Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 31.3.18

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.

Spain
  • This Easter, as last year, the PP government has instructed all military installations to fly the national flag at half-mast between Friday and Sunday, in recognition - would you believe - of the death of Christ. Sometimes the party seems to be doing its utmost to justify the accusation of Francoist leanings. Anway, as The Guardian reports here, it's a controversial measure in this supposedly secular state.
  • I wonder how many Spaniards know that today is the 79th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, in 1939. Here's a copy of the official announcement from Franco, the following day. April 1st. 
  • An apposite question - Is Spain finally moving on? See the (machine translated) El País editorial below this post on the history of Spain and its impact on today's society. Of which the final para is: As long as the parties continue to use the Civil War and dictatorship as artillery to fight in today's politics, it will be difficult to find a way to repair and recognise the victims. The remains of the dead in ditches and mass graves must be exhumed and returned to their families. And it is the task of the state, which is almost always absent, to find a way to do this over and above partisan struggles. It is urgent to put an end to the outstanding accounts of the dictatorship. Amen to that. And, while we're at it, let's blow up the repulsive basilica and the huge cross above it in the Valley of the Fallen. Can one imagine Germany having memorials to Hitler? Or France having them to that tyrant Napoleon? Oh, hang on . . .
  • What!! A list of 15 breathtaking lookouts in Spain which is not from The Local but from El País!
Life in Spain
  • This is a foto of members of the Spanish legion, carrying Christ of the Good Death during one of this week's weird (to me) religious processions:-

My rather irreverent elder daughter watched the ceremony on the TV in Madrid and judged it to be the most camp thing she'd ever seen. Perhaps it was the traditional bare chests of the legionnaires, as well as their bizarre, err, bearing. Here in Pontevedra, a similar procession was held by people in mufti, this time called Christ of the Expiration. My impression from the foto is that it was a bit less camp. Rather like this:-


The USA
  • From a review of a 2015 biography called 'Never Enough': Trump has rarely been ordinary in his pursuit of success and his trademark method is based on a logic that begins with his firm belief that he is a singular and superior human being. He is a man whose appetite for wealth, attention, power, and conquest is practically insatiable. He pursues success with a drive that borders on obsession and, yet, has given him, almost everything he ever wanted.
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • Galicia – and Spain – is still losing thousands of its best educated and most ambitious young people to other countries. And, despite Brexit, one of the 2 most popular destinations is the UK, the other being Switzerland. And they're regularly profiled in the press as being very happy to be in work and perfecting their English. Here's El País  on the theme– in English.
Finally
  • Regional elections are imminent. So, naturally, Madrid has announced increases in pensions, going as high as 3% for those getting the lowest of these - said to comprise 77% of pensioners here here in Galicia. Of course, Spain's pension system is already in serious trouble and the country can't really afford these above-inflation increase. But, what the hell. Elections are near and the pork-barrel calls. At least democracy is working reasonably well here . . .
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 31.3.18

EL PAÍS EDITORIAL

The disagreements that have arisen between the Commissioner of Historical Memory and the Madrid City Council regarding a memorial in the Almudena cemetery highlight once again how complicated the relationship between the democratic powers continues to be with the past of the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. The dispute, in this case, arises from the proposal to include on the memorial the names of the 2,934 people executed there by Franco's forces between 1939 and 1944. Experts have recommended that the memorial be anonymous, since among the reprisals they believe there are chequists and those responsible for some of the crimes that took place in Republican territory. From the Town Hall they argue that the names serve to "socialize the knowledge of the victims of the dictatorship and of those who are resistant to it". What must a democracy do if those names include some murderers?

More than eighty years have passed since the coup d'état against the Republic, and then the terrible war and the brutal repression of Franco's regime, and no way has yet been found to turn the page. The dispute over the memorial serves to illustrate that sometimes there is not even agreement between those who seek to comply with the provisions of the so-called Historical Memory Law.

Something has been done badly. Many of the victims of the victorious side are still awaiting reparation and recognition; eccentricities such as a Franco Foundation are preserved; we do not know what to do with the Valley of the Fallen; and there are still names of famous Francoists in streets and squares. A few weeks ago the government exercised its right of veto and paralyzed a reform of the so-called Historical Memory Law that the PSOE presented in December 2017. The initiative proposes that the Franco trials be declared null and void - which would allow for claims to be made for property - and that the State be in charge of locating and exhuming the remains of more than 100,000 killed in reprisals, or that the remains of Franco be removed from the Valley of the Fallen, among other points. The Government estimates that some €214 million would be needed to implement these proposals, and it is an expenditure it is not prepared to make.

The conflict is once again served. The difficult thing about managing a traumatic past is that it operates in a territory full of emotions and against the confronted positions that the military coup of 1936 forced every Spaniard to take when it became a long war. It is devilishly difficult to avoid confrontation because things are again presented as a struggle between the heirs of the victims and the heirs of the victimisers.

As long as the parties continue to use the Civil War and dictatorship as artillery to fight in today's politics, it will be difficult to find a way to repair and recognise the victims. The remains of the dead in ditches and mass graves must be exhumed and returned to their families. And it is the task of the state, which is almost always absent, to find a way to do this over and above partisan struggles. It is urgent to put an end to the outstanding accounts of the dictatorship.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 30.3.18

