Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 16.1.18

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.

Cataluña
  • Here's news of developments in a major case of corruption there. Not much different from any other part of Spain in this respect, of course. Except, perhaps, that it's small beer. Laughably small in the case of Andalucia,
Spain
  • Here and here is the latest news on the Rajoy-Puigdemont stand-off. Pretty predictable. And unpromising.
  • It's not only Fart who's cheesed off with the Mexicans, it's reported.
  • Yesterday, it seems, was Blue Monday. When we're all supposed to feel more depressed than on any other day of the year. Perhaps because I know quite a bit about real depression, it passed me by. And I found myself agreeing with this article this morning. 
  • We may be only 16 days into 2018 but here's The Local's 7th list of the year. This time on reasons to be happy you live in Spain.
Portugal
  • It seems to be a feature of Portuguese towns and cities that solitary men above, say, 40 stand/sit around the centre doing nothing but chewing the cud and gazing at passers-by. Where are these lonely men in other cities around the world?
The EU
  • There's been a meeting of the Med members of the EU to discuss matters of common interest. The nations involved are Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Portugal and France. They're all worried about the reduction in subsidies after a Brexit. So there was naturally a lot of talk about solidarity. This, of course, is EU-speak for 'other peoples' money'. I couldn't help noticing that, with the possible exception of France, the word 'corruption' springs to mind in every case.
Spanish and English
  • Here's another short-long comparison: English: The slip road. Three syllables. Spanish: La carril de incorporación. Ten syllables. No wonder Spanish speakers talk fast.
  • By the way, as I was approaching one large roundabout on the way out of Oporto yesterday, the Spanish voice on my satnav barked out instructions not 3 but 5 times in rapid succession. Grrrr.
Social Media
  • News of a potenially useful app, at least for university students.
Galicia
  • The most dangerous stretch of motorway driving in Spain turns out to be on the A55 between Vigo and Porriño. This is a 60-80kph section which snakes up/down hill through several sharp bends. Worried about the accident statistics, the Galician Xunta a few years ago constructed a spur of the A9 which goes across the top of the hils and so bypasses this invitation to incidents. As you drive through one of the bends on the A55, you can see it above you on the skyline - totally empty. This is because it's a pretty expensive toll road. Possibly useful if you want to bear right to go to Bayona on the coast but not essential for getting to Porriño. Nor, indeed, Tui, Ourense, Madrid or Portugal. This is all a prelude to me saying that I've read that - facing up to the reality of their stupidity - the Xunta is now planning a tunnel. Presumably to be paid for by Madrid. Or maybe Brussels. I wonder if they've considered the possibly cheaper option of lifting the toll fee.
Finally
  • Driving into Oporto on Friday evening, I entered the right hand lane of a major road ahead of turning right. The cars in the left hand lane moved rapidly past me while those in mine were virtually stationery. I assumed there was a filter light which only worked briefly. But, after several frustrating minutes, I realised I was in the queue for a bloody MacDonalds drive-through. On a main road! Where are the Spanish traffic police when you really need them?
Today's Cartoon


Monday, January 15, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 15.1.18

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
  • More bad news for the PP party and Sr Rajoy in particular. The sails of the newish centre-party Ciudadanos – not yet implicated in any corruption – are full of wind. And, for its part, the far-left-of-centre Podemos party seems to be losing out to the more moderate PSOE socialist party.  A flight to the centre?
  • War has been declared down in Andalucia. But, happily, only against obesity.
Portugal
  • As I've noted before, the ticket system on the Oporto metro must be one of the more challenging in the world. So, queues(lines) are to be expected, as each newcomer wrestles with the instructions. Especially when – as at the busy interchange of Trinidade – there's only 1 machine. Or where – as at the much less busy Casa da Música – there are 3 machines but only 1 of them takes notes. Yesterday, when the Scandinavian couple in front of us finally got to the machine at Trinidade they turned to us in desperation for help. Which I was pleased to provide, of course.
  • To other western europeans, Portuguese is often alleged to sound more like an east european tongue than a Romance language. So, I wasn't too surprised yesterday when the Russian owner of a café said that she and her compatriots found it much easier to get their tongues round Portuguese sounds than, say, Brits or Germans.
The USA-cum-Nutters-Corner
  • The ever-obliging Mr Trump:- I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. How does he know these things he's always boasting about with such conviction?
  • As it happens, I've just read this comment to a Times article, giving one answer to my question: You know what? I'm not sure he is a racist. I'm not even sure he's a liar. The bloke is a moron who only has a few strategies to deal with a world that he's too dim to understand in any depth. He attacks anyone who's in his way, using whatever he sees as the most accessible pressure point; so Hillary's crooked, Obama's not an American, Mexicans are rapists, etc. If a racist slurs work best, that's what he'll use. In any given moment he'll say whatever he thinks will progress him to the next bit of the conversation; he has no ideas whether it's true or not, and he'll contradict himself tomorrow without embarrassment. He doesn't lie, he bullshits. It's not the same. A debatable point, I think.
Galicia
  • This is a good story but I do wonder if it's true, even if all the signs suggest it is. 
  • Then again, I've just found this. It's ever harder to distinguish fact from fiction.
  • Here, courtesy of my friend David, is something on my favourite white wine of the moment, Godello. 
Finally
  • In these days of coffee cassettes and the like, it seems impossible to find simple paper filters in supermarkets. But I can advise that a clean handkerchief – assuming you're old-fashioned enough to use one – is a pretty good – if messy – substitute.
  • When I quit Facebook last week, I put a message there saying that one alternative for accessing my posts would be Google Plus. Checking this morning, I see the readership number has gone from 58 last year to 57 now. So, I'm assuming all my FB readers have taken up the other option of an RSS reader . . . .
Today's Cartoon

