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  • Scott Wheeler writes about past eminences of Toronto, people like Conn Smythe and Raymond Massey.
  • Joanna Slater writes in The Globe and Mail about the symbolism of Confederate--and other--statuary in Richmond, former capital of the South.

  • Reuters reports on a Vietnamese businessman abducted by his country from the streets of Berlin. Germany is unhappy.

  • Jeremiah Ross argues at VICE that very high levels of tourism in New York City are displacing native-born residents.

  • Looking to protests most recently in Barcelona, Elle Hunt in The Guardian looks at ways to make mass tourism more affordable for destinations.

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  • Centauri Dreams considers Juno's photos of Jupiter's poles.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the discovery of another star that behaves much like mysterious Tabby's Star.

  • Far Outliers reports on the good reputation of the Chinese forces at Shanghai in 1937.

  • Joe. My. God. notes a Christian site that claims gay sex is not sex.

  • Language Hat reports on the problems of translating Elena Ferrante.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money and Noel Maurer are unimpressed by Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

  • The New APPS Blog writes against faculty lock-outs.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw describes the Parers, a Catalan-Australian family.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Ukraine's recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, reports on how Russians resent Ukrainian refugees, and suggests the Russian economic crisis is finally hitting Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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  • ABC reports on the Sudanese-Australian basketball players who are transforming the game in Australia.

  • Bloomberg reports on the potentially transformative scope of China's New Silk Road project.

  • Bloomberg View likes the new Star Trek movie's shift beyond speciesism.

  • CBC reports on the strength of pro-Trump support among non-voting Amish in Pennsylvania, and looks at a VIA Rail proposal to set up a commuter run in Halifax.

  • Gizmodo reports on Florida's disastrous coastal algal infestations.

  • The Globe and Mail notes a proposal for Ontario-Michigan cooperation and recounts the story of the construction of the Rideau Canal.

  • The Guardian reports on Catalonia's swift progress towards a declaration of independence.

  • MacLean's describes Manitoba's falling crime rate.

  • Open Democracy wonders about Italy's Five Star Movement and looks at the newest African-American hashtag movements.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at odd binary AR Scorpii.

  • Crooked Timber examines connections between demographic change and religiosity in the United States.

  • A Fistful of Euros reports on the IMF response to the Eurozone bailouts.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the outrage of families of survivors of American military dead at Trump's treatment of the Khan family.

  • The LRB Blog calls for England to secede.

  • Out There interviews Tabitha Boyajian about KIC 8462852.

  • The Planetary Society Blog features Marc Rayman's explanation of Dawn's remaining at Ceres.

  • Peter Rukavina notes a book exploring the lost Quaker settlement of New London, on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.

  • Strange Maps looks at the cartographic imprint of Spain on the streets of Barcelona.

  • Torontoist notes that tickets for the Toronto Islands ferry can now be bought from smartphone apps.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is running out of money to sustain its economy, looks at the Russian propensity of emigration, and notes that rising unemployment is contributing to internal migration.

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  • Bloomberg notes the advance of Catalonian separatism, looks at the economic catastrophes hitting Mozambique, and looks at how Africa is getting more people online by devising apps for non-smartphones.

  • Bloomberg View examines at length the implications of Donald Trump's not quite criminal call to have Russia hack more E-mails.

  • The CBC notes young British Leave voters defending their choices and observes the implications of the shutdown of the Manitoba port of Churchill.

  • The Inter Press Service notes that the Rio Olympics will be a mess.

  • MacLean's notes the dominance of the Canadian economy by the housing bubble.

  • The National Post reports on a team of Turkish commandos sent to kill the president found hiding in a cave.

  • Open Democracy looks at the negative results of the European Union's incoherent policies in Azerbaijan.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper considering rates of water loss in a moist greenhouse world's atmosphere.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that leftists in Catalonia blocked separatists from forming the government.

  • Far Outliers notes Persian cultural influence in the South Caucasus, among Christian and Muslim cultures alike.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Catholic cardinal of the Dominican Republic insulted the gay American ambassador in a manner combining homophobia with misogyny.

  • Language Log notes the growing multilingualism of Hong Kong, beyond Chinese languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money responds to a feminist criticism of Jessica Jones, and notes it is entirely possible to respond to a feminist criticism without sending death or rape threats.