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
  • The latest developments here.
  • Asked for an opinion, the United Nations human rights committee has agreed that the Spanish government has “violated Carles Puigdemont’s right to participate in political life by forcing him to be in exile” and has asked Spain to respond on this. Is anyone holding their breath?
  • In an editorial, The Times has opined: Madrid’s heavy handed attempts to jail Catalan independence leaders surrender its moral authority to an undeserving cause. The Spanish government has consistently handled the thorny issue of Catalonian separatism with recklessness, heavy handedness and an apparent desire to make a difficult situation far worse. . . . In seeking to portray strength, Mr Rajoy’s government instead looks panicky. Worse, it is surrendering moral authority to a flippant political movement that more often than not does not deserve it. Madrid needs to start speaking to its opponents and stop seeking to put them in jail. Not a view likely to do down well with most Spaniards, I regret to say.
  • I couldn't help wondering how I'd feel if I were a Gibraltarian watching all this. It's surely not calculated to make me feel any more comfortable with the prospect of Spanish sovereignty over The Rock.
Spain
  • Reverting again to the issue of Spain's negatives . . . Right on cue, these 5 unflattering items all crossed my screen yesterday morning, largely because they featured in Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas:-
  1. This is an interview with British historian of Spain, Paul Preston, with whom I shared some nasty Christian Brother teachers in our respective grammar schools on Merseyside a few years ago. He echoes here reader Maria's comment on why Spaniards are how they are: It is known that practically everyone is accused sooner or later. There are new cases of corruption discovered almost daily, and even so the people continue to vote for the PP or, if it is corruption in Catalonia, they continue to vote for Convergència, PdeCat or whatever they are called now. . . . I think it's amazing that people are voting for corrupt parties. Why are they doing it? It's because they're so used to it. I think that the Spanish, because of their history, are a cynical people. And that's not a criticism. It seems to me to be an act of intelligence. Because after centuries of bad governance, social injustice, totally corrupt politicians or incompetents or both, I am not surprised that they are cynical. The Spanish view is: “If all or many of them are corrupt, well, it doesn't matter, we vote for them anyway”
  2. This is an article in El Diario on the deterioration in Spain's image around the world. It's in Spanish but Google or Deepl will readily translate it for you. It begins with the scandal of the false CV of the Presidenta of the Madrid region and its implications for her (utterly corrupt) PP party. Then it moves on to the repressive measures of said PP party and the limits on freedom of expression in Spain. Then the Catalan mess and the UN action cited above. The tone then darkens further, with talk of sewers and stenches. Finally, the writer asks whether it isn't time to eliminate the filth. “To aerate, clean, and (re)build Spain.” To which, I guess, the answer is crystal clear.
  3. This is a cri-de-coeur from someone in Almería, complaining about a French article giving 15 reasons why no one should buy Spanish tomatoes. It's dismissed, of course, as la fakenews but I doubt that it is. At the very least, someone in Almería/Spain should be asking why people outside Spain would find it credible. Like being told that Trump was screwing half a dozen White House employees.
  4. Here's an article from El Público, the headline of which reads: I'm working 12 hours a day for €700 a month and now they're going to cut off my electricity. But I'm proud to be Spanish because we've detained Puidgdemont.
  5. Finally . . . Here's Don Quijones with an article on how the usual suspects - entirely in their own short-term financial interests – are trying to start another construction boom here. Hardly credible but, as they say, Spain is different. So, once again, very believable.
So . . . standing back, do you get the impression that something is rotten in the state of Denmark? And that Werner was more right than wrong?
  • Reader SP has pointed out that Werner doesn't seemed to have fingered Spain's civil service exams (las oposiciones) as a major factor in Spain's problems. I checked and he/she is right. I also searched the words merit, meritocracy, endogamy, endogamous and cronyism. He doesn't use any of them but at least the last one can be considered synonymous with amiguismo.
Life in Spain
  • Foreigners here will be very familiar with the problem described in this El País article, also in Spanish. Viz. having only one surname when Spaniards have – and really believe everyone in the world has – 2 surnames. I disagree that things are getting better. Though it's true that the problem is slightly less if you have 2 forenames and your second is taken to be your first surname. The challenge then – met only by trial and error – is to determine what word order has been used in the computer and, so, which of your 3 names is regarded as your first surname. In my time, I have been called Sr David, Sr Davies and, most frequently, Sr Colin. But never Sr Notengo.
  • Below are extracts from Tim Parfitt's book A Load of Bull, about his time with Conde Nast in Madrid in the late 1980 and early 1990s. Parfitt is now a serious journalist and commentator – see here – but, back than, was a Jack The Lad, let loose in a Madrid which seems to have still been living la vida loca of the Movida. That said, some things don't seem to have changed much.
Russia
  • There will be referees from 46 countries at the World Cup in Russsia this summer but, for the first time in 80 years, none from Britiain. In contrast, the country sending the most will be the USA, where football ('soccer') is not exactly a big thing. Odd or what?
Nutters Corner
  • Televangelist Frank Amedia, who unofficially serves as Donald Trump‘s “liaison for Christian policy" has announced that God has given him permission to tell the world that Fart will be re-elected president in 2020. Amedia, of course, in no fool; he makes a lot of money from spouting arrant nonsense like this. But what can one say about the people who believe him?
Spanish:
  • I learned 2 new slang words yesterday – caballo (horse) and jaco, both meaning heroin. No one except the waiter in my bar knew what the second one meant. When I asked him how come he did, he gave the wonderful reply that he'd once been young and lived through 'turbulent times'.
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • Strange things happen in the crazy world inhabited by nationalists. Reader Sierra had told me of someone formally complaining that the driver of a night bus announced the arrival in Pedrafita do/del Cebreiro only in Gallego. Bizarrely, the complainant was Galician and so not a Spanish nationalist. Or not exactly. 
  • Our drug clans might, I'm told, have been left out of the article I cited yesterday because they don't do heroin. Only Colombian cocaine. So, good guys really.
Finally
  • The John Hooper book I ordered 2 days ago was despatched from somewhere in Spain yesterday but will take 2 weeks to arrive. I'm put in mind of the comment made by Tim Parfitt below about the 'piss poor' Correos service . . .
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 30.3.18

EXTRACTS FROM "A LOAD OF BULL": Tim Parfitt Published 2007

Adjusting to the Spanish pace of life was to become a recurrent problem for me: knowing how to pace myself and go slow – then knowing when it was the right time to party and go fast.

Cake shops have adopted the slowest and most complex form of packaging and payment methods known to man.

The Casa de Correos in Madrid – the Post Office, an imposing, extravagant building for such a piss poor postal service

“Welcome to Madrid”, said Francisco. “Where 8 o'clock means 10 o'clock.”

In Madrid, if you're not careful, it's quite easy hold your hand out on being introduced to a complete stranger only to find yourself in a bear-hug, followed by the kiss-of-life.

Most tapas are accompanied by bread, as most Spaniards would rather go without food altogether than eat it without bread.

Luis often came out with statements like “The biggest problem in Spain is the excess of oil in the food” and he would then explain that such excess was typical of the Spanish problem of extreme, excessive or exaggerated behaviour.

In Madrid nothing was done ever done half-heartedly.

From the last hour of doing things, the feverish football supporting, to over-eating, expressing emotions, even an instance of dressing kids in tiny sailor outfits for First Communions – everything in Spain was a bit over the top.

In Spain, there was simply no room for anything that might fall between the piece of shit and the dog's bollocks.

The Spanish didn't like to finish anything, as though any sign of closure was to be mistrusted. Take the simple task of saying goodbye, 'adios'. Easy, no? Well, not for your average Spaniard. It was never just 'adios'. It was 'adios' to the power of 3. You can see this at any airport.

All 'final decisions' and 'closures' were extremely rare in Spain. I'd endlessly read reports in newspapers of high-profile crooks being sentenced to 20 years or so in a prison for major fraud but then, a minute later, it was never absolutely certain that they'd be jailed at all.

The best example of Spanish excess, though, had to be the number of national holidays.

Even Spanish proverbs were overblown. While for the English, for example, it was better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush, The Spanish would think it was far better to have one in the hand than hundreds flying.

Madrid's most exuberant month is May, when the city comes spectacularly into its own.

San Isidro is a celebration for one day extended, for no apparent reason than the sheer fun of it, into thirty days.

In Madrid, the long, hot, dry summer brings endless, glorious daylight, all-night marcha, regular days lived at 40 degrees, a number of dazzling bullfights and, the summer 'intensive work hour' – la hora intensiva'. Working from 8 to 3 without a break.

During July and August I knew some people who would start at 8 and work until 3, taking coffee breaks but never lunch. They'd start lunch at 3.30 and finish at 5. Then they'd go home and sleep until 10 and then go out to dinner. Then they'd go to a couple of terrace bars until 2.30 and then to the first night-club until 5. Then on to a second night-club which didn't even open until 5, where they'd stay until 7, before going straight to the office, where they'd shower, shave, change and start work again at 8.

There it was again – the whole taking-years-to-come-up-with-a-final-decision thing.

The family unit was far more important than material gain in Spain. So much so that moving away from comfort and security was regarded as a failure rather than an achievement.

Spaniards never hurried to finish anything and the fact that most appointments were not adhered to was etiquette.

The Mayte Commodore was an old established luncheon club usually packed with hundred of gold-rinsed yapping Spanish grannies.

It's difficult to overestimate what 1992 was to all Spaniards, to the whole national psyche. The country that had been isolated for over 30 years under Franco looked for any excuse to celebrate – so much so that even winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 had been a big deal. So 1992 was going to be massively important. Not that it meant getting things done on time.

The obsession with buena familias was an echo of the old Spanish obsession with the thoroughbred pure race - pura raza - and pure blood - pura sangre.

