Default Mode

A group of Sub-Saharan Africans come running toward me – a tribal hunting expedition comes to mind. The Spanish National Flag is fluttering on a wall in the background. The national football team is abroad in Russia – on a mission to conquer the world cup. The Africans are humping ‘Top Manta’ products – ironically included are imported Spanish flags made in China.

Flags are symbols of battles fought and still to fight and a warning to the other that a fight is imminent if certain conditions are not met. The flag on the wall was probably left over from a previous rush of blood to the head or is there in anticipation of some imminent mass hysteria on the battle field of football.

As 630 fellow compatriots arrive through the ‘Puerta Grande’ or front door of Valencia with full regalia and fanfare, ironically, 1000 or more have entered through the back door, invisible and unacknowledged. Welcome everybody to the land of opportunity – but to Spain or Europe? Check the flags in the background.

The US represents the quintessential land of opportunity. In the not so distant past it sheltered Europeans but today Latin Americans are seeking refuge. Emigration is a very emotive subject – on both sides. Europeans were processed on Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty in the background–many were either returned or lost at sea.

Today, the desert is claiming lives on the US-Mexican border. Children are being separated from their mothers as part of the asylum process. Image is everything in politics and the first lady knows it too well. Yet this time her fashion sense leaves much to be desired. Much will be read into that message, but who really cares?

I’m drinking some green liquid out of a screw top jam jar. The girl beside me is wearing fashionably torn jeans. The homeless look is in. Can you tell the real from the fake? Fake news, fake homeless, fake democracy, who cares. ‘I really don’t care, do you?’ Do I look fashionably homeless enough? It is all just about hypocrisy.

We call ourselves Christian yet we refuse to help the poor and needy. We call ourselves Social Democrats but follow the fashion of Neo-Liberalism because we do not have the courage of our convictions. We say we are not racist while at the same time patriotically proclaim our nationalist credentials with faux emotion.

Fascism is also in – Trump, Putin, Xi, Erdogan, Netanyahu – to name but a few and these are the good guys – with harsh emigration policies, alternative facts, the news replaced with propaganda and cynically tolerated low standards in democracy. Can the separation of powers in the US hold the line? Time to get your flags ready!

I do not want to state the obvious but maybe some people’s beliefs and expectations do not tally with the reality. When Hitler returns he will not have a dodgy haircut and small ridiculous moustache or even be called Adolf Hitler. But he could be German or at least of German origin. Be careful what you wish for!

Nationalism is just jargon for Tribalism. The European tribes who emigrated to the US were finally united under one flag – the stars and stripes – however tenuously. The Latin tribes are moving north but will they be accommodated under that same flag? The African tribes are also moving north – should they aspire to be one of us?

Where is the sophistication, civilization and humanism of the European Enlightenment and the European Founding Fathers dream of Integration – they have lost their luster. Both the US and EU dreams have been cheapened and sold out. Nationalism, Tribalism and Fascism are in fashion. Nothing is genuine or real.

All around us a dormant fascist monster is reawakening and is being met with welcoming and smiling faces. The tide is moving in only one direction – from Social Democracy to Neo-Liberalism to Fascism. The latter ideology no matter how ugly or reprehensible awaits the catalyst of a charismatic leader. The people are ready. The default is never pretty – we see it in the many war zones – humanity ends.

How many testicles has an octopus?

An article in the Guardian which after all that has happened here is probably the worst that has been printed in a major European paper. Has anybody noticed the bull in the room? The NY Times has been pretty damming of the goings on here but in general this country has got off pretty light up to now. Here in Spain the right wing is talking about Punch and Judy Shows and Christmas Parades. You read in the Guardian article that everybody is blaming the worker. The problem is always somewhere else. This PP mayor blames the worker,  yet takes no responsibility – the usual lack of self criticism. This is typical, nobody takes responsibility for anything. The mayor’s job is to run the administration efficiently. This administration was obviously run very badly. Also we have the problem of the two Spains which of course is not supposed to exist either. Public money wasted and a man’s life wasted due to a system which is corrupt and vengeful. Please read on.

Well, the headline may sound like a trick question but here in the surreal world that is Spanish political discourse eithre 2 or 8 is the correct answer. Whatever you are having yourself. Since the die was cast we (a mass of people looking, with mouths open and worried expressions, at two large fuzzy dice floating through the air) have been wondering if we are going to get back to manic corruption or well, something else. The something else of course is what is worrying most people here. The fear of the unknown. The familiar sight and sound of corruption is for some much more comfortable than the unknown world of change. Change is a progressive’s mantra and too many in Spain, it seems, are not for change. Spain on the whole is very conservative and traditional. It tends to look inward, mirando el ombligo (naval gazing), never outward and therefore will not be swayed by negative press or criticism from outside. If it is Made in Spain, and that goes for corruption also, then, (esto es lo que hay) that’s how it is.

