Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 10.4.18

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 v Cataluña
  • Personally, I find it hard to understand why anyone would think that the German court would regard Sr Puigdemont as being guilty of rebellion/sedition. But it seems to have come as an immense shock in certain quarters of Spanish society. Perhaps those most influenced by quasi/neoFrancoist thinking. Some of the (very angry) comments:-
- Spain has been humiliated and disgraced.
- Spain's democratic credentials have been seriously questioned. Exposed as a sham, even.
- Germany has shafted Spain and will pay a price for this. (Or words to that effect)

All a bit OTT to me.

  • It was suggested last week we'd know that Sra Cifuentes would survive the accusations of criminal fraud if President Rajoy was photographed greeting her at the PP convention last weekend. Guess what happened. . . . . Cristina Cifuentes received a show of support.  . .  Close ranks and turn on the fan: the PP has resorted to its old technique for dealing with alleged corruption by one of its own, illustrating its scant disposition to combat bad practices that are deplored by all Spaniards.
  • Poor Sr Rajoy. His party is falling in the polls and he can't get a budget approved. One commentator referred to the weekend convention as “the PP party's funeral”. As if that weren't bad enough, a poll suggests that that 84% of Spaniards feel his time is over. There's even a majority in his own party. Will he go? Unlikely. He's a very stubborn Gallego. A Galician's Galician.
  • As El Pais has put it: The PP is showing unequivocal signs of being unable to deal with the decline reflected in all the polls. The party has always played with time as a way to deal with problems. And it continues to do so now, failing to understand that the times have changed, and that its own mistakes and lack of reflexes may not go unnoticed at the ballot box the way they used to.  A dinosaur, in other words. But will Ciudadanos be much better?
Life in Spain
  • In a harsh – but justifiable – comment yesterday, reader María referred to one Jiménez Losantos, a popular rightwing agitator. He has an interesting background:- During the early 1970s, Losantos was an active anti-Francoist member in different illegal maoist and communist organizations based in Barcelona. He grew disillusioned with the communist creed after a journey to communist China triggered a complete reversal of his political stance. Now he defines himself as 'classic liberal', while opponents accuse him of being close to the European hard right. His views can be close to those of right libertarianism. He is founder and editor of the self-styled 'libertarian' newspaper Libertad Digital. He is also a regular columnist for El Mundo and has written several books, mostly on political topics. He has been successfully prosecuted on a number of occasions for defamatory pronouncements. He has his own radio station, esRadio. Must give it a listen.
  • On a lighter note . . . Two more lists from The Local:-

The EU
  • Below is an article by someone who admits he's pessimistic about the EU's near-term economic prospects. We'll soon know, of course. Particularly about the impact of the cessation of 'quantitative easing'. Which is what printing free money is called these days.
  • As for today's big challenge . . . The crushing victory of Viktor Orban in this weekend’s parliamentary elections confronts the EU - yet again - with its own impotence when it comes to dealing with the burgeoning ‘illiberal democracy’ on its eastern flank. It is simply impossible to square the conduct of this election and the deepening capture of the Hungarian state and civil society with those “European Values” which Hungary signed up to at accession. Are major Western governments, including Germany which has a strategic interest in Hungary, prepared to condemn the onward slide towards autocracy? Unlikely.
  • Once again I'm left wondering at how intelligent people could ever think that countries of vastly different political, economic, cultural, religious, ethical and linguistic backcloths could be rapidly fused into a single superstate. As I look around me, I see the consequences of the ludicrous euro ambitions and its 'internal devaluation' on the whole of Greek society and on the young of Spain. But I appreciate that others are more optimistic than I am. As to who's realistic, . . well, we're back to the passage of time. Meanwhile, of course, the EU has made an awful lot of powerful Spaniards very rich indeed. One way and another. Shame about the poor. And the young who have to emigrate to get work.
The USA/Nutters Corner
  • This is Fart's reaction to the FBI raid on the offices of the lawyer who arranged the NDA with Stormy Daniels: It's a disgrace, a new level of unfairness and an attack on our country in a true sense. He'll be calling it heresy soon. There's clearly no limit to the man's ego. Nor to his need for support from crazy evangelists. 
  • This is the chap who insists Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) was born a stone's throw from my house, alongside his book. 

  • And this is a foto of the car of Pontevedra's biggest optimist, which I passed when walking down to town yesterday. After 2 months of ceaseless rain and ahead of forecasts of at least another 2 weeks of the stuff, (s)he has a reflector on the dashboard to prevent the sun heating it up . . .

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 10.4.18


The eurozone is already heading back into recession – and that could be catastrophic: Matthew Lynn

Retail sales are falling sharply. Industrial production is slumping. Construction is sluggish and the government is weak and clueless with little idea of how to respond to falling demand. No, don’t worry, you haven’t accidentally stumbled across a hardcore remoaner rant about a declining, irrelevant Britain. That is actually a description of what is meant to be the eurozone’s strongest economy – Germany.

Very few people seem to have noticed it yet but there are worrying signs the exporting powerhouse at the centre of the eurozone is slowing down sharply. True, it might only be a blip. Then again, that is how most recessions start. If that is what is happening, and the evidence is mounting all the time, then it will be catastrophic for the whole single currency area. No progress has been made on reform, policy responses are limited and electorates are exhausted by austerity. One more downturn might be the last.

