Thursday, 15 November 2018

National Suicide UK

Referendums are probably not a very good idea. They are posed as a once-off vote rather than a cyclic four-year election. Whoever loses wants another one. Whoever wins piously says 'the people have spoken'. 
In elections, the people speak, and they can then change their minds four years later. 
In a referendum, it's different. It's a singularity. They are rare beasts, these single-issue plebiscites, when there is a call for one to be made on a specific issue and, apparently,  to be sealed in stone for evermore.
Referendums are unusual and, evidently, they are divisive. 
Take hanging. A poll on this barbarity would probably bring in a popular majority for Capital Punishment.  
Which is why, God knows, they have never proposed such a thing.
But David Cameron, surely to be remembered in the same breath as Charles I for being Britain's two worst leaders of the last 400 years, called a referendum to divide the country - pretty much down the middle. 52 to 48 is not a swinging win for anyone.
Two years later, as the UK flounders in its own mishmash of xenophobia, jingoism and ignorance, between a rock and a hard place, the dreadful result of Cameron's betrayal brings us to a head:
We must now call for another referendum.
Of course, everyone knows such a vote would bring a decisive swing to the 'Remainer Camp'. Those against such a poll say 'well, we already had one and it was a democratic result', yet they are precisely the people who don't want a second one. 
Because this time - even without the vote of those of us who live in Europe (and would cheerfully be left behind by the Brexiteers) - the vote this time would be made by more-or-less informed people rather than the hitherto gullible readers of the billionaire media owners. 
Mrs May said on Wednesday that her draft proposal was '...a deal that delivers. The choice was this deal, no deal or no Brexit at all’.
Whether she will be around by next week is anybody's guess, but the point remains - she is no longer representing nor speaking for the majority of the British as we approach the end of this fraught period where the United Kingdom is now more at risk of breaking up than is the United Europe we apparently yearned to abandon.
We need another vote and we need to stay (a trifle embarrassed perhaps) within the European Union. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A Statue of Columbus Comes Down

Poor Christopher Columbus, the man who Discovered America. They have just taken his statue down in Los Angeles because, well, you know, he committed genocide. A local councilman says: “It’s a natural next step of eliminating the false narrative that Columbus was a benign discoverer who helped make this country what it is. His statue and his image are really representative of someone who committed atrocities and helped initiate the greatest genocide ever recorded in human history, so the fact that his statue came down is the next step in the natural progression”.
The Spanish are very proud of him, understandably enough. In the same year that the Moors were finally ejected from this marvellous country, one of their sailors commanded three laughably small ships and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to discover the New World. Without any doubt, this was an astonishing feat. Columbus knew the world was round and thought he’d discovered a new route to India (which is why the Native Americans were called ‘Indians’).  Now, unlike Eric the Red and anyone else who had been there beforehand (the list increases every now and then), Columbus and the Spanish that followed (Cortes in Mexico, Pizarro in Peru and Núñez de Balboa who reached the Pacific), discovered and populated an entire continent (or two), duly plundered the spoils and made Spain very rich (although with most of it ending up in the fifteenth century equivalent of Swiss banks).
He was an adventurer: a man to stir the blood of small boys reading of his exploits and derring-do. Now he’s considered as a monster. How does this play back in Spain?
An indignant Arturo Pérez-Reverte says – they’ve just knocked down the statue of Crístóbal Colón in a giant city which, by the way, bears a Spanish name. El País runs an editorial on the fall of the ‘Genoese sailor’; saying (and edited) ‘...The majority of historians consulted strongly deny that Colombus can be called a genocide. He is a figure that until now had not been challenged thanks to his achievements in navigation, for colonizing a new space and for contributing massively towards our knowledge of the Globe. However, there is also a dark side, because the main motivations of that process had more to do with the yearning to find gold and spices. The conquerors found populations and, at times, destroyed their lives and culture, and there were confrontations with those who had every right to defend themselves against intruders. However, one cannot speak of genocide, because "there was no desire to exterminate a race, among other reasons because they were needed as labour".
But heroes must fall. One day, I think, the Moonlings will knock down the statue of Neil Armstrong.

