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Post Massive Typhoon Hits Philippines
Created by John Eipper on 11/09/13 11:57 AM

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Massive Typhoon Hits Philippines (Bienvenido Macario, USA, 11/09/13 11:57 am)

Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda was said to be the biggest typhoon ever to come to the Philippines. A Category 5, like Hurricane Katrina, it packed winds at 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph.

See "'Massive destruction' as typhoon kills at least 1,200 in Philippines, says Red Cross"

Reuters by Manuel Mogato Sat. November 9, 2013


My college friend Armando Bejasa, a strong supporter of the Palestinian people and currently residing in Canada, posted this in his Facebook:


Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of strongest storms ever, hits central Philippines

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 0844 GMT (1644 HKT)


At times like these, I cannot help but think that the Philippines would be far better off under a UK dominion status.  http://www.nedmacario.us/2013/05/21/flags-of-the-philippines/

First, a government-in-exile for the Philippines must be established in London, England with dominion status and accepted by HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Then that government in exile will hire UK-ANZAC Emergency crews and US Navy Public Works and the Sea Bees. There is no continuity dealing with Washington DC. Besides, the US never really stays long enough to make a lasting difference. Just look at Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Philippines being a former US territory won't create a problem for the UN if it becomes freely associated with the UK and/or the US.  Other UN members could not follow the Philippines' example.

A Compact of Free Association is really the fastest way the UK and US should have been able to help the Philippines if it wasn't for the obstructionism of the World Bank, IMF, the UN Filipino oligarchs & politicians, including the clergy.

With a compact of free association, the Philippines or parts thereof will have benefit of the following, among others:

(1) The UK/United States Weather Service;
(2) The UK/United States Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Coast Guard;
(3) The UK/US Navy administered telecommunications and postal services
(4) The UK/United States Federal Aviation Administration; and
(5) The UK/United States Civil Aeronautics Board.

Reference: http://www.fsmlaw.org/compact/t02art02.htm

JE comments:  Bienvenido Macario's quixotic appeal to attach the Philippines to the UK will probably find some resonance in the wake the Archipelago's inadequate response to the latest typhoon.  It's not the time to discuss Philippine politics, however, so soon after a horrendous disaster that left over 1200 dead.

I recommend Bienvenido's essay on the Flags of the Philippines (link above).  Bienvenido points out that the English flag actually flew over Manila for a time, 1762-1784.  Even more interesting to me are the numerous changes in shades of blue and red on the twentieth-century national flag.  A curiosity:  what's the point of these minor adjustments?

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  • on the Sovereignty of the Philippines (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/10/13 3:31 AM)
    In reference to Bienvenido Macario's post of 9 November, I am grieved by the idea that a good person unsatisfied with his government may wish to have his country become a colony or dominion of the UK. Of course the latter was once the most imperialistic nation in the world, but by now it is just a poor European nation. Most probably it would be a serious economic burden to be attached to the UK. By the way, for how long will the United Kingdom exist without being finally divided into England, Scotland, etc.?

    Frankly, if Bienvenido is not satisfied with his government, why invoke foreign domination or intervention?  (The Italians made such mistakes several times in the past, and it was the worst possible mistake.)  If he cannot have success within the democratic system, he could start a revolution.

    Personally I am extremely unhappy with Italian politicians, but I would never invoke a foreign intervention. Isn't there already enough of this?

    On a happier note, it's harvest time here in Savona, and I have already started making olive oil.

    JE comments:  History has never been kind to those who facilitate foreign intervention.  Think of Mexico in the 1860s, with the French invasion.  The Mexican monarchists who opened the door to Maximilian have been excoriated as traitors.

    I pointed this out once before, but I believe the Dominican Republic is the only nation that was officially re-colonized after achieving independence.  In 1861, DR sought Spain's protection from the Haitian threat.  This led to the War of Restoration, which as its name suggests, resulted in the expulsion (once again) of the Spanish colonizers.

    Best of luck to Eugenio Battaglia with this fall's pressing.  I hope someday to sample his product.

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    • UK and Italy (Nigel Jones, UK 11/11/13 1:39 AM)
      I am getting a little tired of the aspersions cast by Eugenio Battaglia on my country (November 10).

      Not content with accusing the dying, octogenarian Queen Victoria of inventing the concentration camps in the last months of her life, Eugenio now denigrates Britain as "just a poor European nation."

      Well, not as poor as Italy, Eugenio! The average Briton is 30% richer than the average Italian. (Source: Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2011.)

      "Italy is poorer than the UK on both an absolute basis [GDP] and a pro capita basis" [Yahoo Answers].