Millions of years of evolution, just to lose our hair.
P. S I suspect the face is that of a Catalan secessionist . . .

P. P. S. From a site called The Pride of Spain.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 14.1.18

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.

Cataluña
  • Plans continue for an in absentia election of Sr P as the Catalan president. Farcial but very serious.
Spain
  • Here's an article which, a propos Cataluña, casts an eye over the key players, assesses where they go from here and asks: What does this outcome mean for the key political actors, both in Catalonia and across Spain? Stating the rather obvious, the writer concludes: Not for the first time in the past few months, Spain is in uncharted waters The option that would appear to satisfy the greatest number would be meaningful constitutional reform which would grant new powers, especially over taxation, to Catalonia. But this is a route beset with obstacles which would require deft political manoeuvring and compromise from a variety of actors. At this point in  time, that kind of arrangement seems unlikely. Perhaps the only really surprising point made is that the PP grande legume likely to fall on a sword might not be the hapless Sr Rajoy but his hitherto all-powerful VP, the 'poisoned dwarf', Soraya Saenz de Santamaria
  • Here's an article - really about the mad situation in Greece - which endorses my view that there are so many pharmacies in Spain because the cartel keeps them all very profitable. Greece, in effect, is just competition-evading Spain writ much, much larger. In contrast, look at the Danish stats!
  • And here's something kindly supplied by reader Sierra, under the label Only in Spain?.
The EU
  • Here's the EU sceptic Don Quijones on the empire's  (mad?) expansion plans.
  • And here's news of rank-breaking among EU members around Brexit. Currently no larger than a man's hand on the horizon. One of them - Gib notwithstanding - is Spain. Rather unexepected.
The USA
  • According to a source close to the US president:- Donald Trump cancelled a proposed visit to London to open America’s new embassy because he believed he had “not been shown enough love” by the British government. This is hardly surprising, given how much affection he oozes for others and how loveable this nothing-if-not-sensitive man is.
  • Detail of the global challenge of translating Fart's bons mots.
  • This says it all: The prospect of a television celebrity with no political experience reaching the White House would have been laughed at even two years ago but Trump’s shock 2016 victory has guaranteed that “Oprah 2020” is being taken deadly seriously. But: If the Democrats go for Oprah Winfrey next time, they will be doubling down on the identity politics of gender and race which is dividing the country. The very fact that her furious feminist Golden Globes speech should be regarded as a presidential election bid tells you everything you need to know about the state of American political debate.
The UK
  • At the end of this post, there's an article from an even bigger eurosceptic whom I've been following since at least 2000. He gives us the real reason why De Gaulle twice vetoed UK membership of the Common Market, which was all the EU Project was back then. At least for public consumption. The reality was very different but electors couldn't be trusted with the truth until years later, after the build-up of momentum. 
Nutters Corner
  • One of the comments arising from the Golden Globes farce: I felt sorry for McGowan, watching her cause and her people — the losers — being cannibalised by a bunch of painted vampires. The seriousness of this attempt at “activism” can be summed up by the words of Stone’s make-up artist, who claimed she had “imbued” her client’s purple eyeshadow “with the message of female empowerment and solidarity” by using colours “inspired by the suffragettes”
Finally
  • This is Oporto's famous Café Majestic – where, these days, you have to queue to get in:-


The prices are stratospheric but worth it, at least once, if you want to savour the décor and the ambience. Nowadays, at least half of the clients doing this are Asian. These 2 preferred to spend the entire half an hour they were there ignoring the place's attractions, never once raising their eyes from, I supposed, a game which needed them to share the earpieces of the cable plugged into one phone.



