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.

1 comment:

Sierra said...

"summer is on the way" - finally the strawberries have disappeared from Mercadona, and cherries are available in bulk