The party abruptly came to an end for some when the ‘real left’ in the form of Manuela Carmena stormed and captured the Town Hall – at least that is how the right wing see it. Do not mention democracy here. Manuela’s main problem as mayor of Madrid is that she is under seige from the right. The right occupy and hold the media, the central government, the regional government and the justice system. Manuela is surrounded and many wonder how long she can resist. She is not a young woman and they are picking her councellors off one by one. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded Spanish right wing. It has been outright war since Manuela took office and it started even before she had sat in her office. The black ops of the PP party never sleeps or takes a holiday. If a dog shits in the street, which is something that is not unknown here, Manuela it seems is to blame. And the problem is that at least 30% of the population believe it.

So have there been any changes since Manuela came to power? Well there was an attempt to change the clothes and the general decoration of the Christmas parade – that debate is still burning – the right wing went crazy. It seems that they are not ready for change – just yet. So how can she change things like education, the media, the justice system, the form of democracy and of course corruption if she is being attacked from all sides for trying something new for the Christmas parade. She is now under fire because of an attempt to remove the paraphanalia of the Franco era from the streets of Madrid. This is something which should have been done over 30 years ago but because of the right wing refusal to condemn or rebuke anything to do with Franco or the Franco era nothing has happened. The PSOE should hold their heads in shame for not doing more earlier. Yes, the Spanish are very traditional and very conservative and in nothing more than the tradition of mala leche (bad blood) between both civil war sides. The worker from the Guardian article referred to this.

Who is behind the right wing power machine? The right wing hold power in every institution in Spain and have no intention of letting go. This is a legacy from Franco times and has not changed much since. The power of the church is very prominent here. It has a strangle hold on major sectors of education which I believe prevents the type of liberal education that might see an end to the present environment of political polarization. Its continuous widespread influence at all levels of the education system, even at university level, is quite surprising. But most interesting of all is their influence in the media. TV13 and the radio station El Cope are two of the outlets which are favourites of the right wing. Maybe Pope Francis needs to make some changes to his ultra conservative and ultra right wing clergy here in Spain. I think it is time for the church to get out of politics. It seems that the tradition of the Inquisition continues and Manuela had better be careful or she will be burned at the stake in the Plaza Mayor while the ultra right are enjoying a nice cup of cafe con leche. Of course with mala leche.

The law is the same for everybody or so the old king Juan Carlos told us. The justice system moves very slowly here – justice delayed is justice denied. Sometimes the system is so slow that people get off on the technicality that time has run out. The ‘justice’ system is also very politicised and this works to the advantage of some. At the moment it seems like all the members of the PP party are either going into or are inside or are coming out of a courthouse. It is fair to say that the whole party seems to be in court over some corruption case or other. And the police seem to be raiding their offices every other day looking for proof of corruption. I may like to exagerrate but on this theme it is not possible to exaggerate enough. These cases have been going on now for many years and it seems as if they will never come to an end. The only cases that have been wrapped up and dispatched with efficiency are the cases of two ‘progressive’ judges who tried to break the logjam. They went against the establishment and were quickly removed. In Spain a judge has to be very careful about how he or she interprets the law when dealing with the establishment. At the moment everybody is enjoying the spectacle of another interesting case where a right wing judge has made  those usually very slow wheels of justice run quickly. This is the case of the puppeteers – a small mobile theatre group. So what did they do wrong? Well it seems that nobody knows but they found themselves locked up in jail quicker than anybody could say – ‘check all the facts well’. Are we in Europe or North Africa?

They have been released but I am sure that is not the end of it and that it will never end. The right wing never forgive or forget – that old mala leche. Innocence is not enough to save them, they have attracted the attention of the right wing and they will be chewed up and spit out a thousand times for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – i.e. Spain today. OK, I understand the right wing argument that they would probably be beheaded in Saudi Arabia but I have to remind them that this is the EU where we expect higher standards of behaviour towards those we do not agree with. Freedom of expression etc. So what did these two puppeteers do? Well it seems that in certain parlance they are anti system and anti establishment. They were performing a work about police brutality, the unfair ‘justice’ system etc – which many here would agree with. Monty Python as you can imagine could never have started in this country. In the end it seems that the audience was too immature – but in Spain it seems that the audience is often too immature. The truth of the matter is that the children were too young to appreciate the message or even to be scandalized and the adults were too ignorant to appreciate the message but right wing enough to be scandalized. And the ‘justice’ system was too heavy handed.