The 'heart press' – la prensa del corazón – was [is] a phenomenon in Spain. Some said its origins could be traced back to the harsh repression that followed the civil war, which left few families unscathed, and thus considerable vigilance was required as people avoided giving anything away that might betray them. So a love of harmless gossip – cotilleo – was born, whereby Spaniards gossiped about the rich and famous as they sought escapism from daily life. In a nation that read, per capita, less than one book a year the 'heart press' comprised the staple diet of a high proportion of Spain's population. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 29.3.18

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
  • Scottish developments
  • Cataluña developments here and here.
  • A sensible overview: The Spanish government is fully within its rights to defend its unity and its constitution. And European states are right to give the Catalan secessionists no support. But now that Berlin has been thrust into the dispute, it would do well to tell Madrid that treating the ill-conceived Catalan independence drive as treason gives the movement a moral authority it does not warrant. A conciliatory gesture toward Catalonia would do far more to defuse a confrontation that has gone too far.
  • But . . . Not only Rajoy thinks he's winning the Catalan fight . . . Here's Sebastian Faber, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College in the USA: Rajoy and his party, the Partido Popular, have avoided to the extent possible any kind of actual political negotiation over this conflict. . . By handing the issue over to the courts, in effect the executive branch has let go of all control.  . . The executive branch cannot now undo that. . . . At this point everything is in the hands of the judiciary in Spain. . . Initially I would say it has strengthened his position in Spain as a whole. It has shored up a base that was getting sick and tired and distrustful of the PP party due to the many corruption scandals that have been plaguing it. More recently, though, that support, what you could call the conservative Spanish base, has been abandoning the Partido Popular regardless and shifting toward the younger party on the right, Ciudadanos. So what you see now is a new rivalry within the centralist right between Partido Popular and Ciudadanos, who are vying for the centralist conservative vote. . . . You could really say that the right-wing parties have received a lot of advantage from the shifting of the axis that has directly damaged the electoral prospects of the left.
Spain
  • Returning to the subject of Spain's failings . . . It's impossible to judge modern Spain without knowing quite a lot about her history of at least the last 100 years. I've no idea whether Vernon Werner does or not. At the risk of over-simplification . . . By the end of the 19th century and after decades of totally corrupt governments of all stripes and of endless political/religious warfare, Spain's development was way behind that of her European neighbours. And then things got a lot worse. One aspect of this was the rise of a massive anarchist party in Andalucia and Cataluña, representing the millions of Spaniards downtrodden under wealthy (mainly)absentee landlords. These poor souls and their supporters were eventually eliminated (see Orwell) by the communists during the Civil War, despite the fact they were all fighting to defend the Republican government. But, anyway, before that Spain had endured a dictatorship in the 1920s and then a violent see-saw between the Right and the Left in the early 1930s. And then things got worse again, with the outbreak of Civil War in 1936. With the victory of Franco's Nationalists in 1939 things got worse yet again and Spain endured almost 40 years of a tyrannical regime which, inter alia, imposed ultra-Catholicism on the entire country. Just to give one example – To leave your village, you needed a certificate of good conduct from your parish priest, which you'd only get if you'd at least pretended to be a good Catholic. So, is it any wonder that Catholicism is dying on its feet in modern Spain? More widely, is it any wonder too that Spain continues to suffer the effects of the Franco repression and his early ludicrous economic policies? As Maria suggests in her comment of yesterday, Francoism is possibly less dead (my words) than the Catholic church in today's Spain. And there are many who see Francoist elements in the current PP administration, several members of whom, as I noted the other day, belong to the Opus Dei sect. Looking at the 'Gag Law' and the approach to the Cataluña problem, it's hard to disagree with this.
  • As for getting a more balanced view of modern Spain, I recommend John Hooper's brilliant book The New Spaniards, first published in 1986 and then revised in 1995. I've just discovered it was revised again in 2016 and have ordered a copy. There's also the excellent – if more personal and less wide-ranging – Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett. Both of these writers, like me and (I'm sure) Vernon Werner, are Hispanophiles, but neither of them is blind to Spain's deficiencies and problems. John Carlin is another of this group and also well worth reading.
The USA
  • The problem for the white-collar defense bar’s crème de la crème is that Donald Trump is so blatantly the client from hell. He won’t listen. He won’t obey instructions. He is headstrong. He is a bully. Sometimes, he doesn’t pay his bills. Most of all, it’s possible that he isn’t capable of discerning fact from fiction. This last foible could get any lawyer who represents him into very deep legal hot water. No one wants to get disbarred for the fame and fortune of representing President Trump.
  • Christian nationalists are people who believe that the USA is a fundamentally Christian country. They have a lot to answer for. More each day, in fact. Click here and here on this.
Spanglish
  • La fakenews. One word, in a headline I saw this morning.
Social Media
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • Pontevedra's gem of an old quarter is, at night at least, nothing but a huge bar. So I was surprised to read that 15 bars close in the city every month. This is surely a misleading statistic, as is the claim that we have 13% fewer bars than last year. For a start, bars are constantly changing their names. Possibly under new ownership but possibly under the same (money-laundering?) ownership as before. Secondly, new ones are opening all the time, whenever a mom-and-pop store closes on the retirement of the owners. It's an iron Spanish law that fun must be had. Especially from Thursday evening on.
  • The police have issued warnings about theft from cars over the holiday period. I should be so lucky. My car will be at least 3 weeks in the shop having cosmetic stuff done to it. As Mr Warner would surely tell me, this certainly wouldn't take anywhere near as long in Holland or the UK. But all the walking up and down the (long) hill is surely doing me good. It's an ill wind . . .
Finally
  • Here's a surprising thing – An article (in Spanish) on the control of the drug industry here by gypsy clans. But no mention at all of our 33 clans engaged in bringing in Colombian white powder. I think a formal complaint should be make to the paper. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this item.

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 28.3.18

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 28.3.18


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.

Spain
  • I've cited Vincent Werner's book It's Not What it is; The Real (s)Pain of Europe, which aims to tell the world what's really going on here. Here's the Amazon blurb for it:-
The world needs to know what is really going on in Spain. Visiting tourists are served beautiful beaches, sports and gastronomy numbing their senses. There are a lot of things going on in Spain that never make the headlines in their home countries. “Things” that are important because they ultimately determine the state of Europe and its position in the world.

The EU, which has focused strongly on expansion, is fractionalizing. Politicians, who follow outdated economic indicators, fail to see what is going on. They are clueless! Economic indicators, like corruption, are measured “post-action”. Therefore, they are merely consequences and not the causes of social-economic turmoil.

How can Europeans, speak of human rights issues in China, when thousands of women are working in “alegal” prostitution in Spain? Many of whom were brought to Spain under false pretenses. Not to speak of the 100,000 African immigrants who work and live under slave-like conditions in Almeria.

Close to 30% of Spanish citizens lives on the verge of poverty. The EU keeps on pouring money into the largest single beneficiary, but “Espanistan” keeps on wasting it. It has the richest politicians and former politicians in Europe.

The country is run by an invisible force that goes by many names (la casta, el establishment, el tinglado) and which places itself above the law. This force overturns Supreme Court rulings, replaces critical judges, silences and bribes witnesses and exercise the outdated gag-law. A law that clearly contradicts freedom of speech. In 2017! In the EU!

Unfortunately, these practices rub off on corporate structures and society. The country is proving – time and time again – it cannot run its EU-course without intervention. IT IS NOT WHAT IT IS provides deep insight and presents 8 characteristics, which keep Spain from using its full potential.