  • Towleroad notes the publication, by the Russian edition of Maxim, of a list of gay respected by the magazine.

  • Transit Toronto notes that you only need proof of payment to board streetcars by any door.

  • Window on Eurasia notes a move in Russia to undermine that country's ethnofederalism, to the demerit of minority peoples like the Tatars.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how the old habit of the Enlightenment to organize museums by curiosities does not work if you use artifacts from indigenous peoples in the mix.

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  • blogTO considers if the Union-Pearson Express might work as a rapid transit line.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that Earth-like worlds which rapidly lose most of their water can extend their habitable lifetimes.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog talks about the sociological lessons of party crashers.

  • Geocurrents notes the complexities of Valencian identity and its relationship to Catalonia.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the introduction of a civil unions bill into the Italian parliament.

  • Language Hat links to a contemporary survey of spoken Irish in the Aran Islands.

  • Language Log looks at the Hakka and their distinctive Chinese language.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the impacts of structural racism on the lives of people living in unincorporated communities in California.

  • Marginal Revolution notes some young Argentines are throwing wedding parties without an actual married couple.

  • Steve Munro looks at waterfront transit plans.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla notes a 3-d model of Charon.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shows the 1897 Russian Imperial census' data on speakers of the Ukrainian language.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the extension of the Chinese transport net to the Russian Far East, argues Ukrainians are losing interest in Russia, and notes potential Russian border issues with the Baltic States.

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  • blogTO reports on five of the smallest libraries in Toronto. Two of them are near me.

  • James Bow notes the odd recent Facebook slowdowns.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly notes there is no such thing as a low-skilled job.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes three recently-discovered hot Jupiters.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes geological evidence of ancient atmospheric oxygen in rocks 3.2 billion years ago and reports on the discovery of water ice on Pluto.

  • Geocurrents notes the lack of support for Catalonian separatism in Occitan-speaking Val d'Aran.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the kissing marine couple has married.

  • Language Log celebrated Korea's Hangul Day yesterday.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes toxic masculinity in team sports.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers the role of telerobotics in space exploration.

  • Towleroad notes the definitive arrival of marriage equality in Ireland.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's Syria gambit is failing, with implications for tensions among Russia's Muslims, and notes Crimean Tatar institutions' issues with the Russian state.

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  • blogTO looks at atypically-named TTC subway stations, the ones named not after streets.

  • Centauri Dreams examines the protoplanetary disk of AU Microscopii.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at China's nuclear submarine issues.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines the intersections between game theory and water shortages.

  • Far Outliers notes the travails of Buddhism in Buryatia and the decline of Russia's Old Believers.

  • Geocurrents looks at rural-urban--potentially ethnic--divides in Catalonia.

  • Savage Minds examines controversies over tantra in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism.

  • Torontoist notes that the TCHC is only now investing in energy-saving repairs.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests contemporary Syria could have been Ukraine had Yanukovich been stronger, notes Belarusian opposition to a Russian military base, and notes discontent among Russia's largely Sunni Muslims with the alliance with Iran and Syria.

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Open Democracy's Daniel Coyne makes the compelling argument that the ability of the United Kingdom, unlike Spain, to accept the possibility of separatism is a strength.

If we return our focus to Catalonia, where on Sunday the pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in parliament. The exact levels of support for Catalan independence vary according to who you ask, with both sides in the debate naturally exaggerating their own support base. It is beyond doubt, however, that at least a sizeable minority of Catalan voters want full independence from Spain.

The Spanish government has of course secured its own democratic mandate to govern, having been chosen for office by the entire Spanish electorate. It also has its own perfectly sensible reasons for wanting Catalonia to remain part of Spain. Aside from patriotic notions of Spanish unity, it benefits Spain economically to have the relatively wealthy and productive Catalonia as part of the family.

Yet the national government in Madrid isn’t the sole legislative power in Spain, a highly de-centralised country divided into 17 autonomous communities, each with its own legislature.

