Sunday, February 04, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 4.2.18

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.

  • Cataluña: It gets more farcical each day. Here's the latest development.
  • As the millionth person in 17 years walked across right in front of me yesterday as if I didn't exist, I yet again got to wondering about Spanish manners. As I've said, these can sometimes seem poor to folk from other cultures. But, as I've also said a few times, once you establish a personal link, things immediately shoot to the other end of the spectrum. For example, one quick – but admittedly bizarre - way to establish a personal link with several Spaniards who'd otherwise act as if you weren't there is to trip over in the street. Whereupon everyone within 10-20 metres will rush to pick you up, smooth you down and hand you the book you were stupid enough to be reading as you walked. As with organ donating, the Spanish are undoubtedly the best Samaritans in the world. Which is one reason – well, two – they regard themselves as nicer than others.
  • Another way to establish the essential personal contact is to (politely!) ask a Spaniard to stop doing what it is that offends you. They will immediately do so and express (sincere) regret for upsetting you. Apologising is the 3rd thing the 'individualistic' Spanish are the best in the world at. Ever the curmudgeon, I've been known to suggest this is because they get a lot of practice at it.
  • By the way . . . The woman who walked across the path in front of me looked astonished – and a tad angry – that my foot caught one of her heels. Not the first time this has happened and it certainly won't be the last. I guess that, having invaded my personal space, she felt I'd trespassed upon hers. On reflection, this can't be so, as the concept of personal space – as V S Naipaul once pointed out – doesn't exist in Spain. And he knew because a Spaniard had shouted this at him when he'd complained about being forced into the road. Now, if Naipaul had fallen over in the road . . .
The EU/Germany
  • Not a lot of people know this:- German big business, while portraying itself as the most socially responsible in the world — not like those profit-obsessed Yanks and Brits — actually leads the international field in lack of moral scruple. [Witness the recent bribery and VW sagas]
  • But quite a lot of folk do know that: The EU commission services, originally French in their culture, are now firmly under German influence. So, too, are the policies and initiatives which the commission generates. But unlike the French, who were never shy of emphasising their influence over EU policies and practices, Germany expresses its power as being merely an expression of 'Europe'.  In German political discourse the EU is portrayed as something greater, something almost more noble, than a mere transmission mechanism for Germany’s economic success. In short: Berlin dominates the EU. Denying that is a form of national self-delusion.
  • Does anyone really understand what is going on around that memo? Below is an article on it which might or might not be accurate. Some folk are saying - hoping? - this morning that Fart's publication of it will backfire on him. Vamos a ver.
The UK
  • Here's an amusing blog post on what might happen if the UK took back control of the world. Some folk believe this is the prime motivation of Brexiteers. A theory which makes no sense to me.
  • Ye gods!: Se convertió en un Trendie Topic.
Nutters Corner
  • Matt Walsh (a 'right-wing writer') on Twitter: It’s kind of amazing to see all of the Christians who think nothing of going to a yoga class. There are many excellent ways to get in shape that do not involve participating in Hindu worship.
Social Media
  • Five corporate giants have captured the open space of the internet. Two – Google and Facebook – have created an entirely new surveillance capitalism. But we're too hooked to care.
The Gender War
  • A (female) Guardian columnist has a go at today's (3rd generation?) feminists below, citing the hypocrisy I mentioned the other day. It reminded me of a question which occurred to yesterday – Now that it's utterly wrong for a woman to show off her body – or certain bits of it anyway – can we expect that all those pouting, spouting female film stars will be covered up to the nines at their dreadful award ceremonies? And that there'll be an end to ludicrously revealing catwalk fashions for those women rich enough to consider buying the laughable stuff on display? I guess not, in either case.
  • What on earth can it mean that – as the Voz de Galicia tells us - 200 Gallego parents sued their children for maltreatment last year?
  • Who'd have thought it. Here's the Intro to a book which is so popular/rare, it'll cost you $713.52 to get a used copy from Amazon. The opinions expressed therein would not find much favour these days. But that's hindsight for you. Here's some of them: He who has the good fortune to work close beside the Führer of young Germany is always impressed by the sides of Adolf Hitler that the public does not see. This book will make Hitler clearer to a circle broader than just his friends. What Adolf Hitler the Führer means to his people is known or felt by millions today[1932]. It will be the task of historians to put these feelings and knowledge into words[!!], for their task is to present Hitler as a historic figure to posterity. That book about the Führer cannot be written for many years, for those with greater distance also have the greater ability to judge. This book is different. 
  • Here's some fotos from it.
Today's 'Cartoon'


