Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 31.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Life in Spain:-

  • I'm told that the stevedores here have a monopoly on labour in the ports which was started by the Falange in Franco's day. And that: Jobs are passed from fathers to sons. Nobody else may apply. Wages are about three times those paid elsewhere in Europe. They now say they're willing to take a 10% cut, but otherwise are prepared to close down the economy to protect their privileges. And I thought it was only the pharmacists and other 'professionals' who operated medieval guilds here.

The term Alfa -PVP sounds innocuous enough but its street label is Flakka and it's said to be an extremely strong narcotic. Though this article is a tad sceptical about this. Whatever, its use is growing rapidly in Spain and I've little doubt a large proportion of the imports of this new white powder is coming in via our  Galician coast. Ever versatile, our narcos

Just in case you're really interested, here's another article on the collapse of Banco Pastor/Popular. As reader Maria has pointed out, it couldn't be happening to a nicer bank . . .

This is a foto of what's claimed to be the oldest building in Pontevedra's old quarter. At least 500 years old but maybe more. And the only building with any Moorish element:-

It's called Casa das Campás, or House of the Bells and I've posted it here, not because of its intrinsic beauty, but because last week in my regular bar some tourists asked about its location. Despite its (alleged) fame, no one there could think of anything except the octopus restaurant next to it, called - inevitably - Pulpería das Campás. BTW . . . The accent on the A is important. Otherwise, it's House of the Graves. Or so Mr G tells me.

The drive from Pontevedra to Vigo on the (expensive) AP9 autovia is one of the prettiest you'll ever experience, especially as you approach the Rande Straits. Back in 1702, there was a huge naval battle in the bay beyond the straits where the Spanish bullion fleet - protected by French warships - was hiding from a combined British-Dutch fleet. Futilely, it turned out, as all the Spanish and French ships were destroyed like fish in a barrel. But the bullion was never found. Except novelistically by The Nautilus in Jules Vernes' Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. Anyway, for Spanish speakers, here's a Facebook video about the wanton destruction of the remains of the Spanish batteries which used to protect the bay. Or, rather, didn't. But even if you don't speak Spanish, the video is still worth a view as it gives an idea of the beauty of the spot.

Talking of Facebook - and Google - here's an interesting comment about the growing need to replace them with less intrusive alternatives.

Nutters' Corner:- They never disappoint:-
  • Televangelist Jim Bakker (He of the Big Bucket of Food): God will judge us harshly and punish America if we destroy Donald Trump. His election was a miracle.
  • Pastor Keith Gomez of the Northwest Bible Baptist Church in Elgin, Illinois : Without slavery, black people would still be in Africa with bones in their noses.
Finally . . . If you were expecting 2 CDs and received a package measuring 55 x 36 cm (c. 22 x 14 inches) you'd be a bit confused, no?

Until you opened it and saw 2 of these:-

And slowly realised you'd ordered 2 LPs (albums) by mistake. Which wouldn't be so bad if you still had a bloody turntable . . .

As if you haven't laughed enough, here's today's cartoon:-

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 30.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:-
  • Driving in Spain 1: Here's another of the local junctions where you can't see what's coming from the left. Perhaps it's deliberate, forcing you to slow down.
  • Driving in Spain 2: I'm only able to write today because, on a roundabout last night, I slammed on my brakes when the car coming from the right failed to stop. But at least the driver raised his hand in apology, just after I'd avoided broadsiding him. I feared he was a local gypsy - infamous for ignoring rules. They don't take well to being remonstrated with. Luckily, he wasn't.

My ex-bank - Popular/Pastor - is on the block and is being looked at by 2 leading Spanish banks. To say the least, it's a distress sale and the trouble is no one has the slightest idea what it's worth, least of all the bank's own management. This is because: Popular’s books are filled with impaired real estate assets that date back to before the collapse of Spain’s gargantuan real estate bubble. They are now in varying stages of decomposition. And the prices at which they’ve been valued on the bank’s books appear to have little relation to today’s reality. More generally, as Don Quijones puts it: Despite all the restructuring, forced mergers and acquisitions, and the €300 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of the country’s savings banks, Spain’s banking system is not nearly as fixed as the authorities, both political and monetary, claim. More to the point, some investors may even begin wondering if Popular is the only bank in Spain to have massively inflated the value of the “assets” on its books. We will see, I guess. I'm so worried I've moved to an Italian bank!

I wonder how many Brits know that there was a second French invasion of England, in 1216 to be exact - after the those English barons unhappy with Henry II had invited the french king to come over and sort him out. Only a bit of good luck before the Battle of Lincoln in 1217 saved the day for the locals. The leaders of whom still spoke a sort of French, of course.

You'll all be wanting to know how much the bougainvillea sucker has grown in the last 7 days.

Well, it's an astonishing 23cm or 9 inches.

Finally . . . . Here's something I happened upon yesterday: How to be Unhappy. Translation tomorrow:-
Today's cartoon:-

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 29.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:-
  • Here's a huge surprise . . . Local phone-call prices might rise after EU phone companies have to drop roaming charges after 15 June. I believe Vodaphone is one of the few companies - possibly the only one - which haven't waited until the last possible moment to do this.
  • Fotos of the end-of-term dinners in the local press have reminded me of the time I saw one such celebration in Salamanca and - given the elegance of the young women - mistook if for a beauty contest.
  • I might be behind the times here but it seems that jumping fitness is the latest craze for making you fitter, leaner, healthier, etc., etc. This 'dynamic fitness training system' is called merely el jumping here. Another gerund invented or mis-used. As in el parking, el lifting, el footing, etc.
  • Which reminds me . . . When I went to Vigo last week, only about 3% of the de-training passengers walked up the stairs from the platform. The rest crowded onto the escalator. No wonder they need a bloody trampoline to get fit.
So, doubtless to national disappointment, Fernando Alonso didn't win yesterday's Indy 500, after his engine failed not long before the finish. The winner was actually Japanese but I would guess most Brits don't know that the most successful drivers there of the last 20 years have been compatriots of theirs. The race doesn't figure in sports news in the UK, any more than it did here before Alonso got involved.