Catalan elections consistently garner a lot of support for the independence cause. In refusing to allow an independence referendum to be held, the Spanish government chooses to utilise its own mandate as a democratically-elected body to overrule a subordinate yet equally legitimate body. A body that is simply seeking to serve the interests of the people that voted for it.
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Maria Tadeo's Bloomberg article "Catalonia Isn't Really About to Break Away From Spain, Is It?" looks at the trajectory of Catalonian politics.

is Catalonia really about to break away from Spain?

Probably not, no. But regional President Artur Mas will likely get enough support to begin the process of secession and push for more powers. His mainstream pro-independence alliance Junts pel Si is projected to fall just short of a majority, and a smaller separatist group, the CUP, will probably get the movement over the 68-seat threshold.

While this will most likely be enough for the separatists to push on with their fight, without a majority of votes they will struggle to present this as a clear democratic mandate. Polls show votes for independence coming in below the 50 percent threshold.

What is Junts pel Si?

An alliance of separatist groups. Mas’s party, Convergencia, agreed to join forces with its traditional separatist rival Esquerra Republicana for this election after their attempts at holding a non-binding referendum were blocked last year.

They’ve been joined by figures from across Catalan society such as Bayern Munich soccer coach Pep Guardiola. The aim is to set aside differences on economic and social issues to bring the separatist vote together under one banner and send a clear signal to officials in Madrid.

Mas and Esquerra leader Oriol Junqueras have drawn up a road map that involves setting up a tax agency, a central bank, an army and securing access to the euro before declaring independence in 18 months’ time if they can secure a majority of 68 seats in the 135 strong regional assembly.


Mark Gilbert's "Scotland Proved You Can't Scare Catalonia Away From Independence" emphasizes the extent to which Spain has to make a positive case for itself.

Rajoy said this week that the pro-independence politicians have no concrete plans as to how they'd run a government, and that "Catalans aren’t being told the real consequences of independence." Rajoy even suggested that Catalans would lose their EU citizenship. The Spanish central bank, meanwhile, insisted that cut loose from the mothership, the region would be kicked out of the European Union, barred from using the euro and would leave its banks without the support of the European Central Bank. And Miguel Cardenal, the Spanish minister for sports, has threatened to kick Catalonian soccer team Barcelona out of the national league.

Catalonia produces about 18 percent of Spain's gross domestic product, so the region wouldn't exactly be a pauper. Nevertheless, investors have reacted to the prospect of an escalating fight over independence by driving up the yield premium they demand for lending to the region by buying its bonds rather than those of the central government; they now charge Catalonia 3.25 percent for five-year money, which is about 2.3 percentage points more than the government pays. That's almost double what the surcharge was six months ago

The U.K.'s eventual change of tactics in persuading Scotland to remain part of the union should provide Spain with a better guide as to how to hang on to Catalonia. Devolution -- the transfer of tax and spending powers to the regions -- has softened (though not silenced) Scottish calls for independence, and seems to have averted a Welsh move down the secessionist path. Andreu Mas-Colell, a former Harvard University economics professor who is the Spanish region's finance chief, said a year ago that he was open to the idea. "The more attractive is the offer on the table, the more likely that the vote will end up developing as in Britain," he said in October.
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Open Democracy's Fernando Betancor writes about different scenarios for Catalonian independence following upcoming regional elections. He makes a compelling case that things could get very bad indeed.

Nothing that has come before has mattered; it has been all talk. Up until and including the September 27, every action of every politician and of the Catalan government will be legal; no one is going to go off-script and give Madrid an excuse to intervene. But as the Romans used to say: “res, non verba” or “act, don’t talk”. Now everyone will have to declare themselves in positive action. As soon as the government is formed, it will execute what it perceives to be its electoral mandate: attain independence for Catalonia. It is likely to proceed in the following manner:

1. The Catalan government will formally request secession negotiations with the Spanish government and the Catalan representatives of this list in the national legislature will attempt to submit a bill to that affect;

2. Both efforts will be immediately and conclusively rebuffed;

3. The Catalan government will then draft (or has already drafted) a unilateral declaration of independence and will submit it to the regional legislature for a vote. If the Catalan Parlament can muster a quorum, they will undoubtedly hold an immediate vote on the measure, which will probably be passed by the same majority, or slightly greater, that the pro-independence parties enjoy in the chamber.