Most mainstream economists have bought into the story that the eurozone is booming this year. Led by a powerful Germany, with France reviving under president Macron, and with a central bank that is still pumping the economy with printed money and near-zero interest rates, production has been rising and joblessness finally falling. Heck, even Italy and Greece have been growing again. Investors have been pouring cash into the continent, and the currency has been soaring, as anyone planning a holiday in France or Spain will quickly discover.

But hold on. There are some suspicious numbers emerging that don’t quite fit that narrative. Start with Germany. This week we learnt retail sales dropped by 0.7pc in February. They have fallen in six of the last eight months and all of the last three. On Friday, industrial production figures showed output down by 1.6pc, the largest monthly fall in three years. Factory orders came in way below expectations this week, with a mere 0.3pc rebound after the 3.5pc drop in January, and construction spending is also down. In fact, the only part of the German economy still expanding is its export industry, but even that is under threat.

At the same time, Angela Merkel’s patched-together Grand Coalition seems unlikely to respond with any form of stimulus, while Germany will be the biggest loser from Donald Trump’s trade wars.

True, employment growth is still OK (although rather like this country, nearly all the new jobs go to lowly paid immigrants). But that is not a leading indicator like retail sales and factory output. “We are not calling for a recession in Germany … yet”, argued High Frequency Economics in a note this week. “We are suggesting that the peak of economic growth for this cycle has been realised.” Once you are passed a peak, of course, then the only way is down.

Across the eurozone as a whole, the outlook is not looking much better. Retail sales for the whole region rose a mere 0.1pc in February compared to the 0.5pc forecast. France is especially weak, with retail stagnant, and a nasty 1.9pc fall in household real income for January and for the year as a whole. A long summer of strikes is not going to help that economy, especially as its huge tourist industry needs the trains and planes running again to prosper.

Over in Italy, there is at least some growth, which is a miracle given its experience of the single currency, but the jobs numbers came in below expectations this month. None of those figures fit the picture of an economy that is booming. In fact they look increasingly like one that is heading into a German-led downturn.

In truth, the growth of the last two years has been mostly an illusion. The European Central Bank has chucked 2.2 trillion of freshly printed euros at the economy and slashed interest rates as close to zero as it can possibly get. It would be extraordinary if that amount of cash didn’t stimulate some kind of revival. But the key question was always this: would quantitative easing kick-start a genuine recovery, as it has in the United States, or to a more limited extent in the UK? Or would it, as it has in Japan for 20 years, merely generate a feeble revival that almost immediately runs out of steam?

Right now, it is starting to look as if we have the answer. The eurozone is another Japan. After all, without a strong Germany, the region can’t grow. It accounts for 23pc of the zone’s GDP and has created 38pc of the new jobs in Europe over the last five years. And Germany has stopped expanding.

The last recession led to a dramatic crisis within the eurozone. Greece, Ireland and Portugal had to be bailed out, and Spain and Italy came within a whisker of the same fate. The next one will be far harder.

There have been no meaningful reforms to make the single currency work better. Indeed, in the background, the imbalances have grown even worse, with Germany’s shocking trade surplus draining demand from the rest of the continent. The ECB is out of policy responses. The banking system looks in worse shape than ever (suspiciously, Deutsche Bank’s shares keep hitting fresh lows – almost as if something was up in its home market). In the peripheral countries, voters are exhausted by austerity and low growth. In the core, Angela Merkel now looks too weak to impose a solution should a fresh crisis erupt.

In truth, a fresh recession may well be terminal. Of course, it may not happen. The latest data may just be a few rogue figures, followed by a swift recovery as most mainstream forecasters still predict. Even so, the warning signs are clear enough. The markets are ignoring them right now. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real – and if they are the eurozone is heading for big trouble.


Perry said...

A little Ocker humour to while away the hours.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Hhhmmmm... I am of course no lawyer, as you are. But if declaring the independent republic of Catalonia is not a case of sedition and / or rebellion, then what is??


Perry said...

My nom de plume elsewhere means another term for spontaneous generation.

Abiogenesis April 11, 2018 at 1:52 am

The Coefficient of Friction (CoF) of LA roads will be changed for the worse by this coating & sun glare from the surface of the roads will be dangerously increased. Slippery roads in the wet & no white lane lines! Are lane marking paints manufactured in black? I’m very impressed with mental faculties the far sighted geniuses who came up with this idea. Motor insurers will certainly seek reimbursement from the city of LA for vehicle repairs & as for personal injury claims as a result of this “whitening” of the streets, the mind boggles. What will “Black lives matter” say & do about this obvious racially motivated stunt is anyone’s guess? Cof, Cof!!!!!!


Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

Colin Davies said...

Definitions will differ, depending on how much free speech is valued/tolerated in a state.


'Sedition is the crime of revolting or inciting revolt against government. However, because of the broad protection of free speech under the First Amendment, prosecutions for sedition are rare. Nevertheless, sedition remains a crime in the United States under a federal statute that punishes seditious conspiracy, and another which outlaws advocating the overthrow of the federal government BY FORCE. Generally, a person may be punished for sedition only when he or she makes statements that create a Clear and Present Danger to rights that the government may lawfully protect

Given the PP party's attitude to free speech, you'd expect it to have a wider definition/interpretation than that of the USA.

Or even of modern states that have learned their lesson, like Germany. But, again, unlike Spain, where old habits have yet to die.

Colin Davies said...