Thursday, February 07, 2019

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 7.2.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
  • Here's The Local's  bucket list for Spain.
  • Spain continues to be the favourite Mediterranean destination for economic migrants.
  • As previously reported, Spain has turned full circle on solar heating  both generally and on private panels in particular. If I'd agreed with my neighbour 10 years ago to install panels on our shared roof and then been penalised by the government, I'd feel very annoyed now.
  • The British Ambassador gives some belated advice to Brits on the Costa del Sol.
  • And The Local helps here with advice on how to go further and get Spanish citizenship. [Sorry: Just realised this is for paid-up members only.]
  • In connection with some change my ex-employer is making to how they manage the pension fund, I had to go to the main post office yesterday to get €11.13(10 quid, I guess) via Western Union. I think to prove I was still alive. Anyway, having waited 15 minutes for my number to come up on the screen, I then spent another 15 minutes dealing with the clerk before she told me that neither my old NIE card nor my driving licence were proof of my identity. She suggested my UK ID card and then fell off the chair - the standard Spanish reaction - when I told her there was no such thing. I'll have to go back with the only thing she would accept - as there's a box for it on her screen - my passport. TBH, I really should have anticipated this and taken the passport with me, por si acaso. Or perhaps a notarised copy of it. Which, in fact I do have. So, I will try this next time. With my passport in my pocket.
The EU
  • Given the various - very different - member stances and actions on Venezuela, I wouldn't like to be the EU's Foreign Minister. Or High Representative for Foreign Affairs, as she's called. Where's the unity on foreign matters here? Can anyone see it happening within, say, 20 years?
The EU, the UK and Brexit
  • Re Mr Tusk's remark about a place in hell for clueless Brexiteers, here's Richard North this morning: Needless to say, this has provoked a storm of protest. . .  Of course, what really must hurt is the simple fact that Tusk is right. 
  • Need I repeat that North did have a realistic plan - for a very gradual exit (the Flexcit) - but this was studiously ignored by the extremists who were allowed to drive the process. And then, he says, Mrs May launched the Article 50 process without the first idea of where it was going to take us. Through the entire process, she has been a study in negativity, knowing what she didn't want, but failing at any time to express to the EU precisely what she did want.
  • Needless, perhaps, to say, RN thinks Mrs May should be joined in hell by, inter alia, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn.
  • All that said, RN stresses: Dwelling on this isn't going to get us very far. One wonders what Donald Tusk expected to achieve by his remark.  . .  If this is taken as a signal, it says that the EU has virtually given up hope of achieving anything from Mrs May's visit, and they don't care who knows it. If so, he doesn't blame them for making this crystal clear.
  • A year or two after I posted the same view here, Bill Maher - the host of one of the terrific late night satirical shows in the USA - has pronounced that the best weapon to use agains Fart is ridicule. See here at 20 seconds in. This, of course, is why I refer to Trump as Fart.
  • Talking of humour . . . It's almost funny to hear probably the most divisive president in US history talking of unity. See the article below on this.
  • The art of debunking Fart. According to a US newspaper, during 745 days in office, Fart has made 8,459 false or misleading claims. They don't make politicians like that any more. Oh, hang on . . . 
Social Media¡
  • Private Eye again: A recent article in the 'Journal of Behavioural Addiction' - headlined "Excessive social media users demonstrate impaired decision making - suggests that heavy users of Facebook display similar behavioural hallmarks to this addicted to cocaine and heroin."
  • Word of the Day: Dulce¡
Finally . . .
  • Can you credit that 11% of Brits have a plan in case of a zombie attack? Mind you, it might be close to 100% of Fart supporters. Who currently number c. 35% of the US population, it's reported. Quite a large number . . .

State of the union: Trump’s address urged unity but was laced with divisive rhetoric. David Charter

There was a lot of talk of coming together, compromise and co-operation in Donald Trump’s script.

His speech was also memorably bookended with moving tributes to impressive Americans that everyone in his divided audience could applaud — war heroes, an astronaut, a wounded cop and a young cancer survivor raising funds for others.

In the long middle section, however, were the familiar divisive portrayals of immigrants as violent criminals and Mr Trump’s insistence on his border wall, as well as a new call for an end to late-term abortions, all designed to appeal to his base and infuriate Democrats.

If his list of achievements last night sounded familiar, that is because many of Mr Trump’s greatest hits — moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, ending a key part of Obamacare, massive tax cuts, better healthcare for veterans — were all in the first year of his administration. Beyond the very steady hand on the economy, this year’s speech was a reminder that the pace of “promises made, promises kept” has dramatically slowed down. The plans he set out for the coming year were even more threadbare.

Mr Trump’s key objectives are the same ones he put at the centre of last year’s state of the union: immigration reform and infrastructure investment. He added a twist in this year’s speech when he called for a new approach to healthcare to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. This was a surprising attempt to co-opt the policy credited with helping the Democrats’ success in the midterms. Whether Mr Trump means to make progress or simply try to neutralise a key weakness before the 2020 election, Democrats are unlikely to co-operate in sinking any more of the flagship legislation of the Obama era.

This was a state of the union which betrayed an administration without any real sense of momentum, despite some finely crafted oratory.

“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.”

That ticked all the rhetorical boxes but ultimately meant little in the mouth of a president who finds it so hard to compromise and is more comfortable on the attack. All political leaders employ speechwriters but these lines did not seem like the authentic voice of Donald Trump. The loss of the House of Representatives in November and the arrival of a cadre of radical new Democrats makes the words ring even more hollow.

There is another reason for the lack of direction. A cloud hangs over Mr Trump and his administration in the form of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. His report, due to be finalised in the coming weeks, could break the Trump presidency or lift a heavy burden of suspicion, and will be this year’s real state of the union.

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