Where does this get us about forming a government to rule this country? A good question. It seems that this country is ungovernable at the moment. The drums of independence are beating in the background and not only in Catalonia. The health and education systems if not on the limit have probably already started to topple. The debt and deficit problems of the central government combined with some amazing debts in the regions are very worrying. The unemployment level combined with a very weak and badly paid job market cannot be turned around quickly if ever. So whoever or whatever party gets to govern they are in for a very thankless job as there are no easy answers. Combined with this the constant riding from the right wing, who never rest, will make the next legislature one to remember for everybody. The Spanish are noisy people in general but wait for the screaming and shouting that is coming down the track from the right. So what has the qustion in the title got to do with all this? Well, whether it is 8 or 2 it does not matter as everything here in Spain it seems is resolved por los cojones (by the testacles).











The Die is Cast!

The big day has arrived and there is a sense of expectation and excitement in the air but also some resignation. Many are saying that it will be the same as always – the PP are going to win and will be supported in government by el niño de Rajoy – Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos. (Rajoy is hoping that this niño does not pack the same wallop as the other.) Well that is how it looks but could there be an upset. Podemos look and sound upbeat and for the first time in a long while are showing signs of confidence and transmitting security to their supporters. The PSOE are missing – yet there is still a sympathetic vote out there among their ‘loyal’ supporters which is understandable – IU are in the same boat. But the new kid in town on the left is Podemos and they are starting to live up to the expectations of their new generation of supporters. But this is Madrid and Madrid is not Spain. Out their in the wilderness in España Profundo (Deep Spain) where nothing has changed or nothing will ever change – it is business as usual.

So who are Mari Pili and Pepe voting for in the pueblo? Well as they like to stick with tradition they are obviously not going to vote for a perro flauta (crusty) – no they would prefer to vote for a macarra (pimp) in a suit. “So who did you vote for Pepe? Well to be honest with you I voted for a shiny Armani suit – there was no way I was going to vote for that fellow with the hoodie. And you Pili who did you vote for? Well as with you, I voted for a suit as well and a shiny one at that, but I’m afraid it was shiny from over wear.” Shiny suits or gangster suits are usually associated with the mafia and in this case the suit fits perfectly.

But Pepe and Pili are aware of the corruption and have been aware for a long time – this is not ignorance. They basically prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. Corruption is so ingrained and endemic in the Spanish psyche that the argument goes that the ‘new’ parties will only continue on where the others left off. The best argument against is that it would be better to put in a new corrupt gang because at least in that way the money is spread around and does not remain in the same hands forever. But this is not sufficient to convince Pili and Pepe to come out of their comfort zone and from voting PP or PSOE as they have traditionally done. ” Sure isn’t he one of our own.”


Perverse: showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable – contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice. The words illogical, inappropriate and irrational also come to mind. To put all this into perspective it is necessary to read the following article from the Guardian (an outside or other view and hopefully objective).

So where to begin! What you took from the previous article depends on whether you possess a right or left wing brain. There has been a lot of research into this but I do like the following Dailymail headline: “Tory voters found to have larger ‘primitive’ lobe in brain.”

But of course we are talking about Spain (which according to the Spanish, not me, is different) and anybody (with a left wing brain) who has been following the goings on in the Spanish parliament for the last four years will agree that the behaviour of the government has been perverse and even a bit primitive to say the least. Poverty denial being the most obnoxious and unemployment denial being even more bizarre considering that the statistics come from the self same government. The Guardian article only repeats what many in Spain have been trying to highlight for some time but something in the Spanish psyche does not want to accept this reality. This may have something to do with past glories of exploration, colonisation and empire but basically I think we are talking about national pride. The main argument in this denial is that as Spain is one of the ten top economies in the world (whatever that means) how then is it possible to have such a ridiculously high unemployment rate and poverty rate. Another right wing argument is that as it is the country where most people own two houses how could there be so much poverty and unemployment – maybe something to do with inequality for example.

As the right wing don’t seem to be too enamoured with science (global warming, evolution etc.) – statistics or hard facts never seem to get in the way of a dodgy argument. Defending the indefensible is an art form within the Spanish right wing. Politicians are allowed to just plain lie and ignore or invent facts without being picked up on it. The Spanish media in general is not in the same top ten when it comes to reporting and interviewing but admittedly there are a couple of exemplary exceptions. The mainstream media manages to overlook and under report on many issues with some important facts being ignored. A recent New York Times article backs up my insinuation: The recent quite dramatic shot-in-the-jaw that president Rajoy received was from his wife’s cousin (el niño de Rajoy) – an important detail to the story that was completely ignored by the mainstream media. Things like the extreme wealth of the old King Juan Carlos (reported in the NYT also) are just swept under the patriotic carpet – todo por la patria! – or is it that national pride thing again.

