Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 20.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • I am confused. The Local is supposed to have gone behind a paywall and, as you might expect, on Tuesday night I was told I couldn't access a page because I'd used up my quota for the month. But last night I got and read this page in my RSS feed. And then this one. And this one. Teething problems? Or am I only barred from 'premium' pages? 
  • The rapacious Spanish banks, reports Don Quijones here, are having a few problems with Brussels. But they still have friends in the Spanish judicial system. So, relief for customers could be a long time coming.
  • Talking of unpopular corporate rogues, here's something on electricity prices in Spain.
  • More interesting, perhaps, is this Fox News item - via my RSS feed! - on Spanish charcoal manufacturers.
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • This is not good news for the forces of order along our coast: Colombia continues to break records for cocaine production. The South American nation produced a record estimated 1,379 tonnes of cocaine last year – up 31% on 2016.
  • Those vecinos de O Vao/Bao . . . . The gypsy settlement, said La Voz de Galicia yesterday, is a storehouse of stolen goods. There's a surprise.

  • Which reminds me . . . Apart from the 2 permanent gypsy settlements near my house, there's a rather-more-temporary one on the other side of town. Situated just before the pilgrims' hostal(albergue), it's the first thing most of them see when entering the town. Walking past it this morning, I took to wondering how many of the decrepit vehicles there had passed the compulsory inspection mine had a few days ago. Not many, I'd guess. As for driving licences and insurance . . . More doubts. As to why none of the various police forces do anything about this, your guess is as good as mine,
Finally . . . 
  • I witnessed a spiders' fight to the death on my bathroom wall yesterday. Surprisingly, the smaller (long-legged) one got the advantage of the larger one which had wandered into a silken strand and had got it wrapped round itself. David and Goliath. Sort of:-

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 19.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • As if the besieged and hapless Mrs May didn't have enough Brexit problems on her plate, the Spanish government – like the one it recently replaced – is determined (with the support of Brussels) to take maximum advantage from the process in respect of its aspirations/ambitions for Gibraltar. Despite the fact that at least 99% of the folk who live there reject these out of hand. But this is hardly unexpected. It's the modern version of war. And some provisions of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht need to be replaced.
  • The rejection of extradition requests works both ways, it seems.
  • Yesterday was the final day of free access to The Local. And they went out with a blitz of these items, very possibly all published previously:-
  • As it happens, I've been producing a schedule of (most of) the lists they've been issuing this year, aiming to post it at the end of December. It can be found below this post.
  • Finally on this . . . Here's Fiona Govan explaining why they've done this and why we should now pay for (most of) their stuff. I'm pondering this . . .
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • Yesterday, the president of our community asked me to give her and her kids a lift up from town at 3pm. As we waited for the latter outside their school, she called the council to tell them there was a nest of vicious and potentially fatal Asian wasps (velutinas) in our communal garden. In a panicky tone, she told them that 2 gardeners had already been attacked and there was a danger to the many children using the pool. After the call, she admitted the wasps were really only the normal variety and that nest was a long way away from the pool. But she'd felt the need to lie so that the council would act quickly. I wasn't impressed at this selfish subterfuge and sent a message to my elder daughter about this Fuck-the-Folk-Who-Really-Do-Have-a-Velutina-Problem attitude. Unfortunately, I sent it to lady in question, as she was the last person who'd messaged me . . . But at least it gave me the chance to tell her what I thought of her lies. She didn't give the impression of being even a tiny bit remorseful.
  • The velutinas are something of a nasty plague in the city, having arrived from the east. Here in Galicia the villagers use numerous names for them, as per this table supplied by the council. Some (most?) are corruptions of the real name. Which city sophisticates find very amusing. Which is probably justified in the case of Ghalopinas africanis at least:-
  • I guess I have to cite the peon of praise to Pontevedra city in yesterday's Guardian. It's pretty accurate and I suppose it'd be churlish of me to say exactly where it isn't. I'm very pro the council's actions in general but there are, inevitably, downsides to them. Not everyone is a winner. The losers include drivers who have to proceed everywhere at 30kph/19mph. And who can never find a place to park in the city, except in one of the underground parkings. These are not cheap and, interestingly, the most expensive one is near the council offices. But I guess the mayor and his mates can park there for free.
  • I wish to God my Spanish friends would stop sending me Wotsap citations of the bloody article. Five already this morning. Including one from Finland!
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 19.9.18

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 18.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Belgium has refused to extradite the Spanish artist accused of upsetting some Catholics. Quite right, too. When will the Spanish authorities learn?
  • Astonishingly – though perhaps not in the light of yesterday's claim that huge mistakes are being repeated – there are increasing reports of a new construction boom here in Spain. One UK paper even refers to a 'building frenzy' along the coast. Or what's left of it. God forbid.
  • Interesting to read that the city council in Cordoba is arguing that the Grand Mosque there has never belonged to the Catholic Church, which certainly does manage the place. This rejection stems from an attempt by the Church to formalise its claimed ownership a year or two ago.
  • Every country has top folk who have some degree of protection from legal action. Spain is possibly unique in having – for historical reasons – many thousands of these. 250,000 in fact. Plus a Prime Ministerial power to pardon who the hell he/she likes. But newish PSOE Prime Minister Sanchez is threatening to bring Spain into the 21st century by abolishing at least some of these. Click here on this.
Matters US
  • The Dunning-Kruger effect - A cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. This cognitive bias of illusory superiority comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognize their lack of ability; without the self-awareness of metacognition, they can't objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence. Do they mean him?
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • A lot of attention has been given recently to electricity prices here. Not surprising when they've risen by more than 40% in a year. And are 21% higher than in (far richer) France. Any chance of a government inquiry?? Err, no.
  • During the 2002-8 boom years, it was almost amusing to see the proliferation of bank branches on the streets of Pontevedra city. There was even one southern bank – CAM – which opened one branch and then put up posters about the opening of another one 50m away. The first one duly closed and the second never did open. In fact, 18 branches have closed in the city, though it still has a (probably) high number of 48.
  • Pontevedra province has retained, in 2017, its 5th place in the national league table of motoring offence fines. After Madrid, Valencia, Murcia and Sevilla. This is in absolute terms. Once again, I'm sure its ranking would be even higher if the populations were taken into account.
  • I suggested yesterday that O Bao might be Galician for O Vao. I can say with conviction that quilo is Gallego for kilo. Maybe because – as with Y – the letter K doesn't figure in the language. Not for purists anyway.
Finally . . .
  • Matters Fiscal: If you're a foreigner resident here and you don't know about the infamously horrendous Modelo 720 law of late 2012, then you really should do some research. You might owe the Spanish Tax Office quite a lot of dosh, one way and another . . . On this subject, my own inquiries on what's happened since April 2017 have came up with zilch. This was the deadline for a response from the Spanish government to the EU Commission's December 2016 declaration that the fines arising from this law were illegally high. Theoretically, if the Spanish government either didn't reply or gave an unsatisfactory response to the declaration, then a case should have been initiated in the European Court of Justice more than a year ago. But I can't find any evidence of this happening. Anyone know anything? Having paid €1,500 for a late declaration – as against €100 normally – I'm naturally interested in knowing whether I can get €1,400 back. Not that I'm terribly optimistic even if I'm legally entitled to this, given the Spanish government's track record in these matters. Easier to get blood from stones.
  • BTW . . . If total of your overseas bank accounts is above the Modelo 720 reporting threshold, September is the month for considering their balances. The reporting requirements stipulate the use of the average of the September and December end month numbers, not just the balance at 31 December.
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 18.9.18