At this point, Mariano Rajoy will have the legal justification to intervene. The intervention include many actions, but at a minimum he will use his constitutional authority from Article 154 to declare a state of exception in Catalonia, suspend the civil institutions and attempt to reassert the national authority. And this is when the feces begin to strike the ventilation unit.
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Esteban Duarte of Bloomberg examines ongoing controversies in Spain over federalism. I can easily imagine ways this could spiral out of control.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has introduced rules that effectively revoke the powers of the Catalan government, the regional president’s right hand man said, before a vote that could fuel separatists’ bid to split from Spain.

Rajoy is forcing regional officials to get approval from the central government before paying commercial creditors, Francesc Homs, the head of the Catalan’s presidency department, said in an interview in Barcelona Wednesday. The national government in Madrid has also ruled that laws only come into force once they’ve been published in the Spanish Official Gazette, preventing regional leader Artur Mas from introducing legislation using the Catalan equivalent, Homs said.

Mas’s bid for independence has set him on a collision course with Rajoy who says that his plans are unconstitutional. Mas has framed the Sept. 27 regional election as a ballot on independence after Rajoy blocked his attempt to hold a referendum last November.

“When someone says we could get the region’s autonomy suspended, I tell them they’ve actually done it already,” Homs said. The central government is acting with “infinite cynicism,” he added.
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Esteban Duarte's Bloomberg report keeps me up to date about the events in Spain. This could be big, bigger than Scotland.

Catalonia’s bid for independence has opened the floodgates: Now all Spain’s major parties are looking to remake the way the state’s power is carved up.

Catalan President Artur Mas plans to use voting for the region’s parliament on Sept. 27 -- weeks before national elections are due -- as a de-facto referendum on leaving Spain. Just as the Scottish independence movement has prompted a rethink of how the U.K. is governed, Spain’s national parties are responding with plans to prevent the disintegration of a country whose mainland borders are unchanged since the 17th century.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party is seeking to give the regions much more say in the Senate in Madrid. The main opposition Socialists are proposing a looser federal state, while the insurgent Podemos and Ciudadanos parties are floating their own ideas.

“Mas has contributed to reopening the debate about how Spain should be governed and taxes should be distributed,” said Antonio Barroso, a London-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence. “With Mas or without him, that’s going to be an issue that Spaniards will face over the course of the next legislative term.”

Spain’s 1978 constitution set up regional administrations with varying degrees of autonomy. But over the past three years, Mas has moved from seeking more control over taxes to demanding the right for Catalans to break away completely.

He’s already campaigning for September’s regional election. If separatist groups win a majority in the legislature in Barcelona and the central government refuses to negotiate, he says he’ll make a unilateral declaration of independence.
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Bloomberg's Sangwom Yoon and Esteban Duarte write about how the Catalonian president wants the European Union to encourage Spain to negotiate Catalonia independence, so avoiding a more disruptive unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalan President Artur Mas said he hopes to avoid a unilateral declaration of independence by leaning on the “biggest” European Union countries to convince Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate the split.

“Some European countries will get involved in the affair” if the central Spanish government continues to refuse to collaborate on Catalonia’s independence, Mas, 59, said in an interview in New York. They could try “to convince the authorities in Madrid that it is always better to negotiate and to reach agreements because the economy is at stake.”

The Catalan leader made the two-day visit to persuade asset managers and business executives to keep investing in Catalonia and support its secession because separation will guarantee a better economic future for both the Catalans and the Spanish. He also delivered a speech at Columbia University, in which he invoked American poet Robert Frost by likening Catalonia’s path to independence as the road less traveled.

Mas said he will begin the process of separating from Spain if pro-secession parties win a majority in the Sept. 27 elections, even though the Spanish government calls any such moves illegal. The Catalan leader agreed Mar. 31 on a road map toward independence with Oriol Junqueras, the leader of his separatist allies Esquerra Republicana, another political party.

While no European countries have voiced support for Catalonia, their neutrality on the matter is a positive signal for the Catalans, Mas said.
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Bloomberg's Macarena Munoz depicts the effect on Andorra of accusations from the United States that some in its substantial banking sector are laundering money.

Juan Ovelar made a quick decision when he heard the U.S. government had accused his Andorran bank of money-laundering, and immediately withdrew most of his funds.