THE ARTICLE

The horrifying true story of how France used the EU to undermine British agriculture: Christopher Booker

Michael Gove’s recent musings about Britain’s post-Brexit farming policy provide an apt cue to recall one of the most curious episodes in the entire history of the EU: the true origins of its notorious Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The shocking story behind this only emerged when, some years back, Richard North and I were researching our history of the EU, The Great Deception. And much else this also helped to explain, from the real reason Charles de Gaulle twice vetoed British entry in the Sixties to why Margaret Thatcher had to battle for our budget rebate in the Eighties.

The official, entirely bogus version has it that the CAP was devised by a benevolent Brussels to guarantee Europe’s “food security” and to save its farmers from the kind of depression they had suffered in the Thirties.

The truth is that, immediately after the war, all Western European countries, including Britain, introduced their own farm subsidies. But by the early Sixties this was leading in France to disaster, building up unsaleable food surpluses at such an unaffordable cost that a drastic solution had to be found.

The clever French noted that the Treaty of Rome promised a Common Agricultural Policy but without giving any details. So their answer was to devise a CAP so absurdly loaded in France’s favour that two other countries would not only provide a market for its surpluses but pay for subsidising them into the bargain. Those countries were Germany and Britain, which by then had announced its intention to join the Common Market.

But the UK had to be kept out until all these arcane financial arrangements had been agreed. Otherwise Britain, with then the most efficient agricultural sector in Europe, might well block such a one-sided deal: hence the real reason for de Gaulle’s two vetoes in 1963 and 1967. Only in 1969, at a summit in The Hague, did the French finally get the agreement they wanted. The very next item on the agenda was to reconsider Britain’s application to join.

The following year, Edward Heath was so keen to get us into “Europe” that he accepted the CAP without demur. In 1973, the year we went in, British farm incomes were higher in real terms than ever before or since. But so loaded against us were the financial arrangements for the CAP that, by 1979, it was clear that within six years the UK would be the largest single net contributor to the Brussels budget, of which the CAP was then taking 90 per cent: hence Mrs Thatcher’s five-year battle to win her rebate.

Since then, much of British agriculture has been in decline. We now import 30 per cent of our food from the EU. Much of it comes from France, which continues to be the largest beneficiary of the CAP.

It may seem odd that this strange story is not better known. But the Brits have never really understood the bizarre form of government we have lived under for 44 years: which is why we are now making such a horrifying mess of our efforts to leave it. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thoughts from Galiaica: 13.118

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
  • Especially for student readers, here's The Local's list of 10 reasons you should do your gap year here in Spain.
  • Not to be outdone, here's Eye on Spain's list of 50 curious facts about Spain. Most of them are things to be proud of but no. 37 is normally called 'piracy'; number no. 47 could be better phrased;  and no. 49 is shameful.
  • Rather more seriously, here's an interesting Spanish perspective on the spat between the French and Anglo women over male sexism. It's in Spanish but there's a tarted up Google translation at the end of this post.
The USA
  • So, President Fart has cancelled his trip to the UK 'for personal reasons'. In other words the thin-skinned bully and braggart is so slighted he's prepared to insult – again – his closest ally. Of course, there's also the fact that no one could give him the guarantee he demanded that no one one would protest against him. So he took the coward's way out. Getting re-elected by his core base seems to be the only thing he really cares about. And why not? It's been very good for business.
Nutters Corner
  • One of those holy but wealthy US pastors – Cindy Jacobs - says that God will smite the North Korean leader soon unless he converts to Christianity. Read her loony words here.
Social Media
  • If you haven't been sufficiently terrified by the articles todate, try this one. I wonder how anyone can stay on Facebook after reading it.
Pontevedra
  • The new mobile radar machines are reported have been a major success in their first month, even though they collared only 1% of drivers who passed them. The 2 most profitable stretches have been wide roads on the way out of the city where you might be forgiven for thinking the 50kph limit had ended. I took a look at one of them yesterday – a four-lane highway where there are no residential properties and where the council clearly couldn't afford to put up a 50kph sign on the exit road. Though, strange to relate, there is one on the other side of the central reservation, where the road approaches the city. Just before the 30kph sign.
Finally
  • I had more fun with my satnav/GPS) in Oporto last night. My Garmin – in Spanish at least – has the very annoying habit of telling you 3 times in quick succession how you are to negotiate a roundabout. Which gives me plenty of time to realise that the English 2-syllable instruction Keep Left needs a total of 10 syllables in Spanish – Manténgase a la izquierda. Imagine this said rapidly 3 times in the space of 20-30 seconds and you'll understand why I shout at my satnav. Keep right is a bit shorter. Well, only one syllable in fact.
  • I ordered a book through Amazon UK last week. Two associate companies offered it in paperback at a low price. But one wanted more than €9 euros for packing and posting, against 5 for the other one. It's bad enough paying this amount if the book arrived within 2 to 3 days. But after more than 2 weeks?
  • A sentiment I totally agree with: Champagne is only good for cleaning drains. Like foie gras, lobster and oysters, the drink of the super-rich is just a naff and ghastly attempt at one-upmanship. Plus it gives me a headache.
Today's Cartoon