      As has been evident since the collapse of Fascism (for which Eugenio has such ill-concealed nostalgia), Italy has been a dysfunctional state, with revolving-door governments, rampant corruption (which caused the collapse of its major political parties in the 1990s), beset by terrorism and Mafia violence, and for most of the past three decades ruled by a corrupt septuagenarian clown with a fondness for sexually predatory behaviour with prostitutes and under-age girls.

      Now Italy, as it was in the 1940s, is totally dependent on the charity of Germany for its survival. As with Greece, the long-suffering German taxpayer is forking out for the taxes that the Italians themselves decline to pay.

      For all its crumbling charms, not exactly a record or a country to be proud of.

      JE comments: I always try to keep the peace, so I'll just limit myself to saying that Eugenio Battaglia over the years has amply criticized his native Italy.  His original point in response to Bienvenido Macario was that no nation, no matter how flawed, should voluntarily surrender its sovereignty.

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      • UK and Italy (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 11/11/13 1:18 PM)
        I'm not sure why Nigel Jones (11 November) would cite the odious Mr. Krugman for a basic fact like the wealth of a nation.

        The data is easily available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita ; you don't need to take it second hand.

        You can take your pick of three sources, but they are all in fairly close agreement.

        If we take the World Bank figures, then GDP per capita on a PPP basis of the UK is $36,900, compared to $33,000 in Italy, a difference of about 12%. One cannot describe either country as "poor"--these figures put them in the ranks of developed, "upper-income" countries. If we take the IMF or CIA figures, then Italy looks a little worse, at $29,812 and $30,600, respectively, but still "upper income" or nearly so. It is interesting to note, by the way, how fast Russia is coming up the ranks in these tables--in the World Bank table, Russia has $23,501 per capita, having passed Poland, and is about to pass Greece and Portugal.

        The UK and Italian economies are also both among the world's 10 or 11 largest, the UK being either #8 or #9, and Italy being either #10, according to IMF and CIA, or #11, according to the World Bank. By the way, it is interesting to see that the Russian economy has now surpassed the German economy in size, to reach #5, just after Japan, according to the World Bank (#6 according to IMF and CIA). The Russian economy will soon be as large as the UK economy and the Italian economies combined, if present trends continue. Who would have dreamed of that just 10 years ago? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP) .

        The problem in both the UK and Italy is sluggish growth. Italy is still going through a major recession, with a whacking 2.3% of economic contraction in 2012. Italy has a grave fiscal situation and stubbornly slow growth on long-term trends, so faces major economic challenges. So although you can't call Italy "poor" at all--it's, I say again, a high-income, developed country--this status could be lost eventually if present trends continue.

        The UK is not all that much richer than Italy, but is more solidly esconced in the ranks of high-income countries with a much better fiscal situation and much better growth dynamics. The UK also greatly benefits from the fact that it has one dominant industry which is a world leader--financial services. Since this industry is uniquely poised to benefit from rapid growth and development in emerging markets, the UK is poised to benefit disproportionately from this phenomenon. Of course not all is exactly rosy in the UK economy--growth is still below 2%, unemployment is near 8%, etc., etc., but the UK is doing just about as well as any other developed country in this continuingly challenging time. So yes--calling the UK "poor," as Eugenio Battaglia did, is rather silly. Compared to what? Singapore? The US? If you leave out smaller economies, and compare the UK to her peers in the Top 10, only Germany and the US are "richer" on a per capita basis, and only the US could be described as "a lot richer." Meaning, the UK is actually a very rich country, and to boot with pretty good prospects, considering what the world economy looks like today.

        JE comments: I always learn a lot from Cameron Sawyer's sanguine portraits of the Russian economy. Could he comment on wealth distribution? Is it improving as well? And what about economic well-being in the Russian Hinterlands?

        These are slow-pitch questions, but I'm sure I'm not the only WAISer who'd like to hear Cameron's thoughts.  Note that I did not let the Gini [Coefficient] out of the bottle...

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        • UK and Italy: Immigration and Economic Growth (Tom Hashimoto, UK 11/12/13 3:46 AM)
          This is a slightly off topic, but I recently came across an article claiming that immigrants positively contribute to the UK:


          Perhaps a similar analysis can be done for Italy. My question to fellow WAISers is if such a "contribution" to national income or GDP is the same thing as the advancement of the given civilisation, especially in the field of creative production. In other words, are immigrants always cheaper as intellectual labour?

          JE comments: I'm not sure if immigrant intellectual labour is cheaper, but it's certainly vibrant.

          It's too early in the day for me to chase down statistics, but I take it for granted that immigration not only benefits a nation culturally, but also economically.  So what is the great revelation in the BBC article?  Am I missing something here?

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      • UK and Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/11/13 2:42 PM)

        In response to Nigel Jones's post of 11 November, I have a few points that come to mind.

