Tag: Spain

Transparent Spanish idiocy

Monday, 5 August, 2013 0 Comments

Increasingly corrupt, dysfunctional and beset by regional tensions, Spain has gone from being the poster-child of the EU to one of its most troubled member states. At the height of the current crisis, unemployment was at 26 percent — youth unemployment was above 50 percent and, to add to the challenges, the authority of the government has been damaged by a party-funding scandal. Then there are the GUBU moments like Morocco agreeing to free 48 Spanish prisoners as requested by King Juan Carlos during his recent trip to Rabat. Turns out, though, that one of these was Daniel Galvan Vina, convicted of raping 11 children aged between four and 15 years of age. The Moroccans are not very happy about that.

Gibralter In an attempt to divert attention from this lamentable state of affairs, Spain, which is dependent on tourism income and goodwill, is contemplating imposing a new border tax on Gibraltar and to investigate the affairs of Gibraltans with Spanish economic interests. Spain is also considering closing its airspace to flights heading to the Rock. The latest strains emerged 10 days ago after Gibraltan boats began dumping concrete blocks into the sea near the territory. Gibraltar said it was creating an artificial reef that would to improve fish stocks which it maintains have been depleted by incursions by Spanish fishermen.

Spain claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, which stands on the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula but has been a British Overseas Territory since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The business with The Falklands didn’t work out well for Argentina and democratic Spain would be foolish to think that it can succeed where Franco once failed.


Joey’s jug will be refilled

Sunday, 19 May, 2013 0 Comments

Diners at Baffetto on Via del governo vecchio near Piazza Navona in central Rome, where the guests know that they’re playing a role in an enterprise that’s designed to line the pockets of the proprietor, his family and the employees. But most enjoy the brazenness of the experience. There’s something so authentically unabashed about it […]

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A door just opened on a street

Sunday, 5 May, 2013 0 Comments

A door just opened on a street — I, lost, was passing by — An instant’s width of warmth disclosed And wealth, and company. The door as sudden shut, and I, I, lost, was passing by, — Lost doubly, but by contrast most, Enlightening misery. Emily Dickinson (10 December 1830 — 15 May 1886) According […]

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The happy couple

Sunday, 28 April, 2013 0 Comments

Same-sex marriage in Spain has been legal since 2005. In July that year, Spain the third country in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry, after the Netherlands and Belgium. According to the law, at least one partner in a same-sex marriage must be a Spanish citizen in order to marry, although two non-Spaniards […]

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Spain becomes Argentina

Thursday, 25 April, 2013 0 Comments

First, Bayern Munich hammered Barcelona and then Borussia Dortmund routed Real Madrid. Now, comes news that Spain’s unemployment rate soared to a new record of 27.2 percent of the workforce in the first quarter of 2013. The jobless figure is the highest since at least 1976, the year after Francisco Franco’s death began Spain’s transition to democracy and, to add further woe, data released on Tuesday by the Bank of Spain showed the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy had shrunk by two percent in the first three months of 2013, compared with the year-earlier period.

What makes the economic crisis so shocking is that Spain was once Europe’s most vibrant and exciting country. Prosperity soared for two decades and Viva España became the slogan for a global leader in football, fashion, food and cinema. But where once there was optimism, there’s only rage now. It’s directed against the banks, the politicians, the royal family and, increasingly, the European Union. Initially, the EU seemed to offer a way out of an Iberian jungle of ignorance, poverty, isolation and authoritarianism. Indeed, in a moment of euphoria, the writer, José Ortega y Gasset, put it thus: “Spain is the problem and Europe is the solution.” But that was then.

The “European dream” that Spain bought into seemed to promise a middle-class lifestyle for all, from Andalusia to Zaragoza. But with no hope of jobs for the young, the welfare state under threat and the fabric of society rent, the worry now is that Spain will become more like Argentina than Munich or Dortmund. Those football results are portents.


Messi, Messi

Tuesday, 23 April, 2013 1 Comment

“The overwhelming sensation when you watch Messi is still this: He’s a child. The nerd with the flowerpot hairdo looks like a kid who has won a competition to spend a day with Barcelona. His physique seems to mock all the man monsters and fitness rooms and ‘food supplements’ of modern sport. When Messi receives […]

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Europe of the Concilium Plebis

Thursday, 24 January, 2013 0 Comments

The day in Europe begins with the news that Spain’s unemployment rate has hit the highest level since measurements began in the 1970s. At the end of last year, the jobless rate was a frightening 26 percent, while unemployment for people under 25 years old reached an off-the-scale 60 percent. Clearly, some parts of Europe are not working. And David Cameron will, no doubt, allude to this when he addresses the World Economic Forum this morning in Davos.

As the European north-south divide gets larger and the suffering of those yoked to the common currency becomes more visible, it’s time to talk about the future of the continent. Or, at least, the entity known as the European Union. Unless it manages to create some kind of accountable, democratic institutions, the outlook is grim. The Roman way For the Brussels bureaucrats, European democracy means minimizing the role of the nation state, a form of governance they see as outmoded. In their vision, the European Council would be abolished and the EU Commission would be directly elected by the EU Parliament. This post-national system would represent democracy.

The problem with this scenario is that most Europeans don’t want it. They wish to keep the democracy they have right now. The one thing they do want, however, is increased use of the plebiscite, a concept that dates back to the Concilium Plebis, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic. The problem with referendums, though, is that there’s no knowing what the people would decide. The reintroduction of the death penalty? The deportation of illegal immigrants? The scrapping of student fees in Bavaria? The list is long.


The Nose goes digital and pivots to Asia

Friday, 28 December, 2012 0 Comments

Back in December 2000, William Langewiesche wrote a superb portrait of Robert Parker, the man who revolutionized the world of wine, for The Atlantic titled The Million-Dollar Nose. Snippet: “The Wine Advocate has 40,000 subscribers, in every U.S. state and thirty-seven foreign countries. These are influential readers, and they pass the issues around, igniting the […]

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Spare a thought for Spain this Christmas

Friday, 21 December, 2012 0 Comments

The much-criticized, scandal-prone BBC Newsnight does a lot to salvage its tattered reputation in this excellent documentary by Paul Mason, the programme’s economics editor. From dictatorship to democracy, from construction boom to cataclysmic bust, the rise and fall of Spain is an epic story of hubris, greed, madness and suffering.

What’s the end game? Read Euro Negative Yield Hits Jobless Spaniard to Munich Fund Manager by Ben Sills and Oliver Suess of Bloomberg.


Crazy Castellón and unreal Ciudad Real

Thursday, 4 October, 2012

The mania that gripped Spain during the past decade is ideally illustrated by two empty airports: Castellón-Costa Azahar in the Valencia region, which was completed 18 months ago at a cost of €150 million but is still awaiting the landing of its maiden commercial flight, and Ciudad Real, south of Madrid, which cost €1.1 billion […]

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At the pork shop

Sunday, 30 September, 2012

“A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but.” John Berger

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