THE ARTICLE

Catherine Deneuve vs Oprah Winfrey: Woman against woman. José María Robles

Feminism is split by the reaction to cases of abuse uncovered in Hollywood

Oprah's 'outraged' is Catherine Denueve, who calls them "puritans"

In Spain it is seen as a "train clash" between visions up to now near. «If I were a man right now, I would lock myself in my studio to watch porn on the internet for a while. Real women would not merit taking the risk of destroying my career. Is that what we want? "Asks the female American journalist and writer Lionel Shriver. "MeToo has become a campaign that does not allow dissent," says Claire Fox, founder of the British Institute of Ideas.

Like them, many other women with a public profile have wanted to make their voices heard 4 months after the first complaint of sexual abuse against producer Harvey Weinstein. They are testimonies that contrast with the speech of the presenter Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes gala this Sunday and which testify that the feminist movement is producing a clash of sensitivities.

The frictions have even jumped from the US to Europe. «Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is chivalry macho aggression”, the actress Catherine Deneuve and a hundred French artists and intellectuals wrote yesterday in the newspaper Le Monde.

They are critics of the "puritanism" of the campaign against harassment with the hashtag #MeTo, which in her view makes women "eternal victims", and supporters of the men's "freedom to bother", and they insist they don't feel represented by “that feminism that, way beyond the denunciation of abuses of power, acquires the face of hatred for men and their sexuality".

The publication of this manifesto just one day after the gala organized by the Foreign Press of Hollywood does not seem a coincidence. Marisa Soleto is the director of the Fundación Mujeres and a lawyer specializing in public policies on equality. She describes as a "train clash" this feminist polarization and points out that the MeToo label "is a denunciation that doesn't just affects affects sexual behavior. We are not talking about flirting or suffering a persistent bore. We are talking about power relations”. She adds: “Maybe Catherine Deneuve has not had this problem in her life ... I am convinced that this is not just a gesture of lack of solidarity with other women, but simply the defense of a social order that perhaps does not seem so bad".

Last October, the film director Leticia Dolera published in eldiario.es a letter entitled 'The scandal of machismo dressed up as normality'. In it she told how at 18 he suffered the first of several sexual harassments by colleagues. Dolera summarized yesterday in a tweet how she saw the confrontation between supporters and detractors of Yotambianism: "They called us feminazis, now Puritans. We do not care. Ww will continue. # Lopersonalespolítico #MeToo”.

The writer Carmen Posadas and the journalist Carmen Lomana are some of the signatories of Against Generalisation of gender, a statement in which they rebel "against the use of women as an expression of a monolithic block of thought" and against "a current that by default presents women as victims of hetero-patriarchy, of a macho society, which to us seems harmful to the expectations of any woman and, above all, of girls and young women who should know that, now, in Spain, they can get where they are propose”.

It took Deneuve only 24 hours to get an answer in her own country. Laurence Rossignol, former minister for Women's Rights, considered the document signed by the actress "a slap in the face for all women who denounce the reality of sexual depredation".

"It's all too complex to throw absolute truths in others' faces," María María Blanco, a professor of economics at the CEU-San Pablo University and author of Aphrodite Unmasked - a defense of liberal feminism. Blanco encourages looking for nuances in a debate where there seems to be no one who wants them. “The generalizations - and excuse the language -' They are all whores' or "I'm sure many of them went without panties to the producer's office to see what they could get' seems to me an outrage. That's like saying that if they are all sluts, they are all rapists. Not in the field of cinema, nor in television, nor in any other. These generalizations are brutal."

Blanco claims to feel "a lot of anger" when she sees how "a more radical sector of feminism, which is usually leftist, which is an exclusive feminism, which gives itself the moral authority to judge other women". However, she warns that she sets her face again denialism: "Harassment and abuse exist, and we must applaud women who have really been victims and have dared not only to say it aloud, but also name the abuser. I would love to see this happen in Spain.