“I’m worried that everyone will do the same as I did and there will be a knock-on effect that could affect other banks,” said Ovelar, 27, a computer expert from Argentina, in an interview outside the headquarters of Banca Privada d’Andorra in the capital Andorra La Vella.

The U.S. Treasury named Banca Privada d’Andorra, the country’s fourth-largest bank, a “primary money-laundering concern” on March 10. That led to its seizure by Andorran authorities, the arrest of the chief executive officer and a run on customer funds at the lender’s Spanish unit.

The bank’s fate sent tremors through Andorra, a 181-square-mile (469 square-kilometer) Catalan-speaking microstate in the eastern Pyrenees with an economy based on skiing, tax-free shopping and banking. The scandal raises risks for its financial industry, which makes up almost a fifth of the 1.8 billion-euro ($2 billion) economy and is too big to be bailed out by the state, said Xavier Puig, a professor at Barcelona’s Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

Customers lined up at the bank’s branches to take out their money after it limited cash withdrawals to 2,500 euros a week, starting March 16. The bank’s new management, appointed by local regulators, imposed the limit after international banks severed credit lines, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
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Bloomberg's Esteban Duarte reports on a study claiming that an independent Catalonia would be quite financially sound, at least so long as it stayed in the Eurozone.

Catalonia would recover its investment-grade credit rating if it reached an agreement on independence from Spain, according to study to be presented today by an economists’ group from the region.

The region’s government would merit an A+ rating, Standard & Poor’s fifth-highest grade, if it was released from its obligations to the rest of Spain, according to the study carried out by Joan Elias Boada, a former economist at La Caixa, Spain’s third-largest lender, and Joan Maria Mateu, a former finance director for southern Europe at German industrial company Weidmuller GmbH & Co. KG. That’s seven steps higher than the region’s current junk rating of BB, and would put it on a par with Israel and Korea.

“The credit rating of an independent Catalonia, consolidated as a new European state and a member of the European Union, would be logically even better,” Elias Boada and Mateu wrote in the study for the Col·legi d’Economistes de Catalunya.

Catalan President Artur Mas this month called regional elections for Sept. 27 as he seeks a mandate to negotiate a split from Spain. The region transfers about 8.5 billion euros ($9.7 billion), or 4.35 percent of its gross domestic product, per year to the rest of Spain, as tax collection exceeds the public-sector expenditure, according to a July study for the Spanish Budget Ministry.
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I can't think of a precise equivalent to the politically-inspired separation between the Catalan of Catalonia and the Catalan of adjacent Spanish regions, as described critically in Open Democracy by Alessio Colonnelli. I will content myself by noting that, in a free society, this distinction can survive only if its speakers want it to survive.

Catalan (or subsequently referred to as Catalan-Valencian) isn’t among the magic EU 24. On its official web page, the European Commission says it “maintains the policy that all EU citizens have the right to access all EU documents in the official language of the Commission, and should be able to write to the Commission and receive a response in their own language.”

The 11.5 million-strong Catalan-Valencian language is regarded as a regional language; its status is hence hierarchically inferior. That’s not the result of EU shortsightedness, but the upshot of manoeuvering from Madrid.

Bureaucracy and political meddling of the eye-for-an-eye type are the cause of this. The cultural, linguistic and editorial weight of Catalan-Valencian has been brushed aside. A crime against diversity.

Whilst Dublin pushed Irish Gaelic through Brussels’ mesh, Madrid has craftily resorted to a loophole to keep Catalan-Valencian away from the Continent’s linguistic centre-stage. The Spanish political establishment has asked for Catalan-Valencian not to be included – Spain mustn’t be internationally identified with any other languages other than Spanish.

[. . .]

Gaelic is something Ireland is proud of. Catalan-Valencian is something Spain would gladly do without, like an embarrassing relative, the awkward one you don’t want to be associated with. A bit like a skeleton in the proverbial closet.

Catalan and Valencian are one and as one, it deserves space on Spain’s international stage. That way you’d avoid the painful and hurtful case for secession. You’d stop talking about independence. You’d stop setting up bogus referendums with no constitutional value. You’d unblock the national discourse and start talking about very serious matters concerning the country as a whole.

