Friday, December 01, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 1.12.17

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.

  • Tourism receipts are down.
  • The Catalan separatist politicos are now accused of using crypto currencies to finance their illegal referendum. And to have been helped by Google and Apple. Click here.
  • Reader Jan points out that Spanish office life might seem odd to Anglos but: 1. Spaniards live longer than Brits; and 2. Spain's productivity is now higher than Britain's. True, but having listened to young Spaniards who don't get home until 10pm, I'm reminded of the non-smoker, non-drinker, non sexually-involved 60 year old guy who asked advice from his doctor on how to live as long as possible. The doctor's reply: Why would you want to?. I'd also add that Spain's productivity has surely risen recently because of the (temporary?) large upturn in tourism receipts. In an industry famous for long hours and low salaries. None of this is to suggest you can't have a wonderful quality of life here in Spain, especially at my age. But my impression is that Spaniards are increasingly concerned with the work-life balance. Fewer and fewer of them can really lay claim to the old Spanish saying: I work to live; I don't live to work.
  • More (repeat?) winter recommendations from The Local. This time culinary.
  • This looks like an interesting film. Any views on it?
The EU
  • It's reported by some newspapers this morning that – following his ludicrous re-tweeting of crap from a tiny UK far-right group and his insult to Mrs May – Donald Fart's 2018 visit to the UK has been postponed sine die. I agree with those who believe he won't give a toss. And also with those who say that 'upsetting' him won't make it more difficult to get a good post-Brexit trade deal between the USA and the UK. You have to be naïve to think Fart is going to do anyone any favours. Not exactly what he's (in)famous for.
  • See a perspicacious article on the man and his methods below. I so wish I could read History's verdict on him (and American voters) in, say, a hundred years' time.
The English Language
  • A new word for me – mischaracterised. Used (defensively) in the grovelling apology of one of the many male sexual predators defenestrated in the last few weeks.
  • And an unusual word which has crossed my bows twice in the last week – edicule. Said to be a variant of aedicula - a small structure used as a shrine: a niche for a statue
  • Earlier this week, a competitor in a TV talent contest use the word 'journey' thrice in her short comment on her feelings. It seems compulsory right now when talking about one's past.
  • Just a codicil to my report yesterday that the number of Brits in Galicia had soared in the last 5 years.  . . . In contrast, the total of South Americans has plummeted. Gone back home, I guess.
  • But some good news . . . Galicia leads in the collection of tax on corporate profits. Said to be up 22% on last year.
  • I wonder what one has to do to really stop getting from promotional stuff to one's email. Despite clicking on the unsubscribe links, I'm still getting messages from And Spain's Paradors. And my bank. The latest from was even headed: You've unsubscribed from this service. So why send me the bloody thing?? As I've said, good customer service this ain't.
  • Which reminds me . . . Long term readers will know I drastically cut my water bill 4-5 years ago, after I'd received a bill for €650, thanks to a leak in my front garden. I now use maybe only 25% of what I used before. But my bill doesn't reflect this. Like all Spanish utility companies, my water supplier loads its bill with fixed charges. Which means a single occupant like me is permanently subsidising large families such as those on both sides of me. I think it's at least 20 years since this stopped in the UK. Possibly longer in the USA. In Spain, we now have the very latest metres. But not, by any description, the latest customer service. The companies, in a word, play at it. Certainly because there's no effective sanction and maybe because they have friends at court.
  • En passant, my daughters are highly amused at some of my water-saving measures. As if I care . . .
Today's (Topical) Cartoons

Courtesy of Private Eye . . .


Trump keeps setting the agenda with Twitter. His critics keep rising to the bait: Fraser Nelson

The President's opponents still don't understand that if they accept battle on his turf, they will lose

Now and again, Donald Trump acknowledges his debt to Twitter. Without it, he once said, he’d never be president. And you can see why: he follows just 45 people but is followed by 44 million.

This million-to-one ratio rises even higher when you think of the media: for every word of his nuttiest tweets, several million words will be published in response. In this way, his Twitter account becomes a remote control for a nation’s news. He chooses the topic, his critics condemn him – but they talk all day about a subject of his choice. They rise to the bait every time.

We're now more than two years into the Trump phenomenon and, still, his main tactic isn’t properly understood. He has fused politics and showbusiness, offered himself up as a villain, and the audience are too busy booing to work out that they have all, none the less, turned up at his performance.

The latest part of his freak show, retweeting videos from a group of far-Right cranks called Britain First, was an appalling insult to an ally. Theresa May was quite right to condemn it, and then say no more. The depressing fact is that if this leaves Americans discussing the degree of Europe’s problems with immigration, it suits Trump rather well.