Tomorrow the Spanish have an opportunity to change all the above and bring Spain into the modern Europe that was promised thirty years ago. Democracy, Justice and Social protection need a major overhaul from top to bottom. In Spain politicians receive special treatment under the law and the people have very little power as all decisions are made by the government and the political parties. Finally, the average citizen has totally inadequate protection from poverty or unemployment. There are neither long term unemployment benefits or children’s allowance both issues that need to be tackled. The issue of the minimum or livable wage also needs to be tackled. What is perverse is that under the last government none of these issues could be tackled as the government was in denial and where no problem exists obviously no solution is needed. But the Spanish people as a whole have to want these changes and my feeling is that a consensus still does not exist in Spanish society to do the right thing for the invisible poor and unemployed. The people always get the government they deserve – I hope I am wrong.



In this article ‘Is this really our confilict?’ from LMD Pierre Conesa gives us an overview of the holy or unholy shit-storm that ISIS has stirred up. Yes, one thing that we can say for certain is that ISIS is guilty of stirring the shit which has existed forever in the Middle East and which now includes North Africa. But are they the only guilty party in this never ending tragedy?

As I write here in Madrid the Spanish President is tying himself up in knots trying to convince the average Spaniard that Spain is not in the sights of militant jihadism. The Spanish Government has refused to take a position after it’s neighbour and fellow EU partner called for help in it’s fight against the terrorists. No decision will be made here before the elections on December 20. It seems that principles are all fine and dandy but holding on to power at all costs is what really matters in the end. We have seen this many times before and we will keep seeing it over and over again – as this is the way of the world.

But why should the Spanish Government jump into the same shit hole as the French Government while making a similar kneejerk decision. In our modern twenty-four hour news cycle – Je suis Charlie, Je suis Paris, Je suis Hollande – is very soon forgotten. As Hollande is running around like a headless Gallic cock, meanwhile Rajoy is running around like a headless Spanish bull. The reality of our European leadership is both sad and dangerous. We can also include in this pastiche – a headless Germanic eagle, US bald eagle, Russian bear etc. What we end up with is something which looks like Picasso’s Guernica but which is called Stupidity. But these are only a few of the elements of the collage, there are a lot more to come.

When George W. Bush was elected as US president most intelligent human beings everywhere lamented. Was that the best the US could offer as a President and leader of the so called free world – an ex-alcoholic and coke head. The year was 2000 and the best had yet to come. Thanks to Francis Fukuyama and his theory – the end of history – we were expecting a bland and uneventful future. Nobody saw the shit-storm that was coming down the road. Chaos is the only word to describe Bush’s election – hanging chads – Al Gore – Supreme Court and Florida. It was all a bad omen for what lay ahead. And to make up the rest of the puzzle – the third-way prime minister of the UK Tony Blair, a man going mad from unquestioned power and in Spain Jose Maria Aznar – Jose el loco. The three stooges ride again into the abyss bringing the whole world with them.

Meanwhile state-side with the republicans in power – war as usual – was the mantra. The neo-cons – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield and Paul Wolfowitz were baying for ‘blood and treasure’. And they were aided by a gormless Colin Powell and Condalessa Rice. With this group a shit-storm was inevitable. And of course it goes without saying that with Dick, Colin and Bush in power together, somebody was sure to get fucked – bad karma. The excuse came in the form of Osama Bin Laden. A man schooled in Wahhabi ideology and CIA chauvinism – an explosive mixture – the perfect monster. Osama Bin Laden if the facts be told is a result of US stupidity. So how they can go around crowing about how they ‘took him down’ amazes me. Because they were responsible for the mess in the first place. All they did was clean up the shit-storm that they created.

For some background to the roots of the present day problem take a look at this. Thanks David for leading me to the following video:

Stupidy reigned then and still reigns now. The collage gets bigger and more complicated. Everybody is at war and nobody is at war. Everybody is the enemy and nobody is the enemy. My allies are my enemy. Today I fight with you and tomorrow against you. Saddam, Gaddafi, Arafat, Bin Laden, Morsi, Assad and all the rufugees – all are victims of the switch on switch off diplomacy of the western world. Maybe the infidel is not to be trusted after all. The western countries ask why they are hated by some in the islamic world. Maybe it is because the west is stupid. We stupidly elect stupid people to make stupid decisons on our behalf. Do not forget that people deserve the government they get and therefore have to take responsibility for what that government does in their name.




State Terrorism Dublin May 17 – 1974

In my Irish Bar view of the Northern Ireland war (never officially declared a war by the British as this would have meant outside interference from the UN) I spoke about state terrorism and how the political wing of the British Army ie., The British Government, allowed the British forces (they are many and varied) to carry out what might be called a dirty war or what I think is better called state terrorism. The British do not like outside interference in what they consider internal affairs – just like the USA. What is the difference between state terrorism and the everyday commoner spotted terrorism? Well none! Terrorism is terrorism. The British in the name of ‘national security’ – which is the usual excuse when you have done something highly illegal – murdered many nationalists both civilian and paramilitary.