Monday, September 17, 2018

Thoughts from Galcia, Spain: 17.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Good to know that Spanish companies are not behind the ball when it comes to intrusion into our lives . . . 
  • Spanish farmers are getting into almonds bigly, as Fart would say.
  • Which reminds me . . . A relative of mine who recently arrived for 10 days with 33 kilos of baggage decided that 35kilos was too much to take home. So she left me 2 Tartas de Santiago. But I notice that they're not called this on the box – but Tarta de Almendra. So, is there the equivalent of a DOC operating here?
  • The appalling Franco family say they'll take every legal measure open to them to stop his body being moved from the Valley of the Fallen. In other countries, I suspect they'd keep a much lower profile.
Matters European
  • The EU, it's claimed, is risking chaos around the clock after next March, when states will be free to choose from several options.
Matters USA/Global
  • Here's one of the many articles published on the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It's as horrifying as it is fascinating. The writer is not alone in thinking we're on the verge of another global crisis, as bad habits have returned.
  • And here's another article which is less than congratulatory about what was done 10 years ago to save the global banking industry. And the salaries and bonuses of bankers. At the expense of just about everyone else. It's enough to make anyone a socialist. Almost.
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • I've received by Messenger confirmation of an appointment with someone in Santander bank later this week. I have no dealings with Santander and never have. A possible virus if I respond to the message? If not, how come Santander have my phone number? The branch is more than 130km from me, in Monforte de Lemos.
  • Blimey . . . There's a toll road in Norway which is 40% more expensive than our AP9 between Pontevedra and Vigo. But, then again, salaries are probably at least 50% higher there.
  • A body was found in the river on Saturday, said to be of a 'resident of O Vao'. We all know what this means – a gypsy. BTW: It's always O Vao in the newspapers but the road sign says O Bao. I guess the latter is in Gallego.
Finally . . .
  • My thanks to the ever-reliable María for proving me wrong in forecasting that no one would give me any pluses and minuses about Spain over the last 18 years.
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 17.9.18

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 16.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • President Sánchez has gone on the attack over his Masters, publishing his thesis and threatening to sue anyone who accuses him of plagiarism. Still a way to run.
  • More generally, one commentator has talked of the masteritis that inflicts the upper echelons of the political class here. And the previously ignored ability to buy these in a country of 'low ethics'. It seems those days are over and the Spanish public has now become sensitised by the media to the widespread fakery. See the Guardian on this here
  • I've talked of how things - in this de facto federal state - are delegated to Spain's 17 regional governments and then, perhaps, to the even more numerous provincial governments. But I hadn't been aware that each of them sets its own university entrance exam - the selectividad. You can imagine what difficulties this causes, if you want to work outside your region. Especially if the latter has forced you to dedicate very many of your study hours to learning a local language which you're very unlikely to use if you work elsewhere. Some university big cheeses are now calling for a single, state-wide exam. Can't see that happening.
  • Still on education . . . It seems you're very much spoilt for choice,  if you want to take a university course. There are 3,000 of these on offer.
  • And talking of anniveraries . . . Unless you live in a cave, you'll be aware it's 10 years since Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global financial crisis began. Here's El País on how well prepared Spain is for the next one coming along the track. Not terribly well, it seems.
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • So, why I am posting these 2 fotos? . . .

  • Well, because they've just appeared at the start of a 400m stretch I drive through on the way to the place where I park before walking into town twice a day. There are no houses on this stretch, in comparison to the road I drive along before I reach it which has lots of houses and a 50kph limit. The only logical explanation I can think of is that ALL roads within the Urban Zone of Pontevedra city now have a 30kph(19mph) limit, regardless of the sense this makes.
  • It's yet another pinprick and it got me wondering just how Spain has changed - for the better as well as the worse - over the 18 years here I'll be celebrating next month. So, I'm working on a list. Or 2 lists, really. Suggestions are welcome. I say this despite the fact that, in 18 years, not a single reader has ever repsonded to similar appeals. So, I won't be disappointed if this happens again.
  • Finally - and more positively - here's a nice melody from Julio Iglesias, with an accompanying lovely video on Galicia. JI comes here annually for some seafood. We're quite close . . .  :-

Postscript: The 2 new signs have actually appeared where I sometimes park my car, take out my bike and cycle into town. Maybe I'll do that every day now, rather than crawl along the 400m stretch in fear that yet another radar trap has been installed,

Postscript 2: If you're daft enough to make the trip to Finisterra after Santiago de Compostela, the small lighthouse in the video is all you'll see. Apart from the sea and the horizon, of course. Not the big lighthouse; that's in La Coruña.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 15.9.18

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 pagehere. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • I said this story had legs. So, what now? Will it die a death? Or will plagiarism be proved and Sánchez forced out? 
  • A granddaughter of Franco has been fined €525,000 for tax evasion, arising from the sale of shares worth a vast amount. The wages of sin. Sins upon sins, in fact.
  • Which reminds me . . . The Spanish parliament has approved the removal of her grandfather's remains from its place of honour in the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen. Quite right too.
  • The blasphemous artist has been released for the moment, while the judge decides whether or not to send him to trial. As the article says: The affair is one of a string of cases of artists being probed or jailed in Spain which have raised concerns about freedom of expression. But things will surely be different under the current left-of-centre administration.
Matters European
  • Thanks to populist pressures, says the author of the article below . . . Look carefully and you can see the European Union changing. . . you can see a Europe in flux: border controls in Denmark, Germany and France. We hear arguments, in the least likely quarters, that it’s time for national governments to have more power over immigration and policy in general. That the people should, in other words, take back control. . . . The same trends can be seen at work over Europe: established parties changing their priorities, emphasising the nation state and control over immigration.
  • It occurred to me last night that on the 2 things which have caused the EU project most trouble – the politically-driven euro and the ideology-driven freedom of movement – the UK was ahead of the game. Because of the famous British pragmatism? Anyway, the author concludes that: Britain and the EU find themselves moving in the same way: towards greater sovereignty, liberty and democracy. Not a bad basis for a new partnership. Indeed. Who'd have thought it? But will it happen? Depends on who succeeds the imbecilic Juncker, perhaps.
Matters Global
  • Here's an interesting article from Bernie Sanders, with comments from Yanis Varoufakis. This will seem eminently sensible - or at least worthy of consideration - to most Europeans but not to those (North) Americans who view the openly socialist Sanders as a dangerous communist. Of which there are rather a lot. The majority of Americans, in fact. US exceptionalism.
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • Here's something on the upcoming charges for viewing the wonderful Portico de Gloria of Santiago's cathedral. You'd think the Catholic Church was impoverished.
  • Thursday's lunch traffic was heavy in the tapas bars near mine. Friday's very much wasn't. The explanation of one owner - On Fridays, they know they're going out to eat in the evening. I guess this is a national, not just local, phenomenon.
  • The Pontevedra provincial government is going to invest a considerable sum in the development of 'intelligent tourism'. I wonder what existing tourists think of being labelled thick.
Finally . . .
  • Google Analytics is widely said to give the most accurate stats about readership. Strange, then, that their reports show only one of the 5 or 6 cities where I know I have friends who read my blog every day. Out of a total of more than 80 worldwide. So, I'm not convinced of GA's accuracy. But I am convinced that no one will care except me . . .
  • Something is causing my Safari browser to crash regularly. It looks like it might be accessing The Local's site. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens when I no longer do that. Again, for me, at least.
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 15.9.18


Europe's populists don't want to leave the EU. The real danger for Brussels is that they want to stay: Fraser Nelson, The Daily Telegraph.