The very word “twitter” sounds like an irrelevance, a distracting toy for a self-obsessed political class. It’s a forum where the strongest expressions of outrage (or piety) attract the most likes or shares – so people need things to react against.

This is where Donald Trump steps in. He gets up at 5am and is ready to tweet (or, as he puts it, “go bing, bing, bing”) by 6am. With just a few words, he can cause uproar and change the national conversation by 7am – itself quite a feat. And if he’s attacked? No problem. His aim is to have his favourite topics discussed, so the battle is fought on territory of his choosing.

The effectiveness of all this was recently documented by a Harvard University study into two million news stories written before the last presidential election. It showed that journalists largely followed Trump’s agenda, wittingly or not. In denouncing him, they played into his hands. Immigration, the topic that benefited him the most, became the defining issue of the campaign. Coverage of Hillary Clinton, however, focused on scandals: her deleted emails and the financing of her husband’s foundation.

And the “fake news” that we hear so much about? An irrelevant distraction. Yes, there were a small number of made-up stories but they were usually ignored.

Indeed, the hysteria over “fake news” is blamed by the Harvard study for helping Trump by underlining his notion that news can’t be trusted. In this way, those blaming Russian bots or a post-truth era for election results they didn’t like are behaving as Trump’s useful idiots. So Twitter demonstrates his digital jujitsu, his genius for enraging his enemies so much that they end up embarrassing themselves – and helping him.

This enrage-and-derange tactic is seldom used in Britain, with one notable exception. In the EU referendum, Vote Leave famously claimed that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels. At the time, this puzzled me: the figure doesn’t take account of the rebate, so why not use the smaller, less contentious net figure: £275 million?

But the whole point of using the larger figure was to drive the other side berserk (they obliged, every time) and steer the conversation on to the topic of how much Britain pays into the EU. Whichever figure you choose, it’s still rather a lot of money.

Those around Mr Trump admire his ability to dominate the news, and bend the universe towards him. I was once told by one of his close lieutenants that he is probably dyslexic, and even struggles with autocues. But, he said, just as a blind man might have a heightened sense of hearing, Trump has a gift for talking in a way that cuts through to ordinary Americans. Hillary Clinton’s long, formulaic speeches can go in one ear and out of the other; a Trump tweet can have people talking for days. As we are seeing now.

And then, his targets – ideally, he’ll choose a topic where the political elite is out of step with public opinion. Take his most controversial ideas: a wall with Mexico, banning Muslims from emigrating to America, torturing terror suspects. Polls show huge public support for each of these ideas, so there was always a massive gap in the political market for Trump’s style of “America First” politics. His general crudeness conveys something else: that he understands the anger of those who feel ignored and abandoned.

A few weeks ago, I met an American fund manager who calculated that his father – who quarried sand in Long Island – would be paid 45 per cent less today if he was still working. This, he said, was why Trump won: because globalisation, immigration and automation are conspiring against the ordinary American and no one else (other than the vanquished Bernie Sanders) seemed to care. The aim of the Trump project, from the get-go, was to convey this anger, a sense that they understood the desperation (a word that those around Trump often use) of the American working class.

Team Trump’s other working assumption is that partisanship now governs American politics. That the Reagan era was the last one with politicians who fought in wars together, and were bound together by a shared experience. Today, it’s tribal – and the winner is the one that best enthuses their core supporters. Much is made of Trump’s low national approval ratings but among Republicans they’re pretty high: 81 per cent, at the last count. So it’s probable that he’ll be a two-term president.

It’s very rare for any American president, no matter how unpopular, to lose a bid for reelection in a growing economy – and even now, there are no signs that the Democrats will find a decent candidate to pit against Trump. He might tire of the job, fake an illness or implode for some other unthinkable reason. But we might well have to live with The Donald for another seven years. The trick will be to take him seriously, but not literally – and as far as is decently possible, ignore those tweets.


Maria said...

The Orange Cheeto has done the ultimate in show biz - create the reality show of "The Presidency." And we're headed toward a season's end suspenseful cliffhanger. Tune in tomorrow!

Sierra said...

"The Queen of Spain" - the IMDb reviews aren't encouraging

"I was looking forward to seeing The Queen of Spain. I loved the first film and this was very promising, with the same cast and most of the crew. Five minutes after it started, I just wanted to leave the theatre. The main problem is, I believe, the script, which is just very, very poor. The Girl of Your Dreams was pure bliss, and here they try to use the same structure and some of the gags are very similar, but it just does not work. The acting is also quite bad, which is surprising, for the actors are all very good. I did like the settings, even though they could have made more of them. They try to show the bleak Spain of the Franco regime, but this idea is not explored in depth. An unfortunate film."

Colin Davies said...

Many thanks, Sierrra. I'll give it a miss, then.

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