Mrs Merkel is said to think that the EU must give up on collaboration with the Anglos and rely on itself. Whatever is said about the Franco-German axis, this would inevitably be under de facto German leadership . Come to think of it, perhaps 'axis' is a word that should be steered well clear of as Germany gets stronger and stronger. And as, under French pressure, an EU military force is built up.

The best comment I've read about Donald Trump's hilarious trip around the Middle East and Europe is that: As the world’s worst tourist, he at least he makes Brits abroad look better. The columnist added: He's been the very picture of a bad tourist gone feral. He’s the worst person you’ve ever met abroad. Everything Trump has done since leaving the comfort of the US has been astonishing, almost as if the Russians have paid him to create a bonk-headed one-man library of gifs designed to denigrate all travelling Americans. With every breath of his trip, Trump has managed to carve out an image of a terrified old man several leagues out of his depth. Anyone disagree?

I recently had the experience - when booking a flight - of 2 or 3 price increases as I went back and forth. I knew this happened but today I learned it's due to the cookies. So, can it be avoided by deleting these after each enquiry??

Finally . . . Here in Pontevedra province, there's said to be a higher than normal incidence of multiple sclerosis. Wondering if this might be because of the high levels of natural radon from all our granite, I did a bit of net research. Sure enough, some people believe there certainly is. Others, as ever, say the jury is still out.

Today's cartoon:-

Corporate Spain?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 28.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.

- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain:
  • In Spain, as in other countries, you have to pass theory and practical tests before you can drive alone on the roads. Though not in all cases. There are little cars here based on a motorbike engine, called sincarnets ('without licence¡) and I believe it's still the case that any idiot - of any age? - can climb into one of these and create havoc - and danger - on the country's highways. As I saw yesterday coming back from the city. But it makes a change from all the learner drivers in the wrong lane on a roundabout. I can, at least, anticipate their errors.
  • It's a feature of Spain - and probably elsewhere - that women walk around with inappropriate English slogans on their T-shirts. I do sometimes risk telling them what they're displaying. But not the 12 year old yesterday who had Babe in Trouble on her front.
  • Back to female names . . .  I've clocked Sehila and the obvious question arises: Is this a new name or a mis-spelling of Sheila?
  • Rubbernecking is very much a Spanish pastime. During a football match in a bar last week, I think I was the only person not to turn and look at the door when a police car went past with its siren on. Inexplicable but very common on the country's highways, should there be the slightest reason for it.
If you really want to know all the corruption cases currently being processed here, go to this site and enjoy the Rogues' Gallery there. And the details it gives of the cases. The claim is made that politicians have stolen more than €83m from Spanish taxpayers but this is only what's known about - the tip of the fetid iceberg that floats below the surface of Spanish society. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this information. And for the news that the impartiality of the senior anti-corruption investigator is being questioned. President Rajoy says he has full trust in him. And I'm sure he does.

En passant, here's the latest ex regional president to be arraigned. I think he's resigned sine this Wiki entry was last edited.

The belief that the AVE high-speed train will finally operate here in Galicia in 2020 rests on the assumption that a 17km stretch of existing track near and through Ourense will be used instead of dedicated AVE tracks. But this means the train has to fit on different gauge tracks and this - rather than the non-availability of 17km of new tracks (10 years off?) - will be the real delaying factor. The Voz de Galicia yesterday reported a dispute between the regional and national governments about what calibre of train we'll (eventually) have. So, I think we can kiss 2020 goodbye. Assuming anybody believed in it in the first place.

I'm wont to say there ain't a huge amount of 'culture' in Pontevedra, especially since the corrupt savings banks (cajas) ran down their social events programs. But yesterday there were 2 lovely activities in the city. Firstly, a large tent dedicated to chess tables for anyone who wanted to play, and secondly - something new, I think - a 'rapid painting' competition. I was really impressed by (most of) the entries in process. Of which this is one:-

Finally . . . I recently quoted Morton's comment that Spaniards are utterly callous about making a noise at night. I thought of this at 10.30 last night when my neighbours' teenage sons set about firing up a BBQ, accompanied by booming music. I thought of it again when the noise woke me up at 2.30. Fortunately I never go anywhere in Spain without earplugs.

Today's cartoon:-

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 27.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain
  • I've mentioned a certain tendency to short-termism in Spanish thinking, with minimal thought apparently given to longer-term consequences of measures aimed at protecting existing companies. Or entire industries. So it was with the 'Google Tax' imposed on news aggregators back in 2014. Predictably, this had the effect - especially after Google pulled out of Spain - of damaging the interests of those it purported to benefit - the Spanish media. Specifically, a loss of c. €9m in income for the original news sites. Similarly, government policy on solar heating has been short-sighted and inconsistent. I believe this has reverted to one of support for the nascent industry but - in contrast to nearby Portugal - you'll still be hit with a 'sun tax' if, as a private individual, you switch to solar energy. I guess it makes sense to someone.
  • It's claimed that the Spanish don't drink enough water, even where and when it's hot. But they certainly waste a lot of the stuff, per capita use being very high here. Twice as much as in Germany and more than 6 times the UK figure.
  • In the 50s, the 3 most popular female names were: Maria de Carmen, Maria Carmen and, of course, Carmen. Need I add that Franco's wife was Carmen and his daughter María del Carmen? Anyway, the most popular female name in Spain in 2016 was Lucía.
  • The most popular male name in 2016 was Hugo. Ironically, the first letter isn't pronounced!

Corruption Transparency International has slammed Spain for its ‘systemic corruption’. 'Few aspects of public life in the country have remained exempt from corruption', it says. Spain has seen one of the fastest declines on the body’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, sliding 7 points since 2012, now scoring worse than most Western European democracies with 58. “Corruption in Spain distorts policy making and hurts people’s basic rights for the benefit of a few. Just looking at recent scandals gives a sense of the scale of the problem,” said the Chair of Transparency International'. So, you'd think President Rajoy would be only too pleased to address this issue if and when there's a motion of censure against his PP government. But, no, he's said he won't be speaking. But he will allow the party spokesperson and one of the vice-presidents to speak for the Government. Small mercies. Astonishing. Except it isn't. It's par for Rajoy's course.

