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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 6 November 2020
06 November 2020 @ 11:12

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*  

Covid 

It's interesting to see that the differences in the responses of Spain's 17 'autonomous communities' don't cause the comment/disquiet that Scottish, Welsh and English differences cause in the UK. Spain is, of course, a de facto quasi-federal state. I wonder what happens in the real federal state of Germany. Are there differences there? If so, are they controversial?

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

More pessimism on the economy ‘going forward’.

Wow!    

Here's a couple of local headlines which raise serious questions:-

1. The police in Galicia issue fines to 25% of truck drivers, and

2. 90% of the bills in the files of Galicia's municipalities are irregular.

What can they portend?

María's Falling Back chronicle, Day 52. 

The UK 

The view of at least one one annoyed Brit: It’s hard to guess how long the British public will comply with increasingly restrictive government edicts that demand great sacrifices from us while signally failing to create a Test and Trace programme that is fit for purpose. That social contract has been well and truly broken. The latest statistics show the £12bn system is mired in difficulties; it reached just 59.9% of cases in England, down from 60.6% for the previous week. How can we trust a government that doesn't keep its promises? That forcibly separates families, turns care homes into jails for 97-year-old grans and closes down society wholesale at the point where figures show localised lockdowns are working? For many months now we've been fed mealy-mouthed excuses. The truth is this: there is no excuse. 

The latest development undermining confidence there: The Covid graphs were wrong in suggesting daily deaths would soon surpass the first wave. The Government has been forced to reissue key charts used to justify the second lockdown, after admitting projected fatalities were overstated.

The USA

I can't think of any European country in which I'd be unhappy for my daughters to live. Sadly, I can't say this of today's USA, notwithstanding many happy visits there before the turn of the century.

Here's an article entitled American Requiem, on the rank failures of the liberal elite. Don Quijones' selected quote: The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies . . . It supplies the world with its nightmares now. 

Below is Ambrose Evans Pritchard's nice take on Trumps's most recent insane antics.

The Way of the World 

The Tinder Years . . . ?

Finally

For history buffs . . . A highly recommended new (British) podcast: The Rest is History.  [If this link fails, C&P this: https://play.acast.com/s/the-rest-is-history-podcast ] It's not one by comedian Frank Skinner.

THE ARTICLE

Trump has committed sacrilege and set in motion a fateful chain of events: The President used his late-night declaration of victory before he had earned it to concoct a false narrative as an electoral fraud victim. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph 

Donald Trump has denied his likely successor the consecrating ritual of concession. America’s mechanism for handing over power has broken down.

There is no constitutional procedure for removing a president who refuses to accept defeat, if that is what occurs when the final votes are tallied. The Founding Fathers assumed and hoped that incumbents would behave with honour, though Thomas Jefferson always feared that a new Caesar might one day overstay his welcome - with Alexander Hamilton immediately in mind.

President Trump’s late-night declaration of victory before he had earned it was an act of political sacrilege. It was also ruthlessly focused, the opening move of a scorched-earth strategy long-prepared by his inner circle should he be at risk of losing the vote. His allegation of a giant “fraud on the American people” was not a reckless off-the-cuff remark in the heat of the moment. Leaked tapes from his Election Day Operations team leave no doubt that this gambit was pre-planned, a calculated move to discredit in advance what he knew would be a late surge of Democrat votes as postal ballots are counted. This "blue shift" syndrome has become a pattern of US elections, and vastly more so this year after 100 million people voted by mail or in advance.  

Trump has striven for weeks to taint postal votes and to impugn the credibility of the US electoral system - breathtaking chutzpah given that he controls the Justice Department, and that Republicans dominate the executive machinery of some swing states.  He urged his supporters to vote only in person, aiming to create an even greater cleavage between the party colouring of the two sets of ballots that could then be exploited. This has been his strategy ever since Joe Biden pulled ahead in the polls.  It led to the spectacle that we have all just witnessed: an early Trump lead in several states evaporating later. It is an invitation to conspiracy theories, all assiduously amplified on social media, with militia waiting in the wings.   

The situation is dangerous and has nothing in common with Al Gore’s demand for a Florida recount 20 years ago. Trump has lost the popular vote and probably the electoral college vote, yet he is pulling out all the stops to subvert the result before this can be confirmed. A machinery for legal guerrilla warfare has been set in motion across the battleground states and will now cause weeks of havoc. Have markets understood the gravity of what is unfolding?

