Friday, 21 December 2018

Gmail is Shit

My recent correspondence to subscribers of my news-letter Business over Tapas (which was sent to gmailers, and which they probably never saw):

Dear Subscriber,
Gmail is once again being a nuisance, at least here at BoT Towers where, despite paying a monthly fortune to Movistar, we still enjoy slow copper-wire connection to the latest incarnation of this service from Google (Motto: ‘Something’s not Right’).
Those subscribers of Business over Tapas who have Gmail appear to have found in the past couple of weeks that the BoT has (after five years of peaceful coexistence) now been marked as ‘dangerous’ and sent to the ‘Spam’ file (which is hidden on the left, scroll down past ‘Inbox’, 'Sent’ and so on down to ‘More’ which one must then open to find ‘Spam’). There, among the ‘I seek your consent to handle a business deal with me in my office’ and sundry other improbable entertainments, the latest BoT may be found. Better still, with a red-letter warning – the good people at Gmail having noticed that my bulk mail is full of links to news-sites.
So, to those with Gmail, I’m now sending you BoT from my gmail account, in the hope that fixes it. If not, I’ll be in the ‘Spam’.
To be sure, we haven’t heard of any other email service behaving in the same way.
Un saludo, Lenox 

A few readers did receive the news-letter, and a few others found it in the carefully concealed 'Spam' folder. Others, no doubt, neither saw the above, nor the BoT sent to them separately.

One of the readers, who eventually found the Business over Tapas weekly newsletter in his Spam, was me. Here's what the Google people say:

'Downloading this attachment is disabled.
This email has been identified as phishing. If you want to download it and you trust this message, click 'Not spam' in the banner above'.

I'm apparently 'Phishing'! ('Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords').


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Catalonia, and the Man Who Heard Voxes.

Catalonia is the elephant in the Spanish room at present, with Vox casting a second baleful shadow across the parquet, perhaps posing as an elephant gun.
The Article 155 (‘In plain English, the article means that if a self-governing community, like Catalonia, has acted in any way to undermine the interests of Spain, the national government will "take all measures necessary" to force it to meet its obligations to the state’ (here).). Inés Arrimadas from Ciudadanos, the leader of the ‘constitucionalistas’ in the region, is keen on its implementation, while Miquel Iceta, from the Catalonian socialist PSC, is less so.
So, how are they doing in Catalonia? The confrontational President Quim Torra now says he wants a Slovenian-style independence, with reminders from all sides that Slovenia attained its, ah, freedom after numerous deaths and a civil war. The Catalanistas say that the deaths were caused by Slobodan Milosevic, who was a Serbian. Other (wiser) voices are saying, wait; maybe we meant a Scottish independence. Meanwhile, if you can believe the right-wing press, the hunger-strikers in jail are secretly lunching on nutritional milk-shakes.
Outside of parliamentary debates, the local Republican Defence Committee (CDR) have been taking matters into their own hands this past weekend, blocking then later allowing motorists free passage on the toll road AP-7 (with the Mossos taking no action). The National Government is now considering sending the Guardia Civil to the region to maintain order (at least, as understood by Madrid).
Elsewhere, the rise of Vox in far-off Andalucía, and apparently in much of the rest of Spain, is thought to be down in part to President Sánchez’ apparently weak hand on the Catalonia issue and Vox’s strident call for Catalonian submission and the suspension of the Generalitat. Not that that’s a bad thing for the Catalonian secessionists, where it’s thought that the more they hear of the political threat of Vox in Barcelona, the better for the cause of the Independentistas.  
The leader of Ciudanos, Albert Rivera, has offered some supportive deal to the Government if it both crushes the Catalonians and calls for early elections (here), but (as of Tuesday evening), the Government says it will not apply the Article 155 to the troubled region.
So there we are. Santiago Abascal, the Vox leader, wants to see Quim Torra in prison and has signed a complaint for rebellion against the Catalonian leader. ‘He needs to be imprisoned, nothing else will do’, he says emphatically.
Will all of this help return wavering Catalonians return to The Fold?