It's often hard, of course, to understand why fabulously rich people become corrupt. First Lionel Messi and now Cristiano Ronaldo have been accused of corruption here, with latter facing the prospect of a real prison sentence. Not just one below 2 years which avoids incarceration. The standard sentence for corrupt politicians.

Which reminds me . . . You and I would have difficulty opening a bank account in the Isle of Man without the tax authorities wanting to know why. Yet the son of the 'Founder of modern Cataluña' was able to squirrel away there a mere €6m. Born of a 3% commission on everything that happened there. An open secret, it seems. And yet nothing was done until a dumped girlfriend blew the whistle on the greedy family. Hell hath no fury . . .

Is it elitist to be a tad concerned that the UK's Shadow Minister of Education left school at 16, without any qualifications whatsoever? I can't see this happening here in Spain. Where elitism is not yet a dirty word.

The Spanish Language: Google doesn't recognise the word paripé, which means 'a show' and might well be a corruption of the English word 'play'. The dictionary of the Royal Academy doesn't have it either. But this - excellent - site does.

Finally . . . Here in Pontevedra, the good news is that road deaths this so far this year, at 28, are 10 down on last year. The bad news is that 60% of those who died weren't wearing a seat belt.

Todays' cartoon

Apologies if it's a repeat. . . 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thought from Galicia: 26.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain: 
  • If you don't like bullfighting, this might nonetheless appeal to you.
  • On the other hand, few will like this.
  • Here's The Local's view of the signs that summer is imminent here. Not everywhere in Spain, of course. The paper is southern-centric. (Admittedly the thermometer hit 34 in Pontevedra this week but you still don't see a lot of fans about. We just complain. As we do when it rains. It's a natural place for a Brit to live.)
  • Is it a fine example of good town planning or is it evidence of the survival of medieval guilds? After 8 years of permitting no new pharmacies, the Galician government is to licence 48 of them. One of them will be in my barrio of Poio, where an unlicensed one was forced to close a few years ago. I'd guess that existing pharmacy owners are not happy with this development.
  • It's reported that 25% of Spanish kids can't read a bill. As regards adults, my suspicion is that 100% of them can't understand their utility bills.
  • I've mentioned the greater arbitrariness of life here. Yesterday, it occurred to me that my experience around the appalling Modelo 720 law might be a good example. Here's what the expensive advice I received boiled down to as regards a late submission: We really don't know. In the best case, you won't face a fine but, in the worst case, the fine will be huge. We can't ask the Tax Office because we know we'll get a different opinion from each inspector we ask.

Spanish PoliticsThis - in Spanish - seems to be a sensible analysis of what's happening in the left-of-centre PSOE party. Some folk see similarities with the UK Left but this seems wrong to me. The Left in Spain has already split into 2 parties - the 'Far left' Podemos and the 'left-of-centre' PSOE - whereas the UK Left is still represented by the faction-riven Labour Party. In Spain, the issue now is whether Podemos and PSOE can ever coalesce to bring down the PP party.

So, it seems that Malta is the EU's real fiscal paradise. Not Gibraltar, as Madrid keeps telling us. Or even next-door Andorra, a popular place for Spanish politicians who want to visit their money.

Spanglish: I'm wondering whether el rafting is the same as el barranquismo, or just a subset of the latter. The dictionary has barranquismo as 'canyoning' and rafting as 'white-water rafting'. BTW . . . This might well be one of the few examples of the Spanish term being shorter than the English one. 

I almost feel like apologising to you for doing this but click on minute 1.58 of this video to get the fullest possible measure of Donald Trump. And then put yourself in the position of the (terrified) diplomats to whom Trump proposed his side of the exchange.

Finally . . . Reverting to the speeding fine mentioned yesterday . . . 1. I filled in the payment form on the net. Or tried to. The 'Record Number' (N. Expediente) on the ticket contained 3 hyphens and a full stop/period. I tried 3 or 4 permutations of this before finding out only the numbers were required. 2. Reader Maria has amusingly answered the question about the difference between 69 and 71kph. 3. Reader Sierra recommends having one's GPS on all the time. I'd already decided to do this but, as he admits, given the games El Tráfico plays, it won't be 100% effective. 4. If the concern really was safety, they would, of course, have placed a 50 sign at the start of the straight stretch. Finally, 5. The real irony of this fine is that I went on the N-550 because I had a lot of time and didn't want to pay the extortionate toll for the AP9 from Pontevedra to Vigo. Bad decision as it turned out.

 Last night I dropped 3 bottles of wine at €10 each. Not my week, then.

The lost wine:-

2 x white godello and 1 x red tempranillo. Lovely smell.

Finally, finally . . . . A slightly tarted-up Google machine translation of an article by a disappointed young lady on finally getting Spanish nationality:-

I took on oath on the flag in Spain and it is not as cool as they paint it

I introduce myself: I am Alexandra, I am 23 years old, I have been living in Spain since I was four years old and they granted me the nationality last week. As you may have guessed, my paperwork was long and tedious, including a waiting list of seven more years along with a series of infinite and diverse problems, such as sick leave of the person in charge of my case, who misplaced my birth certificate ... In short, the things of the Spanish civil service. I, at this point, felt desperate, especially when my parents had had their brand new Spanish nationality for two years, which made everything more pathetic, if possible.

Finally, on May 3, 2017, I was given the opportunity to swear on the flag. Although it was true that I had bucked up a bit after seeing the Flickr images of the Ministry of Defense ("Swearing of Civil Staff Flag"), with all those platforms, soldiers, crosses, priests and everything to honor people all dressed up. I was not expecting anything crazy or quirky. I mean, I live in Alcorcón (a municipality near Madrid), not that our courts are a glorious thing. But what I really did not expect is that the facts would happen as I will relate here.