By now, even the most ardent Brexiteer would have to admit that Michel Barnier is doing rather well. His job is not just to negotiate a deal but to make the whole Brexit process look so agonising that no other country would want to go through it. So far, so good: there is no clamour to join Britain in the queue for the exit. There is no shortage of European political parties who resent Brussels and its immigration policy, but they wish to stay in the EU and reform it. Two years ago, that might have sounded hopelessly naïve. Less so now.

It’s hard to keep pace with the changes on the continent. Not so long ago the Eurosceptic populists were seen as headbangers, howling outside the gates of the European citadel but having no chance of getting in. Then they started winning elections: in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They were written off as political vandals, relative newcomers to this whole democracy business. This argument became harder to sustain when populists entered government in Austria. Then things changed utterly when Italy became the first major European nation to have supposed crazies actually in charge.

Look carefully and you can see the European Union also changing. When David Cameron came along seeking his renegotiation he was sent away with almost nothing because the EU thought its rules were unmovable. This led to Brexit, and demonstrated the price of EU intransigence. The rise of populism underlined this point. Now you can see a Europe in flux: border controls in Denmark, Germany and France. We hear arguments, in the least likely quarters, that it’s time for national governments to have more power over immigration and policy in general. That the people should, in other words, take back control.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the implosion of Angela Merkel. A year ago, she was the power behind the European throne: today, she’s on political life support. Her disastrous decision to admit a million refugees to Germany led to its own political harvest, with the Alternative für Deutschland now the official opposition. To buy them off – and stop Merkel’s ministers from resigning – the EU has had to draw up plans for asylum seekers to be processed in Africa, rather than Europe. Not so long ago, the very idea would have been denounced as heartless populism. Now, it’s EU policy.

When Cameron tried to change minds in Brussels, using argument, he failed abysmally. Times have changed, he said: free movement of people was agreed in the 1990s when migration levels were a fraction of what they had become. To cling to this now, as a matter of ideology, would surely threaten the European project itself. Cameron even brought a slide show, prepared for his European counterparts, showing that support for Brexit plunges if he would be given concessions on curtailing free movement. He was met with a point-blank and pig-headed refusal.

Only now, with authoritarians or populists in power in several European countries, does Brussels pay attention. And only at the last minute, to save Merkel’s government from collapse, in a desperate and belated attempt to beat back the populist fire.

In Brussels, what reforms there have been are deeply controversial. Eurocrats tend to see popular pressure as something to be resisted, rather than assuaged. When Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, proposed a tougher EU-wide immigration policy a few months ago, he was attacked for being “anti-European” by the EU Commissioner on migration. A bizarre accusation but still one that gets to the heart of it: the battle over what it means to be European. What needs to be done to keep the EU project together.

Emmanuel Macron, itching to take the European throne vacated by Mrs Merkel, has proposed his own agenda: that Brussels should have even more control, with harmonised tax rates, a Eurozone finance minister and budget. But this is proving too much even for the Germans. Ever the drama queen, Macron said he’s delighted to do battle with Matteo Salvini of Italy and Viktor Orban of Hungary. He envisages himself as the great liberal hero, fighting off Orban’s “illiberal democracy” – but for that he’d need an army. None is likely to arrive.

The man than Macron is more likely to contend with is a younger, shrewder politician: Sebastian Kurz, the 32-year-old Austrian Chancellor. Earlier this year he proposed an “axis of the willing” on migration with Germany and Italy – rather than wait for the EU to act. He’s a conservative who co-opts populists when it suits him (he’s in coalition with the anti-migrant Freedom Party) but drops them when it does not, as he demonstrated this week by agreeing to censure Orban for various constitutional violations. Kurz says he is liberal and pro-EU. And for these reasons, he seeks greater control over borders – and, quite possibly, a new European model.

The same trends can be seen at work over Europe: established parties changing their priorities, emphasising the nation state and control over immigration. By the end of the Swedish election campaign last week we heard the Liberal Party talking about the danger of Islamist free schools, the conservatives decrying immigrant gangland murders and Christian Democrats discussing “honour repression” of Muslim girls in Sweden. Not so long ago, politicians talking in such ways would be accused of pandering to xenophobes. It’s a tougher form of debate, but it succeeded in keeping populist Sweden Democrats at bay.

It’s odd to hear Mrs Merkel touted as contender for European Commission president. Her model of running Europe has collapsed, and it’s not yet clear what will replace it. Over the next few years, elections (starting with Bavaria’s next month) are more likely to support Kurz’s view of the world than that of Macron. It’s not that the populists will club together and take over the EU: they’re still a rabble, and struggle to agree on anything. But as other parties move to crush them, they’re more likely underline the importance of the nation state, which will mean demanding a new European model.

This will mean plenty more upheaval, with populism causing more chaos, before things start to calm down on the continent. Britain and the EU find themselves moving in the same way: towards greater sovereignty, liberty and democracy. Not a bad basis for a new partnership.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 14.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • The EU has said that compulsory changes of the clock will end after that of next March and that states will then be free to choose between all the options. Most Spaniards are said to want to have permanent Central Europe summer time but Galicians are said to prefer to go onto permanent British/Portuguese summer time. Whereas the Portuguese want to retain their twice-yearly clock change. A recipe for chaos? At least in this neck of the woods.
  • Both companies and individuals were badly burned several years ago when the Spanish government – having got it subsidy calculations badly wrong – reversed track and not only withdrew subsidies but also hit sun-users with new charges/taxes. Now this government has decided to reverse track again and is trying to lure investors back to Spain. They might be up against it. Especially as the law suits which arose from its last strategic change have, naturally, not be settled yet.
  • The Spanish PM has denied that he indulged in a bit of plagiarism when writing his Master's thesis. This story has a way to run yet.
  • I understand that, after your unemployment dole finishes here – after 2 years? - you can get €430 a month indefinitely. I wonder what checks there are about whether you're actually working 'on the black' and, so, not entitled to it. And whether there's a disproportionate number of people getting this money in, say, Andalucia.
  • Another example of the application of one of the Spanish laws left over from the Franco era.
Matters Global
  • Nice riposte from the British Foreign Secretary to the risible Russian claim that the 2 men accused of the Novichok poisoning in Salisbury were merely tourists: The last time the Russian military claimed to be on holiday was when they invaded Ukraine in 2014.
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • I occasionally say that living in Spain means you're occasionally either dragged back into the 19th century or launched into the late 21st century. An example of the former is notaries reading documents out loud to you, while an example of the latter is the efficient way the company which makes periodic car examinations uses the internet for appointments and then, when you get there, gives you a dongle to tell you when to enter one of the 3 bays. Yesterday all this worked smoothly right up to the moment when my dongle bleeped and told me to enter Bay 1. At this point, the driver parked on my left - seeing the guy summoning me - pushed ahead of me. Reminding me that it is Spain, after all.
  • My neighbour, Amparo, has been comparing her electricity bill with mine and that of my other neighbour, Ester. It turns out she's probably on a higher tariff bill than she needs to be. But what's really annoying her is that the company has accused her of being a thief. Her meter stopped working a while ago and they sent someone to examine it and to produce a foto of the meter before and after it was fixed, as if this proved anything other than the thing had stopped working and was now OK. To add injury to insult, they then they sent her a bill for an arbitrary amount. Apparently, there was no doubt in their minds that she'd fiddled with the meter and there was no question of it simply malfunctioning. Amparo is a doctor and had not taken kindly to being accused of being a common thief.
  • Incidentally, the discussion between the 3 of us confirmed that utility bills here are (deliberately?) so complex it's the devil's own job understanding them. And that the fixed charges are so high that Amparo had paid a decent amount to the electricity company even though her usage was recored as nil. One wonders when the utility companies here will be stopped from getting easy money this way - perhaps by real competition - and forced to bias their bills in favour of usage. So that I no longer subsidise folk who use a lot more gas, electricity or water than me. Like the families of Amparo and Ester, for example . . . .
© [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 14.9.18

