Thursday, March 05, 2020

Thoughts from Madrid, Galicia, Spain: 5.3.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain  

Note: I'm indebted to Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas for some of today's items.

Spanish Politics
  • I mentioned yesterday government plans to criminalise casual sexual harassment. Even more important are long-overdue changes to the law on rape. The BBC reports on these here.
Spanish/Galician Life 
  • I said a week or so ago that this was the season of the annual articles on Spain's disgraceful prostitution industry. Lenox this week writes that: [here] finds it odd that no one from officialdom wants to talk about the ‘clubs’ out on the highways . . . There are anything up to 40 or 50 thousand women working in these joints, yet, no one says anything . . . The club owners charge their ‘girls’ around 90€ a day for a room plus extras (including laundry) yet these (self-employed) women pay no social security and  often have no papers (their passport will be locked away) and no one to speaks for them.
  • An issue which the Spanish government really is interested in/worried about is rural depopulation. The Corner looks here at 30 planned measures to combat this.
  • Walking through Dos de Mayo square last night, it was hard to ignore the presence of 2 police horses and their riders. Plus the 2 large piles of their droppings. Of the horses, I mean. Not the riders. But, anyway, this was a tad ironic, as I'd just walked past a sign saying you'd be fined upwards of €750 for not taking away your (smaller pile of) dog poo.
  • Tim Parfitt's penultimate Say of the Day: 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. 
  • Astute readers - i. e. everyone - will have noted I've stopped inserting links to The local. This is because I'm now aware that articles behind their paywall can't be read. For this you have to become a subscriber/Member, which I think would be a very good move for anyone interested in matters Spanish outside the Costa del Sol. Yesterday I read a very nice piece there entitled What I wish I'd known before buying an off-grid ruin up a mountain in rural Spain but this, I believe, is behind the paywall. So, in compensation, here's info on the writer, Stephanie de Leng, and her blogs.
The EU/The UK/Brexit
  • Some interesting observations from the founder of Ryanair, the ineffable Ryan O'Leary:-
- What the fuck is coming up with fancy job titles like 'Commissioner for the European Way of Life' all about?
- As Europe moves away from its focus on an efficient single market and into all these political fucking squabbles and defence and immigration, it's hopeless. It's utterly fucking useless at delivering any of that.
  • And here's a response from Richard North: What O'Leary doesn't seem to realise is that the EU has always regarded the Single Market as means to an end, the end being to indulge in its geopolitical ambitions. Had it been any other way, Brexit might not even have happened.
  • Says an anti-disinformation organisation: While the volume of disinformation cases about the coronavirus levelled off this week, their creativity did not disappoint. Besides the now-customary claims that the virus is a US biological weapon that has been deployed against China, intentionally spread by US soldiers on Trump’s orders, numerous pro-Kremlin outlets also reported that Jackie Chan had contracted the virus at a private party and is presently under quarantine. The Hollywood references didn’t stop there: disinformation outlets exploited the parallels now being made to the movie “Contagion”, which tells the story of a fictional pandemic that kills 26m people in a single month. But RT took this comparison a step further, claiming that the film is evidence that the coronavirus is in fact an American invention and designed to selectively target America’s enemies. TBH, I've checked on the RT web site can't see evidence of this. Disinformation re disinformation?
The Way of the World 
  • Do you think you're transphobic and guilty of hate speech, or at least hate thought. If not, you're almost certainly wrong. Read the article below to find out why.
  • Correction: Yesterday's No me la trae el pairo should have been Me la trae al pairo. A statement, not a command. As it's idiomatic, it makes no sense, meaning (almost) literally: 'It puts me* on a static ship with collapsed sails'. In effect, 'You are boring me to death.
* Or maybe 'my penis'. Hence the inclusion of 'la'. An odd thing to be feminine, you might agree.
  • Related phrases are:-
- Me la trae al fresco
- Me la trae floja
- Me la suda
- Me la pela,
- Me la bufa
All of which, I believe, are abbreviated phrases which end with reference to the male member. Spanish discourse can be rather 'robust' . . .

Finally . . . 
  • I'd just like you to know that this post has been written despite the efforts of a 13 month old grandson to close my laptop so that I can concentrate entirely on him.
  • Thanks to the robust discourse of his Spanish father, I've little doubt the first word of said grandson will be Joder!