My oath already started badly, fatal, since I did not have to take the Spanish Test because of the continuous delays in my procedures. This means that I did not have to prove my knowledge about Spain, those who had been working for nineteen years living in this beautiful land. Although it is fair to clarify that, despite everything, I know perfectly what the demonym is of those who live in Cuenca (cuencano), or who is the authentic Queen of Spain (Belén Esteban).

Imagine me, excited, after this saga, going to the courts, radiant, makeup on and more or less well combed. Now imagine me and all my illusions going overboard when they took me, along with other people, to a courtroom, with the air conditioning broken and a leak in the ceiling covered with a supermarket cardboard. The official on duty told me to come to her desk to swear on the flag. I was stunned, not even a sad, separate room, nor a flag, nor a picture of the King, nor a Constitution, nothing. Only her desk, surrounded by five other officials working.

So I took a seat, stood in front of a table with cluttered papers and a computer (Windows) very outdated, I looked into her eyes and she asked me with laughter: "Do you swear by the King of Spain and the Constitution?" I could not believe it, why was she laughing? Was it a test of fire to be Spanish? Should not it be a super solemn act? Astonished, and with a grimace of imbecility I snapped  back a timid "Si". She looked at me, smiled at me, and told me she that was it, that I could go.

I got up from my chair languidly, disheartened, and disgusted. All the expectations that society had instilled on me  for my longed-for flag swearing were completely unreal. I do not know, I did not ask for so much, just to kiss a flag and maybe put my hand on a brand new volume of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 riveted with gold threads. Maybe a bit of discretion and solemnity on the spot. Nothing else. It is not as if I intended to play God, just a little show.

In my opinion, it was a rather shabby way of entering as an immigrant into Spanish society. What could have been a good day ended up seeing me leave the courthouse and take the sad line 10 of Metro Sur to leave that suburb.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 25.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
  • You might have thought a fair tax system wouldn't impose a capital gains tax if you'd lost money on the sale of an asset. If so, you'd be wrong in the case of Spain. It's taken a decision of the Constitutional Court to stop the tax authorities here hitting you with a plusvalía tax based on what they said was and is the value of your asset, regardless of the reality. This - blatantly obvious - decision will mean a tsunami of court claims for repayment, with the inevitable consequences for Spain's woefully slow judicial system. Which is already struggling to deal with a similar decision in respect of illegal 'floor clauses' in mortgage contracts. See this article, in English. I wonder if this rule also applies if you've only made a loss because of the high transfer taxes paid to the regional government.
  • Talking about inequity here. . . I've said more than once that, if you're to avoid being hit with speeding fines here, it's advisable to drive everywhere at 50kph(31mph). I'm saying it again now because my latest fine arrived yesterday morning. For doing 69 on a straight, unsigned country road which I obviously thought had a 70 limit. No one could be more careful than I am about keeping within the limits. In more than 35 years driving in several countries, I was never fined. Not even once. Here in Spain in just over 16 years, I've been hit 8 or 9 times. So . . . Has my driving deteriorated or is the revenue department of the Tráfico ministry the most efficient organisation in Spain? Or the most deceitful? Of course, it's not totally accurate to say that driving at 50 will keep you safe; the ludicrous limit on the steep hill to and from my house is 30kph(19mph). Which - along with everyone else - I break at least twice a day. It's either that or driving up in second gear and down with your foot on the brake. Final word on this - Someone on the web has complained about being fined €300 and losing 2 points for doing 71 on this stretch. My fine is 'only' €100 and no points are being deducted from my licence. Is this a function of the tiny difference between 71 and 69kph? Anyone know?
  • So, what's going to happen later this year in Cataluña? And what will the consequences be for Spain and the EU? I ask because the pesky Catalan nationalists are threatening to unilaterally declare independence if Madrid doesn't allow them to have a referendum in September. Ironically, the chances are high they'd lose this but the right-of-centre PP government can't contemplate a concession on this and continues to threaten court action. At the very least. Click here and here for views on this issue. We seem to be heading for a pointless nuclear war.
As I'm in a bilious mood . . . . What is it about stupid coffee pods? It's now reported that 13 billion of these bits of plastic are polluting the planet, though this seems tad high to me. Whatever the accurate number, it's surely time to rebel against this latest example of a marketing triumph that spits in the face of common sense. And costs you money in the process. Wake up, people!

More importantly . . .  Here's Donald Trump's comment in the visitors' book at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. You don't have to compare it with those of his predecessors to appreciate how inadequately and pathetically puerile it is:-

Like the author of the article which follows, I find the attitude of the West towards Saudi Arabia utterly incomprehensible unless you assume - rightly - it has everything to do with money. Especially that flowing to the US military-industrial complex.

Before you read it, here's a cartoon which points up the madness of one aspect of this issue:-

The Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?John Wight. Counterpunch

The lack of a coherent anti-terrorism strategy in Washington and by extension the West, as emergency services deal with the devastating aftermath of yet another terrorist atrocity in Europe – this time a suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, England – has been thrown into sharp relief during President Trump’s tour of the Middle East.

Specifically, on what planet can Iran be credibly accused of funding and supporting terrorism while Saudi Arabia is considered a viable partner in the fight against terrorism? This is precisely the narrative we are being invited to embrace by President Trump in what counts as a retreat from reality into the realms of fantasy, undertaken in service not to security but commerce.

Indeed those still struggling to understand why countries such as the US, UK, and France consistently seek to legitimise a Saudi regime that is underpinned by the medieval religious doctrine of Wahhabism, which is near indistinguishable from the medieval religious extremism and fanaticism of Daesh and Nusra in Syria – those people need look no further than the economic relations each of those countries enjoy with Riyadh.

The announcement that Washington has just sealed a mammoth deal with its Saudi ally on arms sales – worth $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over 10 years – is all the incentive the US political and media establishment requires to look the other way when it comes to the public beheadings, crucifixionseye gouging, and other cruel and barbaric punishments meted out in the Kingdom on a regular basis.

The sheer unreality of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Trump during the latter’s state visit to the country recently, lamenting the chaos and carnage in Syria, which he described as having been “one of the most advanced countries” prior to a conflict that has wrought so much death and destruction, the sheer unreality of this is off the scale – and especially so considering the role the Saudis have played in providing material, financial, and ideological and religious support to groups engaged in the very carnage in Syria as has just been unleashed in Manchester.