        The first one is that I am very sorry if Nigel was upset with my posts on the subject, but the concentration camps for the Boers are a sad reality. Moreover, the fact that Britain is no longer the great empire and the great world power of 75 years ago but is just a poor European nation compared to the USA, Russia, China etc., seems to me to be another reality.

        When Nigel writes, "as has been evident since the collapse of Fascism...Italy has been a dysfunctional state," I fully agree. He is absolutely right, but this might also imply that nostalgia for Fascism (when Italy was prosperous and a world power, even if at a lower level than the UK but enough to give it worry) might be understandable for an Italian, although not for a British person. However, I wish to state that I want only to refer to facts and not to any "ill-concealed nostalgia."

        Finally, I do not agree on the fact that Italy now depends on the charity of Germany. This seems to me a little bit forced, but it can be argued that the euro has been extremely ill-conceived as some countries get richer and others get poorer; Italy would be in much better in shape outside of the euro, as the UK wisely is.

        JE comments:  I'm not going to get involved in the Anglo-Italian debate, but I must thank Eugenio Battaglia for his promise to save me a bottle of this year's olive oil.  Ah, the perks of WAISworld!

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        • UK and Italy: Olive Oil, and an Olive Branch (Nigel Jones, UK 11/12/13 3:05 AM)
          Since Eugenio Battaglia is handing out bottles of olive oil to our esteemed editor (November 11), I'm happy to accept his proffered olive branch and declare hostilities over.

          It wasn't the fact that Britain "invented" the concentration camp during the Boer War that I disputed, merely Eugenio's assertion that it was the brainchild of Queen Victoria personally.

          Like Eugenio, I accept that there were many positive aspects to Mussolini's Fascist regime--especially in its first decade. He really did make the trains run on time, and he drove the Mafia underground, he drained the Pontine marshes, and gave Italians pride in their country for the first time ever. He did a lot of positive things which won plaudits around the world--including from Winston Churchill.

          But--and it's a big one--he did all this by brutally crushing and repressing his enemies at home and imposing stifling and absurd conformity on an inherently vigorous and varied people and--most fatally of all--he allied himself with a country led by a psychopath bent on war and domination which Italy was quite unable and unwilling to undertake. The result, as we know, was an utter disaster from which, arguably, the country has never recovered.

          My travels this year included an overnight stopover at the Norman spa town of Bagnoles-sur-Ornes where, in June 1937, French fascists from the Cagoule movement, acting on behalf of Mussolini's regime, savagely murdered the brothers Carlo and Nello Rosselli, leaders of the exiled anti-Fascist "Justice and Liberty" organisation. (We have discussed this crime and the responsibility of Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Ciano, for it before on WAIS.) Ironically, Mussolini himself consented to the execution of Ciano and other leading Fascists at Verona during the Salo Republic--which Eugenio so much admires. Such crimes as these (and Edda Ciano never forgave her father for it) were the dark side of Fascism, and Mussolini's moral decay was both a personal tragedy for him and a catastrophe for his country.

          As for Cameron Sawyer's post (11 November) responding to my claim that Britain is appreciably richer than Italy, I didn't really get the point of it. Following a blizzard of statistics, Cameron conceded that Britain was indeed...er...appreciably richer than Italy, albeit by around 12% rather than the 30% which I had taken from Paul Krugman of the New York Times. (Incidentally, why is Krugman "odious"?  I know nothing about him, but had merely assumed that someone writing in a respectable paper like the NYT was reasonably reliable.)

          Lest there be any misunderstanding, I should say that I, like so many of my compatriots, am a passionate lover of Italy and (most) things Italian. I have just returned from my fourth visit to Venice, my favourite place on earth, where I passionately desire to live and even end my days. To that end I have started to learn Italian at last and amass a small Venetian library, ranging from John Ruskin's classic Stones of Venice to the crime fiction of Donna Leon.

          JE comments: An olive branch is a great way to kick off Tuesday's posts. I too hope that Cameron Sawyer will clarify why Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman is "odious." Krugman is a classic economic interventionist, a proponent of government stimulus and wealth redistribution. Since Cameron leans Libertarian on fiscal matters, we may already have answered Nigel Jones's question.

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          • UK and Italy: The Novels of Donna Leon (Paul Preston, UK 11/12/13 5:32 AM)
            As, like Nigel Jones, a lover of Italy, I venture to post a couple of cultural hints that might be of interest.

            Nigel mentioned Venice and the novels of Donna Leon (12 November). There is a rather good German TV series based on the novels. It's a bit odd to hear Commissario Brunetti speaking in German, but the locations are an endless panorama of Venice. Nigel also mentioned the draining of the Pontine marshes. I have just read an extraordinary novel by Antonio Pennachi, The Mussolini Canal. Much of the book is set in the area. It is also the best account of the social base of early fascism that I know, and indeed of the entire fascist experience from the point of view of a peasant family.