America’s succession process relies on the virtues of Cincinnatus. “Our Constitution does not secure the peaceful transition of power, but rather presupposes it,” says Amherst law professor Lawrence Douglas. He says there are design flaws in the architecture of the Twelfth Amendment and in the Electoral Count Act of 1887 that make easy prey for an abusive president.  States are not obliged to follow the outcome of the popular election when they allocate their vote in the electoral college though they always do in practice. If doubts can be sown about the validity of the election - or if enough street disorder can be rustled up - the state legislatures have the constitutional power to appoint anybody they want. 

As it happens, these bodies are mostly controlled by the Republicans in swing states. So what will Mr Trump’s allies in the Pennsylvania General Assembly do if the Democrats win a narrow victory (I write before knowing the outcome) given that he already alleges a stolen election? At what point do they tell their party leader that enough is enough? 

It comes down to whether judges often appointed by Trump are willing to strike down votes because the ballots arrived late - though posted in time - or had a slightly smudged postmark, and whether the Republican 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court will validate such suppression. I doubt that they will, but upon this question may now hang the fate of the republic. 

At the least, Washington faces weeks of paralysis and legal fights until the "safe harbour" deadline for the electoral college votes on December 8, and before the new Congress validates the presidential count on January 6. This chaos will happen in the middle of an escalating pandemic. Nothing like it has been seen since the four-month Interregnum in 1932, the Winter War, when Herbert Hoover denounced Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as a “march on Moscow” and sought to sabotage his reflation policy in advance by tightening the Gold Standard.   Confidence in the banking system collapsed during the hiatus. It was the closest that America came to political break-down during the Great Depression. It was also the moment when Japan invaded China, and Hitler took Berlin, and the world suddenly changed.

What might Xi Jinping do to Taiwan while Donald Trump is distracted with his army of lawyers, and America is tearing itself apart? The autocrats will surely relish the spectacle of a US president behaving as they do. It is the ultimate propaganda coup. 

Whatever happens over the coming weeks, the Blue Wave has sputtered out. The Democrats have failed to capture the Senate. They may even have lost seats in the House. Their mandate for a radical leftward turn has evaporated.  It has long been an article of faith among Democrats that ‘demographics are destiny’, and that the party’s ethnic and sectarian coalition must eventually prevail by force of numbers. But this election has been a wake-up call. There has been revulsion against identity politics and corrosive segmentation, and above all against the "cancel culture" of Antifa statue-smashers. The Democrats lost ground to Latinos in Florida and South Texas, despite the "Wall". This may shock some but it should be no surprise given the business ethic of Latino immigrants, and their Catholicism, and their family ties to countries with Trumpian caudillo traditions.

Markets must now confront Washington gridlock and diminished fiscal stimulus, already reflected in the plummeting yields on 10-year Treasuries, but not so far on Wall Street. For a brief moment Bidenomics had us all in thrall. It looked as if there might be a $7.9 trillion Keynesian blitz to "run the economy hot". The strategy was consciously modelled on Roosevelt’s wartime expansion from 1941 to 1945. It aimed to leap-frog supply-side constraints and achieve a virtuous circle of productivity growth, this time relying on the war against carbon as the catalyst instead of military-industrial mobilisation against fascism.

Joe Biden will not be able to push these vaulting plans through Congress even if he does make it into the White House. The green deal is largely still-born. His front-loaded $1.7 trillion Gosplan for 500 million solar panels, 60,000 wind turbines, and the like, will be torn to pieces by the Senate. The equity markets had come to salivate over the exorbitant sums. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Moody’s all concluded that Bidenomics would turbocharge economic growth. They will now have to settle for thinner gruel.  

The planned $2 trillion of pandemic aid to cover furloughs and insolvent states is for the birds. It is not clear what skinny version will emerge from a lame-duck Congress in this political climate. Don’t expect it soon.

All told, the markets face a harsher economic winter. The V-shaped rebound has faded. Investors must instead navigate the second dip of an enveloping ‘W’ without much help from Washington.  Nor is it obvious that a Democratic White House eager to regulate and a Republican Senate less inclined to spend will do much for the animal dynamism of American capitalism. Bet on bipartisan comity and a business boom if you wish. I am fetching my tin helmet.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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