There are times when the truth is not enough, when only the unvarnished truth will do, and in the wake of the Manchester attack – in which at time of writing 22 people have been killed and 60 injured – we cannot avoid the conclusion that neither principle nor rationality is driving Western foreign policy in the Middle East, or as it pertains to terrorism.

Instead it is being driven by unalloyed hypocrisy, to the extent that when such carnage occurs in Syria, as it has unremittingly over the past 6 years, the perpetrators are still described in some quarters as rebels and freedom fighters, yet when it takes place in Manchester or Paris or Brussels, etc., they are depicted as terrorists. Neither is it credible to continue to demonize governments that are in the front line against this terrorist menace – i.e. Iran, Russia, Syria – while courting and genuflecting at the feet of governments that are exacerbating it – i.e. Saudi Arabia, previously mentioned, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey. Here, too, mention must be made of the brutal and ongoing injustice meted out to the Palestinians by an Israeli government that shares with the Saudis a doctrine of religious exceptionalism and supremacy, one that is inimical to peace or the security of its own people.

Ultimately a choice has to be made between security and stability or economic and geopolitical advantage, with the flag of democracy and human rights losing its lustre in recent years precisely because the wrong choice has been made – in other words a Faustian pact with opportunism.

As the smoke clears, both literally and figuratively, from yet another terrorist atrocity, we are forced to consider how we arrived at this point. And when we do we cannot but understand the role of Western extremism in giving birth to and nourishing Salafi-jihadi extremism. Moreover, in the midst of the understandable and eminently justifiable grief we feel at events in Manchester, it behooves us not to forget the salient fact that Muslims have and continue to be the biggest victims of this terrorist menace, unleashed in the name of religious purity and sectarianism, and that it is Muslims who are also doing most to confront and fight it, whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan. It should not escape our rendering of the issue either that what each of those countries have in common is that they have all been victims of the Western extremism mentioned earlier.

It bears repeating: you cannot continue to invade, occupy, and subvert Muslim and Arab countries and not expect consequences. And when those consequences amount to the slaughter and maiming of your own citizens, the same tired and shallow platitudes we are ritually regaled with by politicians and leaders intent on bolstering their anti-terrorism and security credentials achieve little except induce nausea.

Enough is enough.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 24.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain
  • One sometimes wonders if Spanish kids are ever acquainted with the concept of risk. Or whether the things you see - or which are reported - are merely evidence of Spanish picaresqueness. I regularly see cyclists on main roads sans lights and helmets. And a local paper this week reported that 2 helmetless teenage males were stopped when cycling the wrong way down a motorway. Whether they were charged with anything remains doubtful.
  • If you're British and used to shopkeepers saying "Sorry, we don't" when you ask them for something they don't have, you need to get used to the bald spanish response of "No". On the other hand, if you then ask where you might get the item, you'll always get a helpful response.
  • I hadn't seen it for a while but I read yesterday that a local celebrity had died Christianly. I guess this means as a good Catholic, having had extreme unction.
  • As Lenox of Business over Tapas says here, the left-of-centre PSOE party has been re-born. Though, as I've admitted, I for one have no idea what this development really means for the country. Ostensibly left-wing commentators - of the Transition/Cohabitation school - see it as a disaster on the scale of Jeremy Corbyn heading the British Labour party but I'm not convinced.
  • Others feel that Spain now faces the risk of a chronically weak government, a la Italy. Click here for this.
Time, of course, will tell.

Good and Bad habits:
  • Chocolate: Eating up to six 30g bars of chocolate a week could reduce the risk of a heart flutter by almost one quarter, a study by Harvard University suggests. 
  • Cigarettes: The latest research reveals that 30% of Spanish adults still smoke - 33% of men and 28% of women. For those aged 14 to 18 the overall number is said to be 32% but this time women(36%) far outdo the men(28%). This is depressing enough but my own observation suggests a higher number for young women here.
Local Stuff:
  • Apparently the number of 13 that I reported for the drug clans in southern Galicia (Las Rías Bajas/As Rías Baixas) is wrong. The true number is 30. Straight out of central casting, here's the head of the O Mulo clan, Rafael Bugallo Piñeiro. He and several other members are having their day in court this week, after an incident that took place back in 2008.

Needless to say, the clan's lawyers are trying to have the interim phone taps declared illegal and removed from the evidence against them. They presumably sleep well at night.
  • As I've said, we're plagued by beggars in Pontevedra and this week I again suspected the Beggar Bus was in town, bringing several 'irregulars'. But I was genuinely surprised to be interrupted in my reading by a well-dressed young woman asking me to give something to her young male companion. This is a new schtick. But still ineffective in my case.
  • Someone's allegedly doing black magic in my barrio. Specifically voodoo. Residents report finding evidence down by the old Coca Cola factory. I'm guessing that the Senegalese living in a nearby flat block are the prime suspects.
  • I mentioned that the Sunday flea market was again being invaded by illegal (Romanian?) gypsy traders. Right on cue, the police raided it on Sunday last, checking on licences. So, it'll be interesting to see how long it will be before they're back. The gypsies, I mean. Not the police.
  • The Pontevedra council has had a major tourism proposal rejected as 'pretentious and exaggerated': This was to make the local Apparitions site the equal of Lourdes and Fatima. It's actually a little convent in which one of the Fatima girls came to live. And to fantasise a bit more.
  • Tellingly, one of the opposing counsellors came out with the classic localist line that: This is what happens when you give the Pontevedra Tourism brief to someone from Forcarei. Which is all of 34km(21m) from the city.
Alexander the Great "felt himself well fitted to perform the role of a divine king. Whether he believed himself a god, or only took on the attributes of divinity from motives of policy, is a question for psychologists.  . . . Psychologists observe that Alexander hated his father." Once again, the name of Donald Trump sprang to mind when I read this last night.