Podemos has set a good example; it’s stretched a compassionate and friendly hand to the idea of the Països Catalans, the age-old, controversial concept of The Catalan Countries, brilliantly depicted by Joan Fuster in his 1962 seminal work – Nosaltres, els Valencians (Us, the Valencians) – on the topic of Valencian and Catalan being really the same linguistic expression of one community, of one culture.
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  • blogTO shares photos of the destruction of the World's Biggest Bookstore.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at a proposal for interstellar slingshots.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that tidally-locked Earth analogues will be habitable, avoiding scenarios where all their water is trapped on the nightside unless they have too little water.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a paper studying mechanisms for creating Ganymede's grooves.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Alex Harrowell is skeptical of separatism in Catalonia, as in other relatively rich European regions, where it involves a desire to separate from poorer areas.

  • Language Hat links to a paper suggesting that Taiwan is not the ultimate homeland of the Austronesian language family.

  • Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money links to an article of his commenting on what China learned from the Gulf War of 1991.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that Brazil once enjoyed roaring economic growth until the 1980s. Is this China's future?

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw has a forum post seeking to explore stereotypes of Australia, as a country as a whole and as component regions.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to an article suggesting that the shrinkage of Russia's working-age population may lead to a decline of the oil industry, if it lacks sufficient workers.

  • Torontoist looks at the new TTC Pioneer Village station being worked on.

  • Towleroad notes furor creating by the decision of a transgender woman to bury her as a man.

  • Towleroad looks at problems with PReP.

  • Window on Eurasia notes non-recognition of Crimean annexation and suggests that Russian minorities outside Russia are now in a weaker position because of Russian irredentism.

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Patrice de Beer describes how the Spanish government's terrible mishandling of Catalonia has created a situation where a rapid change has to be undertaken, else Spain come apart.

As always in statistics, everyone has been able to twist results for their own ends. But the political results are there: 90% of voters against the status quo (instead of two thirds in 2012) and a massive, peaceful manifestation - devoid of violence, Basque style - of a vast majority of Catalans for change. Whatever Mr. Rajoy – or his PSOE (Socialist) opposition, equally hostile to granting more autonomy to Catalonia – can say, demonstration after demonstration, vote after vote, have shown a growing chasm between Madrid and Barcelona politicians together with a growing dissatisfaction within the richest and most developed region of the peninsula.

In Monday's editorials in Madrid, centre-left daily El País encapsulated the national establishment's disarray when presented with a situation they are unable to contain or repress. One editorial asked Mr. Rajoy and Mr. Artur Mas (the Catalan head of government) to “come back to the (negotiating) table”; another denounced the “day of disloyalty” in Catalonia; a third said that, now, “Rajoy knows who is the leader (in Catalonia)” and the last that “refusing to see the political effects of the N9 would be following the ostrich policy” while, in its Catalan edition, it wrote that “Mas has seized back the rudder”.

The strong arm policy adopted by the PP since its victory at the 2011 national elections, has refused to engage in dialogue not based on an iron clad status quo. Meanwhile, the PP have been playing the strategy of death by a thousand cuts, i.e. of local prerogatives, first of all on language and education – considered as provocations by Catalans so proud of their own culture. With such an obstinate attitude to Catalonia, it is no wonder tensions have been increasing steadily – then dramatically – for years.

What strikes one most when one looks at statistics is that, since 2010 when, at the PP's request, the Constitutional Court cancelled key provisions of a new Statute which had been ratified by referendum by the Catalans and a vote of the Spanish Cortes, the percentage of pro-independence has doubled to reach just under 50% (49.5% in recent polls).

A large number of “new” nationalists have joined the “old” ones. Bourgeoisie from Mr. Mas’ centre right CiU coalition, as well as leftists from Esquerra Republicana (ERC) have united to protest the lack of prospects for their nation within Spain. Another crucial reason has been Madrid's refusal to grant Catalonia a “fiscal pact” allowing them to collect taxes, a privilege which the Basque Country enjoys.

Contrary to what most Spanish politicians say, or think, Catalan leaders are not irresponsible firebrands who have been pushing Catalans to the streets only to protect their own interests (financial or others) but have merely followed their voters for fear of losing touch with them. Mr. Mas is almost as conservative, economically and socially, as Mr. Rajoy.

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