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 13.9.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • What do these 4 leading Spanish politicians all have in common - Sra Cifuentes, Sr Casado, Sr Sánchez and Sra Montón? It's that they all have Masters degrees. Though just possibly it's that they don't really have a Masters qualification. See articles herehere and here on this.
  • One thing emerging from this scandal is that the King Juan Carlos University has an idiosyncratic approach to its Masters course's requirements on attendance and thesis-writing . Hence this poster:
Matters Global
  • Yanis Varoukfanis - the ex Greek Minister of Finance - is a very clever chap and below is a very clever article from him. It's entititled What caused the Crash of 2008 is now shaping our post-modern 1930s. It's a good follow-up to the article on plutocracies I posted the other day.  work. 
  • When you've read it it, try this related podcast on The Deep State. Varoukfanis appears in this, arguing that, as with plutocracies, there's not necessarily a conspiracy at work. More, as he calls it, 'coherence without design - a conspiracy without conspirators'. Which is, again, what I have always thought.
  • The biggest difference, though, is drawn between a legitimate 'secret state' and an illegitimate 'deep state'. The folk who claims there's one of the latter in the USA don't seem to be able to provide any evidence at all for it. Just nonsensical speculation. For example that Obama is the head of a secret cabal dedicated to get shut of Fart. Nutters, obviously.
  • Varoukfanis, by the way, suffered terribly at the hands of the EU technocrats and is very critical of the EU. But he still believes in it and would prefer the UK to stay in and help make it what I, at least, don't believe it can ever become. Maybe too clever. Him, not me. 
Matters Galician and Pontevedran
  • I can't imagine this happening here in Galicia, even though it's much less hot up here. I'm tempted to say There's one born every minute. But also Whatever turns you on. Hats off to the bodega for seeing a profit opportunity. They'll be marketing percebes as an aphrodisiac soon!
  • I can't imagine this happening here in Galicia, even though it's much less hot up here. I'm tempted to say There's one born every minute. But also Whatever turns you on. Hats off to the bodega for seeing a profit opportunity. They'll be marketing percebes as an aphrodisiac soon!
  • September is quite definitely 'Guiri Month' here in Pontevedra city. The tapas bars are almost as full of foreigners now as they were of Spaniards in July and August.
  • Be quick if you want to see the wonderful Portico de Gloria of Santiago's cathedral for nowt. As of November it will cost you €12. Bodegas will never be as cash and profit-orientd as the Catholic Church!
  • This summer Pontevdra had an average of 469 'pilgrims' passing through it on our 3 caminos. I doubt that more than 10% actually stopped to see our wonderful old quarter.

    Ten Years After Lehman’s Collapse: What caused the Crash of 2008 is now shaping our post-modern 1930s: Yanis Varoufakis

    In the autumn of 2008 events unfolded in Wall Street that the crushing majority of people around the world had been led to believe could never occur. It was the financial equivalent of watching the sun spinning out of control soon after it rose above the horizon. Humanity watched on in collective disbelief. The ancient Greeks had a term for moments like that one: aporia – a state of intense bafflement urgently demanding a new model of the world we live in. The Crash of 2008 was such a moment. Suddenly, the world ceased to make sense in terms of what, a few weeks before, passed as conventional wisdom.

    Before long, the repercussions were felt everywhere. The certainties created by decades of of establishment thinking were gone, along with around $40 trillion of equity globally, $14 trillion of household wealth in the US alone, 700,000 US jobs every month, countless repossessed homes everywhere; the list is as long as the numbers it includes are unfathomable. Even McDonald’s, for goodness’ sake, could not secure an overdraft from Bank of America!
    The collective aporia intensified by the response of governments that had hitherto clinged tenaciously onto fiscal conservatism, as perhaps the 20th century’s last surviving ideology: the pouring of trillions of dollars, euros, yen etc. into a financial system which had been, until a few months before, on a huge roll, accumulating fabulous profits and provocatively professing to have found the pot of gold at the end of some globalised rainbow. And when that response proved too feeble, our Presidents and Prime Ministers, men and women with impeccable anti-statist neoliberal credentials, embarked upon a spree of nationalising banks, insurance companies and automakers that put even Lenin’s 1917 exploits to shame.
    Ten years on, the crisis unleashed in Wall Street in 2008 is still with us. It takes different forms in different countries (i.e. a Great Depression in places like Greece, a scourge of middle class savers in countries like Germany, history’s greatest sponsor of brutal inequality in the United States, a permanent cause of geopolitical and trade tensions in Asia, Eastern Europe etc.). It migrates from continent to continent, from country to country. It morphs from an unemployment-generator to a deflation-machine, to another banking crisis, to a maximiser of trade and capital global imbalances.
    Forcing Europe’s ruling elites into a series of laughable errors, it has succeeded in destroying the moral and political foundation of the European Union while, on the other side of the Atlantic, it has resulted in Donald Trump’s Presidency. The more our rulers proclaim the crisis’ taming the deeper the crisis is becoming. Indeed, the only beneficiaries from the crisis’ incessant mutations are the top 0.1% of earners, primarily the financiers, and what I once called the Nationalist International that is creating a new fascist, putridly xenophobic moment in Europe, America and beyond.

    So, what happened in 2008?