The Left would shamefully rather silence women than allow free speech on trans issues: Selina Todd

How on earth did we get to a point where the fight for freedom of expression is one that is owned entirely by the Right-wing of the UK’s political spectrum?

Throughout my life and my 34 years as a Labour Party member, it was Labour, not the Conservatives, who stood for the right to say and write whatever you wanted. And according to the collective (though often wrong) mindset of me and my comrades, it was the Tories – particularly Margaret Thatcher’s government – that wanted to repress investigative journalists and the right of elected MPs to speak with their own voices (Gerry Adams and every other Sinn Fein politician springs to mind).

If that analysis was wrong in the 1980s it has been totally shredded in this, the third decade of the 21st century. It was a Conservative commentator, Toby Young, who established the Free Speech Union to fight against the fashionable curtailing of free expression on our university campuses and elsewhere. Why didn’t such a task fall to a Left-wing figure? Have any current Labour MPs signed up to the union? I fear I know the answer.

Young’s organisation has come to the defence of Professor Selina Todd, a respected feminist historian who was “disinvited” from speaking at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ruskin College's inaugural Women's Liberation Conference, despite the fact that she helped organise it. No one will be surprised to learn that her sin was to be accused of being a “transphobe”, a term now so overused that it has been devalued to the point of meaninglessness.

Meanwhile, over at The Guardian, columnist Suzanne Moore became the subject of a heated editorial conference during which, according to the Guido Fawkes website, one member of staff walked out, claiming that she no longer felt safe in her job because of Moore’s published views on trans rights.

In both cases the “solution” trans activists and their supporters have in mind is to have these women “cancelled” – sacked, no-platformed, shunned and, most important of all, silenced. The ruin of an academic or journalist is a small price to pay for trans activists not to have to listen to opposing views that might upset them.

But in order for them to achieve their ends, two vital elements are necessary. The first is that language must be altered and manipulated so that words no longer mean what they used to mean. And so “transphobe”, which used to mean fear or hatred of trans people, now means anyone who believes in sex-based rights. If you believe in the biological fact of sex, that sex is not “assigned at birth” but is an inescapable physiological fact, then you are a transphobe.

Similarly, the term “hate speech” used to mean expressing views that encouraged violence against others, usually minorities. No longer. Feminists and others who question trans ideology but who do so while expressing solidarity with trans people and insist that they should never face discrimination in their professional or private lives, are guilty of hate crime because they believe that sex is more than a state of mind.

Even the dictionary definition of a woman – “an adult human female” – is now regarded as hate speech, whereas before it was a simple matter of fact.

The second element necessary for trans activists to achieve their ends is craven and gullible politicians. Almost the entirety of the Labour Party, most of the SNP, all the Liberal Democrats and even large portions of the Conservative Party have now bought into the notion that “transwomen are women”, without any qualification or caveat.

Who could have foreseen the absurdity of the Liberal Democrat leader at the last election, Jo Swinson, being stuck for words when asked by a radio phone-in caller how she would define a woman? Lisa Nandy, despite being by far the most impressive candidate in Labour’s leadership election, has declared that trans women that are physically male should be allowed to serve their prison time in a women’s prison if they choose. That policy didn’t work out well when rapist Karen White was sent to a women’s prison and then went on, to nobody’s surprise, to sexually assault female inmates.

And yet journalists and academics who speak up for women’s sex-based rights are accused of hate crimes and told to shut up.

When playwright Arthur Miller wanted to illustrate the threats to civil liberties posed by Senator Joe McCarthy’s communist witch-hunts in the 1950s, he wrote The Crucible, drawing violent and appallingly relevant parallels with the Salem witch burnings of 1692. McCarthyism used to be something the British Left had the moral integrity to attack without accusations of hypocrisy. But there is a new McCarthyism abroad and it is one that is promoted by the “progressive” Left.

It is possible to call yourself a liberal and it is possible to oppose the rights of Professor Todd and Ms Moore to express their opinions. It is not possible to do both.

Academic and journalistic freedom is under threat from those who believe that political ideology trumps biology and science. Our language is being cynically mangled so that words now mean the opposite of what they used to. Politicians are proposing policies that put women in serious physical danger. Those who believe that defending trans people from discrimination and maintaining same-sex spaces are not contradictory aims are dismissed as Terfs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists).

If our politicians continue to refuse to stand up for sense, sex and science, then it falls to the likes of Toby Young and the Free Speech Union to do so. But why the Left is unwilling to answer that call is genuinely beyond me.

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