Category Archives: Spain

How to pretend doing something without committing to anything

A nuclear energy plant in Spain, in the town of Santa María de Garoña, is the focus of controversy in recent weeks, thanks to the Government’s determination to close it down in spite of favourable reports that call for its continuation beyond its design lifetime of 40 years.

Spanish government president Rodríguez Zapatero‘s motivation to close it down is purely political. He wants to be seen as the promoter of “clean energy”, and also needs public discussion of a controversial topic (the debate on the use or not of nuclear energy) to divert attention from Spain’s real problems (unemployment, inefficient government, inefficient justice system, etc…)

But now (2009) it is a bad time to close this nuclear plant down, for it would leave thousands of people unemployed, and that would hurt Rodríguez Zapatero‘s image, in the midst of the economic crisis.

Therefore, what bright idea did our visionary president come up with? Simply introduce legislation that mandates the closing down of this nuclear plant in 2013. (automatically translated version here)

Why 2013?

Because the next national election will be in 2012. During the election campaign of 2012, we are sure to hear Rodríguez Zapatero claiming he will close down the nuclear plant in Garoña, while the opposition leader, should he win the election, will try to keep it operational.

If Rodríguez Zapatero wins the election in 2012, he can easily close down Garoña in 2013, claiming he is doing it according to law. By 2013 the economy is likely to have recovered somewhat, so the unemployment caused by this closing will not be so problematic (politically for him, that is). It wouldn’t be surprising, however, that in 2013 he would decide to extend the life of Garoña, if it suits him politically.

On the other hand, if someone else wins the 2012 election, they will be required by law to close down Garoña. This other “someone” would be the presidential candidate of the Popular Party (PP, currently the main opposition party). The PP has called for extending the operation life of Garoña, so the new law by Rodríguez Zapatero is intended exclusively to create problems for the PP, should they win the election.

In other words:

  • Rodríguez Zapatero introduces legislation to close
    down the nuclear plant.

  • He presents himself as committed to putting an end to nuclear energy use.
  • He presents himself as supporting clean renewable energy sources.
  • He avoids the unemployment problem in Garoña in the short term (2009-2011, his
    time in office)

  • He dumps the hot potato that he created on the next Government (after

It surely sounds like the perfect move for a politician: dodging problems, passing them on to someone else. That’s all Rodríguez Zapatero is capable of.

Garoña produces 1.3% of the total national electricity production in Spain, and it reaches the end of its designed 40-year lifetime in 2011. Therefore, if it really must be closed, the Government should indeed close it, instead of passing on the problem to someone else. If it is deemed necessary for Garoña to continue in operation, then the Government should act accordingly. However, what Rodríguez Zapatero is doing is neither one thing nor the other: He is staying in middle ground, extending the life of Garoña just 2 years (from 2011 to 2013), just enough so that the problem falls on the hands of the next Government (in which he may not be president).


Language choice in Galicia

The regional government of Galicia distributed a questionnaire among parents of schooled children. The goal is to find out parents’ preferences about which language (Spanish or Galician, or a mix) to use for teaching in school, to later design the “future language policies for elementary and secondary education in Galicia.”

The questionnaire had to reach parents directly, but a group called “galician coalition of linguistic normalization and dynamization” (CGENDL in Galician) has attached a letter (in Galician) to the questionnaire to mold responses in favor of one option (Galician). While this is bad enough (the questionnaire was supposed to be neutral), the letter rests on ludicrous claims:

1) “Galician is Galicia’s own language; it belongs to us all and we cannot play with its future”

This is irrelevant: It fails to take into account the interests of people who speak Galician. The language to speak should not be chosen because it is related to a particular territory. Languages are an instrument for communication. People who choose their education in Galician may do so, regardless whether Galician “belongs” to them or not. To make Galician-based education optional is not “playing with its future”.