The Falkland Solution

I had suggested last week that the most virulent of the Brexiteers might be persuaded (hey, or forced) to move to the Falkland islands once the noxious Brexit plan has been hit on the head and the ringleaders have been meekly escorted to The Tower.
It works quite well. There are no pesky foreigners in Stanley (a thriving city which features hourly on the Sky News weather forecast), no European nurses, no Remoaners (besides the entirety of the tiny native population), no tropical festivals to worry about and, I am reliably informed, there's not a single mosque in the whole archipelago.
Better still, the accursed Brussels is almost eight thousand miles away. 
Only slightly smaller than Yorkshire - at 12,000 square kilometres -  there's definitely plenty of room for a meaty chunk of  'the seventeen million', and hell, we'll even throw in South Georgia next door.
While there are no foreigners in the Falklands to contend with (a leading point with the Gammoners), there are of course the fiendish Argentinians lurking just across the (sizeable) channel to shake their fists at on Saturday nights after the pub closes.
For the rest of us, a United Kingdom without the Faragistas would be pleasant, and the EU, I am reliably informed, would immediately drop all plans to stop British tourism next year to Benidorm.  

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Brexit Might be Avoided, but at a Cost

Encouraging news begins to seep out of the UK. Even some of the most obtuse people are now beginning to accept that Brexit is a mess and, with luck, the whole thing will be scuppered by a rare attack of common-sense at the last moment.
I don't need to list the companies that have moved out of the UK, the NHS staff who have returned to Spain or elsewhere, the ghastly Democratic Unionists who seem to have control of the Red Button, the increase in racial attacks, the rise (and acceptance) of Tommy Robinson, the geographical ignorance of the Minister for Brexit, the geopolitical manipulation of Trump, Putin, Murdoch and the far-right, the Scottish dream of breaking from Westminster, the peculiar compliance of the Leader of the Opposition, the Sunday Times hiding its recent Brexit poll results, the recent remarks of the plotter Aaron Banks,  the fall in the pound sterling, the likely new rules on travel or (and imagine this!) the national stockpiling of food and medicine.
No, it's as good as over. That's not to say that it might still happen, as it is sometimes hard to talk hysterical people off of a windowsill, and there are many angry and small-minded ruffians still in a position of power.
The UK has a psychological problem to do with its place in the world. Since Hastings, it hasn't been invaded and it has 'ruled the waves' (at least in song) for hundreds of years. The British entitlement and supposed superiority to the pesky foreigners has produced some great literature over the centuries. But now, its place at the table of the World's Big Four has gone - and the choices appear to be to remain in a European partnership or in vassalage to the United Sates of America and Comrade Trump.
But what will happen if Brexit is successfully stifled and tragedy is averted? There are still millions of people in the UK who think with their fists rather than their brains, and many of these follow the Brexit xenophobia. Would they rise up in violent protest if Brexit were averted? Most likely. Is there somewhere they could go to feel that they belong? (Well, Northern Ireland I suppose, but I was thinking more the Falkland Islands, after all, they owe us one).
Would the UK's reputation and influence in the EU stand such an embarrassing U-turn when a contrite British parliament finds itself obliged to send a fawning message to Brussels. We've changed our mind, and can we have our old offices back?
Here in Spain, the prime minister recently said in a parliamentary speech that while the British think of little else than Brexit, the subject occupies only a tiny part of European politics. And this is the key to the whole mess - the UK is neither as important as it once was or indeed thinks that it deserves to be..