The way you look at Spain will never be the same again.
  • If you go to the Amazon page here, you'll see that 31% of readers rate it 5 stars but 39% give it only one. And not all the latter are Spanish. In fact, one of them is a Dutch chap who goes so far as to apologise to Spaniards for this cynical and hypocritical piece of nonsense. Which is almost certainly isn't. 
  • Several of the negative reactions – What about Holland and Germany?; You don't speak fluent Spanish; Were you dumped by a Spanish woman?; What about the things you liked during your nearly 20 years here? You are a racist – are classic off-beam stuff. They fail to realise that, like nearly all foreigners here, Werner loves Spain and the Spanish people but is concerned about the country's severe faults and very worried that they represent a serious risk to the entire EU project. Of which he is clearly a fan. 
  • The real question is not Why didn't you present a balanced picture? but Are the criticisms accurate and fair? My answer would be that, although the book certainly has the several faults identified in the reviews, the picture is one I recognise. 
  • For what it's worth, I've gone through the book and produced a list of Werner's criticisms and appended it below. It's long, at times repetitive and certainly severe. And it's true that Werner doesn't make much attempt to balance it with what is admirable about Spain. But this wasn't his professed aim and I believe his intentions are genuine. He wants Spain to recognise what's wrong and to do something about it, not only for her own sake but, even more so, for that of the EU as well. It's gratifying to note that quite a few Spanish readers agree with him. 
  • As to the future . . . Well, I've confessed I find it hard to be optimistic about how Spain will cope when all the EU funds stop flowing and the country has to rely entirely on its own resources, but a lot will depend on whether the faults/deficiencies identified by Werner are taken to heart and dealt with. One major one, of course, is political and corporate corruption. On which the signs are not promising. 
  • It's been said that 10-20% Spaniards work as hard and as well as any people in the world but the rest are passengers on SS Spain. If true, the hope must be that this percentage rises rapidly. 
  • As for the list below, I set out trying to put comments under various headings but gave up and simply began to include everything under Points. If you disagree with anything, please tell Werner, not me. Though I'd be interested to see views.
  • On a lighter note . . . Mouthwatering Spanish Easter dishes from guess who.
Social Media
  • Yesterday morning I deleted all the 51 cookies on my computer. Within a few seconds, 10 of them had reappeared, without me doing anything. So, I deleted these and then logged on to my Times subscription. This time 14 cookies appeared, including ones for 15gifts and gravatar, about which I know nothing. But I did recognise the 2 for Facebook, which I quit several weeks ago. Do any of us really know what is happening?
  • The head of a UK parliamentary inquiry expressed astonishment that Mr Zuckerberg isn't prepared to come to the UK to answer questions on Facebook's activities. Really? I'm astonished he was astonished.
  • Here's an article I can identify with.
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • The number of camino 'pilgrims' passing through Pontevedra in February was double that of last year – 746 v 328. I had thought we had 55,000 in 2017 but the number reported yesterday was 70,000. Close to the population of the city. This Holy Week there isn't enough accommodation here for them all and the Sports Centre is being used as a hostel.
  • Foreigners here in the city now number, 3,682 – if official stats are to be believed. Portuguese 421, Brazilians 390, Moroccans 387, Colombians 277, Romanians 226, Venezuelans, 223, Chinese 174, Italians 172, Sengalese 116 and Argentineans 110. Plus a smattering of folk from Norway, Mauritius and New Zealand. Brits weren't mentioned in the article . .
Finally
  • Talking about how they'd been forced to do something about plastic, a MacDonald's spokesman yesterday said the company had been 'on a journey' for the past 10 years and that he was 'very proud of our journey'. Ye gods! Hamburger pilgrims!!

Vincent Werner's It's not what it is.

