Monday, November 13, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia; 13.11.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Sr Rajoy has made a fleeting visit to Barcelona and, in his traditional closed meeting, has exhorted his supporters to come out in force. They need to, as a recent poll says his PP party will get only 9 of the 135 seats in the last parliament.
  • Sr R told insisted he wanted to restore “respect and tolerance”. Which might strike some as a strange turn of phrase. He told the BBC reporter he would meet his opponents but didn't say when or where.
  • In contrast, the Republican Left of Catalonia party is forecast to get the largest share, with 43 to 44 seats.
  • Lashed and chastened by events - epected and unexpected - of the last month, Sr Puigdemont is now reported to have said that he's willing to talk about something less than independence for the region. Better late than never, I guess.
  • Meanwhile, Spain will today raise with EU foreign ministers the issue of interference of Punchski in the recent referendum.

  • I guess this could happen anywhere
  • The long list I made a while ago of Spanish verbs which would simply be translated by 'is' in English has just had another one added – 'situarse'. As in 'My house is at the end of the street'. I guess this is what people people mean when they say Spanish is 'flowery'.
  • Reader Sierrra has kindly supplied this video of the Spanish places that figure in The Game of Thrones. (BTW . . . Am I the only person on the planet who has yet to see an episode of this?).
  • Mr Trump said he believed that Mr Putin was sincere and 'this artificial thing', which he blamed on Democrats, was hampering working with Moscow on issues from Ukraine to North Korea, at a potential cost of 'millions and millions of lives'”. Some commentators felt that President Fart has been 'played' by the Kremlin and flattered into a soft response to Russian interference in the 2016 election, endangering the United States. Of course. President Fart could be lying. He often is. Or just being diplomatic. Which he usually isn't. Who really knows?
  • The state the States is in. And the UK as well. See the revealing article at the end of this post.

Modern UK Society: The Guardian view, after the publication of the 'Paradise Papers':- Ending tax [legal] avoidance may never be possible. Nor, alone, would it raise enough to restore the fabric of Britain’s public services. But it could be much more tightly controlled. And while some abuses like the offshoring of profits by global companies need international cooperation Gordon Brown, there is plenty of scope at Westminster too. Yet in the past few weeks an attempt to close a loophole that allows foreign-owned companies to deal in commercial property without paying capital gains tax was defeated. This week, despite the revelations, Mrs May ruled out using UK financial clout to demand a public list of beneficiaries of offshore trusts. Financial services are major Conservative donors. A similar proposal in the European parliament was obstructed by British MEPs. And HMRC [Britain's Tax Office] is widely accused of having being captured by the tax avoidance industry. It is understaffed and underfunded, while most of the department’s energy is directed towards inventing a customs and excise regime for the world after Brexit.

Pontevedra: The sphere in which I note most innovation in this city is that of our beggars - both in terms of their numbers and their frequent and blatant in-your-faceness. They make all the itinerant trinket-sellers seem pleasantly unobtrusive. Well, almost. By coincidence, I've just seen this. Think I'll talk to the mayor . . .

Finally . . . I didn't think anything could force me to lower my opinion of the British 'artist' Tracey Emin, but the woman herself has kindly managed this. With thanks again to Private Eye, here's what she's said about her work of a messed-up bed and the UK's favourite painting:- I'm really pleased how Turner's work and the bed relate to each other. They are uncannily similar - the knickers like the clouds, and the sandbanks with the sea like the sheets. Perhaps she was joking. But I fear not. Here's said bed:-

Today's Cartoon

"I wasn't expecting the Spanish imposition"

Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires? Thomas Frank

It’s not enough to say, in response to the Paradise Papers revelations, that we already knew that rich people parked their money in offshore tax havens, where their piles accumulate far from the scrutiny of our government. Nor is it enough to say that we were already aware that we live in a time of “inequality.”

What we have learned this week is the clinical definition of the word. What we have learned is how much the rich and the virtuous have been hiding away and where they’re hiding it. Yes, there are sinister-looking Russian capitalists involved. But there’s also our favorite actors and singers. Our beloved alma mater, supposedly a charitable institution. Everyone with money seems to be in on it.