Nutters Corner:
  • God wanted Trump to win the Presidency, therefore God will never let Trump be impeached.
Finally . . . . Iran. Having lived there a few years, I'm a great fan of the country, its history, it culture and its people. Who have suffered a great deal under the religious autocracy of the last 40 years. So, I find it very easy to sympathise with this article, which exposes and criticises Trump's bellicose policy towards the country.

Trump’s Islam Speech in Saudi Arabia Paves Way for America’s Next Big War

Darius Shahtahmasebi

The American public is most likely unaware of the giant stranglehold Saudi Arabia has on the U.S. government. Saudi Arabia uses its vast riches to manipulate the U.N., which explains how a country that brutally oppresses its female population was recently gifted a seat on the organization’s women’s rights commission. The Islamic Kingdom also wields incredible control over international media and has arguably had an increasingly unwelcome position of power in America’s foreign policy decision-making. As such, Donald Trump’s political career, in part, rests on appeasing his Saudi Arabian counterparts.

And appeasing the Saudis is exactly what Trump has done. Trump’s speech regarding Islam was delivered to the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia. However, he conveniently ignored the troves of evidence that show Saudi Arabia directly sponsors the terror groups al-Qaeda and ISIS – two groups the U.S. claims to be at war with — as well as the fact that Saudi Arabia has been directly implicated in the 9/11 terror attacks. Instead, Donald Trump framed the entire issue of radicalization as a problem that rests with Iran. As he stated in Riyadh: “But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran. From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

Iran’s prime enemies are actually Sunni-dominated terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The Islamic Republic and its proxies have been heavily engaged in fighting these terror groups in Syria. If eradicating terrorism was a priority for the United States and Saudi Arabia, Iran would be a natural ally considering Iran almost all but defeated ISIS in Iraq.

Yet, Trump continued: “Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad regime—launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.”

While many analysts may focus on how Trump has gone from the most Islamophobic president ever elected to now omitting the words “radical Islamic terrorism” from his speech on Islam, these analysts continue to gloss over the fact that the entire speech appears to have been a geopolitical gesture to please Saudi Arabia and its allies. As the Iranian Foreign Ministry noted, Trump is no longer concerned with Islamophobia but what Iran has coined as “Iranophobia.”

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival. The two countries are fighting an enormous proxy war in Syria because Saudi Arabia views an Iranian-aligned government as a threat to its economic interests. Saudi Arabia is also currently bombing Yemen into oblivion as fears of a Shi’a led government capable of aligning itself with Tehran became a probable reality in 2015.

Most hypocritical, however, was the following statement: “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

Even establishment outlets such as the BBC could not allow this statement to go unchecked. The BBC stated: “And amongst several cynical reactions to the speech from around the region on social media, some have pointed out that here in Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive and there are no parliamentary elections. In Iran, the country accused by Mr Trump of being behind much of the current terrorism across the Middle East,they have just had a free election and women are free to drive.”

Iran’s recent elections saw one of the heaviest turnouts in the country’s history, much higher than that of the United States. It is technically one of the most democratic countries in the region. While Iran would not be considered greatly democratic by Western standards, this is a testament to how undemocratic Iran’s rivals in the region are, including Saudi Arabia. Even prisoners were allowed to vote in Iran, something so-called democratic countries such as New Zealand disallow.

Despite all of this “Iranophobic” sentiment, it is also worth noting that Iran’s alleged nuclear program is rarely discussed in the international arena anymore. This is because the Trump administration is well aware that the Iranian nuclear deal reached in 2015 is working – and there is no current nuclear threat from Iran. In this context, the U.S. government has to look for alternative modes of hyping up an Iranian threat to justify a massive arms deal.

And yet, spearheaded by Trump, the Arab world has just announced a new military pact that will directly confront Iran. Called the “Riyadh Declaration,” the pact was signed by representatives from 55 Islamic nations that have vowed “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding and to take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states.”

The military pact will also include an “Islamic Military Coalition,” which will “provide a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations when needed.”

How can a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, combat terrorism and extremism when Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist philosophy is responsible for most of today’s terrorism-related problems? As noted by the Independent: “The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration…The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days…Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was ‘God’s will’ and then they blamed the dead.”

The original text of the document was heavily infatuated with Iran but has since been amended. The original text also said these troops would be deployed to Syria and Iraq “when needed,” which is — again — clearly aimed at countering Iranian influence as Iran is heavily tied to both countries. Saudi Arabia has already expressed its intention to send troops into Syria multiple times before, with the exclusive goal of ensuring that “liberated areas [do] not fall under the control of Hizballah, Iran or the regime.”

The United States, Britain, and associated forces are creeping into Syria as we speak,directly paving the way for an all-out confrontation with Syrian troops in al-Tanf. Just last week, the U.S. military bombed these troops, even though they are directly backed by Iran (and most likely Russia, too).

This is no secret to the mainstream media. The Washington Post just released an article hours ago entitled “How Trump could deal a blow to Iran — and help save Syria,” with the conclusion that the battle for al-Tanf  is “a fight that the United States cannot and should not avoid.” Dealing a strategic blow to Iran and Syria will only empower ISIS given that they are the most heavily engaged entities fighting the terror groups in Syria.

The Trump administration’s seeds are being sown in tandem with the corporate media. Trump’s speech had nothing to do with radical Islam. It was written by Stephen Miller, the “architect” of Donald Trump’s travel ban (a policy that also vehemently targeted Iran, among other countries).
Selling a war with Iran to the American public may be difficult considering the Islamic nation twice elected a reformist who is open to making diplomatic deals with the United States. However, selling a war that will take place inside Syria is somewhat less problematic, even if that war is against the Syrian government, as the American public is easily manipulated by Assad’s alleged war crimes. As Iran is Syria’s closest ally, it will be easily drawn into a confrontation.