She also admits that she did not feel comfortable with the last part of Oprah's speech, which in the US has even been compared to Martin Luther King's historic 'I have a dream'. "I had the same feeling as when I heard Madonna being recognized by Billboard as the woman of the year. In this case, she was even more aggressive, because she insulted Camille Paglia, a heroine for me ... I say that they seemed similar to me because they point to problems that are real but when it comes to attributing causes to them or finding answers they fall into hypocrisy". And at this point, remember the poses of Weinstein and Winfrey together.

Can we get something positive out of this exchange of blows among feminists? "There are many debates that are not productive", says Marisa Soleto. "In the end, on many occasions, when we talk about women's rights, we end up focusing the debates on women themselves and not on the problem in general terms. A productive debate in this area is whether we really have to have a relationship of powers of sexual relations in which the risk of sexual harassment or sexual assault is a reality. Normally we are talking about very fixed positions in which nobody convinces anyone”.


As I think I put it the other day – A cross-cultural dialogue of the almost-deaf.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 12.1.18

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.

Cataluña
Spain
  • A truly impressive Spanish achievement.
  • Using 100 as the national base, here's how the richest and poorest parts of the country compare:
- The Balearics – 138
- Madrid – 137
- The Basque Country – 134
- Navarra – 126

- Galicia – 90
- Andalucia – 74 (assuming one can believe any figures coming from this region)
- Extramadura - 69
  • Sex in Spain1: Brothels are hardly an obscure business activity in Spain. Outside some cities it's hard not to trip over them. Especially if – as a Camino pilgrim, of course – one visits a roadside cafe favoured by truck drivers. Here's an article on the probably the biggest in the country, targeted mainly at Frogs.
  • Sex in Spain 2: A nice cartoon:-

The USA
  • One wonders what percentage of the world's population believes Fart's reason for not making his visit to the UK. It goes without saying, of course, that he doesn't believe it himself.
The UK
  • In my Laws faculty a few decades ago, only around 2% of students got a first class degree, though in my year it was 4%. Last year in the UK, it was a truly astonishing 25% plus, having risen from just 8% in 1995. Hard to argue with the view that this creep has devalued the elite grade.
Spanglish
  • My thanks to reader Sierra for el cruising and el dogging. Reading about these in a local paper I realised I'd driven many times past a popular parking area on the AP9 autopista between Pontevedra and Vigo.
Nutters Corner
  • Being a US evangelist means you never have to say sorry, it's claimed here. Fart's religion of choice, of course.
Social Media
  • Click here for a worrying article on The Rapid Rise of a Digital Corporate Dystopia. The opening sentence:- As digital firms move to displace more government roles over time, from room-letting to transportation to commerce, citizens will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.
Galicia
  • The wife of the man accused of murdering at least one young woman and now suspected of others will not be charged for giving him false alibis on at least 2 occasions. Reportedly, she phones him every day and has said she'll stick by him come what may. Nowt as queer as folk, as they say. I guess she thinks she's in love with him. Always a slippery concept.
  • The Voz de Galicia claims that Camino pilgrims spent €280m last year, including their flights. This is based on an estimate of €1,000 for each of the 280,000 walkers. I wonder if this takes into account the many who start in the Pyrenees but give up long before they get anywhere near Santiago.
Pontevedra
  • Yesterday I confirmed my claim that there were 3 pharmacies visible from a spot in the centre of the city. And then I got to wondering about how many I could visit within, say, a 10 minute walk. Google maps confirms my experience that I could do 6 in less than this time:-

As competition is restricted by the pharmacists' cartel, this suggests Pontevedrans are good at buying medications and the like. Possibly because the doctors indulge in poly-pharmacy. Several products per prescription. Because this is what patients expect/demand.

Finally
  • I've put aside €100 for my next motoring fine. Why? Because it's a racing certainty. In 20 years of driving in 12 countries before I came to Spain, I was fined only once – for parking on a plot of land in Manchester I thought was a genuine parking area. Here in Spain – in 17 years of trying to comply with the rules – I've been fined 10 times. Possible explanations for this:-
- I've become a terrible driver since I came to Spain.
I love breaking the law
The Spanish police are very much more efficient in catching drivers for the numerous offences that can be committed here,
Spanish law enforcers have a raft of tricks with which to ensnare would-be-law-abiding drivers.
The Spanish Guardia Civil and its various police national, regional and municipal forces are really more a department of the Tax Office (the Hacienda) than an arm of the law. Or
All of these.

I know what I think . . .  

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