Monday, 3 December 2018

Vox Comes to Town

The results for the regional elections in Andalucía are in, and things can only be described as murky. Maybe 'apocalyptic' could work. Messy, certainly.
The PSOE-A of la Susanita won, of course, with 33 seats (down from 47 in 2015). Second came the perennial second-placers of the PP, with 26 seats (down from 33). Third place went to the Ciudadanos with  21 (up from 9), well done to them. Fourth came the Adelante Andalucía people (Podemos to you and me) who went from 15 plus 5 four years ago (Podemos plus IU) to just 17 today.
The four parties were presented on two debates on the national TV and were discussed and dissected by the Media to general satisfaction.
But wait, there's more.
The 'far-right' Vox party - which only last week had uncomfortable forecasts of getting a toe into the Andalusian parliament through its Almería candidate - a woman who refused any and all interviews - suddenly blossomed into twelve seats. Fifth place perhaps, but certainly the headline grabber for the election.
The Vox is not really 'far right' so much as a populist racist fringe party. It only took one city in Andalucía, inevitably, El Ejido, the city of plastic farms and non-voting immigrants.
We are now faced with the unpleasant task of reading Vox' manifesto. Among other projects, they would ban abortions, Canal Sur, women's rights, autonomous regions, illegal immigration (a bugger for El Ejido), and take back Gibraltar. The national leader of Vox is the pistol-packing (literally!) Santiago Abascal (here), and the leader in Andalucía is a retired judge called Francisco Serrano (here).
Now comes the horse-trading. We have the PSOE-A and Podemos short of a majority. They would need Ciudadanos. We have the PP (no longer insisting on the 'most-voted party to rule') keen to ally itself with Vox (which is a sobering thought). The PP/Vox machine would also need Ciudadanos to make up the numbers.
Perhaps the best answer comes from Ciudadanos itself. Despite being third, it could lead an uncomfortable Andalusian government of PSOE-A and PP.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Two More Titles Down

Tragic news today as we learn of the loss to ex-pat society of two more strings of newspapers, the S*L Times and the Round Town News. Both were well established for many years but, after coming under the wing of The Weenie, Spain's leading English-language free-sheet, they soon crumbled and have now been, uh, quietly closed.
I was reminded of something similar happening to my own newspaper The Entertainer a few years ago.
I suppose any thought of a pension (I've just turned 65) for my production of the first seven hundred issues of The Weenie must now be forgotten, which is a bugger, since I can't afford a bottle of champagne to commiserate over today's sad news.
The announcement itself can be found here (note the ensuing comments from the terrified 'bunnies').

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Brexit - Three Ways...

There now seems to be three alternatives. One article on each:

‘Why Theresa May's Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The U.K. The UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, has succeeded in what she set out to do. She has brought the country together. Politicians of all colours, along with their supporters, are at last in full agreement. They are united in their hatred of Mrs. May’s Brexit deal. And with reason. It is a terrible deal...’. More from Forbes here.

‘The European Commission has defended Tuesday before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that a hypothetical revocation of the Brexit adventure would require the approval of all Member States and a unilateral will on the part of the United Kingdom would not be enough. On Tuesday, the CJEU held a hearing to analyse the preliminary ruling by the Scottish High Court on the possible reversibility of Article 50 of the EU Treaty. Under this article, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019, two years after it formally requested it. The Treaty provides for the possibility of extending the exit date, but only as a result of a unanimous agreement from the member states, and the team of lawyers from the European Commission argued on Tuesday before the CJEU that any change in the present undertaking must have the approval of the other 27 member states of the EU bloc...’. From El Huff Post here. (That’s torn it!).

‘What to expect from a no-deal Brexit. The terrifying consequences if nothing is sorted’. An excerpt: ‘...The greatest worry in the medium term is that the rights that ex-pats in Britain and the rest of the EU would enjoy under the deal would be whittled away. France says that, legally speaking, all Britons living there after a no-deal Brexit would need work permits, and that employers with Britons lacking such permits on the payroll would be criminally liable. Its draft law covering a no-deal Brexit recalls the legal requirement for retirees and others to apply for long-stay visas. There are 190,000 Britons living in the EU who get the same access to health care as locals thanks to agreements a no-deal Brexit could end. Some, poor and elderly, would move back to Britain rather than pay for new insurance...' From a powerful article in The Economist here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Spanish Customs, Explained

I got a letter from the Aduana today, the dreaded Spanish customs. Years ago, a fellow from Chile sent me a sample of half a kilo of cod in a freeze-pack to see if it was worth starting a business importing Chilean fish to Spain. Anyhow, the customs got hold of it and - well, that was over twenty years ago now. I wonder if they've noticed the smell yet.
Today's letter as seen here, addressed to Lenox Naier (why can't they get our names right in Spain? Fuck me, it's not as if I'm called Rachanivarakonkul), and  dated " Mi�rcoles " (Curse those nineteen eighty computers!) is to tell me of a massive package of dubious merchandise waiting for my attention in Madrid.
The first thing I thought was 'it's a trap - they've found the fish!', but then, I saw that it had come from my daughter, who lives in foreign parts.
The package in question: a pair of sneakers for my birthday.
So, as you can see, I filled out the form, then read the back of the page to see that I need to contact our officious friends by email, sending them a scan of my silly police letter together with another of my passport, only their formulario doesn't allow foreigners NIE numbers and my password -Fuckyou1- evidently wasn't long enough.
So now, I must put copies of all this in the post, being sure that they receive it before Mi�rcoles otherwise it will be 'Returned to Sender' (or more likely, destroyed in a controlled explosion or, of course more likely still, stolen).
But now I'm thinking: 'Customs, eh?' Aren't they the people who like to look through other people's stuff, rifle through steamer trunks and search diligently under the dashboard? Perhaps my box is full of Peruvian marching powder, or a rhinoceros' horn, or perhaps an AK47. So, why don't they open the fucking thing instead of asking me for my maiden name? On the box it says 'shoes' but they may want to question this - that's why they get paid - to make the world a safer place. But why the fuck ask me what's in the box. I'm going to say 'shoes' and they are going to say 'Ah hah! Got him!'.
In the improbable event the shoes make it though all the hoops, I will apparently be asked to pay ransom (or 'duty' as they prefer to call it) on them.
Sometimes, between all the pleasures, one forgets what a silly place we have chosen to live. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Andalusian Elections on December 2nd

