Friday, June 09, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 9.6.17

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

- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain:-

Some moans:-

  • I'm sending some money to my elder daughter in Madrid. In the UK, there would be no immediate - if any - tax considerations and I could do it in a couple of seconds on my computer. Here in Spain, I have to go to Madrid, sign a public document in front of a notary, provide the usual stack of documents and then fill in a tax form. All to stop my daughter being heavily taxed on it. But that's Spain for you . . .
  • Ahead of my trip on the night train, I went to the Renfe web page to book and pay for a ticket. Which was pretty optimistic. If not downright foolish. The good news was that I was allowed to enter Pontevedra as the start point and Chamartin station as the end point. And then I was permitted to select a train and a place on it. But, when I went to pay for the tickets, I was told - not for the first time - "We can't process this at the moment. Try again later." Knowing this would be futile, I went to the station to buy the tickets. Where the chap on the counter said it was nowt to do with them as they didn't control the web page. I didn't get the impression he was going to report my experience to the Customer Relations Department of Renfe. If there is one.
  • One of the documents I'm taking is a certificate of registration at the town hall. When my daughter asked the notary if this was really required, she got the truly Spanish answer: "Technically, no. But he might as well bring it just in case." So, now we have to decide whether I should go and get one dated today to replace the one I got for something else last month. On the grounds that - if we're dumb enough to mention it again - the notary will say the latter is out of date. This, believe me, is how you get here. Irrational and illogical.
  • I just went through an entire hotel booking process - details of absolutely everything - to be told at the end: Sorry. Your choice is no longer available.
  • Sometimes - no, often - I get the impression here in Spain that providers don't really have any concept of time-wasting on the part of their clients/customers. Banks are particularly good at unawareness of this. Or, more likely, at a complete lack of care about customer inconvenience. Are things slowly getting better? No, I don't think so. I'm taken back to the stamp machine at the Post Office, which took you through 8 steps before telling you it didn't give change. Or it had run out of stamps.
  • The night train to Madrid used to take 12 hours but this has been whittled down over the years to less than 10. Tonight, it's back up to 12. No idea why. Maybe because of the AVE high-speed train works.
  • Having booked a different hotel, I just got call from my daughter to say she'd cleared her room for me. But I can't cancel without paying for one night . . .
So, all in all, not my day . . . 

So, I'm not writing any more today. Other than . . . There's another incisive insight into President Trump at the end of this post. How long can this farce go on?

Oh, and this quick personal take on the UK general election last night-

What it certainly is
  • A surprise
  • A political earthquake
  • A disaster for Mrs May 
  • A disaster for the Conservatives (except in Scotland)
  • A disaster for Mrs Sturgeon
  • A disaster for the SNP
  • The consequence of a poor decision to hold a risky snap election
  • A reflection of an abysmal Tory election campaign, based on a misguided strategy
  • A reflection of a very poor personal performance by (an over-promoted) Mrs May
  • A personal triumph for Jeremy Corbyn
  • A reflection of a good personal campaign by Jeremy Corbyn
  • A victory for the Momentum faction of the Labour party
  • A job-securing event for Jeremy Corbyn
  • A sea change in the UK political scene, of an as yet unknown nature and dimension.
  • A minor triumph for the Conservative party in Scotland
  • A disaster for UKIP
  • A disaster for some major politicians in England and Scotland – Clegg and Salmond
  • A weakening of the UK hand in the Brexit negotiations
  • A further reduction in the value of my pension here in Spain
What it certainly isn't
  • A vindication of Mrs May's appointment
  • The delivery of stability
  • A mandate for a hard Brexit 
  • The strengthening of the UK's negotiating hand for Brexit
  • A victory for Labour. They didn't win the election. They won't be in power. There will be continued factional infighting, with the 'hard Left' having more wind in its sails. (Whither Mrs Abbott?)
What it probably is
  • The end of Mrs May's premiership
  • The death of UKIP
  • The death of IndyRef 2 in Scotland
What it might be
  • A reflection of an anti-Brexit backlash
  • A reflection of an anti-May movement
  • A reflection of distaste for Mrs May's 'presidential' campaign
  • A reflection of the optimism of youth
  • A reflection of the impact of the terrorist incidents
  • A reflection of the impact of a Labour manifesto of dreams, so appealing in a time of austerity
  • A vote against austerity
  • A revolt of the insecure young against the secure old. Post-baby boomers against baby boomers
All very predictable, of course . . . . .