But one of the most notorious of these state terrorist actions carried out under the direction and technical know how of the British forces was in Dublin in 1974 on May 17. I remember this date well because I was there. The role I played in this outrage was as a teenage civilian on a school tour. Paul McCartney released Band on the Run that year. The Godfather II was on in cinemas. On that day 3 car bombs were placed around the city center with only one thing in mind to kill and maim civilians who were going about their daily lives. 26 people were murdered and up to 300 injured. No warning was given. MI5/6 were controlling the gang (NI security forces and loyalist paramilitaries) who built and planted these bombs in Dublin on that day. MI5/6 is the British Secret Service (remember James Bond) – not exactly covering itself in glory that day. Nobody has ever been arrested or tried for this act of British state terrorism. Why not? Something to do with national security – remember that excuse? Can you imagine the British Government admitting that they were party to the cold blooded murder of 26 civilians (2 were French and Italian, the rest Irish) and maiming about 300 others in the center of Dublin in 1974? 7 others were murdered in Monaghan on the same night under similar circumstances. Never! is the answer to that question.

Why would they carry out such an outrageous act? Well first of all for the infamous national security. Secondly because they are cold blooded terrorists in suits. Thirdly, because it was a right wing government – the Tories. Fourthly, because it was Ireland, only Paddies. Fifthly, they wanted to send a message to the Southern and Northern Irish Governments to think clearly about laws they were about to pass in parliament. You will have to ask the British Government in which order they prefer that list. After all they know exactly why they did it. Tony Blair’s Labour party (so called socialists) did worse things in Iraq but more about that anon. Why is there and was there no international outcry against such barbarism being meted out by a so called modern democratic and civilized European state against another democratic and civilized European state and without declaring war? Well, you tell me. The USA does the same on a daily basis all around the world and nothing happens so why should anything happen to the British Government.

What is the present situation with the above act of British state terrorism? The British Government is looking into the matter. The Irish Government is blue in the face asking for the release of state documents concerning this terrorist act. Judge Barron in 2003 ordered the release of these documents but the British Government is still walking around the corridors of Westminster looking for the files. The next time you visit Westminster ask somebody if they have found them yet. Am I being a bit too hard on the Brits? Well ask the relatives of the victims of that outrageous act in Dublin in 1974. As for me I was lucky not to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could have been a victim of the Talbot Street bomb but thanks to a last minute decision I walked in the opposite direction.

A Eulogy to Political Fragmentation – Víctor Lapuente Giné

Here is an article I translated from El Pais – It talks about the advantages of coalition government something which many Spanish are not comfortable with. The author uses the word ‘superstition’ but I believe it is just fear of the unknown and when the Spanish get a taste of it, they will grow to like it a lot. The last few years of majority government where the PP have refused to deal or talk or consult with anybody and have pushed through all their own measures in the name of the Spanish people when in reality they only represent about a third of the population which for me is even too much. He explains how and why the right win elections more often than the left, something which is sneaking in here. Madrid for example should be socialist but the right have been winning hands down here for too long. He says that the PP are cleaverer than the PSOE which I agree with. The PP has been running rings around the PSOE in Madrid for years. Believe it or not in one district they infiltrated the PSOE with PP people – can you believe that?? Remember the last time the PSOE won the presedency of the Madrid region and were voted out when the PP bought two PSOE representatives – can you believe that?? I blame the PSOE for being stupid not the PP for being Machievellian. That is just business as usual for the right. You have to be cynical when it comes to the PP. On that note the subject of Cuidadanos is open to conspiracy theories. Keeping in mind the track record of the PP and that there is nothing they wont do to keep power. It is felt by some that Cuidadanos is just a trojan horse for the PP party. They knew the game was up after they had been caught with both hands in the till, so they decided to start another party, more moderate, cleaner and more digestable – the famous liberal center according to the following article. And when the general election is over they form a natural coalition and on and on goes the nightmare forever and ever.

A Eulogy to Political Fragmentation

Diversity enriches Governments and citizens. Coalitions are not bazaars, but the control of one over the other. They include risk, but favor more efficient reforms, less corruption and a more robust welfare state.