1. The Nunes memo shows Republicans buy their own conspiracy theories: Walter Shapiro

Ever since Watergate, the standard for any scandal is whether there is a smoking gun left next to a corpse. In the case of the Nunes memo, we lack a body and the gun is a child’s toy pistol

The Piltdown man – perhaps the most famous fraud in the history of paleontology –combined a 600-year-old skull, an orangutan’s jaw and a chimpanzee’s tooth to feign being the remains of the Missing Link between man and the apes.

Now, more than a century later, the Piltdown man has come to US politics with Friday’s release of a declassified memo by Devin Nunes, the chairman of the misnamed House intelligence committee. The Nunes memo connects mismatched shards to suggest a missing link between Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the Hillary Clinton campaign’s efforts to discredit Donald Trump.

The triggering event was a 21 October 2016, foreign intelligence surveillance court (Fisa) warrant for electronic surveillance of Carter Page, an energy consultant and sometime Trump adviser who had been under FBI scrutiny since 2013. According to the Nunes memo, a dossier prepared by Christopher Steele and partly funded by the Clinton campaign was “an essential part” of the rationale for the warrant.

We can quibble about what “an essential part” means. Especially since the FBI in an unprecedented Wednesday press release stated: “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Unmentioned by Nunes were all the other documents that the FBI and the justice department presented to the Fisa court to justify eavesdropping on Page.

But even if you accept the world according to the House Republicans (a personal plea: don’t), Page represented a circuitous route to get at Trump. Page had withdrawn from the campaign a month earlier in the wake of news stories about his suspicious meetings in Moscow. And Trump himself later belittled Page as “a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time.”

To summarize: in a document that the FBI called inaccurate, House Republicans claim that the Democrats had some shadowy role in a pre-election Fisa warrant against a “very low-level” Trump adviser who had already left the campaign. Compared with the Nunes memo, the never-ending, dry-hole Republican Benghazi investigations look like textbook examples of prudent congressional oversight.

To Trumpian true believers, the Nunes memo proves that the FBI and the rest of the Deep State were conspiring to throw the election to Hillary. Of course, this omits the pesky detail that on 28 October 2016, the FBI director, James Comey, announced that he was reopening the Clinton email investigation based on what had been found on Anthony Weiner’s computer.

Guess which late October event had more effect on wavering 2016 voters: Comey’s dramatic public statement raising fresh doubts about the Democratic nominee or a secret warrant against a peripheral Trump adviser?

The Nunes memo makes one major concession to reality – the FBI opened its Russian investigation three months before the Steele dossier was used, in some fashion, to justify the Page Fisa warrant.

In a scene that might have been lifted from the 2016 version of All the President’s Men, a young Trump foreign policy adviser named George Papadopoulos had the foolish notion of trying to drink an Australian diplomat under the table. Instead, Papadopoulos (who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI) blabbed that the Russian government had a trove of hacked Hillary Clinton emails. Once the Australian government passed this nugget on to Washington, the FBI opened up its Russian front.

Ever since Watergate, the standard for any scandal is whether there is a smoking gun left next to a corpse. In the case of the Nunes memo, we lack a body and the gun is a child’s toy pistol.

All this raises the question of why Nunes, the Republican majority on the House intelligence committee, Paul Ryan and Trump were so willing to go to war with the FBI over a cap-gun memo. We even have hyper-ventilating Republican congressmen shouting “treason”.