    To answer the question, we need to begin at the beginning – in 1944. As the war was drawing to a close, the New Dealers’ administration in Washington understood that the only way of avoiding the Great Depression’s return, once the guns had been silenced, was to recycle America’s surpluses to Europe and to Japan, and thus generate abroad the demand that would keep their own factories producing all the gleaming new products (washing machines, cars, television sets, passenger jets) that American industry would switch to.
    The result was the project of dollarising Europe, of founding the European Union as a cartel of heavy industry, and of building up Japan – all within the context of a global currency union known as the Bretton Woods system: a fixed exchange rates regime anchored on the US dollar, featuring almost constant interest rates, boring banks (operating under severe capital controls) and American management of aggregate demand for global capitalism’s goods and services.
    This dazzling design brought us a Golden Age of low unemployment, low inflation, high growth and massively diminished inequality. Alas, by the late 1960s Bretton Woods was dead in the water. Why? Because America lost its surpluses, slipped into a burgeoning twin deficit (trade and government budget) and could, therefore, no longer stabilise the global system by recycling surpluses it no longer had. Never too slow to accept reality, Washington killed off its finest creation: On August 15th, 1971 President Nixon announced the ejection of Europe and Japan from the dollar zone.
    Nixon’s decision was founded on the Americans’ refreshing lack of deficit-phobia. Unwilling to rein in the deficits by imposing austerity (that would shrink the United States’ capacity to project hegemonic power around the world), Washington stepped on the accelerator boosting its deficits. Thus American markets worked like a giant vacuum cleaner absorbing massive net exports from Germany, Japan and, later China – ushering in the second phase of post-war growth (1980-2008). And how were the expanding American deficits paid? By a tsunami of other people’s money (around 70% of the profits of European, Japanese and Chinese net exporters) enthusiastically rushing into Wall seeking refuge and higher returns.
    In effect, the 1970s inaugurated a remarkable Global Surplus Recycling Mechanism (which I have likened to a Global Minotaur elsewhere): the United States were absorbing a large portion of the Rest of the World’s surplus industrial products while Wall Street would administer the foreign capital flooding into the US in three ways. First, it provided credit to American consumers (whose wages stagnated as part of the same process that boosted the US profit rate and made Wall Street a destination for foreign capital more lucrative that Europe or Japan). Secondly, it channelled direct investment into US corporations and, of course, thirdly, it financed the purchase of US Treasury Bills (i.e. funded the American government deficits).
    But for Wall Street to act as this ‘magnet’ of other people’s capital, and perform the role of recycling other people’s surpluses so as to pay for America’s deficits, it had to be unshackled from the New Deal and Bretton Woods era stringent regulations. Institutionalised greed, wholesale de-regulation, the infamous ‘revolving doors’, the exotic derivatives etc. were mere symptoms of this brave new global recycling mechanism. Financialisation was upon us, Europe’s financial centres joined in enthusiastically and, after 1991, an additional two billion workers (from the former Soviet Union, China and India) entered the global proletariat producing new output that boosted imbalanced trade flows – Globalisation had begun!
    In Globalisation’s wake, the EU created its common currency. The reason the EU needed a common currency was that, as all cartels, it had to keep the prices of its main oligopolistic industries stable across Europe’s single market. To do this, it was necessary to fix exchange rates within its jurisdiction, as they had been fixed during the Bretton Woods era. However, from 1972 to the early 1990s each EU attempt to fix European exchange rates had failed spectacularly. Eventually, the EU decided to go the whole hog: to establish a single currency. This it did within the supportive environment of (grossly imbalanced yet temporarily impressive) global stability that the US-anchored Global Surplus Recycling Mechanism maintained. Alas, in its infinite inanity, the EU created the euro on the basis of a delicious paradox: A Central Bank (the European Central Bank) without a government to have its back, and nineteen governments without a central bank to have their back. Effectively, the ECB would be supplying a single currency to the banks of nineteen countries, whose governments would have to salvage these banks, at a time of crisis, without a central bank that could support them!
    Meanwhile, Wall Street, the City and the French and German banks were taking advantage of their central position in the US-anchored global recycling system to build colossal pyramids of private money on the back of the net profits flowing into the United States from the Rest of the World. This added much energy to the recycling scheme, as it fuelled an ever-accelerating level of demand within the United States, in Europe and Asia. It also brought about the de-coupling of financial capital flows from the underlying trade flows.
    When, in 2008, Wall Street’s pyramids of private money auto-combusted, and turned into ashes, Wall Street’s capacity to continue ‘closing’ the global recycling loop vanished. America’s banks could no longer harness the United States’ twin deficits for the purposes of financing enough demand within America to keep the net exports of the Rest of the World going. To boot, Europe’s common currency came unstuck following shockwaves it did not possess the shock absorbers to withstand.
    From that dark moment onwards, the world economy, especially Europe’s, would find it impossible to regain its poise.
    Taking stock: Socialism for bankers, austerity for the many, and the inexorable rise of the Nationalist International
    Most of my German friends tell me that, to this day, they don’t get it: How is it that Deutsche Bank, and the rest of the German banks, went, effectively, bust in 2008? How can any economic sector go, within 24 hours, from making zillions to insolvency, demanding massive taxpayer bailouts. The answer is as simple as it is devastating.
    Consider Germany’s banks and exporters back in the summer of 2007. Germany’s national accounts confirm Germany’s large trade surplus with the United States. In the month of August of 2007, to be precise, German net export income from selling Mercedes-Benzes and the like to American consumers was a cool $5 billion. What Germany’s national accounts do not, however, show was the real behind-the-scenes drama, the real action.
    From the early 1990s and until 2007, Wall Street bankers manufactured quasi-money toxic derivatives and succeeded in ensuring that their market price was rising fast. Frankfurt’s bankers were dying to buy these lucrative derivatives and did so with dollars that they were borrowing from… Wall Street. In August 2007, Wall Street entered its annus horribilis (which culminated in September 2008 with Lehman’s collapse) when, as it was inevitable, the price of these derivatives began to fall. German bankers became apoplectic when their panicking New York pals began to call in their dollar debts. They needed dollars in a hurry but no one would buy the mountain of US toxic derivatives they had purchased. This is how, from one moment to the next, German banks swimming in oceans of paper profit found themselves in desperate need of dollars they did not have. Could Germany’s bankers not borrow dollars from Germany’s exporters to meet their dollar obligations? They could, but how would the $5 billion the latter had earned during that August help when the German bankers’ outstanding debt to Wall Street, that the Americans were now calling in, exceeded $1000 billion?
    In summary, what had happened, globally, was that imbalanced dollar-denominated financial flows, which had initially grown on the back of the US trade deficit, ‘succeeded’ in de-coupling themselves from the underlying economic values and trade volumes. It would not be far-fetched to say that they almost achieved escape velocity and nearly left Planet Earth behind (once the bankers invented, created and… kept on their own balance sheets toxic dollar-denominated instruments) – before crashing down violently in 2008.
    From that moment onwards, politicians went into overdrive to shift the losses from those who created them (the bankers) onto the shoulders of the innocent (middle class debtors, waged labourers, the unemployed, those on disability payments and the taxpayers who could not afford to set up off-shore accounting units). In Europe, in particular, one proud nation was turned against another by political elites determined to disguise: (A) a crisis caused by an alliance of Northern and Southern bankers and other rent-seeking oligarchs, into (B) a clash caused by the profligate Southerners and ant-like Northerners or as as crisis of over-generous German, Greek, Italian etc. social welfare systems.
    It takes no genius to put all this together and to grasp why, in the absence of a serious, effective, articulate Left, nationalism, racism and generalised misanthropy is now triumphing in the United States and, especially, in Europe.
    Where are we now?
    Back in 1967, John Kenneth Galbraith described how capitalism had shifted from a market society to a hierarchical system owned by a cartel of corporations: the Technostructure, as he called it. Run by a global elite that usurped markets, fixed prices and controlled demand, the Technostructure replaced the New Deal’s full employment objective with that of GDP growth.
    From the late 1970s onwards, that Technostructure extended its realm by adding the black magic of financialisation to its structure (through, for example, turning car companies like General Motors into large speculative financial corporations, that also made some cars!), magnifying by a dizzying factor its power and, ultimately, replacing the aim of GDP growth with that of ‘financial resilience’: enduring paper asset inflation for the few and permanent austerity for the many.
    The result was the strengthening of the Technostructure’s dollar-based hegemony in a manner that no macroeconomic approach (limited, by design, to looking at the national accounts of states) can even recognise as, from the 1990s onwards, the ‘real action’ was taking place in the balance sheets of the global financiers.
    In the end, this financialised Technostucture was brought to its knees by the weight of its hubris. That’s what the Crash of 2008 was all about. Two powers proceeded to save the financialised Technostructure from itself: The US government, and in particular the trillions of dollars that the Federal Reserve pumped into European private and central banks (through what is known in the trade as ‘swap lines’). And China, whose skilful economic management boosted domestic investment to unheard of levels, kept on its books worthless dollar assets that many others were shedding, and even went so far as to propose the elimination of trade imbalances via the adoption of a multilateral clearing union of the type that John Maynard Keynes had proposed at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 (only to be denied by the Obama administration, who preferred to keep the dollar’s privilege intact at the expense of a seriously unstable capitalism).
    While the Technostructure was saved by two governments (America’s and China’s), those in authority blamed government debt, the cost of welfare, high wages, inflexible labour markets (i.e. the survival of some trades unions struggling to prevent the uberisation of waged workers) – and embarked on a massive, self-defeating austerity drive causing avoidable, industrial-scale suffering. Based on the toxic fantasy of apolitical macroeconomic management, the Technostructure is, to this day, shrouding in techno-bubble the undeclared class war with which the establishment has been shifting all the risks and all the losses onto the weak, instructing them to “suffer what they must”, delivering whole populations (in the absence of a progressive internationalist alternative) into the arms of a post-modern fascism.
    Ten years on, the Technostructure is still hanging on to the levers of power. But, nevertheless, the neoliberal populist myth (i.e. the myth that wholesale deregulation will make everyone’s dreams come true under the rule of democracy and… Montesquieu), on which it used to rely for manufacturing consent, is now dead. Is it any wonder that racism and geopolitical tensions are all the rage? Was it not inevitable, as some of us have been warning since before 2008, that a Nationalist International would soon gain power, on the back of an explicitly xenophobic narrative, in the White House, in Italy, Austria, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, shortly in Germany (once Mrs Merkel is shoved aside)?
    And so, here we are: At our generation’s 1930 moment. Soon after the Crash and with a fascist moment upon us. The pressing question facing this generation is a harsh one that, while no young person deserves to face, none of us have the right to evade: When and how will we rise up against the Nationalist International bred across the West by the Technostructure’s inane handling of its inevitable crisis?