Coalitions get bad press. Journalists and analysts warn of a ‘state of fragmentation’ which will open the way for endless local and regional administrations after these elections. From a league comprising only two we are going to a more open league, in councils, regions and very soon on your screens (perhaps before the next version of the Wars of the Galaxies) and also in the Central Government. We will lose governance and gain instability. Governments will get less done, what is more partners of varied colours will have to agree – which will seem like a curse when social problems mount up. But it is an unjustified fear. The tectonic change from what is fundamentally two party politics to multi-party is generally a blessing. Above all in times of crisis, weak governments achieve more robust results. They are more reforming, less corrupt and more progressive. The lack of confidence in coalition governments is not only a Spanish superstition. Since multi-party coalitions collapsed in the Europe of the 30’s – opening the way to authoritarian regimes – some prestigious political scientists have argued for the inherent ineffectiveness of coalition governments. However, new studies, such as from Johannes Lindvall, show how coalition governments have the amazing capacity to achieve ambitious reforms. For example, flexicurity reforms, that countries like Spain urgently need as they have rigid economies in some aspects, and insecure societies in many more. Holland or the Scandinavian countries were flexicurized thanks to and not despite their coalition governments. As the social democrats have to come to some agreement with the liberals, they are obliged to accept the liberal agenda (deregulation of the markets) in exchange for carrying out their own (social protection). With no overall winners or losers, the reforms stick and survive successive changes of political colour. On the other hand, the reforms of majority governments like those of Thatcher or Rajoy and Cameron now, which present a beautiful ideological bill, but are as fragile as crystal. The inevitable pendulum of the political alternative sooner or later will destroy them.

Moreover the multi-party governments do more good than bad. Taking everything into account, government parties which need the support of other parties are less corrupt than governments with absolute majorities. Coalitions are not bazaars, but control of one over the other. A streaming auditor of the government.

Furthermore, coalition governments are more progressive. When a country has a two party political system, the right has a better chance of winning elections. Try and imagine a centrist voter who is ready to pay an important amount of their earnings in taxes to support a welfare state for all. If for whatever motive a system only offers two possibilities on which to cast your vote, a party associated with the working class ( labour in the UK or PSOE here) and another for the business men (tories or PP), who will you vote for? The centrist voter will avoid the worst outcome. What is the worst that could happen if you vote right wing? Well, that once in power they turn out to be radical neoliberals, with which the voter has to conform with measures that enforce lesser welfare state and lower taxes than wanted. A bad option. But better than voting for the left which in the worst of the cases increases taxes and expenditure. For this reason, when the vote is a decision between two, the right usually win. If, on the other hand, the same centrist voter has a viable option in the center (the traditional role of the European Liberals and potentially Ciudandanos in Spain), the possibilities of progressive coalitions of the center-left increases. If the left does not cooperate, the center party can withdraw their support, which hypothetically prevents radical drifts. In this way, the researchers Torben Iversen and David Soskice have found that the countries with majority electoral systems are governed by the right 75% of the time. While in countries with proportional systems the right only governs 25% of the time. In other words the offer of the PP and PSOE to convert the local elections (and maybe regional) into a majority conflict, introducing a second round, shows that the PP is cleverer than the PSOE.

For now, Spain has a proportional system, but in practice it frequently changes both in general elections and regional and local to a majority system. And not only because the electoral system penalizes the small parties, but because the political context has been bipartisan. The public spaces for debate have been virtually monopolized by both main parties. Interest groups, professional associations and the media have had a bipartisan orientation also. Politics up to now was a thing of two. Now thanks to the crisis, politics is a thing of four. Or more. The eternal bipartisan politics has broken and the small parties are overwhelmed with debate access – unimaginable a few years ago. The voters note today that they have more than two political alternatives with the prospect of decisively influencing the government. Moreover, some of those alternatives could transform themselves into that center liberal party whose moderating presence has been key to maintaining the most advanced welfare states of the world. Finally, political fragmentation is beneficial because it can lead to more efficient reforms, less corruption, and a more robust welfare state. Without doubt, it includes risk, as coalition governments are delicate creatures. They need love and care. They demand respect between the parties. But the journey to this new more plural way of doing politics also requires a change of mindset in how society sees politics: is it confrontation or consensus? And the political analysts can help that transition or block it. We can underline to exhaustion the ‘electoral damage’ that wil from coalescing with such a party or extol their sense of responsibility. We could denounce the inconsistencies between the coalition members, their ‘cacophony of voices’ or we could celebrate the diversity which makes governments richer. And, in the end, all the citizens.

Víctor Lapuente Giné is lecturer in the Quality of Government Institute at Gutenberg University.

An in depth Interview with the president of Spain Mariano Rajoy

This interview has been agreed to on the grounds that all questions remain relevant to his public life and I believe that you will agree that the president has been more than candid in his replies. Not a great communicator – he avoids all questions from the press, has never been know to make a decision and is fondly known as the Plasma President due to his predilection for holding press conferences on flat screen televisions. So you ask why would he submit himself to this interview especially when we are approaching very important elections that may finally see an end to the longest political transition in history. Well as they say – Spain is different and Mr. Rajoy it seems is one who helps make that difference.

Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming elections?

A: I don’t expect anything to change as my party the People’s Party is guaranteed at least 30 percent of the vote. This is the right wing and therefore a regimented and disciplined voter and the party faithful will do as they are told or more to the point what I tell them to do. The polls say different because people genuinely want change but at the moment of truth – when casting their vote – they will shit themselves and vote PP just like their parents and their grandparents before them. Politics in Spain is like football – you stick with your team no matter what – loyalty to the colors – no thought process involved.

Q: How can you be so sure of this vote – what about the new Citizens party?

A: Because I know that my loyal Fachitas, as I fondly call them, will vote for me even if I order the death of the first born in every family. These people know that as long as the PP governs they will be taken care of and will keep enjoying the favors that they have become accustomed to. It has always been so – since the fascist dictatorship of Franco. When I talk of Spanish it is the real Spanish I am referring to – not those from the other side. Over the last four years we have stolen and taken control of whatever was left thanks to our absolute majority and everything now belongs to the PP. The Citizens Party has arrived just a little too late – it was a close thing but we saw our opportunity and took it. We couldn’t believe our luck. Long live Spain! Long live the King! Long live the real Spanish!

Q: But don’t the people want change?

A: The opposite to change is to conserve – the real Spanish are conservatives by nature – they don’t like change. Spain is steeped in history and tradition. We are an agricultural country. We still like to fight and kill bulls in the bullring. The nobility, the church and the military still own the majority of land and real estate even in the capital Madrid. The golden age of Spain was a long time ago in the past. Therefore the people like to talk about and remember the past. The present and the future don’t look too bright. The last century we would like to forget about. Progress and change do not come naturally – the real Spanish are conservative and natural PP voters. There is no fertile ground here for republican ideas and socialist fantasies.

Q: But the PSOE have governed here and they are a socialist party

A: It is true that the PSOE have governed and that they claim to be socialist. But this is socialism Spanish style. The Spanish Socialist party would be considered a right wing party in the north of Europe. Their policies are not very different from ours. They have made some superficial changes to the law but nothing substancial. The people are still powerless, the judiciary is still politically biased, nothing has been done to stop corruption and the poor and unemployed have been abandoned. You see the other side are also conservative but cannot bring themselves to vote PP so they vote for the same thing but with a different label. In the end everything is football just a different name. This is the two Spains, divided by a civil war but with basically the same conservative ideology.

Q: Why do you hold press conferences by plasma?

A: I have to admit that I suffer a bit from the Michael Jackson syndrome. I have a phobia of contact with the public especially the press. They are constantly asking irrelevant and stupid questions. And of course when they receive the inevitable stupid answer they complain – further reinforcing my phobia. I am also a very busy man, I have more important matters of state to attend to – you cannot expect me to be in two places at once. I am an important European leader with many important and powerful friends. My relationship with Angela Merkel is quite close. I think she likes the Latin lover type.

Q: You have a reputation for never taking decisions – do you agree?

A: It is scientifically proven that there is a limit to the amount of good decisions that can be made in any one day. Therefore I have decided to save all my best decisions until the end. The best is yet to come. On a more serious note I would like to add that not taking a decision is a decision in itself so let the final decision be Gods will. Let God decide. I am a very religious man and believe that Spain is God’s country. I know that finally I will have to answer to my maker for all the decisions that I have made in life. The press tell me that I have to answer to the people for my decisions but my belief is that God is the only one that I have to answer to.

Q: I notice that you like to surround yourself with women. Most of your chief appointments to cabinet are women. Is there a particular reason for that?

A: I like women – a lot. I don’t like men – that much. It’s as simple as that. There is no mystery.

Q: Why don’t you speak English?

A: I could as usual avoid the answer by giving the PP stock answer that Zapatero doesn’t either but here is the reason why. More people speak Spanish than English in the world. This is a fact and I don’t apologize for present company. Spanish is much richer in swear words, curses and bad language than English – you only have to listen to the typical Spanish conversation. So why would I want to use a minority language which has to use the word fuck for everything. Anyway Spanish will eventually be the most spoken language in the US and will eventually replace English as the world lingua franca. I have no doubt in my mind about this. I would like to add that I sometimes speak English in the shower when I feel more relaxed.

Q: It is said that you are a bad communicator but I have to admit that I am more than surprised with your candid replies to my questions. You communicate quite well when you have to.

A: Communication requires the transfer of facts, figures and information clearly and concisely – this is not the Spanish way. We prefer to just make lots of noise. By the way – did you know that Spain is the noisiest country in the world. Just thought I’d throw that one in to embellish my point with a well known fact. When you finish talking with a Spanish person and after the argument has gone around in circles ad infinitum – believe me you wont know up from down. And in reply to your question – I’m not president of a big wealthy European country for nothing – the message eventually gets through.

