater bureaucracy and trivialisation, what are we actually doing? Why, handing over power to a new but larger and vastly more corrupt bureaucracy which doesn't operate at all fairly and which is, in practice, totally unaccountable. And the agent of this super-bureaucracy is our own home-grown bureaucracy, peerless in its concern for the law and in its diligence. Is it, therefore, any wonder that whole industries in the UK are suffering greater depredations than elsewhere in Europe?
This is suicide by a self-inflicted thousand cuts. We are the victims of our own longevity, stability, integrity and law-abiding nature. Not to mention our political blindness and pusillanimity.
Who will lead the fight to slaughter the legions of well-intentioned bureaucrats before it is too late? Not me, I'm off to live where the infrastructures are less established and where the response to domestic and international regulations owes rather more to common sense and flexibility than it does here.
Interestingly, the letter is signed by one of my pseudonyms - David Collins. I can't recall why.
All of this is a nice lead-in to an article in the Business section of yesterday's Daily Telegraph. The headline to this is: Eurozone peripheral nations paid a high price for single currency folly. It seems that the experts now have the ability to model what would have happened in these countries if they'd not entered the eurozone and if there hadn't been the austerity that followed the euro-driven boom of 2000-2007. In brief, these nations would be 17% better off in GDP terms. Which helps to explain why the writer asserts: It is increasingly obvious that it is by far the greatest self-inflicted economic policy mistake ever made. For which Greece, at least, will be paying the price for as far ahead as one can confidently predict. Spain, on the other hand, seems to have emerged reasonably strong from the mayhem caused by the purely political decision to bring in the euro. At least if you only look at the macro numbers, and ignore what's gone on down at the various coalfaces. And is still going on.
By overhearing someone, I've finally established that the way to get a normal white coffee at Costa is to ask for a white Americano, ignoring the fact that the essence of an Americano is that it's black. What you get is said black coffee with a milk in a tiny jug beside it. I guess it makes sense to someone.
At least one of my readers contends I/we should stop obsessing about Trump and his crew. In a Guardian article here, entitled Trump is a media troll – so let's stop feeding him, Marina Hyde provides some support for this view, arguing that the real issue is not how Trump regards or treats the mainstream media. Nobody in the world cares if a president is mean to journalists, she says. It's time of focus instead on his lies. I agree.
Finally . . . . Another Bill Tidy cartoon:-