    Wednesday, September 12, 2018

    Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 12.9.18

    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. Garish but informative.

    Matters Spanish
    • A wonderful looking festival down in Cordoba.
    • Here and here is The Local with trivial(?) items on Cataluña. Will I miss these when it goes behind a paywall? Not sure I will.
    • My Dutch friend* Peter in Santiago has sent me this little tale. It's set here in Galicia but I've no reason to doubt there are examples from elsewhere in Spain: The Xunta has decided that every 3rd and 4th grade pupil needs to have insurance. Total yearly costs of € 1.12. To avoid having to deal with cash, one needs to pay this into the school's bank account. However, the banks no longer want to deal with cash payments. One has to do this through their ATM, by means of a bar code. But the paper which prescribes the payment, HAS no barcode. So an ATM is no use. In short, one has to go up to the counter and solicit a favour, as in 'Can I pay this from my bank account with my debit card from your bank?'. This sometimes works, when the person on the other side happens to be understanding. And sometimes not. In short, the only sure way to do this is by digital payment, which the banks still accept even though the sum is ludicrous. For how long, one wonders? And - mind you - the school refuses to accept the inscription unless this tremendous sum is properly paid, with a valid receipt! If it weren't so utterly irritating, it would be funny! IGIMSTS.   * I say 'friend' but, as Peter was responsible for bringing my blog to the attention of Alfie Mittington, this might not be exactly the right word.
    • Maybe it's living here in Pontevedra but I find it hard to believe that the overweight tables for Western Europe have these as the worst countries for both men and women: 1. Spain, 2. Cyprus, and 3. The UK. As a regular visitor to and people-observer in the UK, I'm considerably less surprised to read that, since these tables were compiled, the UK has become 'the fattest nation in Western Europe' and 'the sixth worst for obesity across the globe'. The world rankings are headed, to no one's great surprise, I guess – by the USA, followed by Mexico.
    Matters Galician and Pontevedran
    • With plutocracy being the theme of the week, it's apt that I tell you that the net worth of Galicia's richest folk has risen by 54% since 2000. By far the most of this wealth is held as property. It rose by €4.7bn last year . . .
    • And now, a real treat . . . Here (I hope) is a video on Pontevedra which – from the music and the voice, not to mention the lack of colour – must come to us from the Franco era. If it doesn't work, here's the youtube link:-
    • It's reported that more than 70 doctors here are being denied the opportunity to work after 65. But my neighbour - herself a GP – tells me this is only half the story. They've been employed on very advantageous contracts for years and are now refusing to continue working – beyond their official retirement date – on normal rates of pay.
    • Here's a bit of the conversation between my (stroppy) elder daughter and a Renfe employee on Monday evening:-
    Are you catching the night train to Madrid?
    You have to take a bus to Monforte to Lemos.
    There's no train.
    Why not?
    Because the morning train didn't come.
    Why not?
    It just didn't.

    I have to say that, whilst Renfe is not the most customer-oriented company in the world, I've always found their on-board staff to be extremely pleasant.

    Finally . . .
    • Below is a fascinating forum post that came to me in one of my Spain feeds. It should be read by everyone who opposes Brexit and lumps all Brexiteers together in one box.
    © [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 11.9.18


    Just Following on from the Brits Leaving thread.

    I don't usually share my political views, but there are exceptions to everything and this is one.

    It really stems from the other conversation that highlights people (on both sides of the argument) having such entrenched views that they don't actually read a post before assuming they know all about what is being said.

    This is something I wrote at the time of the referendum backlash.

    Four Things I Found Out About Myself Today from a Biased BBC That Should Know Better. (and all because I voted ?Leave?)

    1) I am apparently a nationalistic, white supremacist, racist bigot.

    That really took me by surprise, because in my dear departed Grandmas words I ?have more than a touch of the tar brush? in my genealogical make up. I suspect that a deal of that Romany and Sinta blood may have also been a contributory factor in my wandering off around the continent in a home built camper truck and spending six full years calling it home. 

    Yes I?m a bit of a mongrel like most of the world. Either way, I am certainly not white enough in mind or body to pass muster at your average KKK convention.