            JE comments: Mussolini had his canal, and Stalin built a canal or two (Belomor comes to mind, which not only caused the deaths of some 25,000 convict laborers, but also inspired history's most vile cigarette).  What's the attraction of canals for twentieth-century dictators?

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          • Paul Krugman (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 11/12/13 11:12 AM)
            Nigel Jones wrote on 12 November:

            "As for Cameron Sawyer's post (11 November) responding to my claim that Britain is appreciably richer than Italy, I didn't really get the point of it. Following a blizzard of statistics, Cameron conceded that Britain was indeed...er...appreciably richer than Italy, albeit by around 12% rather than the 30% which I had taken from Paul Krugman of the New York Times. (Incidentally, why is Krugman 'odious'? I know nothing about him, but had merely assumed that someone writing in a respectable paper like the NYT was reasonably reliable.)"

            I was not arguing with Nigel's point at all; on the contrary, I was just providing better facts to back up his point, and offered a little more detailed discussion of the differences between the Italian and UK economies. That was the point.

            Whether or not Krugman is "odious" or not is obviously a matter of opinion. I wouldn't call him that for having opinions different from mine, but rather for propagating ideas which I think he knows are false, for the sake of manipulating public opinion for political ends. That's just my humble opinion, as they say, but I'm not alone in it. The fact that the New York Times prints someone's opinion doesn't mean that that person is not odious. The same is true, I'm sure, for the Times of London. I could make a long list...

            JE comments:  A discussion titled "Odious Pundits" would be very interesting, but unWAIS.  In the meantime, we've found a great name for a rock band:

            The Odious Pundits perform their newest hit, "Ease Me, Baby, Quantitatively."

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  • Massive Typhoon Hits Philippines; Is Spain Helping? (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/10/13 3:55 AM)
    A question for Bienvenido Macario (9 November):

    Is Spain doing something to alleviate the catastrophe in the Philippines?

    The Spanish government--as a former colonial power--has always boasted of having a "special relationship" with the Philippines, and as a matter of fact many Spanish traditions are kept alive in the islands.

    I think it is time now for Spain to show proof of solidarity with its former subjects. The Spanish government created back in 2005 a special "Emergency Military Unit" tasked specifically with intervening in situations like this. It would be nice to send these soldiers now to its former colony.

    But I bet they won't. And it will be a pity.

    JE comments:  I'd like to know if Spain is sending any aid to the Philippines at this time.  Given the current state of the economy, I doubt the Rajoy government could justify anything more than token assistance.
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    • Spanish NGOs in Philippines, Post-Typhoon (Carmen Negrin, France 11/10/13 10:52 AM)
      In response to Anthony Candil (10 November), according to the Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines, there are dozens of Spanish NGOs helping the country right now to recover from the typhoon. Whether the funds come from the government or from private sources is not specified. However, knowing the important cuts for NGOs, one can deduce that a least a part comes from private funds.

      Solidarity does exist.

      JE comments:  This is good news.  My thanks to Carmen Negrín for setting the record straight.

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      • Spanish NGOs in Philippines, Post-Typhoon (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/11/13 1:54 AM)
        In response to Carmen Negrín (10 November), I'm certainly glad that Spanish NGOs are helping in the Philippines after last week's disastrous typhoon. I never doubted that solidarity exists, but I was wondering if at government levels they will make any commitment at all instead of subsidizing useless organizations or giving away funds to bail out private companies.

        I've read that Spain today spends more money on the promotion of flamenco dance and soccer than on research and development. I won't be surprised if this happens to be true.

        I don't think Spain has a real economic crisis--it has, certainly--but in Spain the gravest crisis is the political crisis, the proven failure of its political system, the failure of the Crown, and the failure of all the political structure. Justice is paralyzed, education is a mess, defense is almost non-existent, public works stopped, local governments and communities are almost out of control, and politicians are completely out of touch with the reality of the country.

        Unless Spain doesn't renew completely its political structure, the economic crisis will go on and on.

        The monarchy is an anachronism, political parties which have lied to their electorates, closed electoral lists that cannot be modified by the voters, a Senate that has no effective powers at all, a judicial system rooted in the political scenery and completely dependent on the executive power, a taxation system full of flaws where the real taxpayers are the middle classes and the poor, and so on and so on.

        Rajoy's government claims that unemployment is declining...but of course! Because soon it will happen that no more Spaniards will be unemployed because there are no longer any Spaniards with a job! I read in this week's Economist the news that one of the major Spanish domestic appliances maker Fagor, precisely from the Basque Country, is bankrupt and that will mean 80,000 more people without a job, in a country which has already a 27 percent unemployment!