POINTS
  • Invisible forces, invisible strings
  • Weakest link in the EU chain
  • Over administered
  • Intentional deception versus the EU
  • Insufficient supervision from Brussels
  • Way behind other western countries in their development – only superficially similar
  • Worse than Italy
  • Everything in Spain works differently
  • Everything takes a lot more time. The concept of fast food has been turned into slow food.
  • Extremely difficult for outsiders to understand
  • Well paid civil servants, who work fewer hours than German civil servants
  • Government office service levels even worse than the private sector. Email even less likely to be answered.
  • Govt stats differ from those of international organisations
  • No one really knows the number of unemployed
  • Both young and old Spaniards aim to make their working life as short as possible
  • The active working population lacks experience and creativity
  • Ignorance and lack of interest leads to postponement of decisions until things are too bad to ignore
  • Despite ignorance in financial matters, everyone considers himself an expert
  • At the start of the Crisis, no one took responsibility or control. Despite massive Sp mistakes, foreigners were routinely blamed.
  • In Sp no one ever takes responsibility when things go wrong. A scapegoat is always found. [preferably dead]
  • Sp society is unfamiliar with real leadership. But 'followship' is everywhere.
  • Being a prime banker or politician is an incredibly lucrative business
  • A big country like Sp which is still lagging behind in many areas, which has a reactive attitude and is averse to risk is a danger. It calls for stagnation. Affecting other countries and slowing down the EU as a whole.
  • Sp presents less than 1,000 patents a year. Germany, 20,000. 17th in R&D investment.
  • Why don't they change? Fear. Of:-
- losing security
- being frowned upon
- economic loss
- the unknown
  • The fear of the highest boss in a company is extraordinary
  • Authorities are never questioned. Which is convenient as Sps are dogmatic by nature and therefore avoid asking questions
  • Very few employees take initiatives outside the job descriptions of their work
  • Sp's tourist sector is a very reactive one
  • The Reconquista is the only significant change which S has ever provoked voluntarily. Tho' not completely time efficient
  • Many people, looking at S continuously floundering feel that change has been too rapid for too many people
  • Sp is an old society. Progressive ageing is not new and it will get worse. By 2050 Sp will have the highest average age of any country in the world
  • Sp management positions are mainly occupied by older people. The success of a young entrepreneur would not be understood.
  • Many changes now are technology based and harder for older people to understand/keep up with
  • Half of Sp society doesn't finish secondary school
  • Many Sp companies operate in a way which can be achingly time-consuming, causing unnecessary delays.
  • The traits of lack of info and a zero risk, profile caused a great part of the real estate debacle
  • Sps need to risk more, but not everything
  • Copying competitors is the norm. Easier than being creative. Shares the risk. A cowardly strategy but common. Innovative strategies or marketing campaigns are rare in S.
  • Entrepreneurship is viewed differently from in other countries.
  • The Sp envy people who show early signs of success. Prefer to relate to failure.
  • There are huge differences between Sp supermarkets and those of N Europe. Much greater customer orientation.
  • The Sp are fond of pyramid selling. Via 'friends' and relatives. Attracted by the prospect of easy money. Ignorant of the downside of these companies. S is flooded with multi-level marketing schemes. Even more impressive than the construction companies.
  • Sps view change as a risk
  • The zero risk profile generates an attitude of conformity preventing people longing for growth. They want stability and comfort. A steady job with a regular salary. Or to win the lottery.
  • They avoid taking responsibility, where mistakes can be made
  • Possibly Sps don't see the irreversible changes:-
- globalisation
- the unification of Eur countries
- the change in the financial industry
- English becoming the most important global language
- the pension system becoming unsustainable
- the development of modern technologies
  • Fear and timidity turn the majority of Sp consumers into loyal customers. Even when, as with the banks, they know they are being fleeced by their 'friends'.
  • Sps make marketing plans without planning. No 'what if' scenarios. No contingency planning.[Trust in their spontaneity]
  • The administrative system of devolved competencies promotes regionalism. No overview.
  • Sps have difficulty thinking a year ahead, never mind the 5-10 years of a plan
  • People go to interviews with little or no preparation. CV circulation without thought.
  • Lotteries are huge business. People want to be rich but without having to work hard to achieve this.
  • Instead of planning for their financial future, Sps prefer to leave things to chance. The Sp government bets on the EU coming to its aid when things are no longer sustainable.
  • The vast majority of Sps have not taken any measures to secure any income for when they retire. To them, putting money aside for a rainy day is the least sexy thing you can propose.
  • The Sp pensions system is poorly planned. Input and output don't match. The looming results could have been avoided with planning. As in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.
  • 70% of Sps still don't save for old age
  • Cortoplacismo. Short termism.
  • Catalans believe they are different but they aren't. They also lack western ethics
  • A sense of urgency simply doesn't exist in beautiful Sp. Not in meetings, in presentations, or in public places where you stand in line. Or in doing what Brussels demands of you.
  • The biggest problem, lying at the root of so much else, is that the Sps simply don't value time.
  • Sps arrive late for both business and social appointments.
  • As they don't value their own time, they certainly can't be expected to value yours.
  • Decision-taking processes are slow, the working day is long and unproductive and not replying to emails sent by clients is a national phenomenon. The time and effort of the sender are ignored.
  • 'Time is money' doesn't apply in S. Time is only respected when you bill it. For example after the second non-productive meeting with a prospective partner.
  • In Sp time and people are rarely the bottlenecks. Deadlines can always be postponed [the AVE, the A54, etc] and there are always more people to employ. Money is always the only deal-breaker
  • Sp society doesn't teach the value of time to its young.
  • Sp parents don't involve themselves in homework. So kids play.
  • Dropping out and arriving late for school are not reprimanded
  • Untrained kids will run into time and planning problems for the rest of their lives, personally and professionally
  • Every year the Sp economy loses €25.5bn from absenteeism. So, 25% unemployed and 75% taking a lot of time off. Sp leads the Eu list on this. Per the Sp Business Confed, 35% of absenteeism is fraudulent. Assisted by 'friendly' doctors.
  • Sp banks have the reputation of borrowing to the permitted max from the ECB, claiming it is for entrepreneurs and SMEs. Then they use it for their own benefit. Expansion in SA or in real estate. The problem lies not in the amount of money but in the lack of control over what's done with it. The EU makes the mistake of assuming that all countries have the same mechanisms and structures to deal with the EU cash. Too much of it sent to Sp ends up in the pockets of politicians and their friends.
  • Explaining the difference between 'plans' (in the Sp sense) and 'planning' to a room full of Sps can get you into all kinds of trouble.
  • Proper planning is often impeded by amiguismo, complacismo and pride. The AVE is an example.
  • The Minister of Culture: “We are managing public money and public money doesn't belong to anyone.”
  • Not a single AVE track comes anywhere near the numbers that would make it profitable.
  • The Madrid-Barcelona track opened 19 years after the Madrid-Sevilla track.
  • Xenophobe’s guide to the Spanish: Senior executives are usually the sons of the managing director, his nephews, or married to the chairman’s daughters. No director will gain respect by asking subordinates or anyone else for their opinion. It is considered a sure sign of weakness and will generate insecurity among the staff. Those in command must not seek advice but take decisions themselves, which is why they are so highly paid. In big companies, heads of departments are not encouraged to communicate so that they will not interfere with each other’s work.
  • You often see incapable people taking decisions without taking into account the many variables at play. Though there are some companies good at planning.
  • 70% of Sp managers won't be aware of 'MS Project'. Many can't work with Excel.
  • Inefficient companies with inefficient managers expect their employees to work more hours to reach the company's targets. 50% do unpaid overtime.
  • Instead of using the many mistakes to learn from, Sp prefers to keep them out of sight. Hiding them, denying them and not taking responsibility for them. No learning curve.
  • Before every major holiday, whether it's Xmas or summer holidays, people are mentally absent weeks before they are physically absent.
  • Work ethics are acquired at an early age, or not. Part-time jobs in N countries. Dreams of independence and a career. At 20, the average Sp dreams of having his/her own car.
  • What will young Sps develop into? Uneducated, inexperienced and dependent.
  • The sad thing is no one is corrected or stimulated to change their ways. As we already saw, Sp society presents poor role models. Consequently, work ethics are low and no one is taught the need for achievement. There is no need or no hunger to win. If you fail, you can get a bailout. If not by mom and dad, it will be by the government or Brussels. This attitude leads to a phenomenon, which has gained major visibility over the last decade in Spain…. Corruption.
  • A new government has an huge impact on an enormous number of jobs. Sp has 450,000 politicians, the highest in Europe. Double that of the no. 2 country, Italy. The number actually increased during the financial crisis, by 2,300. 40,000 official cars. USA x 22.
  • Sp's politics comprise an infinitely complex set of historical events and excessive personal greed.
  • Sp needs to get rid of its over-powerful elite, an invisible group which places itself above the law.
  • Why does Sp pretend to be much better off than it is? It is all about show. How good you look. Reality is not too important; it is mainly about looks and what appears to be.
  • Sp has 24 airports, more than Germany
  • Fair, open market competition hardly exists in Sp. Competing is not necessary if you have friends in high places.
CULTURE
  • Conservative, risk-averse. Too dependent on property
  • Badly educated in financial matters. Insurance and pensions.
  • Ill-informed, most of all by the banks.
  • Poorly educated
  • Not entrepreneurial
  • Conformist
  • Average Spaniard is not ambitious. Career chasing is not understood. Individuals not competitive, so the country isn't either.
  • Racist
  • Breeds mediocrity in everything – people, service, products
  • Incredibly low service levels – Lots of waiting, time-wasting. Service treated as a dept, not as a corporate concept/credo
  • Poor consumer protection
  • Unwilling to take responsibility
  • No decision-making below the top management
  • Entitlement culture
  • Averse to the new
  • No 'global' thinking. Self, own department, etc. No national/international perspective/framework.
  • Consumers not as demanding as elsewhere. More passive. Moan but . . .
  • Consumers quite gullible. Mistakenly trust their 'friend' in the bank. Bought into useless products from the unscrupulous banks. Which don't, of course, do anything to widen knowledge. Bank employees trained on how to be friendly, not efficient.
  • Entrepreneurial mistakes always considered a failure. cf. The USA
  • Committing to contracts on the basis of a guarantee from third parties is a Sp phenomenon. Sometimes without the knowledge of that party.
  • The only EU country which publishes prostitution ads. Very lucrative.
  • Prostitution is popular and socially acceptable – despite the women trafficking. Not pursued.
  • Many Sps are unaware of their behaviour which contributes to an uncontrolled or out of control environment. It is in everyday normalities that we see people dodge their responsibilities. For example double parking for easy access to . . .
  • Amiguismo – the practice of favouring friends and family members. Raised to heights which can only be matched in countries ruled by dictators. Control doesn't come from the inside and needs to come from the outside.
  • General controls are not as tight in Sp as in other countries. As a result it attracts all sorts of swindlers and criminal organisations.
  • People are not bothered by people trafficking, drug smuggling money-laundering and tax evasion as they don't pose any direct threat.
  • The overall attitude in Sp is one of comfort. If people are comfortable the feel safe and there is no reason for change
  • Most Sps are not ambitious. They would rather have more spare time than money. To expand their comfort zone rather than aim for higher goals.
  • If a new product or service is not seen as providing instant pleasure or immediate economic benefit it is likely to be seen as uninteresting.
  • Typical Sp behaviour: “I prefer apologising to asking permission”.
  • The launching of new laws is as reckless as Sp planning [Model 720].
  • Sps may not be good at respecting time but they are very skilled in killing it. They are highly communicative and spend a great part of the day chatting.