2) “as teaching personnel, we think we must offer thorough information about language learning, based on scientific studies”

First of all, they legitimize their opinion as superior because they are “teaching personnel”, although the problem is not at all about teaching, but rather about policies of freedom of choice. Secondly, history shows that languages are not chosen or discarded based on “scientific studies”, but rather languages become used or not as a result of forced adoption or convenience of using another language. Their “scientific studies” are unknown to me, but they seem irrelevant, because what is most important is people’s free choice, based on what they want, because it may be what’s most convenient, most useful, or most interesting for them (everyone may freely choose their motives for using one language or another)

3) “It’s fortunate, rather than unfortunate, that our community has a thousand-year-old language, which must unite us”.

“Which must unite us”? Is Galician the only way to unite people? Must people be “united”? This argument rests on too many assumptions. Can the Spanish language not unite the Galician people? Or, do they imply that Galician must “unite” the Galician people in facing others who are not Galician? This argument reeks of a desire to incite differentiation and segregation: Galician on one side, speaking Galician, and other people on other other side, speaking something other than Galician. What monumental stupidity.

4) “The idea that Galician is an obstacle for students must not be allowed to prevail, perpetuating old prejudices intended to keep Galician consigned to a secondary place in society”

These teaching personnel need to wake up and open their eyes. If someone regards Galician as an obstacle for students is because that’s probably true. That is: Galician, as any other language, allows communication with other people who speak the same language, and allows access to materials written and recorded in that language. If someone thinks their child must be able to communicate with people outside Galicia, then the Galician language might represent an obstacle rather than a vehicle. Nevertheless, most likely most people do not regard either of the two languages as an obstacle, but both are official languages and people must be allowed to choose whether they want to receive their education in one of them or both. Precisely, Galician does not need to be secondary, but if anyone regards it as secondary for them, they must not be forbidden to think that way.

5) “In order to know Galician it is necessary to ‘learn in Galician’ “.

This is true, but of course they do not speak about the conflict this implies with the other official language, Spanish: If one must learn in Galician in order to know the Galician language, they should make the equivalent statement: In order to know the Spanish language, one must learn in Spanish. Clearly, a single subject (say mathematics) cannot be taught simultaneously in two languages: one must be used. Which one to use? This is the question driving the CGENDL to ask people to use Galician (although they conveniently fail to say that in this manner they are regarding Spanish as “secondary”)

Actually, the problem is not that serious: In another Spanish region, the Basque Country, people who learned mathematics in Basque 20 years ago, for instance, have no problem utilizing that knowledge in a Spanish-speaking environment.

The real problem is a freedom of choice problem: The CGENDL today, and the previous Galician regional government before, intend to impose the use of one of the official languages (Galician) instead of allowing parents to choose.

6) The all-time favourite argument of any obsessed person: “Galician continues to be a minority language, and therefore it needs positive discrimination both within the education system and outside of it”

Translation of this argument: “Because my interests are discriminated against, let us discriminate against the opposite to promote my interests”.

If there truly are intentional limitations to Galician, such damaging practices may be fought against. However, the solution to avoid discrimination must not consist of artificially promoting Galician through “positive discrimination”.

Assuming no imposed limitations exist to the use of Galician, the minority use of Galician is due to the majority of people choosing a language other than Galician (Spanish). “Positive discrimination” would therefore imply that people should be forced to use Galician, to ensure that it is used as frequently as Spanish. Again here we find the desire to force people into doing something, instead of allowing them to choose the language they wish to use “both within the education system and outside of it”.

Language is not an end

Language is communication, and nothing else. Human beings keep on insisting to attach properties of identity, culture and even politics to languages, but this is completely wrong. Every time the “identity” or “cultural” aspect of language is claimed by anyone, this is done so exclusively with the intent to separate, segregate and differentiate people from each other.

Humans should regard language primarily (and almost exclusively) as a communication tool. Languages are not an end, but a means. Preserving or promoting languages for the sake of it, (like the CGENDL and nationalist regional parties want to do) is nothing but an attempt to divide (rather than unite) people, with the only goal of gaining popularity.