The Spanish Cooking Oil Cover UP

Just read the article above and tell me what you think. I saw the documentary about 20 years ago when I was living in Ireland. It meant nothing to me at the time but later became my standard for the lack of transparency in Spain. Thinking people say to me that if there was any truth in it then somebody would have exposed it long ago. Yes, you would think so. But no, about 35 years after the event nobody has exposed the truth and what is worse nobody wants to know the truth. Nobody wants to know. This for me is one of the major weaknesses in the Spanish psyche. Probably something to do with so many years of dictatorship. There is no willingness to question authority. If the government says something then it must be true, If somebody outside the country says something, then they obviously have an agenda against the Spanish. Nobody wants to know the truth. This type of patriotism never ceases to amaze me, even when all the evidence is clearly laid out to be scrutinized. Nobody questions the period when Spain was run by a fascist dictator. Seemingly he was some sort of a benevolent old uncle – something like Santa Clause but in military uniform. Nobody wants to know the truth. Whereas in all other dictatorships around the world the question has been tackled many years ago. Then when an internationally respected judge decides to do something he is removed from office and no problem, business as usual. Nobody wants to know.

Nobody questions the quality of democracy that has been given to the people. Is this the best that is available, no. Just look some time at a parliamentary seccion on TV and ask yourself, who choose all these shameless hardnecks. Well, the answer is simple, they choose themselves, the people had no say in it. Here the political parties give the people what the parties want not what the people want. The people are never asked in referendums. Nobody wants to know. Nobody questions the 1.2 billion that king Juan Carlos has stashed away according to the New York Times. Oh but maybe it is not true – or maybe it is true – another Anglo Saxon conspiracy against the Spanish – well than lets find out and put it to bed forever. Lets have some intelligent debate about it. Nobody wants to know the truth. Nobody questions why some politicians act like pharaohs or like some fat chief in a native village. They build monuments to themselves which cost society a fortune. The people are never consulted.

There is always plenty of money for mega festivals, for Formula 1 etc, but yet there is no money for unemployed people, for poor people, for the children of the poor, for families. The minimum wage needs to be set at the price of a Spanish persons dignity. How much is a Spanish persons dignity worth? Nobody asks, nobody wants to know what is going on. What is the official figure for poverty? Seemingly zero – the only country in the world with zero poverty. Nobody knows. How many people need a house? Or do all Spanish people have two houses? Nobody knows. What is the figure for unemployment? Well we have a figure but seemingly it is not true as everybody is working in the black economy. Nobody knows. What is the official figure for the amount of people that have left the country looking for work. Nobody knows for sure – the government have one figure (small) and the opposition another (lot bigger). Nobody knows, nobody wants to know. España va bien! So everything is perfect and we all live happily ever after.

The Two Spains or Civil War politics

As an observer of Spanish life and culture the most fascinating aspect of Spain for me is not the food or the football but the always taboo subject of the Two Spains. Now, some may ask if I am talking about Barca vs Madrid or maybe the many independence groups vs España or possibly the rich vs the poor or the upper class vs the lower class etc. Well, I suppose it incorporates all of the former but is much more potent. What I am talking about is the  Right / Left question or to put it more colourfully the Facha / Rojo divide. This has seen the two party system of PP / PSOE govern for the past 30 years. Everybody in Spain knows which  group they come from or even belong to but nobody wants to talk about it openly as it makes for some discomfort. Some will tell you that it does not exist and that it is something from the past which the modern generation have forgotten about. But just try talking politics among a group in Spain and you will notice the silence that quickly descends. This I think is why people always talk about food in Spain because it is the only subject on which most people agree and which is safe.

The root of all this silence is the civil war. Like all civil wars this was a barbarous event which turned brother against brother and neighbour against neighbour and if the truth be told most of the things that happened in the Spanish civil war are best left unsaid. But that for me is not the point. I understand that any detailed discussion of the civil war would be painful for some and stomach churning for others, not good dinner table conversation. What needs to be talked about is what happened in the years after the civil war up to Franco’s death. This was a dark period in which the victors abused their position to browbeat the defeated population. Then came the transition from dictatorship to democracy which is always quoted by the right as the period where all wrongs were righted. This does not stand up to scrutiny. A true transition would have been an agreement between equals but as the right controlled everything it was always going to be the left who accepted what they were given rather than what they demanded. The right and this goes for all countries have never been known for their magnanimity. This has been a very long and slow transition and it seems that it finally is about to come to an end. The next general election should finally see an end to the  two party government system and maybe a dilution of the Two Spains.