Thursday, 8 November 2018

The USA Backs Away From Palomares

President Donald Trump is not willing to remove any more of the tons of earth contaminated by the infamous nuclear accident that occurred 52 years ago over Palomares (Almería). So said the Spanish Government in a parliamentary response in which it reveals that the Americans "have given to understand that it does not consider itself bound by the agreement between the Spanish Government and the Obama Administration and that has no intention of initiating bilateral talks towards this end".
To questions made by a deputy from Ciudadanos called Diego Clemente, the Government has now recognized what was hitherto an open secret: that the agreement reached in October 2015 between the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, and his American counterpart, John Kerry, can now be considered as worthless.
The people of Palomares were already upset by the recent discovery of a delivery from Madrid of better than a ton of radioactive material from the CEIMAT environmental agency, material which was originally from Palomares and had been trucked back there in 2016 (details of which only emerged in October). The agency insists the material was earth taken in various tests over the years from the site of the fallen bombs, being simply "samples carried out in the area since 1966 that are of low activity".
Is Palomares dangerous? Back in 1966, nobody cared. It was a forgotten part of dusty land located on the coast, a modest agricultural village belonging to nearby Cuevas del Almanzora. Four nuclear bombs fell in January that year following a mid-air collision between a fueling place and a bomber. The bombs were unarmed and two ended up on some scrub-land, fouling an area of two-square kilometres with plutonium, a third fell on the beach without mishap, and a fourth in deep water off the coast. It was later fortuitously found by the American sub 'Alvin' on the very day that Franco visited the area. The Americans later hauled away a large amount of topsoil which was then (according to a 'spook' I knew in those times) spread on the earth in farms in South Carolina. 
Today, with much more knowledge of the dangers of radiation, plus the change in the local fortunes from small-time agriculture to heavy tourism, the worry of sickness or cancer from the fallout are evident. However, there doesn't seem to be any abnormalities in the area. So, despite a few jokes and some misgiving, the area is deemed safe for both agriculture and tourism. 
The news item from El País about Trump nevertheless ends with this:  
'The Government recognizes that the contaminated land in Palomares, as a result of the fall of four thermonuclear bombs when a B-52 bomber collided with a KC-130 tanker from the US Air Force, "represents a threat to the safety of the zone and an impediment when it comes to achieving economic development and promoting tourism ".

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

No to Nolotil (If you have blue eyes)

The first call to ban Nolotil, a pain-reliever popular in Spain, came from The Olive Press which launched a campaign against the popular drug back in August last year. The pills were held responsible for a number of deaths – oddly, all British visitors to Spain. The item read in part ‘...the drug seems to mostly affect people of fair skin, from the likes of the UK and Scandinavia, by poisoning their bone marrow and destroying their white blood cells...’. Could this be the case, a drug which could adversely affect fair-skinned people, yet be only found to be efficacious to those of a darker complexion?
It would appear so. Metamizol, the active ingredient in Nolotil, is banned in the UK, the USA and Australia says Soitu here.
Despite a petition at (which appears to have died – as they do), the Spanish health authority had until now ignored the situation, but this has now changed. El Español reports here that Nolotil and its imitators (Metamizol Aristo is one of them) is to be restricted in its sale at the pharmacies from northern visitors - essentially, Brits won't be able to buy it any more. The drug can bring on a blood condition called neutropenia, says the article, but it has only been found (apparently) in 'Anglo-Saxons'. The Times of London reports this week that ‘Tourists will be banned from taking a popular painkiller in Spain after the deaths of 10 Britons who had taken the drug’. Thus the Spanish pharmaceutical association AEMPS has asked doctors not to prescribe the drug to 'the floating population, where controls can't be made'. That's to say - to tourists.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

BoT Editorial Nº 276: Strange Fellowships

De Cospedal, Bárcenas and Villarejo

The number of damaging recordings from the imprisoned ex-commissioner José Villarejo (who apparently worked in his spare time as a kind of cross between a private investigator and a mole within his own police force) continues. ‘...The tapes from 2009 reveal that the policeman and Ignacio López del Hierro, husband of the former secretary general of the PP, María Dolores de Cospedal, tried to stop investigations into corruption against the Popular Party and that the former defence minister herself was aware of these efforts...’. The story is at ‘Are you prepared to do some particular work for us?’ Cospedal and her husband ask Villarejo in a private meeting in the Partido Popular building in the Calle Génova, Madrid. El Mundo quotes the Moncloa political site here. El Español says that one conversation was about heaping all the blame on Bárcenas: ‘Cospedal and Villarejo agreed that Bárcenas would be Gürtel's only culprit: "If it's had it, then put it in the dustbin. As long as all the sh*t lands on him, it reaches no one else," the former commissioner told the secretary general of the PP in her office in Genoa. A shaken Cospedal told the RTVE on Tuesday that ‘the meetings made no difference in the Gürtel Investigation’.
From VozPópuli: ‘The former commissioner informed the former secretary general (Cospedal) of his ideological preferences: "Whenever your lot govern, I have never earned any money, but whenever the PSOE is in charge, since they are such a disaster, they ask me to do all kind of things" (here). The problem for Pablo Casado in this instance is that Cospedal gave her support to his candidacy for leader of the party last July and, indeed, he is ‘now rather quiet for once’ (here). Speculation exists that the ‘Moncloa’ news-site could be connected in some way to the ex-commissioner himself, in prison since last November. As the political world grits its collective teeth at the thought of even more tapes to be released, the ‘Cospedal’ recordings have now been passed to the National High Court (here).