Why does Rodríguez Zapatero need the special congress permission?

This week ETA has killed police inspector Eduardo Puelles, and the Government and the main opposition party (PP) have given an image of unity in their response to this new assassination, calling for the defeat of ETA. It seems that the PP backs the Government’s current counter-terrorism policy.

However, it is hard to believe that the Government really wants to see ETA defeated while they still keep alive a permit in congress to allow the Government to negotiate with ETA killers.

Furthermore, we no longer hear the PP voice their old demand that the Government of Rodríguez Zapatero revoke the special permit to negotiate with ETA. The PP stopped asking for this since they failed to win the presidential elections of 2008.

As a reminder, the “special permit” allows the Government to initiate negotiations with ETA terrorists if ETA ceases the bombing, killing and blackmailing.

The problem is… how to assert that such practices have indeed stopped? Spanish president Rodríguez Zapatero once claimed that there was evidence to believe that the terrorists had laid down their weapons, and that he would order contacts with ETA.

The problem is, in fact, that the blackmailing of businessmen by ETA never stopped, despite what Rodríguez Zapatero said. And now we are reminded again that the killing never stopped either, with 10 assassinations already since ETA faked a cease-fire, when Rodríguez Zapatero replied with a permit from congress to negotiate with them.

Since 2006 until 2008 the main opposition party (PP) claimed the congress-granted permit for the Government to talk with ETA to be revoked. After the general election in 2008, the PP never again requested the revocation.

Today, both the Government and the opposition (along with several mainstream newspapers) highlight the “unity” of Government and opposition in counter terrorism policy, but I still doubt claims by president Rodríguez Zapatero that he wants to see ETA defeated. He would be more easily believed if he himself promoted the revocation of the permit to negotiate with ETA. After all, the special congress authorization cannot be applied, and is not needed; or does the Government need it?

New financing, …new programming?

Televisión Española (“TVE”, the Spanish public TV station) is faced with a new financing plan, put forward by the current government, the “Draft bill for financing of Spanish Radio and Television Corporation”. According to this bill, TVE would no longer display TV commercials. Advertisement income will be replaced by income from a tax on telecommunication operators and on private TV channels.

That is, TVE no longer needs to compete for the audience to ensure its income: All its financing is guaranteed by law, coming from national budget, and from mandatory taxes on private companies.

Therefore, if TVE requires not to compete with its programming against other TV channels, will TVE cease to broadcast rubbish? There is no longer any excuse to broadcast stupid contest shows, gossip TV shows, variety shows, TV fiction, or for paying broadcast rights of sports events, or for showing any programming which only goal is to attract an audience, regardless of any public utility.

The only reason for a public TV channel to exist is so public interest programming can be broadcast. Will they show now documentaries on literature, history, technology, or nature? Will they show programming explaining how the institutions of the State work? When will they start broadcasting a daily show summarising the daily activity of parliament, so people can see everything that our politicians do, instead of being informed of the occasional scandal? Likewise, will they broadcast a program to inform of the debates in the European parliament, and another one explaining the Spanish people the workings of the European Union, and how Spain is affected by it?

There are loads of important topics to fill the public TV’s schedule.

Furthermore, the cost of such programming would be far less than the current music shows, variety shows, TV series, etc, which fill up current TVE broadcasts. The new financing model makes it possible to stop paying for broadcast rights, whether music, sports, or any other programming.

Will we see new programming on TVE, when the new financing model is implemented? Unfortunately, I very much doubt it. I hope to be corrected when the time comes later in 2009 to end advertisements in TVE.

13-week monsters

In the context of the abortion debate, agitated by the government of Rodríguez Zapatero with its new “Law of Reproductive and Sexual Health and of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancies”, the Minister of Equality (yes… we have such a idiotic Ministry in Spain), Bibiana Aído, has marked the age limit for the human fetus to be considered human or not.

That is, the socialist government has turned itself into official philosopher and dictates who is human and who is not. This government must really have magical properties, because despite all absurdity they utter, they manage to keep considerable popular support.