Today's cartoon:-



TRUMP AGAIN

Donald Trump is a profoundly incompetent president

Steve Chapman Contact Reporter

What do the directors of the Transportation Security Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI have in common?

Easy question, you may think: They are all important law enforcement officials with roles in combating terrorism. But at the moment, they have nothing in common. Why? Because they don't exist.


The jobs, you see, are vacant. Each has to be filled by presidential appointment, and Donald Trump has felt no urgency in filling them. Only this week did he even offer names for the TSA and FBI.

That is not his only lapse when it comes to protecting Americans from danger. In January, 47 U.S. attorneys resigned, and in March, he fired the remaining 46 federal prosecutors. So far, the president has yet to submit a nomination for any of the vacancies.

The people who voted for Trump knew they would be getting a disrupter, a critic of business-as-usual and an enemy of political correctness. Many also realized they were electing a bully and a braggart. But they may not have known what they were getting above all else: an incompetent.

There is no other way to explain most of what he has done in the White House. His most formidable opponent couldn't do half as much to foil Trump as Trump himself has done.

His travel policy was rushed out, blocked by courts, withdrawn, revised and blocked again. Administration lawyers, who hope to convince the Supreme Court it had no unconstitutional anti-Muslim motives, have been undercut by his tweets, which convey the opposite.

So flagrant is the contradiction that some analysts suspect he has a hidden logic. They speculate that Trump might prefer to lose his ban so he could blame the courts if there were a U.S. terrorist attack carried out by foreigners.

Let me suggest that they are overthinking this. Trump has no record of being deviously clever. He has a record of acting rashly out of ignorance, fury and hubris. He makes needless statements that harm his legal case because he's a self-destructive oaf.

His dismissal of FBI Director James Comey followed that pattern. The White House claimed that Trump fired him at the recommendation of the Justice Department because he botched the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails.

But Trump then admitted making the decision before he got the Justice memo, saying he objected to Comey's probe of connections between his presidential campaign and the Kremlin. He thus helped bring on a special prosecutor, which could be fatal to his presidency.

Nothing about his performance suggests he has any idea how to handle his office. Trump complains that the Senate is obstructing his nominations. But at last count, he has yet to pick anyone for nearly 80 percent of the positions that require Senate confirmation.

On one issue after another, he has had to flee from ill-considered positions. He said the U.S. might junk its "One China" policy — only to be forced to back down by Chinese President Xi Jinping. He lambasted President Barack Obama's "dumb deal" to take refugees from Australia but eventually decided to honor it.

In April, Trump announced that the following week, he would unveil his tax reform plan. This promise, reported Politico, "startled no one more than Gary Cohn, his chief economic adviser writing the plan. Not a single word of a plan was on paper, several administration officials said." The "plan" the White House released was one page long.

Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare but had great trouble getting a bill through the House, partly because he didn't know enough about the substance to negotiate with any skill. The legislation finally approved by the House was pronounced dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently he doesn't know how a repeal bill would get enough votes to pass.

Trump's incompetence is self-perpetuating. A clueless executive is forced to rely on aides who are mediocre — or worse — because better people are repelled. Vacant jobs and poor staff work, aggravated by bad management, lead to more failure, which makes it even harder to attract strong hires — and easier for opponents to get their way.

Expect more of the same. Trump came to office uninformed, unprepared and oblivious to his shortcomings, with no capacity to recognize or overcome them. He is in way over his head, and not waving but drowning.

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