  • A meeting with Sps can be a comic display. Much motion and movement. Everyone interacting loudly. Never clear who's leading it. Everyone trying to be heard, not listening. No note taking. No minutes. Topics dealt with reopened, though many are not dealt with but just postponed. No one acts on what has been discussed. Extended coffee breaks.
  • A Xenophobe’s guide to Spain: There is no point in arranging meetings as no-one will turn up. In the case of international corporations or companies dealing with exports, meetings are arranged to please foreign management and visiting clients and some people will turn up if coffee is on offer, but no-one will take any notice of what is said as the final decisions are always made by the boss.     
  • The national mantra of It is what it is, is one of laxity, a conformity failing to strive for improvement, clarity and honesty.     
  • 40% of the electricity tariff comprises social- and electricity politics. What on earth are social politics. If these were removed, bills would fall by 65%.                            
  • Splitting Sp into 17 ACs was completely inconsistent with its upcoming EU membership. Can't  be overstressed. No coherence or knowledge sharing. Inefficient, uncontrolled and expensive. Unstable financial projects.
  • There's been a vast increase in the number of millionaire politicians in the last 20 years.
  • "In Japan they call it Yakuza, in Italy la Cosa Nostra, but believe me when I tell you the Spanish equivalent of those terms is called “el Gobierno” (the government). - Jordi Encinas, former international director at Codorníu" 
THE ECONOMY: BUSINESS
  • Not as strong as perceived
  • Chronic unemployment the only real measure
  • Low productivity
  • 'Introvert' businesses – don't listen to clients
  • Play at customer service – don't reply to emails
  • Excessive role of banks and construction – imbalanced
  • Poor people in key positions
  • Superficial changes to institutions, only under EU pressure
  • Piecemeal reforms – never enough
  • CNC fighting a losing battle against cartels
  • Regardless of economic indicators which might say otherwise, Sp does not function.
  • Relatively speaking, Sp's economy is still taking baby steps. It is still in its learning phase, its infancy, and it is struggling.
  • People could observe Sp's economic indicators for a great many years without finding the causes which keep the country from using its full potential. Corruption is not a cause but a consequence. It derives from the characteristics of no one taking control and the lack of Western ethics. Plus it is not limited to politics and public bodies. It has trickled down through Sp's corporate structures. Unmatched in any other EU country.
  • If the EU wants to take itself seriously, it should stop sending money to Sp without installing local control points throughout the country, controlled by Brussels
  • The EU did not punish Sp for threatening the stability of the EU and the EU via its banking crisis but instead 'rewarded' her corruption, theft and inefficiency with a bagful of money.
  • Spanish politicians play dumb but all know what is going on.
  • Sp's economy can still only be described as weak and unstable. For which it is rewarded by the EU Cohesion Fund. In 2017, 2 of the 8 sectors creating employment were construction and agriculture. Sp seems incapable of shaking off its limiting patterns.
  • Germany is one of the largest exporters in the world. Spain is one of the smallest in Europe. They have a similar number of companies but German value added is 4 times higher.
  • Tribalism impedes growth [Galician airports]
  • The boom from 2004 was one huge political set-up where valuation companies, banks and construction companies collaborated behind the scenes and the Bank of Spain turned a blind eye and the government liberalised the real estate/estate agent market so that any fool could set up shop.
  • The high job insecurity is deliberately created.
  • Unpaid labour indicates the labour market is still corrupt
  • The EU still doesn't understand the true nature of Sp unemployment.
  • One of the reasons why so many young Sps don't have job is that they don't want to work!
  • Spain has a student body that is not inquisitive, which does not know how to write, how to set priorities or develop an argument.” - Víctor Pérez-Diaz, winner national award for sociology and political science (2014)
  • The EU was mistaken in thinking that those who caused the economic turmoil could solve it.
BANKS
  • Banks never penalised for their practices or for not paying their debts
  • Cut off funds when things get tight. Just when needed.
  • Bank subsidiaries number is madness, tho' much reduced now. Not cheap. Hence high commissions.
  • No clarity for consumers
  • Insufficient supervision of the banks by the BoS and the ECB
  • Skilled at smoke-screening
  • Withhold important information
  • Maintain and then abuse the ignorance of their customers
  • Hide the info they're obliged to publish
  • Many managers have little understanding of finance/economics
  • 'Boring' retail banking very profitable in Sp
  • 125 bankers earn over 1m euros
POLITICS
  • Too many politician
  • Inefficient and incompetent
  • Ignorant of finance
  • Stupid comments eg re the crisis and Spain's growth to above that of France and Germany
  • Repressive – 'Gag law'
  • Lying politicians
  • 75% are lawyers/notarios. USA 25%.
  • Rajoy has amassed more than €20m
  • No interest in improving the country. All about self-interest and amassing money as quickly as possible
  • Continuous growth of govt apparatus, even during the Crisis.
  • Too much power and money in (too many) local administrations
  • Local spending not limited!
CORRUPTION
  • Corruption always starts at the top. The shocking truth is that Sp has never been ruled by a government which is not corrupt.
  • If you know how to look for it, it is literally present throughout the entire society.
  • We need to look beyond the traditional definition of corruption. No matter where we look in Sp society – the labour market, its official institutions, the banking system, the majority of the IBEX 35 companies, they are all corrupt in the broad sense of the word.
  • Sp is Europe's paradise for fiscal fraud and unreported economic activity
  • Largest number of 500 notes
  • Transparency Intl. verdict
  • Pujols
  • Bribery. Gifts.
  • Huge sums from the EU embezzled
  • Revolving doors. Directorships
  • 9 people in the Gurtel case have died, many suspiciously
  • Judges moved/sacked
  • Public indifferent to Europe's biggest case. Numbed?
  • No one resigns
  • And money is never paid back
  • Bribery is something completely reasonable in Sp business and politics. Sps just don't call it bribery.
  • Fabra won the lottery 9 times in 12 years.
  • The cases of political corruption affect all levels of administration.
  • The OECD has criticised Sp for not doing enough to tackle corruption in government institutions.
  • The reason it's not tackled is that everyone is implicated in it.
  • One of the biggest flaws in the EU is the presumption that people who work at the same level are alike.
  • If Sps all cheat their own systems, what incentive is there to do things differently with the EU?There are currently 39 former politicians on the payroll of the energy companies.
  • Major companies all have former politicians and members of the royal family as consultants and pay millions for non-rendered services.
LOW ETHICS
  • 20-30% black economy
  • Amiguismo – not the best candidates
  • Crony capitalism - Enchufes
  • Employees not paid for hours worked
  • Bank charges – mortgage floor clause
  • Rip-off culture
  • Countless unethical acts are performed every day in Sp, many banned in other Western societies. Don't make the news. Considered normal by many Sps
  • With the right connections, money will get you very far in Sp to acquire things or favours only accessible via legitimate ways in countries which take ethics seriously.
  • Fake products sold widely and openly. Nothing done about it.
  • Confidential information doesn't exist in many Sp companies
  • Not unethical to ask candidates questions not permitted elsewhere
  • Discrimination and racism in selection procedures. Always denied.
  • Racism is barely discussed in Sp, yet it is omnipresent.
  • No presenters of African, Asian or S American origin on Sp TV. Sps don't notice this.
  • Government decisions often arbitrary and damaging to entrepreneurs. [eg solar energy]
  • Sp politicians grant and revoke licences to whoever they want. Regardless of any law.
  • Politicians taking such decisions are never prosecuted when clear signs of fraud are lacking.
  • Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa.
  • Sps are raised in a society where the moral codes of conduct differ greatly from those of other N Western nations. Unethical behaviour flows through society top-down and people are literally lacking in role models to see and learn how things could be different. They are not guided by guiding principles. A Sp who has not learned at home or at school what good and bad moral values are is likely to develop unethical qualities. Simply because it is everywhere around him.
  • If you can cheat the system and get away with it, you are a hero.
BUSINESS/EFFICIENCY
  • Poor managers. Not professional. Many family businesses. 500,000 SMEs gone since 2008.
  • Poor grasp of English. Translation delays. English not seen as essential, tho' it is. Spain is linguistically isolated.
  • Amiguismo at work
  • Mushroom management. Restrict info flow.
  • Inadequate, so afraid of subordinates.
  • Endless calls to secretaries to set up meetings. Meetings postponed again and again.
  • General slowness
  • July and August useless for business
  • Afternoons not good for business
  • Plans but no effective planning. No 'what-if' scenarios. Unprepared
  • Short-termism
  • Off-putting for investors
  • No cooperation between departments. No synergies
  • No corporate-interest attitude
  • Customer not king
  • Low investment in training
  • Very low investment in R&D
  • Attitude that a customer will contact us again if really interested
  • Preference for face-to-face dealings
  • Complaints and suggestions not appreciated
  • Banks have second highest commissions in the EU. Easy money.
  • Contact forms on estate agent sites are not followed up and phone responses are un-interested.
  • Price gauging telecoms companies
JUDICIARY
  • Politicised
  • Slow
  • Statute of Limitations
  • Arbitrary movements/sackings of judges
  • The judges of Sp's Supreme Court are political appointees, who will never bite the hand that feeds them. The judicial system is run my marionettes controlled and abused by invisible political power-circles.
EDUCATION
  • OECD says Sp's primary and secondary education is among the worst in the world.
  • Along with Italy, Sp is bottom of the EU table.
  • Young Spss particularly bad at problem solving. [rote learning?]
  • Not taught to be inquisitive [Not encouraged to ask?]. Suppressed under Francoism.
  • Don't learn to prioritise
  • Minority go to uni
  • Average for a degree is 9 years
SOME FINAL OBSERVATIONS
  • The strange thing is that, even when Sps are standing in the middle of their own chaos, they don't recognise it a such. Even worse, they believe what they are witnessing is not that bad and they feel a misplaced need to boast about it.
  • Fortunately, there is a small but growing group of Sps becoming more aware of the changes in the world. More critical, more price-conscious and more prepared to claim what they consider to be their rights.
  • Most Sps think they have fewer rights than in other countries. With the exception of the 'Gag Law', this is not true. What is true is that they are less well-informed than in other countries.
  • If I were to summarise the Sp economy in one word it would be 'inefficient'.
  • Sp is a country where everything is delayed – democracy, austerity measures, restructuring, students finishing their studies, inter-company payments, children leaving home, the introduction of microwave foods, opt-out button in spam mailing lists, participating in a single European patenting registration procedures, modernisation of housing interiors, the disappearance of fax machines, online banking, the use of Whatapp, translations of media, setting up a limited company . . . EVERYTHING arrives later than in other western countries. EVERYTHING takes more time. Sp is never a front-runner. It is always following and tagging along.
  • Sps not only have more difficulty in accepting new things but also in letting go of familiarities and outdated concepts
  • If Spaniards want to look at and plan their future, they have to be aware of their country’s deficiencies. Spaniards need to understand where they are coming from. They need some understanding of where other Europeans are coming from. They need to explain to the younger generations money they spent over the last decade was not theirs to spend. They also need to understand their country evolved rapidly by stimulation and support from outside.
  • Many Sps don't see the bigger picture. Many fail to notice the low service level throughout the country and how these damage Sp as a whole.
  • Sp needs definite plans for its specific problems, not ad hoc decisions and solutions before figuring out the facts.
  • In the world we live in, you can't be competitive without being efficient. Unfortunately, Sp sees this as lowering costs, i. e. salaries. Unfortunately, efficiency is not a switch which can be flipped.
  • Innovation is driven by the unconventional and Sp is very conventional
  • Many concepts which have been around for decades in other countries are still new in Spain.
  • Sp's version of democracy is now 40 years old and rar from mature. Still unfair and arbitrary.
LAST WORDS
  • Sp is not a country where hard work pays off.
  • Many people have stopped caring and this plays into the hands of the corrupt.
  • I yearn for a country in which people strive to give their best because they know their contribution matters.
  • Most of all, I dream of a Sp not being ruled by conformism.

© Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 27.3.18

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 27.3.18

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
Spain
  • President Rajoy clearly thinks his legalstic approach to the political issue of Cataluña has been a huge success. Otherwise why ask people to hold off with the triumphalism?
  • Weird Easter traditions from, of course, The Local.
  • Dangerous geriatrics.
Life in Spain
  • There does seem to be something of a problem with the accuracy of the CVs of many politicians who rise in Spain. Perhaps checking them out is a new practice here.
  • Yesterday morning, I answered the door to a young man selling croissants, at twice the normal price. He told me he was doing this to get cash to help him get through college. I didn't ask him what he was studying but, looking at the (short) change he gave me, I assumed it wasn't mathematics. If I thought he really was a student, I would admire this rare example of entrepreneurship, but I don't. The size of his tray – and that of this mate - suggested employment by a local bakery. Though I have no problem with that, of course.
  • Just in case you didn't read the stuff on renting in Madrid, here's a bit that certainly applies nationally: Landlords and real estate agents are not user-friendly. They often don’t return phone calls, or fail to turn up for viewings. Sometimes they don’t bother to tell you the apartment has already been let until you phone up to ask why they're not on the doorstep. In fact, they can be downright untrustworthy and have been known to lie on occasions. TBH, the writer is actually pulling his punches. It's the Wild West. Where, astonishingly, the percentage commission charged to sellers is 2 or 3 times that of the UK for, usually, appalling service. In large part, this stems from the PP government, at the start of the construction boom, removing the requirement for estate agents(realtors) to be qualified and licensed. Hence cowboys. And, of course, girls. Lots of money to be made, low service levels and even lower ethics. Something that Dutch author Vincent Werner would regard as a microcosm of Spain. Tune in tomorrow for a lot more on Werner . .
EU
  • Here's Don Quijones on Europe's twisted banking industry again.
The USA
  • It’s funny how there appears to be no actual thought going on at all here, not a hint that Trump recognizes his own contradictory claims. He just says whatever he thinks he needs to say to defend himself at any given moment. What happened yesterday doesn’t matter, whatever he says right this minute is true right this minute. It’s Humpty Trumpty and words mean whatever he wants them to mean, neither more nor less.
Spanish/English
  • When a Spanish neighbour texts me to say they're about to visit me – you simply can't arrive unannounced in Spain – they say 'I'm going now' (Ya voy), not, as in English, 'I'm coming now'. Is it too much to say this indicates a significantly different perspective. One from the point of view of the visitor and the other from the point of view of the visitee?
Social Media
  • Extracts:-
- Facebook’s digital empire will be hard to shake despite Cambridge Analytica scandal
- People are leaving Facebook in droves. But they are not escaping the social media giant’s empire.
- Facebook's global reach now makes it almost impossible for people to disentangle themselves completely from an online empire that has made it one of the richest — and most politically influential — companies in the world.
- Removing Facebook’s app from your smartphone — or even committing social networking harakari — may be cathartic for those who don’t like the idea of their personal photos, messages and “likes” being shared without their knowledge. And to be fair, Facebook has progressively clamped down on how much of people’s digital information is shared with third-party app developers.
- The company’s global reach is no longer reliant on just its original social network. Over recent years, it has built (or acquired) a stable of other smartphones apps, including Instagram and Facebook Messenger
- That strategy has paid off. Facebook now owns three out of the top 10 most used apps, according to difficult — if not impossible — for anyone to fully extricate themselves from Zuckerberg’s digital empire.
- FB recently announced that it was buying TBH, an up-and-coming social network mostly used by teenagers.
- People who steered clear of Facebook and its deep bench of smartphone apps may think they have escaped the company’s reach. But even they are not out of the woods. As part of the social network’s goal to make itself indispensable to people’s online habits, the social network sealed agreements with tens of millions of websites worldwide to embed the company’s famous “like” button across the wider internet. concerns that these deals also allow Facebook to indiscriminately collect data on its users and non-users alike, accusations that the company denies.
- The social network’s reach beyond its own apps doesn’t stop there. Roughly 1 billion people worldwide regularly see these Facebook-generated ads whenever they surf the web.
- Roughly 15 million websites also allow people to sign in through Facebook’s login, according to SimilarTech, a digital marketing consultancy. That makes the company a de facto ID system for vast swathes of the web, while also helping it to collect data on people’s internet activities. And since 2014, the social network has similarly built a highly lucrative digital advertising network that extends companies’ existing marketing campaigns on the platform to the rest of the internet. Many of the ads you now see online, for instance, are powered by Facebook. This global platform makes the social network second only behind Google in the amount of money it generates annually from online ads,