    I also happen to hold dual-Nationality and have an outlook that doesn't really make any distinction between anyone's race, creed, colour, sexual orientation or political outlook. I happen to think that everyone is born equal and remains of equal value until the day they depart this mortal coil ? even politicians and perhaps even bureaucrats.

    I have no problem with anyone coming to live and work in the UK or anywhere else for that matter, whether they are from within the European Union or from anywhere else in the world. 

    If they have the skills the host country needs and they are willing to work, what's the problem? 

    The same applies in reverse and I have myself worked in 17 very different and diverse countries and enjoyed that experience immensely.

    2) I am an ill-educated northern bloke who spends his waking hours supping endless pints of cheap bitter in Wetherspoons whilst everyone else is out working for a living to pay for me.

    That was a shocker too, as I consider Tooting in South London to be the cradle of all civilisation because that?s where I was born and brought up.
    The Great Rift Valley may have a historically superior claim to that title and I accept (without even a hint of bigotry) the veracity of that claim.

    I guess Kim Ung-Yong, with his massive IQ of somewhere above 210, might be able to look down on me as an intellectual midget, but my own IQ of 164 is actually classified as Genius Level and is exactly equal to that of Stephen Hawking..... So I would like to know just how intelligent you have to be in order to avoid these sweeping statements from the Spin Doctors who put out this garbage? Obviously a lot smarter than me.

    It?s true, I do like to partake in the offerings of the brewing companies, but generally only after I have put in my regular average working day of somewhere between 9 & 12 hours.
    I can?t stand bitter of any sort though, as I have a strongly held belief that it has the equivalent effect of Drainol Pipe Cleaner on the average humans lower intestinal tract.
    I am in fact a soft Southern Shandy drinker!

    3) I found out that I?m part of the older generation that have cynically screwed over the young and all because we?re living on inflation proof pensions in houses we bought on the cheap in the era of Maggie Thatcher.

    Well I had to go and check the mirror on that one. Sure I?m not 25 years old anymore, but the bloke looking out of the mirror isn?t 65 either. 

    I don't actually have a pension and my current plan is to continue working for at least another 20 years, maybe longer. 

    I didn't own my own house at the time of the referendum and all of my capital was tied up in the risky business of being in business, so I don't think I'd intentionally vote for something that I thought might throw the economy under the bus in the longer term.
    I have since then bought a house (in Spain) but apparently I still don't count because I am not a "Mortgage stakeholder" and I am immune from the vagaries of interest rates... go figure.

    My life as a youngster didn't seem to be quite as easy as the kids I see today - and I rejoice in that, because I think the young deserve as much opportunity as possible. 

    I myself started full time work before my 14th birthday and I was 19 years old before I had enough spare time and money to go back to evening school to eventually gain my degree, but I guess I just had it easier than most!

    I would also question how anyone knows which generations voted for each of the options. Your vote is confidential and that is sacrosanct in law, so how do these people know how the old/young/rest of us voted?

    Ah, of course! It was because the pollsters told them so!

    Hang on a minute, would these be the very same pollsters that made such a hash of the outcome of this referendum AND the last two General Elections? 

    Their information gathering is laughable at best and has a sinister underlying slant that panders to their corrupt political paymasters at worst. 

    To insinuate that this data is factual is just another in a long line of lies.

    4) That (mainly because of all of the above) I was too ignorant and ill informed to understand what the referendum was about.


    I think I understood pretty well what it was about, and a lot better than some of the highly paid (by us the taxpayers) pundits and experts who spent every waking hour lying to us on the TV and Radio stations, whilst avoiding giving any straight, provable answers to the reasonable questions asked of them by some of the more honest broadcasters front men.
    I include both sides of the debate in the above, Remainers and Leavers campaign teams all told huge numbers of lies - but that is normal in any election/referendum.

    Unlike 99% of these people, I have actually travelled to and through all 28 EU countries, so I feel kind of pretty well informed on a very real level.
    I have seen the working conditions that a large proportion of ordinary people have to endure. 

    I have witnessed the actual health & safety implementation that isn't even given lip service in a lot of countries. 

    I have seen first-hand what really happens to waste and how goods are handled in the real world - not what it says is supposed to happen on some random pieces of paper in a filing cabinet at the European Union HQs in Brussels or Strasbourg.

    For me, the vote was mainly about stopping the formation of two whole new classes of people that the rest of us were expected to pay for without question or recourse.

    We have always had Working Class, Middle Class and Upper Class people - it's never been perfect or fair, but it is what it is - even if that offends most of us who might like to see a fairer distribution of wealth.

    Myself included.

    We have for the past 25 years been in grave danger of creating two whole new classes of people though:-

    The Benefits Class - A group of people who get trapped in the Hand-Out system that has been a feature of our economy ever since we lost control of our own domestic laws.
    These people rarely get to fulfil their potential, or enjoy their lives as they surely could if they were shown the correct opportunities. 

    If these people were given the support to attain a lifestyle that gave them a greater sense of worth and self-respect, they could enjoy a happier and perhaps more affluent lifestyle.

    I am not allowed to express that opinion without being vilified as a heartless bigot for looking down on those less fortunate than myself. 

    What is conveniently ignored is the fact that I am not looking down, I am looking directly across on the same level because I believe those people have exactly the same worth as myself and that they deserve better. 

    There is an unspoken cynicism from some politicians who know that keeping this whole section of society dependent means they will blindly vote for the system that provides the handouts that they have become reliant on.

    It is in all of our interests to get as many people as possible into meaningful, productive and rewarding work. 

    This would obviously obviate the need for the rest of us to pay for their upkeep, as they would be earning a respectable income in their own right and paying taxes instead of draining them. 

    It would also go a long way towards negating the need for the other new class of people.

    The Bureaucrats Class - This has actually become a bigger burden on most developed economies than the non-working population, because these people command serious pay packets, once again paid for by the general taxpayers. With the bureaucrats come the lobbyists, and although they are nominally paid for by the companies that they are lobbying on behalf of, if the company they were working for couldn't save more in unpaid taxes than they were paying the lobbyists it wouldn't be worth paying them in the first place - so once again the taxpayers pick up the tab in the end.

    In Brussels alone there are over 31,000 bureaucrats working directly for the European Commission alone. (Freely available information from the EU itself)

    Add to that the 30,000 lobbyists and their expense accounts and you are just starting to scratch the brushed aluminium surface of this highly polished gravy train. 

    That's over 16 Million Euros per day just to pay for that useless lot's wages in Brussels alone (and let's not forget the whole sorry mess has a carbon copy in Strasbourg) all to produce the square root of Jack Schitt in real terms. (To put that into perspective, the huge Toyota car plants only employ 3,100 people in the whole of the UK)

    I fully understand the need for a working political system, but something on that scale is frankly ridiculous.

    If you think that these people are worth putting up with, and paying for, in order to keep the environmental issues on the agenda, think again! 

    It is the biggest Petro-Chemical companies, you know the ones who don't want us to stop strangling our planet, who have more lobbyists than anyone else and they nearly always succeed in getting most of their own way. 

    The Eurocrats would have you believe that the only way to tackle climate change is on a European level, but when you've seen the way things really are on the ground you have to say that even the hapless Roy Hodgson could do a better job. King Canute had nothing on these boys and girls.