If Saudi Arabia’s coalition of anti-Iranian Muslim nations illegally joins this battle arena, the resulting war will be catastrophic.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 23.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain: 
  • This is a de facto federal state, with many powers delegated to the regional governments. For example over certain taxes and healthcare. The result is very different regimes between even adjacent regions like Galicia and Asturias. So, a lottery. Or a 'post-code lottery' as it's called in the UK, where it's anathema. One result is that it can be difficult - even impossible - to find out what will happen in certain cirumstances. So, for example, no one can tell me definitively what laws will apply to the passing of assets during my lifetime to my daughters, one of whom lives in Manchester and the other in Madrid. Worse, there is conflicting advice about taxation - nil or a mere 30% - on cash transfers to my Madrid-based daughter done via a 'public document' in front of a notary. All very frustrating. I wonder if this happens in a real federal state such as the USA or, nearer to home, Germany.
  • The same situation applies to the renting out of property on sites such as Airbnb. A recent article in El País spoke of an utter mess in which 17 different regions had introduced their own versions of statutes designed to protect the hotel industry, with Barcelona's being perhaps the most onerous. A pig's breakfast. Naturally, everyone is ignoring the rules, if they think there's any chance of getting away with it.
  • Is it any wonder foreigners are unhappy with 'institutions' here? Yesterday I got the usual run-around cancelling a credit card – time-wasting on a premium number; data-giving to one person before being passed to another; repetition of data requests; attempts to continue the spiel despite my protests; loss of temper; and, finally, phone-slamming by me, a la reader María. With my UK bank (First Direct), it would have taken a fraction of the time. And cost.
  • Still on the 'unfair competition' kick, the government has said it won't allow this from Gibraltar after Brexit. Ironically, the folk most worried about this are the many thousands of Spaniards who live near The Rock and are employed there. The First Battalion of Innocent Bystanders. 'Unfair competion' is, in practice, whatever threatens the income of those already operating in a field. What they can do about these vested interests depends on how close their relationship is with the governing state, region, province or municipality. Only, of course, with delegated powers can the last 3 enter the fray, on behalf of, say, the hoteliers. Customers are not the superordinate element in the resulting decisions. Nor the long term future of an industry or the wider economy. Think Galician airports again . . .
  • On the national political scene, things are boiling up nicely as regards the Catalan bid for independence. See here, on this.
  • But, as it says here, there are undeniable signs that summer is on the way. When a lot of things will simply stop.
The EU is good at making stern rules and then failing to punish transgressors, especially if they're one of the larger members. So it'll be interesting to see whether anything follows from the warnings to Spain about her persistently high public spending and subsequent deficits. Not much, I expect

It's a depressing commentary on the decline of a once serious UK newspaper that the 3 most-read items in yesterday's Daily Telegraph were about a wedding involving the sister of a member of the royal family.

Everyone with a garden in Galicia knows just how much our semi-tropical combination of warmth and plentiful rain contributes to the growth in plants, grass and - of course - weeds. But this year seems to be exceptional. My biggest problem is dealing with the suckers which shoot from the bougainvillea which covers the back of my house - or backside, as our American cousins amusingly say. These grow at the rate of a banana plant in Indonesia. Something which I have witnessed and even measured, at minimally 30cm a week. I will resist showing a series of fotos of the sucker right outside my bedroom window.

Finally . . . Reading Bertrand Russell on Aristotle, I had this sentence jump out: Aristotle concludes that there is no wickedness too great for a tyrant. There is, however, he says, another method of preserving a tyranny, namely by moderation and by seeming religious. Given Trump's playing to the US religious extremists, it wasn't hard to think of a current example. Russell, writing in 1941, says of this thought of Aristotle that It is a melancholy reflection that this passage is, of his whole book, the one most appropriate to the present day. This is not to say, of course, that Trump is the equivalent of Hitler or Stalin. But he certainly seems to have tyrannical tendencies. Hence his clash with the famous checks and balances of the US constitution. A battle which will surely run and run and which he will eventually lose, in some way or other.

Which reminds me . . . By analogy with The Little Green Book of the Sayings of Ayatolah Khomeini, there must be money to be made out of The Big Book of Trump Lies. I heard yesterday that he'd boasted that his Trump plane is bigger than the president's Air Force One. It isn't. But the latter might not have gold fittings. On the Trump theme, here's an hilarious video of Last Week Tonight's latest airing.

Given the Manchester bombing, today is not a day for cartoons.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain
  • Lottery tickets are still sold here not only in special kiosks but also on street corners by people who are incapacitated in some way. They occasionally cry out something or other and remind me of a blind guy I used to see every evening as I got the bus home from my primary school. Sitting outside a pub and selling only The Liverpool Echo, he used to shout out Echo, ech de cho. Or something like that. 
  • The employment situation here has improved from its truly dire state of a few years ago but is still pretty bad, with unemployment (allegedly) around 17%. And it's not as if the new jobs were particularly well-paid and secure. Very much the opposite. See here on this.
  • More on that report about how Spain fares among us foreign residents:- As reported, when it comes to healthcare, infrastructure, quality of life, culture, social life, the ability to make friends and to integrate, Spain ranks very high. Similarly with family life, facilities for kids and tolerance. But she plummets when it comes to disposable income, taxes, business initiative, job security, and confidence in the 'political economy'. Most lowly ranked are Spain's 'institutions'. Apparently a reference to bureaucracy and poor communication. Not to mention inadequate consumer orientation, I suspect. And quasi-monopolistic practices born of and protected by government friendships. So, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Stay or go. Most stay, I suspect. Meaning a positive net balance.

Spanish Politics: To - I'm sure - considerable surprise, the last leader of Spain's left-of centre PSOE party - Pedro Sánchez - was yesterday re-elected to the position. Another bad result for the polls. The loser - the softer-line Andalucian Presidenta, Susana Díaz - was the choice of the party's 'barons' and its establishment. I asked 2 knowledgable friends yesterday morning about the differences between the two but, like me, they had some difficulty coming up with much. So I have no real idea what the consequences of this development will be. The Guardian comments here. And Think Spain here. Will there now be an effective coalition of the Left to take on the right-of-centre PP government? Well, not if Spanish politics continues to be tribal and the parties of the Left continue to split their natural vote. I doubt President Rajoy is very troubled by events. It's a different story for the rest of us, as we face the prospect of yet another general election which the PP will win. Possibly with even more seats, its immense history of corruption notwithstanding.

