Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Thoughts from Heald Green, Cheshire, England: 8.10.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish politics
Spanish Life
  • Hard to believe but it's reported that there are more smokers than ever in Spain - 34% of adults are said to indulge in this dirty and dangerous habit. Proving my thesis that nicotine kills those parts of the brain which would normally bring intelligence to bear on the issue. Sadly . . . Some of my best friends etc.
  • Short-term renting has made Ibiza Town the most expensive place to live in Spain, displacing San Sebastián, says El País here. Something must be done about relentless airbnbisation.
  • It is, as we know, illegal to ride a bike on the pavement in Spain - a law which is comprehensively ignored by all and sundry, including the police. But the arrival of e-bikes and e-scooters has forced the government to announce that - some time soon - it'll be illegal to both ride and park these - and normal bikes - on pavements. See ThinkSpain and The Olive Press on this development. Vamos a ver.
  • Meanwhile, The Local chose to illustrate its - more comprehensive - report with this foto. One wonders why:-

Galicia/Pontevedra Life
  • It had to happen . . . A 34 year old Pontevedra woman had been stopped and fined for riding an e-scooter on an autovía. In fact, she entered the motorway, crossed the lanes going south to Vigo, climbed over the central barrier and then rode northwards towards the exit I always use. There's a foto of her e-scooter - and the exit - here.
  • Here's a list of what Galicians consider their most iconic foods, headed by octopus covered in olive oil and paprika. Not my personal favourite. I suppose I should be encouraged that the dreadful percebes(goose barnacles) rank only 4th. BTW 1. . . I have no idea how a Betanzos tortilla differs from a standard tortilla. BTW 2 . . . Filloas are pancakes:-

Top of my personal lists would be churrasco and leche frita. Ribs and 'fried milk'

The UK/The EU/Brexit
  • Richard North today opines that the already slim chances of a deal are receding at warp speed. Anyone surprised?
The EU
  • There's a jaundiced view of this institution/empire below.
  • Apparently totally oblivious to irony, Trump is attacking Mitt Romney for criticizing his call with the Ukrainian president and calling for China to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In fact, he thinks Romney should be impeached for having the temerity to actually criticize him for something. . . . He’s just firing blindly in every direction now. But the sheer irony of him claiming that impeachment for him is unconstitutional, but others should be impeached for criticizing him is extraordinary.  Well, not really. No one is surprised at this madness any more.
  • The latest Ffart excuse for acting/not acting illegally.
  • Lying awake between 6 and 6.30 this morning, I thought I could hear banging next door. This turned out to be a supermarket delivery ordered by a daughter who forgot to set her alarm for 6. Now we have nothing to eat all day, apparently . . . Modern life. JIT cooking.

Why are/were the Brexiteers so angry, so determined to fight May's sell-out? 

One answer can be found in a fascinating paper by Matthias Matthijs, Craig Parsons and Christina Toenshoff, published in Comparative European Politics. It confirms that the Eurosceptics were right: the EU is in some ways now more centralised than the United States.

This is already true of the EU’s two flagship policy areas – the single market and the eurozone – where national differentiation and experimentation are now all but illegal, unlike in the US, where states have far more autonomy. America’s federal constraints in those areas are more flexible even though, paradoxically, the US economy is far more integrated than the European one, proving that harmonisation isn’t necessary to promote cross-border trade and mobility.

As the paper notes, US states face far less “central oversight over fiscal policy, current account rules, and structural reform than the eurozone”. A number of US federal agencies are responsible for the regulation and minimum standards of certain goods, such as toys, cars, food, alcohol, cigarettes, many chemicals and medical devices. But unlike in the EU, where all of these rules are also centralised, states can set higher standards if they choose to. California operates its own standards in 800 areas; the equivalent number for the UK is zero. On top of that, many US goods aren’t regulated by the federal government, so in those areas states have greater powers than EU members. Lifts(elevators)  are a case in point: different rules apply in different states.

As to services, the US is even more decentralised, with states imposing their own laws when it comes to everything from lawyers to architects. Last but not least, US states are freer when it comes to awarding public-sector contracts: it’s the very opposite of the EU, where countries are bound strictly by common rules. The US system is too protectionist and anti-competitive, and in need of drastic reforms, but the point is that the EU now operates more like a single country in many areas than even America. The extent of the centralisation has been extraordinary, and the process won’t end until all differences and all national self-government have been stamped out.

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