        General Dynamics has already shut down two of the major plants it bought from the Spanish state in 2002, and sold three others out of a total of seven, due to lack of orders and productivity. I won't be surprised if rather sooner than later GD withdraws completely from Spain.

        JE comments: The Fagor bankruptcy is extremely disturbing. According to the Economist, appliance production stopped three weeks ago.  WAISer Henry Levin has researched and written extensively on the parent company, Mondragón, as one of the world's most successful worker cooperatives. (I guess we should say it was one of the world's most successful cooperatives--although Fagor proper employs only 5600 of the 80,000 Mondragón employees worldwide.)

        Our host son Aritz's home in Guernica is equipped with Fagor appliances.  We had this conversation just a week ago, when a new refrigerator (not Fagor, but another moribund appliance brand, Kenmore) was delivered to WAIS HQ.

        Here's the article from the Economist:


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        • Fagor Bankruptcy (Henry Levin, USA 11/11/13 7:15 AM)

          The Fagor failure took me by surprise as it did many others. (See Anthony J. Candil, 11 November.) I have not had time to explore the events more carefully. But, when I studied the Mondragón cooperatives many years ago, I was surprised to find how much Fagor was dependent on the Spanish market. The firm was proud of saying that they were the largest electrical-domestic appliance maker in Spain. And they had a very good reputation for quality in Spain. But, their presence in Western Europe at the time was largely invisible, as if this was not an important market to expand in or conquer. And even today they are not a factor in the US except for their housewares. (The Boston Marathon bombers used Fagor pressure cookers.) Eroski is another extremely Spanish-focused firm. Loyalty and market knowledge are certainly assets, but diversity of market is also important. Of course, the cooperatives have other lines of work which are largely international, such as their construction enterprises. But, when their largest businesses depend so heavily on a single country, they will rise and fall with that entity.

          JE comments:  When shopping for a new refrigerator for WAIS HQ, I briefly researched the Fagor units.  While they are available in the US, I found them way overpriced, and too small for the super-sized American lifestyle.  I wonder if the fatal insularity of Fagor is a remnant of Franco-era thinking, when autarky was the name of the game?

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          • Fagor Bankruptcy (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/12/13 10:02 AM)
            In response to Henry Levin's post of 11 November, I agree entirely with his views and also John Eipper's opinion.

            Fagor is precisely the remains of one of "Franco's miracles." In the early 1960s, when Spaniards started to see some light at the end of the tunnel, it became the brand of preference for house appliances within Spain. I didn't know they ever really exported anything, as its products were mere cheap copies of standard American brands of the time, such as the already gone Kelvinator or even Westinghouse.

            High-income Spanish families always bought American appliances (Amana or GE were the most favored) or German ones such as Siemens, AEG, or Miele rather than Fagor, whose products were aimed to the middle class in Spain at very affordable prices. I do believe that Fagor was even subsidized at a certain point by the Spanish Department of Commerce, Trade or Industry.

            I'm not so surprised that it has fallen. Actually, I thought Fagor was already gone long ago. What surprises me is that John was looking for a new refrigerator and thought of it! Nothing compares with American brands or German ones, not even as John suggests with the fading Kenmore.

            Pressure cookers are another issue, and are the main home cooking artifact for the Spanish housewife. Besides, they are ETA's preferred weapon (I'm only half joking).

            JE comments: I researched Fagor refrigerators because of our host son.  This house is embracing Basque culture in a big way.  (Well, not so big: nothing is more American than the Kenmore brand, although our new fridge was made in Mexico. Kenmore, the Sears in-house line of appliances, doesn't actually make its own units. They are contracted out to the lowest bidder.)

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        • Spain Today; Gastarbeiter in Germany (Carmen Negrin, France 11/11/13 11:46 AM)
          Today, Spain has sent to the Philippines its first government-funded plane with food, blankets and other goods.

          But of course, this has nothing to do with the politics and the situation in Spain.

          I totally agree with Anthony Candil's comments (11 November). There is a lot of money in Spain, but it is in the hands of the happy few, according to some analysts: 30 families (even fewer than when the Republic was elected).  Unemployment rates are perhaps lower, according to the government, but a lot of people are not on the lists anymore. The high is in part due to the summer holidays and also to the dramatic reduction in salaries.

          Banks might be better off, but not the poor, education is much worse (the Education Minister Wert was about to cut the Erasmus scholarship funding after the courses had already started, in other words while the students are already abroad), health care is worse. It is interesting to note that a book entitled Cásate y sé sumisa, published by the Archbishop of Granada and written by an Italian, Costanza Miriano, has become a best seller!


          As John Eipper mentioned, Fagor (actually Fagor-Brandt) is closing in Spain and thus elsewhere; 1800 French workers will be affected by this bankruptcy. In the meantime Germany employs, in Germany, Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and others, with contracts and salaries of the country of origin, thus with incomparably lower salaries. This is all legal but not very ethical. Can we talk of a model to be followed? Hopefully someday the EU will decide to impose certain rules concerning salaries--and taxes--throughout Europe.