The Andalusian elections of December 2nd are interesting both for Andalucía and indeed for the rest of Spain. It’s assumed that Susana Díaz (generally known as La Susanita) will win – after all, the PSOE always does in Andalucía – but she will certainly need to join with one of the other three – led by Juan Manuel Moreno (PP), Teresa Rodríguez (Adelante Andalucía) or Juan Marín (Ciudadanos) – to form a government. These four candidates (who met in a televised debate on Monday) are, in national terms, only the second best, and thus the four leaders from Madrid are doing all they can to help support their party comrades, especially as a national election begins to appear possible in May next year.
Pablo Casado, for example, is in Fines (an obscure Almería pueblo) on Friday with his new and original motto ‘Guarantía de Cambio’. There are hopes from the AUAN that he will save the ‘illegal homes’ in the nearby communities (Facebook link). Note to politicians – we need to check in the thesaurus for a new and different word for ‘change’. One of his ideas for change, as he told them in Algeciras, was for a Gibraltar Español.
Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos (or ‘Albert Primo de Rivera’ as the Podemos are calling him) was saying in Cádiz this past Sunday that the Madrid PSOE hasn’t time for the old socialists in Andalucía, who would be better off supporting his candidate. ‘We are the cambio’, he said to the adoring crowd.
Teresa Rodríguez from the IU-Podemos clone Adelante Andalucía, is asking – oh, here we go – for ‘la alternacia’- she wants a switch rather than just a change.
Talking of change, pocket change that is, Susana Díaz, rather overdoing the ‘we’re all common folk’ card, this week declares her current account at the local bank to stand at just 81€, plus a few bits and bobs she has elsewhere. El Mundo says, poor woman, that she is ‘condemned to hug her worst enemy Pedro Sánchez who beat her in the primaries’. All for the sake of the Party.
El País asks here, ‘why does the PSOE always win in Andalucía?’ The answers seem to be a mixture of tradition, a historical dislike of the right, innumerable obligations to those in power, and a couple of historic socialist champions from Seville (Felipe Gónzalez and his wing-man Alfonso Guerra). As one politician admits in the article – Andalucía has been at the tail of Europe for forty years, but the people still support the same party...
Besides the four contenders, we have two small parties that will skim a few votes: PACMA, the eccentric animalist party (Bizcocho for president), and the sinister-sounding far-right Vox which could even take one seat in the San Telmo parliament in Seville (see them here). 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Thanksgiving (although, it could'a been better)

Like Time itself, we must march ever forward. Well, in my case, it's more of a cross between a lurch and a limp; but I'm getting there slowly. I broke my ankle in the first days of September and you find me now with crutches and an infernal boot, compliments of the rehab people; a vessel which weighs several kilos and is designed to keep me wobbling that ankle-bone.
All praise to the Spanish national health which did a bang-up job (nine pins and a plate in my shin-bone) and cost me nothing more than a few sandwiches in the hospital tuck-shop.
But now we have entered the bit of November where for many years I celebrated Thanksgiving - the American holiday which involves eating turkey, mash, stuffing, peas and pumpkin pie. I celebrate no longer, because my poor Californian wife is dead and the kids are all in the USA (there are not many jobs for foreign bilingual well-educated kids in Modern Spain).
So this year I shall make myself a turkey sandwich.
Thanksgiving in our family also meant my birthday. A bit like Easter, my cumpleaño traveled around the late-November calendar always managing to fortuitously land on Thanksgiving Thursday, assuring me of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It made up for having my birthday in the school term during my formative years (no cake, no presents and, as often as not, a Latin exam to deal with).
This year, my birthday, now returned to a regular date (next Monday, since you ask) will be the dubious celebration of my sixty-fifth year on this earth duly registered. If I were to get a pension, I would get it now.
However, all is not lost, I'm due a bus-pass apparently, if I can only hobble to the bus-stop half a mile away.