We’re also learning that maybe we’ve had it backwards all along. Tax havens on some tropical island aren’t some sideshow to western capitalism; they are a central reality. Those hidden billions are like an unseen planet whose gravity is pulling our politics and our economy always in a certain direction. And this week we finally began to understand what that uncharted planet looks like; we started to grasp its mass and its power.

Think about it like this. For decades Americans have been erupting in anger at what they can see happening to their beloved middle-class world. We think we know what the culprit is; we can see it vaguely through a darkened glass. It’s “elitism”. It’s a “rigged system”. It’s people who think they’re better than us. And for decades we have lashed out. At the immigrant next door. At Jews. At Muslims. At school teachers. At public workers who are still paid a decent wage. Our fury, unrelenting, grows and grows.

We revolt, but it turns out we have chosen the wrong political leader. We revolt again; this time, the leader is even worse.

This week we are coming face to face with a big part of the right answer: it’s that the celebrities and business leaders we have raised up above ourselves would like to have nothing to do with us. Yes, they are grateful for the protection of our laws. Yes, they like having the police and the marine corps on hand to defend their property.

Yes, they eat our food and breathe our air and expect us to keep these pure and healthy; they demand that we get educated before we may come and work for them, and for that purpose they expect us to pay for a vast system of public schools. They also expect us to watch their movies, to buy their products, to use their software. They expect our (slowly declining) middle class to be their loyal customers.

But those celebrities and business types would prefer not to do what it takes to support all this. That burden’s on us. Oh, they’re happy to haul billions out of our economy and use us up in the workplace, but maintaining the machinery that keeps it all running – that’s on us.

I don’t want to go too far here. I know that what the billionaires and the celebrities have done is legal. They merely took advantage of the system. It’s the system itself, and the way it was deliberately constructed to achieve these awful ends, that should be the target of our fury.

For decades Americans have lashed out against taxation because they were told that cutting taxes would give people an incentive to work harder and thus make the American economy flourish. Our populist leaders told us this – they’re telling us this still, as they reform taxes in Washington – and they rolled back the income tax, they crusaded against the estate tax, and they worked to keep our government from taking action against offshore tax havens.

In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours.

Think, for a moment, of how this country has been starved so the holders of these offshore accounts might enjoy their private jets in peace. Think of what we might have done with the sums we have lost to these tax strategies over the decades. All the crumbling infrastructure that politicians love to complain about: it should have – and could have - been fixed long ago.

Think of all the young people saddled with catastrophic student-loan debt: we should have – could have – made that unnecessary. Think of all the decayed small towns, and the dying rust belt cities, and the drug-addicted hopeless: all of them should have – could have – been helped. 

But no. Instead America chose a different project. Our leaders raised up a tiny class of otherworldly individuals and built a paradise for them, made their lives supremely delicious. Today they hold unimaginable and unaccountable power. 

We endure potholes and live in fear of collapsing highway bridges because our leaders wanted these very special people to have an even larger second yacht. Our kids sit in overcrowded classrooms in underfunded schools so that a handful of exalted individuals can relax on their own private beach. 

Today it is these same golden figures with their offshore billions who host the fundraisers, hire the lobbyists, bankroll the think tanks and subsidize the artists and intellectuals. 

This is their democracy today. We just happen to live in it. 


Maria said...

"Situarse" does have a translation that is a little longer than "is." "Mi casa está situada al final de la calle" is literally translated as "My house is situated at the end of the street." What happens is that the verb is redundant both in Spanish and English, and not really necessary in either case.

No, you're not the only one who hasn't seen Game of Thrones. I haven't even read the books, yet. And I don't plan to do so.

Colin Davies said...

Yes, I know that Maria but my point is that not many English speakers would ever say 'My house is situated . . .' Any more than they'd say hallarse, encontrarse, quedarse, etc(?).

Books? What books?????

Sierra said...

GoT - visually stunning - the story is a load of tosh unless you're into video games, dragons, and other mythical beasts

Maria said...

Not many English speakers, no. Unless the English speaker is a politician. Spaniards seem to have absorbed bad prose trying to look as professional as the card sharps.

Perry said...

My house is not at the end of the road. Am I the first person to suggest that Ourense (of Amogosto fame) is the Arab pronunciation of Lawrence (of Arabia)?

Two videos, each of which demonstrate valuable lessons.

Search This Blog