Spain’s Low-Cost Miracle

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

After the glance back into Spain’s past last time, I thought a look into that country’s future might be in order. First off: you’ve perhaps heard of the new political party there Podemos, but have you heard of Ciudadanos?

Ciudadanos
The name means “citizens,” and that is another recently formed politial party there. The writer of this piece in the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post, César Ramos, is a politician from the mainstream leftist PSOE party (the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party – formerly of Felipe González). Yet he sees potential in this new political formation, mainly to put an end to the monopoly of the Popular Party (Partido Popular, now in power under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy) of the political space on the Right.

At least Señor Ramos, as a PSOE delegate, would wish for that to be true. From its Wikepedia page it seems that Ciudadanos is more of a regional party for Catalonia, founded to counteract the anti-Spanish feeling there. On the other hand, there is this:

PSOE
Ciudadanos is said here to be able at least to expect enough votes in the upcoming Andalusian regional election, not to win it, but to affect the outcome in favor of the PSOE. By the way, this particular La Información article is unintentionally funny in the way it writes the party name Ciudadanos just like a regular word – so that, for example, the picture caption (to the same picture you see there in the tweet) has the PSOE Andalusian Governor Susana Díaz meeting with ciudadanos meaning just ordinary citizens, when you’re tempted to think instead that it means that she’s meeting with members of the competing party! (OK, so it’s only me who finds this funny . . .) (more…)

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European One-Armed Banditry

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

No, we don’t mean there’s been a new crime-wave perpetrated by cripples criss-crossing the Old Continent; nor (even though this is a little bit more likely) some illicit fund-raising campaign undertaken by ISIS fighters having had to return from their MidEast adventures due to grievous upper-body injuries.

Rather, for “one-armed bandit” here we are referring to the slot machine, that most-insidious piece of gambling equipment capable of enchanting for hours – and many dollars, euros, or what have you lost – on end quite considerable cohorts of people with the particular psychological disposition to be so captivated. Especially in it most-modern incarnation, i.e. those machines governed by internal software, far from offering players any “fair” game it is rather carefully programmed to manipulate the sucker sitting before it so as to extract the maximum of money.

A modern-day societal plague, in short; yet thereby irresistible to those businesses, and occasionally even governments, which can manage to gain permission to make the investment into equipment and then set them up so as to start preying upon the passing parade of suckers.

In terms of the latest news from Europe on this score, as is so often the case we witness one step forward together with one back. Starting in Austria:

WienGamble
Ralf Leonhard is the Austrian correspondent for the Berlin newspaper the taz (Die Tageszeitung), and he reports about how, as of January 1, das kleine Glückspiel – “small-scale gambling” – has been banned within the city of Vienna. That basically boils down to one-armed bandits, which previously numbered some 2,600 in the city, spread out among 505 locations of which 69 were Spiellokale, that is, pure slot-machine halls. (The other establishments were places like bars and cafés; they’re now banned there, too.) (more…)

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Stranger in a Strange Teutonic Land

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

As is the case in all democratic societies, it is healthy for top government officials occasionally to get out and mingle among their constituents. That’s why Spanish government spokeswoman María Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría Antón recently was in Germany, as El Huffington Post reports.

HuffPoES_Santamaria

In Germany?! Why sure: unemployment in Spain itself has gotten to be so bad that legions of Spaniards – those with true initiative, who in past centuries would have headed over to the Western Hemisphere – have moved to Germany to find places for themselves in the much better economic situation there. Brace yourself for the tide of funny stories sure to come as these two very different cultures collide – most expat Spaniards, for example, won’t even yet have an appetite at the outrageously early (for them) hours when they will find Germans sitting down to their evening meal.

Further, there are the two rather different languages. For what it’s worth, new Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola has seemingly dealt with that problem rather well (video here of his first Munich press conference), although I hasten to add that his own move there was hardly prompted by the same economic concerns.

In any case, we had the rather telegenic Ms. Santamaría there in Germany, where she was a guest on the popular morning TV show Morgenmagazine. The unstated question behind her appearance there must have been “So many Spaniards are here! What are you going to do about it?”

Turns out that much of what the Spanish government is trying to do about it actually involves Germany. On the show she expressed her admiration for that country’s apprentice-based youth training system and her government’s intention to adopt something similar. More concretely, Spain and Germany recently agreed to have 5,000 students from the former be trained within that system in the latter country.

But then the inevitable follow-up: Aren’t you afraid that most of those 5,000 will then simply stay in Germany after their training? Her response: “What we want is to create employment in Spain so that young people can freely decide whether they want to work in Germany or in Spain.” Well, indeed: let’s hope that Spain can make enough progress on the employment front to give itself at least even odds as the home country versus some other country when it comes time for young people to decide where their future lies!

But no worries. Ms. Santamaría further announced on behalf of her government an upcoming “program of reforms such as have never been seen in democratic history” to fix the national labor market and solve the problem. Spaniards now settling in Germany are also finding out how much less the natives are prone to hyperbole.

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