    We need to get rid of at least two layers of bureaucracy and the associated costs, so binning the European Union was the obvious choice for me and many of the other 17 million who voted. 

    It could equally be getting rid of one of the two Houses of Parliament in conjunction with slicing 75% of the Strasbourg/Brussells hierarchy, but that wasn't an option on the ballot paper.

    Sure, you'll be able to find a handful of racist idiots in the Leave Voters, but what makes you think that there weren't plenty of racist idiots on the other side of the vote too?

    As a matter of fact, I find it extremely offensive when rampant Europhiles seek to create a two-tier world and say that you are at a Premier Level if you were born within the confines of the European Union, but you are somehow second class if you are born anywhere else in the world. Surely that is taking racism to a whole new level?

    So a superbly qualified surgeon from India has to queue up behind a lesser qualified surgeon from somewhere within to EU, is that right, fair, equal or even smart?

    Isn't that in fact in itself extremely racist?

    I am probably the most Liberal person you will ever meet and I have been an Economically Realistic Socialist all of my life.

    I believe in equality, liberty and freedom of speech & thought for EVERYONE and I understand that many of you will have diametrically opposing views to my own.

    That is your inalienable right and I don't think that it makes you stupid, ill informed, bigoted, gullible or anything else - just different to me.

    Voltaire was quite wise when he said "Find out who you are not allowed to criticize and then you have found out who is controlling you!"

    Tuesday, September 11, 2018

    Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 11.9.18

    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. Garish but informative.

    Matters Spanish
    • Is it really a year since things rather blew up in Cataluña?
    • From The Local, Spain's breathtaking national parks.
    • I have to admit I wasn't at all surprised to read this morning that the incidence of lung cancer has gone down in Spanish males but it still rising in women. So much so that it now takes more of them than breast cancer. Still seen as an effective appetite suppressor and – even more misguidedly – as a sophisticated activity, I suspect.
    • Talking of sad deaths . . . I was surprised to read that Spain's suicide rate – at 3,500 t0 4,000 a year – is only marginally less bad than that of the UK. Some rates:-
    Lithuania 31.9 whatever
    Russia 31.0
    South Korea 26.8
    France 17.7
    USA 15.3
    Portugal 14.0
    Germany 13.6
    Australia 13.2
    Holland 12.6
    UK 8.9
    Spain 8.7
    • Two or three decades ago, it was conventional thinking in the pharma industry that levels of depression were much lower in Latin than in Anglo societies. Things appear to have changed.
    • Yesterday was one those rare things in Spain – a totally successful morning. My daughter and I repaired early to the offices of one of our several notaries and were attended to immediately. And then given the opportunity – under Galician law – to make a transfer of funds free of taxes to either of us. I say it was successful but the notary had to call someone to check if I, as a foreigner, was really entitled to this largess. And then, having got confirmation of this, warned me that the regional tax office sometimes 'got confused' and might come at me for some tax. In which case, he would go with me to their offices and argue the toss with them. As it happens, there was no initial problem when – after paying the notary's extortionate bill – we hied to the tax office of the Xunta and presented the documents for stamping. We live in hope.
    Matters Global
    • Can anyone now really doubt that the EU policy on people movement, combined with German government initiatives in its own regard, have led to the continent-wide wave of resurgent 'populist' right wing parties? The latest, of course, being in liberal Sweden. Just one consequence – albeit a major one - of having idealogical bureaucrats running things. Here's Simon Jenkins of the Guardian on the subject. Things have reached a pretty pass when this impeccably liberal-left paper is compelled to publish such an opinion. Can anyone have much confidence that Brussels knows how to deal with this? What chances a revision of its Utopian dream?
    • In a comment on yesterday's Plutocracy article, reader María predicts the polishing-up of pitchforks across the developed world. By coincidence, Wall Street on Parade refers - in the article below - to JPMorgan's fear of the (re)appearance of these items in due course. Must get mine down from the loft.
    Matters Galician and Pontevedran
    • They are repairing the walkway on one our main bridges between Pontevedra and the barrios on the other side of the river Lerez. Two nights ago someone filched the temporary lights there, a mere 2 hours after they'd been installed. At €2,000 a throw.
    • And last night someone robbed the till of my regular bar, as well as those of a nearby café and the museum. Perhaps selling drugs is not as profitable as it was.
    Finally . . .
    • The average British lunch, says El País, lasts for 40 minutes, compared with 102 minutes in Spain. But, then, the latter is the main meal here.
    © [David] Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 11.9.18


    JPMorgan Is Thinking Pitchforks and Fed Stock Buying in the Next Financial Crash: By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall Street on Parade.

    If you thought the U.S. outlook could not get any more dystopian, think again. JPMorgan Chase issued a report earlier this week to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Wall Street crash and provide its outlook for what’s ahead. JPMorgan suggests that the next financial crash may be so cataclysmic that the Federal Reserve may have to enter the market to buy up stocks – something which the central bank has never done before in the U.S. or, at least, acknowledged doing, because stock ownership is heavily skewed to the one percent.

    JPMorgan further suggests that if the Fed did take this unprecedented step, it might lead to pitchforks in the street (our phrase) as a class war breaks out. (Imagine the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 and 2012 and then amplify that by years of pent up anger.)

    This is how Marko Kolanovic, a JPMorgan analyst writing in the report, puts it:

    “It remains to be seen how governments and central banks will respond in the scenario of a great liquidity crisis. If the standard interest rate cutting and bond purchases do not suffice, central banks may more explicitly target asset prices (e.g., equities). This may be controversial in light of the potential impact of central bank actions in driving inequality between asset owners and labor.”

    Kolanovic adds this about the social unrest:

    “The next crisis is also likely to result in social tensions similar to those witnessed 50 years ago in 1968. In 1968, TV and investigative journalism provided a generation of baby boomers access to unfiltered information on social developments such as Vietnam and other proxy wars, civil rights movements, income inequality, etc. Similar to 1968, the internet today (social media, leaked documents, etc.) provides millennials with unrestricted access to information on a surprisingly similar range of issues. In addition to information, the internet provides a platform for various social groups to become more self-aware, polarized, and organized. Groups span various social dimensions based on differences in income/wealth, race, generation, political party affiliations, and independent stripes ranging from liberal to alt-right movements to conspiracy theorists and agents of adversary foreign powers. In fact, many recent developments such as the U.S. presidential election, Brexit, independence movements in Europe, etc., already illustrate social tensions that are likely to be amplified in the next financial crisis.”

    Notice what “social tension” the JPMorgan analyst is leaving out: the actual battle cry of the Occupy Wall Street protesters who chanted “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” as they staged sit-ins at the mega Wall Street banks, marched on the New York Fed, and camped outside of Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s Central Park West luxury residence.

    It’s the height of audacity for JPMorgan Chase, a bank that has spent tens of billions of dollars buying back its own stock over the years in order to goose its stock price, to now suggest that the U.S. central bank might need to become the buyer of last resort when the stock market melts down as a result of malinvestment.

    This is not the first time that a Wall Street savvy guy has looked into his crystal ball and seen pitchforks in the future. In 2014 venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, an early investor in Amazon, bylined an article at Politico with the title: The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats. Hanauer warned his fellow plutocrats as follows:

     “…I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

    “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

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