The glib answer is that this a pretext for Trump to fire Mueller and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. But Mueller is never mentioned in the Nunes memo and Rosenstein makes only a cameo appearance. More attention is devoted to articles by journalists David Corn (Mother Jones) and Mike Isikoff (Yahoo News).

Perhaps a more convincing answer is that we have reached that alarming moment when right-wing Republicans actually believe the conspiracy theories peddled by the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News, who claims the memo reveals an “attempted coup” against Donald Trump plotted by the “Deep State”. At least, the original fabricator of the Piltdown man knew that it was all a hoax.

2. That’s right, sack the poor grid girls — only the rich are entitled to flaunt their bits: Camilla Long

God, it’s embarrassing being a feminist at the moment. The shrieking, the moral panic, being torn limb from limb by sweaty fantasists on the pettiest of issues and then being invited to talk about it on Newsnight. I was asked if I’d go on last week to discuss whether feminism was undergoing a “generational, intersectional or ideological” crisis, or simply “beginning to die a death”. At the moment it is dying, but I didn’t fancy being monstered by a transgender, or whoever else they’d get on, for saying so.

It is a peculiar hallmark of today’s growing feminist crisis that every hour brings ever more trivial and time-wasting outrages dressed up as “watershed moments”. On Wednesday, Formula One, of all grim outfits, decided it would be good PR to announce it would ban grid girls from its circuits. The girls, saleswomen who often wear hot pants or tight dresses or tiny skirts, were not in keeping with its “brand values”.

I was fascinated to hear what F1’s “brand values” actually were, as I can’t think of an industry more predicated on naked curves and the ogling of giant pneumatic breasts than the gas-guzzling, sock-on-the-head git circus that is automotive racing. It promotes its penis-extension cars and lionises its spoilt male drivers, which means pampered stars such as Lewis Hamilton think nothing of aggressively squirting champagne in the ear of the nearest podium babe. But apparently it’s better for “brand values” if the girl goes, not Hamilton.

If you really want to know what feminism dying looks like, it is the worst industry in the world riding in and capitalising on its supposed values. It’s grid girls and darts girls, now also banned, being stripped of their jobs on pearl-clutching charges of “decency” while richer, more successful women such as Myleene Klass can take off all their clothes and no one even notices.

Popping up on the cover of The Sun on Friday, wearing only trainers and a hairband, Klass barely raised a flicker of interest among the usual screaming outrage goblins. Her body has allowed her to be “a strong and successful woman”, she cooed, an excuse strangely not available to the voiceless grid girls and Presidents Club hostesses.

And so the hypocrisy continues: rich women are happy, successful and in control of their bodies and sexuality; poor or uneducated women are stupid, deluded, moo-cow “victims”. It’s especially dispiriting to find such snobbery on the left, such illiberal sentiments expressed by women who in any other conversation would unhesitatingly describe feminism as “freedom of choice”. It is off-putting to watch educated, intelligent, hitherto open-minded feminists slut-shaming and diminishing less powerful women for wearing see-through outfits and matching underwear, when the structures they should be dismantling are the networks of impenetrably rich, entitled billionaires who hire them.

I don’t particularly like the idea of being a grid girl myself, but then I’m too uncoordinated to wave a flag or get into severely curtailed hot pants. Still, I respect women who enjoy these jobs, described by a friend who has hostessed as “good money compared with other jobs, fun if you enjoy mingling and flirting a bit”. It will come as a stake to the heart to the average shrieking posh librarian that women can choose hostessing, for example, over other “demeaning” jobs, such as waitressing and secretarial slog, because it is varied, exciting, glamorous and better paid.

And guess what? Some women fancy ghastly rich bastards and want to hang out with them too. Because for many poorer women, sexy ornament work is an opportunity to pull oneself up (let us never forget Melania Trump). Obviously this is the one type of social mobility the left cannot cope with. No, no, this heartbreakingly gorgeous young woman must stay in Southampton with her two NVQs and work in a drudging nail or bikini-waxing job, eking out financial independence, which isn’t really any kind of independence, because feminism. And so all the beautiful, ambitious, working-class women are removed from any meaningful equation. Convenient, no?

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