National News February II

King’s Cup Dropped
During the triumphant parade for Real Madrid after they beat Barça 1-nil in the Copa del Rey, Barça fans enjoyed a brief moment of schadenfreude when Sergio Ramos accidentally let fall the Cup from his position atop the open, double-decker bus transporting the happy team.

The past couple years have not been kind to the club with Barça winning just about everything, but they still possess an excellent team, and winning the Copa no doubt eased certain anxieties; however, their recent misfortunes only seemed amplified when the Cup dropped, because the bus carrying the team proceeded to roll over and mangle the trophy. Check out the video on Youtube, because, frankly, it is hilarious.

The Convictions of Politicians
Elections in politics are a bit like sporting play-offs and finals because they are usually far more exciting than the regular season, and Spain’s upcoming municipal (this month) and national (next year) contests are no exception.

Perhaps the most outstanding detail is how many candidates have been been charged and or implicated with corruption that have yet to find their total way through the sluggish courts. The two biggest parties, PP and PSOE, have between them over 80 per cent of the accused on their lists with the rest being shared out between the IU, CiU and others; said percentages relating to over 700 pending cases.

We must remain firm as always with innocent-unti-proven-guilty, which is the general screen behind which are hiding the apologists for these candidates’ inclusion; however, for decency’s and transparency’s sakes, we must toss aside the Innocent etc chestnut brandished by these apologists; ie, the political leaders themselves, when it comes to allowing suspects in criminal cases to run for office.

If you knew a surgeon was up on several mal-practice suits, would you want him or her to operate on you? No, better they deal with their legal problems far from the operating table, while still granting them that sacred right, innocent until proven into-it-up-to-the-neck.
A citizen’s group, Avaaz, has compiled the signatures of over 100,000 people who demand electoral lists without a single suspect. Naively, they desire the end of corruption in politics; realistically, they simply ask for transparent and accountable candidates, which the current ruling political elite clearly disagrees with.

The absurdity of our dear leaders grows when you read how the PSOE says that their having suspects on their lists is not comparable to the PP having suspects as candidates. Blanco, present Minister of the Interior, said in 2007 that “nobody suspected of corruption will be a candidate for any office under the PSOE banner.” Funny. He doesn’t feel that way any longer. None of them, if they did, do. All this re-affirms that politicians easily confuse the two meanings of ‘conviction,’ hence the title of this piece.

Sleeping Velocity Blues
The Supreme Court has refused to knock down the 110 km/h law, provisional or not (it is due to end in June if it’s not extended). The petition, presented by groups Movement 140 and Dvuelta, stating that the law was illegal and inconsistent with both the Government’s and Trafico’s motives, was rejected by the Court, whose statement said that the Law will be examined again once the period it covers expires to test its legality, and in the case where it is deemed illegal, then all speeding fines and lost points during this time could be rendered null and void.

Contrary to Trafico’s claims, road fatalities have not decreased by 10 per cent, and the Government’s reasoning that the speed drop would save fuel is also specious as fuel consumption has fallen since the beginning of the year but more as a result of the punishingly high prices at the pumps, not by capping road velocity.

I personally see little difference out on the roads. And as regards the enforcing of 30 km/h limits in town, well, I am keeping to that speed, and now cyclists are over-taking me and shouting, “¡Vamos, chico!”

It’s All Chinese to Zapatero
Prime Minister José Rodriguez Zapatero, on a visit to economic powerhouse China, announced that the Chinese Investment Corporation would be investing 9.3 billion euros in the beleaguered Spanish financial system, only for that corporation the following day to deny this announcement. Oops.

Madrid, back-tracking, called it a communication cock-up. Well, Chinese is a difficult language. The Chinese, attempting to save Zapatero’s face, then having pies thrown at it by the PP among others, said they were pondering exactly what and where to invest, but yes, in Spain.

Both countries claim to be overly chummy, saying each is the other’s best friend (in their respective spheres of economic influence). As should be obvious, friendship and business do not mix well, and China, with great growth and surplus wealth, is not going to throw their money around without any security backing it up.

Spain is in a long and difficult process of re-structuring its financial system, and without any positive leaps forward countries such as China can be as nice as they want, but they won’t be bailing out Spain’s continued financial and bureaucratic anachronistic entities.

Strange Stats
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report that claims Spaniards work more on average than Germans.

The study finds that Spaniards work on average 4 hours and 36 minutes daily compared to the Germans’ meagre 3 hours and 52 minutes. Take that, you dastardly clichés!

The Japanese work 6 hours and 16 minutes daily whereas the Danes only find 3 hours and 45 minutes to devote to daily work. The study also includes leisure time, and so: every Spaniard spends 3 hours and 18 minutes on non-remunerative activity (shopping, TV, cooking, ITV) whereas Mexicans slave at whatever without pay for 6 hours and 13 minutes. When you add up both columns, the winners are the Belgians who only work and shop for 7 hours a day whereas the Mexicans toil for 10 hours. Such a study begs the question that all forms of work are equal, when clearly they are not. See the wonderful “036” video on Youtube for further evidence of what work really isn’t.

Spain and Digital Piracy
Spain has been slow in stopping the downloaders and copyright pirates (even a simple photocopy can indict you on this) but certain measures such as the controversial Digital Canon Tax (introduced into law in 2008) and the recent Sinde Law have made some headway.
The Digital Canon Tax, although seemingly light, is added on to every conceivable device capable of copying material. So, hard drives, MP3 players, iPods, memory sticks, DVD and CD players, blank DVD’s and CD’s, printers, you name it; it’s likely got this tax. And the dividends from it go to SGAE, the General Society of Authors, which claims to represent and protect all creative minds.

This tax suffered a blow recently when the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that it was illegal as it was imposed indiscriminately as opposed to being aimed at demonstrable cases of piracy. In other words, you don’t infringe copyright in any way, and yet you pay this tax as well: guilty and with no recourse to proving your innocence (ie, getting your money back).

Current law says that making private copies of legally acquired material is perfectly acceptable, something SGAE clearly disagrees with, and which the tax blatantly violates. In 2010 SGAE raked in over 23m euros, and a similar number in 2009.

The SGAE is not popular. It is accused of not having artists’ best interests in mind, as well as being the ones responsible for hunting businesses such as Hair Dressers whose ‘crime’ was to play music over the stereo system while clients’ hair was styled.

This law’s cousin is the Sinde Law, whichs aims to control and contain illegal activity on-line. Certain countries require that your ISP provider monitor all on-line activity, and if it’s found that you are committing piracy, the general rule is several written warnings and if they aren’t heeded, your Internet is cut off for one year. Other countries have imposed steep fines on offenders.

The Sinde Law is, so far, tame. For example, it can now block Spanish access to foreign sites that make material available for download. Yeah, a slap on the wrists, I know. But the Sinde Law’s real problem is that it is controlled by the government, not by any legal mechanism. In other words, a governmental commission decides that censorship of a certain web site is necessary, and the legal component merely complies with the wish; they do not interpret or decide for or against it. Rubber-stampers of a particular political line.

This is not what the Justice system was designed for. Anyway, few people in this country care about this issue. And so thus join many fellow citizens who do not care at all about what is happening to this country. The Spanish have been emasculated, and without cojones, they will continue victim to governments of all stripes and at all levels who, as they enrich themselves, exercise ever greater control over our fundamental rights and freedoms.

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