Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 20.2.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
            Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spain
  • Those who've read his article yesterday will know that Giles Trimlett, who loves Spain, is not blind to its faults/challenges. Hence the sad reference to one of Europe’s most corrupt and unequal societies.  
  • Bad news, if you're with Vodafone here.
  • Beautiful places to visit in springtime.
  • This appalling-looking dish is one of my favourites - choco en su tinta. Squid in its own ink. Never was there a bigger gap between appearance and taste. Though I guess percebes would be another candidate, if I could stand them. At least the durian fruit looks tasty:-

  • And here's the chap - Mikele - who owns the bar in question, Estrella, which is just down from the main square. He used to be my favourite waiter - in the bar next door - but is now my favourite bar owner. For reasons indiscernible to me, he's a great hit with the ladies.

UK Politics
  • Inevitably, a lot has been written about the defections from the Labour Party, this morning 8*:-
  • Rachel Sylvester: The political Rubik’s Cube has been scrambled by Brexit and now red, blue, yellow and green are all muddled up. At Westminster, the party whipping system is all but defunct as Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs form alliances to defeat the government. With cultural and generational differences becoming more important than the old left-right divides, the traditional parties look increasingly obsolete.
  • According to a recent YouGov poll, 68% of voters say that none of the mainstream parties represents them. In these uncertain times, one thing is clear: there is a gap in the political market on the centre ground. The new independent group of MPs is the first step towards it being filled.
  • The decision of 7 Labour MPs to quit the party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership marks a seismic moment in our rolling national political crisis.  . . . There’s little doubt that in holding out the prospect of creating a new party they are responding to what appears to be a deep public appetite for an alternative to the traditional parties. What remains unclear is whether any group drawn from different political traditions will be able to agree a set of policies around which it can coalesce and which can attract the interest of voters.
  • Some are heralding the creation of the so-called Independent Group as the start of a new political era akin to the one started by Emmanuel Macron in France. Others are predicting that the bid to blow up Britain’s two-party system is bound to end in tears. The truth is we’ll have to wait and see.  More here on the question of whether this is Britain'sd Macron moment..
* Plus 3 Conservative MPs as at midday today.

The USA
The World
  • Stop the online conspiracy theorists before they break democracy. Sampler: Ahead of the European parliamentary elections this May, the virality of conspiracy theories about the EU and the political establishment provides a fertile playground for populist parties. Groups such as Q Europe, Q Britannia and Q Deutschland are already gearing up to influence voting behaviour in a crucial election that will determine the future of the European project. But . . . Governments and big tech firms are slowly starting to push back against the systematic diffusion of disinformation.
Social Media
  • Mark Zuckerberg, who “continues to choose profit over data security,” held [the British] parliament in contempt. His rambling empire is portrayed as lying, thieving “digital gangsterism”. Yet British electoral law is puny. It is “unfit for purpose,” leaving elections “vulnerable to foreign influence, disinformation and voter manipulation”. Not a week passes without evidence that cybersecurity is inadequate and public services have been left vulnerable to hacking. As for the usual comfort blankets of a code of ethics, an independent regulator and “more transparency”. We have sought them for a decade and still not found them. The real question is, why not? The Germans are so ahead of Britain that they have Facebook staff fact-checking frantically, taking down material. America is steeling itself for a monopoly-busting assault on Silicon Valley. The Russians are running wild round the regulators. The Chinese are pioneering web “repatriation”, in effect blocking anything they consider unsuitable.  One thing is for sure. In years to come, the present painful, stumbling, inept steps towards regulating cyberspace will seem laughable. The only question is how much damage will be done before this vast, monopolistic industry is brought to heel.
Spanish
  • Word of the Day:  Anochecer

Finally . . .
  1. I learnt this morning that the 14th century poem - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight  - was written in the Cheshire dialect of the time, which would have been largely incomprehensible to Londoners speaking contemporary Chaucerian English. As Cheshire is my patria chica, I must have a stab at it.
  2. No, they didn't repair the deep potholes in the tarmac on the bridge over the AP9 yesterday.

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