As for Ms Diáz's Andalucia . . . The Olive Press reports here that the region lags behind the rest of Spain because of excessive dependency on transfers of cash from taxpayers in northern Europe. And, of course, by the region's infamously endemic corruption.

The Spanish language: I like many words but in particular paulatinamente. It means 'slowly' and just has to be pronounced in that fashion. Very fitting.

Here in Galicia, it's reported that more than 300 local companies have an affiliate in nearby North Portugal - because land is cheaper, salaries are lower and people there 'speak more languages'. I assume this means English, rather than Portuguese. Says is all really. Apparently there's an economic miracle taking place down in Portugal. Must be due to what our president terms 'unfair competition' (competencia desleal), against which 'Vigo' has recently demanded action by the regional and national governments. Echoes of Canute? BTW . . . It always raises a smile to hear Spanish people and companies complaining about rule-bending.

The latest interesting observation on Trump is that it's insulting to 4 year olds to suggest that he's infantile. I suspect that must be right.

Today's cartoon:-

No confusion when it comes to the policies of British political parties . . .

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:-
  • I would have thought the annual inspection of cars (the ITV) was tough enough but Lenox of Business Over Tapas, reports that it's going to get even tougher. Which can't be a bad thing. Unless it's happening solely because of pressure from the private companies licensed to do the testing, who'd like to make more cars come back for a second try. This is how you get in Spain. Even more cynical than you used to be.
  • If things continue as they are now, we'll soon have a parliament here on the Brazilian model - where the majority of politicians are accused of corruption. The good news is that Spanish justice moves slowly but never stops. So maybe today's and tomorrow's new politicians will be clean. I guess it's a possibility.
  • It wouldn't be early summer without a foto of 'celebrity' Ana Obregon in a bikini, even at 62. So, here she is in Playboy. Call me unchivalrous but I suspect a touch of Photoshop.
  • From the point of view of crime, the safest region of Spain in which to live is Extramadura, followed by Asturias, La Rioja and Galicia. Interestingly, all relatively poor places. The least safe are Cataluña, Melilla, Madrid, Ceuta and - worst of all - the Balearic Islands. Must be the temptation of all those rich Germans vacating and living there.
Here in Galicia our local papers are worried about Banco Pastor/Popular being taken over. This, they say, will increase banking concentration in our region to c. 95%, allegedly the highest in Europe. I wonder. Certainly the UK is up towards that level, with the top 5 banks having an 85% market share. In contrast, the number is 44% for the USA and only 25% for Germany. For Spain as a whole, it's around 55%, it seems. Or was in 2013. Maybe higher now. But you can't expect our local papers to be much interested in the national picture. Spain - like the past - is another country.

Years ago, I read that the average time taken for someone to get a law degree at Santiago university was 11 years, with a range of 4 to 27[sic] years. I thought of this when reading that 20% of Galician doctoral students finishing their thesis are older than 45. And only 10% are younger than 30. I really don't know what to conclude from this but it certainly seems odd.

The employment sectors here in Galicia that have grown most rapidly recently are reported to be:- 1. The public sector, 2. The food and drink sector, and 3. Education. Can this be a good thing?

Here's a 2015 article on the 13 clans which control the cocaine trafficking in Galicia. Several members of the Muro clan were arrested a few years ago and are now in court. Their declarations next week should make for interesting reading.

Finally . . . . Something you don't see often in Spain:-

Yes, kids being told to be quiet. And by a future queen. In public!

Today's cartoon:-  On the same child-ish theme . . . 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.5.17

Now Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:
  • Here's The Local's view of 10 Spanish drinks you should try.
  • Reader Maria tells me of an identical hard-sell experience with Telefónica, despite the fact she was cancelling a line after her father had passed away. Spanish friends told me last night that, as calls are recorded, the employees have to read their entire spiel whatever the circumstances, for fear of being sacked if they don't. That's customer orientation Spanish style! En passant, belongs to Telefónica and I've been a customer since 2000. With possibly the world's shortest email address - Right on cue, last night they advised their free email service will summarily end very soon. Making my life slightly less complex. So not entirely bad news.
  • Spain's law which penalises you for showing disrespect towards authority figures - especially the police - is tagged the ley mordaza, or 'gag law'. Here in Pontevedra, it provided €3.1m in fines last year. Just in case you're ever tempted, you should know that the police particularly hate being filmed. 
  • To be more positive . . .  Here and here are reports on Spain's decent healthcare service.

Surely to no one's surprise, Transparency International says that Spain urgently needs to deal with her 'systemic corruption'. One (idly) wonders just how much EU taxpayers' money has ended up in Swiss or Andorran bank accounts. Here and here again.

The USA: Here's another outlandish thought . . .  Trump has been so used to getting his own way – albeit by lying, cheating and bullying – that, when he's eventually ousted from office, they'll need to put him on suicide watch. Assuming, of course, he sees this as failure. Which is admittedly not something he's not very good at doing. And he'll have an awful lot of folk to blame instead of himself.

Locally . . If you're coming to Galicia soon for the food, be warned that an 'octopus ban' begins here on May 19 and ends on July 3. I'm not sure this means there won't be any available here but I presume that, if there is, it won't be locally sourced.

Finally . . .  I can think offhand of 4 or 5 local spots where you can't actually see what traffic is coming as you approach a junction. Here's one I negotiate every day, on a short cut across a one-lane bridge towards town. It's bad enough in winter but in summer the foliage makes it impossible to know if a car is coming until you meet it and then have to reverse.

My question is this . . .  Is nothing done about these dangers because no one thinks to complain about them? Like the cyclists on the pavements, or on the road without lights. Or the zebra crossings in town where your sight lines are blocked by, for example, the council's rubbish containers. Live and let live? The essence of Spanish life.

To be honest . . . There's one fewer place, at the roundabout at the bottom of my hill. It used to look like this all the way down to the junction, making it blind:-

But it now looks like this:-

So . . . Either someone realised it was dangerous and the metal fence was partially removed or someone stole some sheets . . . Just for information: The entrance to one of the 2 nearby gypsy settlements is on the other side of the roundabout.

Today's cartoon:-