- The horse has already bolted. We’re now living in a Facebook world.

Galicia/Pontevedra
  • Some interesting news with a link to the nearby town of Cambados, along the coast:- Europol's most-wanted criminal (and the only woman in the organisation's top 70 fugitives), Tania Varela, has been arrested after 4 four years on the run. Varela, ex-girlfriend of David Pérez Lago, whose stepfather was the infamous Galicia drug baron Laureano Oubiña, is accused of involvement in multi-million drug-smuggling hauls and of laundering the proceeds from this. And of playing a 'significant role' in northern Spain's biggest organised criminal gang, which used ports in Galicia to traffic cocaine and other class-A drugs from South America to Europe and included the notorious clans of Laureano Oubiña and Sito Miñanco. She was convicted in 2013 of setting up front companies in tax havens to launder the drug money but fled, and has been on the run since. Before she was arrested, Tania Varela – a lawyer - was office manager and legal advisor for the Women's Issues department at Cambados town hall.
  • But . . . The drug clans aren't our only evil bastards. According to someone in yesterday's local press, the furtivos (stealers of shellfish from their breeding grounds) are a “worse mafia than the narcotráficos”. Bloody 'ell.
  • Someone should write a book and make a TV series about our criminals. Oh, they already did.
  • The 85 year old president of the English Speaking Society of Pontevedra has offered to tell me all about the dapper 'star' of the TV series. They grew up together.
Finally
  • Beggars 1: The atrocious guitarist – I've noted in the last 3 days – knows only a single chord and spends the entire day strumming to it. Astonishing. Picaresque or what?
  • Beggars 2: Today I was confronted by a chap with a plastic glass in his hand, held out to receive coins from everyone he passed. His defining characteristic was not a wan, skinniness but a truly vast gut, hinting at least one form of indulgence.
© Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 27.3.18

Monday, March 26, 2018

Thoughts from Galcia, Spain: 26.3.18

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
  • So, Carles Puigdemont has finally been arrested under the Spanish government's re-activated - but still misguided - international arrest warrant. In - of all places - Germany. By a government which has been protesting the treatment of political prisoners in Turkey. And where there's a bit of history around fascism. The inevitable result has been mass protests across Cataluña. In contrast to Germany, the Swiss government has said it won't arrest Catalan politicians there and the UK government surely won't arrest the woman who fled to Scotland and is now lecturing in St Andrew's university.
  • Here's the conclusion of Tim Parfitt this morning on this issue, surely correct: Nine Catalan politicians are in jail and seven others are in exile for one simple reason: Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, refuses to accept the results of the Catalan elections that he himself called on 21 December last year. That, again in my opinion, is a disgrace. It is even more of a disgrace that the EU Commission has turned a blind eye to it. This doesn’t need international arrest warrants. It needs international mediation. And it now needs it urgently.
Spain
  • President Rajoy says that Every single town and village in Spain will have access to broadband by the year 2021 and that, within three years, every home and business in the country will be able to get online with a minimum speed of 300MB per second. Given the record of the Spanish government with its infrastructure projects, I doubt there's a single person in Spain who believes this. Certainly not Sr Rajoy. The budget for this is said to be €500m. One wonders where this will end up and how much of it will be supplied by norther European taxpayers. 
Life in Spain
  • Post codes differ from country to country. The UK's have always seemed to me to be too complicated. In contrast, Spain's are simply 5 numbers. That said, I've seen 5 codes used in respect of my house – in tax documents, the local property register, the local list of property values (el Catastro) and the town hall. A quick search suggests the last 2 are no longer operative, probably superseded. And that the first 3 cover the (huge) Poio barrio and some of its parishes. I guess it makes sense to someone. Hopefully my postman most of all.
The USA
  • Here's an entertaining article on why Fart has been on a 'firing spree'. I'm pleased to see the author agrees with me that the best strategy is to make Fart angry - Insult him, challenge him, put him under pressure as this brings out his worst traits. I've proposed the simpler strategy of greeting him everywhere with huge placards simply shouting, LOSER. And then watch him explode. Or is it implode? Who cares. One or the other.
Spanish/Spanglish
  • Vodevil – Vaudeville.
Nutters Corner
  • Well, Flat-Earther and Rocket Man - “Mad” Mike Hughes - finally did get off the ground, in a homemade steam-powered rocket built in his garage. But he only got 571 metres (1,875 feet) into the stratosphere. Sadly, nowhere near high enough to see the curvature of the earth. Or to give him evidence of anything. His next project is a "Rockoon," - a rocket carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon - to take him about 68 miles up, so he can photograph the planet from space. All strength to his elbow. He might well be mad but the world would be a poorer place without him.
Social Media
  • Facebook: The latest 'revelation' - Facebook has collected detailed phone records of millions of users including who they spoke with or sent messages to and when. The company said it gained the permission of Android phone owners to gather this data when they signed up to Facebook apps and agreed to share their contacts. However, many users were taken by surpris
Galicia/Pontevedra
  • There was a bizarre fatal accident in Pontevedra's bus station last week, when a coach hit a woman waiting at a bay and pushed her into a pillar. It's hard to see how this could happen and the initial explanation is that there was a 'misunderstanding' between the driver and an employee, who was waiting to hand over a package. Not surprisingly, the driver is said to be devastated. Sorry to be cynical, but I'd be surprised if fault isn't eventually ascribed to the woman who died. Which tends to be the norm here. Presumably because compensation is then limited.
Finally
  • In a cobbler's shop, I asked for some brown shoe polish. The chap told me he didn't have any of the normal stuff and offered me something called grasa de cabayshos. This turned out to be Gallego for grasa de caballos. Or horse fat. I bought in on the assumption it was really saddle wax. But now I'm wondering whether it is actually made of equine fat.
© Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 26.3.18