          JE comments: Cásate y sé sumisa (Get Married and Be Submissive [to your husband]). Only 16 euros.  Wow: what century are we in?  [Note to self:  buy this for Aldona's Christmas gift, and it will be the last present I'll ever have to worry about!]

          I'd like to know more about the new "Gastarbeiter" system in Germany. Have the laws changed, which enable foreigners to be employed at far lower wages? Aren't the German workers outraged?

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        • Spanish Disaster Relief in Philippines; Thoughts on Today's Spain (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/12/13 5:46 AM)
          I would like to add some comments in response to Anthony J. Candil (11 November), on Spanish help to the Philippines and his comments on the general situation in Spain.

          1) Anthony's doubts about Spain's government level of solidarity with the Philippines are quite legitimate, but without reliable information sustaining them, assumptions and conclusions are valueless. If the subject is interesting for anyone, instead of "doubts" and implications, some research should be done before such statements are proposed.

          2) I agree with Anthony that structural aspects, political and economical in general, are the source of many current problems in Spain. However, as I say above, before such strong statements about a very complex subject are put forward to the public, more specific and reasoned arguments should support them. Except for the Fagor bankruptcy case, the rest of the manifested opinions seemed like a very personal and individual perception. Though very respectable, they lack objectivity.

          3) Regarding my personal perceptions on Spain and the extent of the crisis, after visiting the country recently, I have observed that it is not as extreme as our colleague Anthony seemed to imply.

          JE comments:  Conditions in Spain are perhaps desperate, but are they serious? Echoing José Ignacio Soler's points above, I ask this question in all sincerity.

          It would be great to hear from Jordi Molins today.  Next in the queue--Anthony Candil.

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          • Spain Today: An Ethical Crisis (Henry Levin, USA 11/12/13 10:36 AM)
            In response to José Ignacio Soler (12 November), the question of whether Spain is "un caso grave" depends on precisely what we are referring to.

            In my view, the most grave situation is the ethical one. The amount of corruption in all regions and among all political parties is legion. And the incapacity of the judicial system to address it because of incompetence, tradition, or neglect, is also astounding. It also fosters a perspective among many that the only way to get ahead is through connections and "deal making" with politicians rather than through innovation, ideas, entrepreneurship, and devotion to hard work. Most of our acquaintance in Spain are disillusioned unless they have already grabbed a piece of the pie for themselves and their families.

            JE comments:  Hank Levin's last sentence perfectly sums up my own take on Spanish society.  Alas.

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            • Corruption in Spain...and Elsewhere (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/13/13 6:33 AM)
              I could not agree more with Henry Levin (12 November). The severity of the Spanish crisis depends not only on economic and political structural causes. The social-ethical problem of corruption in my view is unfortunately common to most countries, except for a privileged few. In fact, quoting Transparency International (Global Corruption Barometer), Spain is ranked 30th least corrupt among almost 200 countries. Let´s assume this index is an accurate measure of this societal illness, so "only" 29 countries are less corrupt than Spain.

              However, some other interesting facts are raised in the agency's 2013 Report, for example:

              1) USA is ranked 22nd, England 20th, Germany 15th, etc.

              2) Only 5% of the survey's respondents reported having paid a bribe in Spain; more than 5% and less than 10%, from United Kingdom, Italy, USA, and Switzerland.

              3) 66% of respondents from Spain think their "government is run by a few big interests," but also 66% think this way from the USA, 60% in the United Kingdom, and Germany 55%.

              These observations raised some questions to my mind:

              Is corruption, by nature something obscure and difficult to measure, residing more in the public perception, led mostly by the media and political interests?

              Why should corruption contribute so heavily to the crisis in Spain ("caso grave," in Hank Levin's words), if in some other countries, even those in good shape economically, this problem is also real and does not affect their performance so significantly?

              I would sincerely appreciate comments on these questions.

              For those interested in the subject, my recommendation:


              JE comments:  Very important questions from José Ignacio Soler.  Spain, as Nacho shows, is in the top 15% of least corrupt nations.  One of the things I tell students preparing to study in Spain is that unlike in some Latin American nations, you can't bribe a Spanish police officer.  I actually found myself in a sticky situation many years ago when one of my students in Granada, after a long night of partying, attempted to do just that.  Fortunately, the "foreigner card" got us out of the jam.

              The only thing I would add to Nacho's observations is that in Spain, there is a widespread perception that the "chorizos" are at the highest levels of society, beginning with the Royal household.  This is perhaps different from paying off a cop, or "tipping" a petty bureaucrat not to misplace an important paper.