What’s that about a 13-week fetus not being human? Is a one week fetus something other than human? What else is it? Possibly up until 13 weeks of pregnancy the fetus is not human, but a giraffe or an extraterrestrial being. Despite any efforts by the minister, the socialist party, the president, or anyone else to the contrary, the fetus of a human being is human at any time of the pregnancy. I guess the minister wanted to emphasize that the fetus is not a person, and that killing it is not bad from a moral point of view.

However, Aído also said that the fetus is a living being. Therefore, she is saying that it is ok to kill a living being just because, only because other people decide it so. Even though this minister says that the murdered fetus is not human, it is. Thus, a correct interpretation of her words state that this minister of Rodríguez Zapatero‘s government says that it is fine to kill living human beings if they are 13 weeks or less into their development in the womb.

Furthermore, as Amando de Miguel very well pointed out once, “interruption” of the pregnancy (the title of the law) is a term used to mislead: The law talks about an early end to pregnancy, the elimination of life, and not an interruption, for an interrupted act can be resumed, but the abortion of life (of 13 weeks, as Aído admits, or any other age) cannot be resumed.

The colossal rigmarole the Minister got herself into by stating that human beings grow non-human beings in their wombs is quite clear proof that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she doesn’t know what she wants to say, she doesn’t know what she believes, she doesn’t believe what she says, or she doesn’t say what she believes. In any of those cases, Aído is proving once again her uselessness. Sadly, however, she is most useful for Rodríguez Zapatero and his plan to dumb everyone down.

Silence, please

I usually condemn from this blog the Spanish penal code and the Spanish judicial system and its practices when they impose weak and slim sentences, but this time I have to applaud them (to some extent).

A bar owner in Barcelona has been sentenced to 5 years in jail for disrupting the lives of neighbors with the noise from the bar. The bar lacked operating permits, and did not comply with any regulation on soundproofing. Neighbors had to stand one year of loud noises at night, despite several formal complaints from neighbors to authorities about the noise.

Offenders like this bar owner know that the judicial system is slow and that sentences are rarely tough on them, so they risk skipping compliance with regulations, with their arrogant behaviour toward good neighbourly conduct: Problems started in 2005, and the bar owner has not been sentenced to jail until now (2009). There is ample room for improvement. The system must evolve to be able to put these people in jail from the first day of their offence. Everyone should be able to live quietly in their homes without interference of outside noise. Rest is of utmost importance for a healthy life and consequently a healthy society. Noise offences like in the case of this bar need to be much more swiftly restrained.

Silence is long forgotten as a virtue in today’s noisy society. People should learn to appreciate it and cherish it, and this includes respecting the space of others freeing it from our own noise.

Take the law into one's own hands

After a bomb set off by criminal terrorists ETA (or their support groups, it’s all the same) last February 23 in Lazcano (Guipuzcoa) destroyed the home of Emilio Gutiérrez, a local neighbour, Emilio went on a rampage against the local ETA-supporting bar, destroying part of it.

Emilio did what just about every spaniard ever wanted to do in reaction to ETA. It is not right to take the law into one’s own hands, but what are we to do when the State no longer guarantees security, ensuring protection from criminals?

ETA and its supporters roam about many towns in the Basque Country (and elsewhere), and the State does nothing to arrest them, close down their financing institutions (bars included), or remove their propaganda from the streets. The terrorist/criminal/mafia laden environment is permanently threatening and intimidating people, destroying public and private property, and hunting down (or even killing) anyone who publicly disagrees with their short-sighted moronic view of the world.

The State should be there to prevent all that criminal activity. The State’s mission is first and foremost to guarantee the security and freedom of people. When the State has failed in its mission, people have no other option than to resort to taking the law into their own hands. In Spain, the State is failing and is missing, and in such situation, Emilio did the right thing. It is up to the Government to reverse the situation, and start giving us, the people, the security and freedom that we expect it to protect.