              A question I've never before posed on WAISworld:  what are some of your more interesting experiences with bribery?  In my lifetime, I've given exactly one bribe--to a Prague hotel clerk in 1985.  Ten bucks, and the "completely booked" hotel magically had an available room.

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              • Spanish Police and Bribery (Henry Levin, USA 11/14/13 4:19 AM)
                When commenting José Ignacio Soler's post of 13 November, JE wrote that you cannot bribe a Spanish cop. Maybe you can't bribe them; maybe you can. Pilar and I were traveling by rental car from Málaga to Barcelona in 1983. As we wound through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, we were stopped by two very young "Policia Rural," who wanted to know why we had crossed the white line (invisible) on a narrow rural road to get around two motor scooters. Unfortunately, the car had French license plates, so that was the real reason that we were stopped. They explained haltingly that we could pay the multa to them or follow them to the office of the alcalde in the next town to fill out paperwork and be delayed for a day before we paid the fine.

                Pilar and I spoke with them in Castellano, at which they were shocked. That said to us: You're not French. Pilar explained that she was from Córdoba (she had been brought up there, so partially true) and was a Spanish citizen. Then they turned on the charm. They asked us where we wanted to go, and told us to follow them for a short cut. From then on they wanted to delay us only to have a pleasant conversation, in which we joked with them. So, the issue of bribe is a complex one, but we bribed them with humor.

                JE comments: Or bribe with charm! This has worked for Aldona a few times, with the US gendarmerie. I've never been so fortunate--it must be my lack of charm.

                The ol' "pay the multa here, or visit the judge" trick is as old as policing itself. I guess we should call it bribery, pure and simple.

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                • A Spanish Congressional Fact-Finding Trip... (Paul Preston, UK 11/14/13 3:08 PM)
                  Speaking of Spanish politicians:

                  [JE note: my English translation follows.]

                  Asunto: Cristiana sepultura...

                  Viajaba en un autobús una comisión especial de diputados de todos los partidos, para analizar los problemas agrarios.

                  En una de las tantas curvas el conductor del autobús perdió el control y chocaron contra algunas rocas.

                  Después de algunas horas llegan al lugar de los hechos, ambulancias, Guardia Civil y el Ejército para tratar de dar auxilio a los lesionados, pero no había ninguna persona entre los restos del autobús.

                  Empezaron las investigaciones y la Guardia Civil se dio cuenta de que cerca del accidente había una casa a donde fueron a preguntar.

                  Salió un campesino de la casa a recibirlos, y le preguntan:

                  --¡¡¡Oiga, Usted!!! ¿Vio a los políticos que se accidentaron?

                  --¡¡Sí, sí los vi!! ¡¡Ya les di cristiana sepultura!!

                  --¡¡No me diga que todos estaban muertos!!

                  --¡¡Bueno... algunos decían que no, pero ya sabe usted como mienten esos hijos de puta!!


                  Subject: Christian Burial

                  A blue-ribbon Congressional delegation from the various political parties went on a fact-finding bus trip to analyze problems in the agrarian sector. On one of the many curves in the road, the driver lost control of the bus and crashed against a cliff.

                  Several hours later, ambulances, the Civil Guard, and the Army arrived to give aid to the injured, but they couldn't find a single person in the wreckage.

                  The investigation began, and the Civil Guard agents noticed a house near the accident site. They went to the door.

                  A peasant farmer answered, and they asked:

                  "Tell me, Friend! Did you see the politicians that were in the accident?"

                  "Yes Sir, I saw them, and I gave them a proper Christian burial!"

                  "You don't mean they were all dead?"

                  "Well, some said they weren't, but you know what liars those sons of bitches are!"

                  JE comments: A tribute to Spanish popular wisdom. The campesino bested everyone in the group. This joke also makes subtle jabs against all the political parties in Spain, and note too how it took "several hours" for help to arrive on the scene.

                  For grins, I let Google Translate have a go. It's machiney-sounding, but not altogether horrendous. Ah, you know as lying bastards...

                  Subject: Christian burial ...

                  He was traveling on a bus a special committee of MPs from all parties, to discuss agricultural issues.

                  In one of the many curves the bus driver lost control and crashed into some rocks.

                  After a few hours reach the scene, Ambulance, Police and Army to try to render aid to the injured, but there was no one in the wreckage of the bus.

                  Started investigations and Civil Guard realized that about the accident was a house where they were to ask.

                  He left a peasant house to meet them, and ask:

                  - Hey, you! Did politicians who were injured?

                  - Yes, I saw them! I gave them Christian burial!

                  - Do not tell me they were all dead!

                  - Well ... some said no, but you know as lying bastards!

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          • Thoughts on Today's Spain (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/13/13 7:49 AM)
            First of all, I completely agree with Henry Levin's assessment of Spain (12 November).

            In his post of the same day, José Ignacio Soler asked for relevant data and statistics. Well, they are to be found everywhere:

            27 per cent unemployment.

            55 per cent unemployment among youth (between 25 and 40 years old).

            Princess Cristina of Bourbon and her husband, indicted for fraud and illegal earnings.

            The King involved in bizarre hunting trips with some kind of escort lady accompanying him, and apparently linked to dubious affairs in the Gulf.

            The present government including Mr. Rajoy accused of double accounting and receiving illegal payments, and the person responsible for the Partido Popular's finances is already in jail.

            A national debt that it is already around 105 per cent of the GDP, if not above.

            Most of the local saving banks are bankrupt.

            A defense budget lower than that of Andorra, as a matter of fact at 0.59 of GDP; this is enough to pay salaries but no training, no fuel, nothing. A total waste.

            And to add to these statistics, after more than 10 days of a trash collection strike--very likely justified--Madrid is now the dirtiest place on earth. People are asking for the Army to collect garbage. What a job for the military!

            Can the Spaniards ask for, or put up with, more?

            Probably still a lot more.

            JE comments: Grim statistics. But could Spain's military budget possibly be lower than Andorra's, with 1/500th the population?  (Andorra's population of 85,000 is only four times larger than Adrian.  I don't think this city spends much on defense, and it doesn't even have the advantage of mountains.)

            Any reports on the garbage situation in Madrid? Deny a major city its trash removal, and you paralyze an entire society.

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            • Thoughts on Today's Spain; Some Clarifications (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/14/13 4:31 AM)
              My thanks to Anthony J. Candil for providing figures on the critical situation in Spain (13 November). Perhaps some additional macroeconomic figures should also be quoted, but they are not necessary to show the existence of a undeniable crisis.

              However, the point I was trying to raise with my comments, was not the lack of well-known statistical figures to support statements on Spain, but that if such strong opinions are expressed, implying dramatic and desperate situations or exaggerated conclusions, perhaps they should be elaborated, better articulated and supported.

              Regarding this particular aspect, some precision perhaps is needed on the items Anthony mentioned:

              1) Princess Cristina of Bourbon has not been indicted for fraud and illegal earnings, but her husband has been prosecuted for fiscal fraud and corruption. Of course this does not mean that Spain's Royal House, as an institution, should not be severely criticized for its current role and poor performance. In fact, the King's public image is now so deteriorated that in my "opinion" he should resign.

              2) Mr Rajoy has not been accused of double accounting, or receiving illegal payments, but the former treasurer of Rajoy's party is being accused of fiscal fraud, regarding some dubious funds donated to the party. In the course of the investigation he alleged to have given "black money" payments (not declared) to some members of the party (which has not been proven), including to Mr Rajoy. It is evident that this allegation does not help to sustain the government's credibility.

              3) The "local savings banks" Anthony mentions are by no means in bankruptcy, though they might have a weak financial situation due to the high rate of unpaid mortgages.

              4) I agree with JE comment on the defense budget.  Though I do not know actual figures, I doubt that Spain spends less on defense than Andorra. If that would be the case, I believe Spaniards should be proud of this fact.

              5) About the ethical crisis or problem of corruption, I have already sent some comments on the subject (12 November) , expressing my interest in understanding the impact of corruption on any economical crisis.

              One should not attempt to seriously communicate ideas on any subject, unless the facts we present are confirmed and sources are credible. It is tempting to express opinions, or to quote the media on a particular subject, but to objectively state ideas and concepts requires some well and deeply supported knowledge. It is pure common sense.

              JE comments:  Yes.  When he has the chance, I hope José Ignacio Soler will fill us in on Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro's move towards power-by-decree.  After the recent removal of opposition deputy María Mercedes Aranguren from the unicameral legislature, Maduro is now one vote shy of the three-fifths majority his party needs to rubber stamp all laws.  A troubling threat to what remains of Venezuela's democracy.

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            • National Debt as Percentage of GDP (Robert Whealey, USA 11/15/13 12:53 PM)
              I find Spain's national debt figure of 105% of GDP most revealing. (See Anthony J. Candil, 13 November.) A comparison with the US would be helpful. There is a lot of blather in Congress about the size of the US national debt of about $17 trillion. But what is that figure as a percent of the GDP?

              JE comments: Ah, I like readily "Googleable" questions. According to Wikipedia and elsewhere, US national debt presently stands at 73% of GDP. Here's another way to look at it: the nation's debt could be paid off in 266 days, or about 9 months of economic activity. Of course, Americans would first have to stock up on drinking water, canned goods, fuel, and liquor...

              Great to hear from Robert Whealey, by the way.  Bob:  I'm so happy that you and Lois made the trip last month to Adrian.

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