Recent Posts

  1. Pablo Casado and Spanish Justice

    Original Article: Pablo Casado y la justicia española
    Source: eldiario.es
    Published: 21 Sep 2018

    Pablo Casado was given an official degree without earning it. He obtained a master’s degree in a public university without satisfying the minimum requirements that were required of other students the same year. He didn’t attend classes. He didn’t take the exams. Credits for 18 of 22 courses were granted, something the university didn’t do for other students pursuing the same degree. Supposedly he only completed four projects. I say “supposedly” because not even that minimum effort has been proven, since Casado doesn’t want to show them.

    I begin the article this way because it is the plain and simple truth. We reaffirm what has been published about Pablo Casado’s master’s degree, consisting of facts that aren’t going to change, no matter what the Supreme Court decides about the accusation against the president of the People’s Party (PP).

    It’s going to be the Ministry of Justice, not the press, that determines if Casado is criminally liable. But it is the press, and not the Ministry of Justice, that guarantees the right of all citizens to receive reliable information about what happened at this shady academic institution called King Juan Carlos University (URJC).

    Based on the prosecutor’s statement, the Spanish Supreme Court will probably reject, in the next few days, the proposal by judge Carmen Rodríguez-Medel to indict Pablo Casado.

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  2. Which Answer Do I Put on the Exam: the One from the Textbook, or the One I Learned?

    Original Article: ¿Qué pongo en el examen, lo del libro de texto o lo que he aprendido?
    Source: CTXT
    Published: 11 Sep 2018

    A teacher in an institute introduces the subject of genetics in a biology course. “Have you seen the film ‘Dead Poets Society’?” she asks. Almost everyone raises their hands. “I’m tempted to ask you to do the same thing as that professor at the beginning of his class: to tear out all the pages of the textbook that talk about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What do you think?” The looks she gets from the students range from incredulous to smiling; they wonder if she’s trying to act cool, or if she’s going to do something interesting. “Actually, we’re going to do something else. Instead of tearing out those pages, we’re going to read them and then compare that with information from other sources.” They continue looking at her; it makes some of them curious and they start to read. “What would you like to know about GMOs?” she asks them. They ask many things: Who invented GMOs? Are they the solution to world hunger? Are there any consequences for the environment by introducing genes that the ecosystems haven’t created themselves? And what about the lives of the people who cultivate them? What are the policies of the multinationals that commercialize them? Then the students try to answer the questions. They search for information, they share it among groups, they contrast, they debate. They make a collective construction of the knowledge. They learn that there are many points of view on the subject, that there are different insights. At the end of the exercise, a student asks: “If they ask us something about NGOs on the college entry exam, what do we write: the pro-GMO viewpoint from the textbook, or what we learned from other articles?”

    This anecdote is useful for reflecting on the possibility that the education processes that exist in the formal education system are neutral (we could talk of any education process, but in this article we refer to those in the formal system). In general (the generalities indicate what almost everyone believes, although there are exceptions) it is assumed that what appears in the textbooks is neutral and objective knowledge. A knowledge that has no intentionality beyond showing a reality as it is written in those books. Therefore, generally (again with exceptions) one would be inclined to think that this teacher is distancing herself from that neutrality and objectivity by providing access to articles that offer a different viewpoint from the official curriculum. Many people (teachers and non-teachers) would say that to offer students information that deviates from the textbooks leads to manipulation, even indoctrination. However what we are suggesting is that the initial premise is mistaken: to assume that what is found in the textbooks and the official curricula is neutral and objective. Why do we tend to think that speaking in favor of GMOs is neutral while voicing opinions questioning them is manipulation? Why is it considered indoctrination to show a viewpoint different from that of hegemonic thought, while providing information and ideas that support it is considered objective?

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  3. When the Defense of Certain Rights Collides With the Elimination of Jobs

    Original Article: Cuando defender ciertos derechos choca con la destrucción de puestos de trabajo
    Source: eldiario.es
    Published: 11 Sep 2018

    The workers of Navantia, a state-owned shipbuilding company, went to the streets in Cádiz this Tuesday to defend “tooth and nail” a contract with Saudia Arabia that involves the construction of five military ships. The company employs some 6,000 workers in the province with the highest unemployment in Spain. The announcement by the Defense Ministry to cancel the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to the Gulf country, accused of human rights violations in its war in Yemen, launched a debate that the mayor of Cádiz, José María González Santos, summed up as “a choice between bread and peace.” While trade unions demanded that the contract be honored due to the scarcity of work alternatives in the region, several NGOs warned that we are facing a “false dilemma” because the defense of human rights is an obligation, not a choice.

    The scenario, called an “impossible dilemma,” by Pablo Echenique, revolves around three years of war in Yemen in which Saudi bombs have fallen on markets, hospitals, funerals and other civilian locations; it’s one of the reasons why the United Nations has accused the country of potential war crimes. In addition, Saudi Arabia maintains a naval blockade on Yemen that has resulted in a humanitarian emergency for the country’s population.

    After the cancellation announcement, the Spanish government admitted to a “discrepancy” with the Gulf country, and the workers of Navantia have seen this tension translate into a threat to their workplaces for the next five years. Although the Sánchez administration sent several messages of reassurance, and communicated with social actors that the ships were “not at risk,” the employees in the Bay of Cádiz were not convinced. One in four working-age adults in the province is unemployed, giving it an unemployment rate more than 10 points above the national average (26.9% and 15.3% respectively).

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  4. It’s Not Freedom of Expression

    Original Article: No es la libertad de expresión
    Source: El País
    Published: 4 Sep 2018

    It’s not freedom of expression that is at stake, but rather control of the public sphere. Freedom of expression may be damaged in the process, as has happened with many other things. It will suffer, as a range of political freedoms has already suffered, and not only those of one group, as some would have us believe, but of everyone, with the cuts for the illegal conduct of some and the legal excesses of the rest.

    Some will say that to hang or paint yellow ribbons on any kind of space — official, public, private, a bar, a restaurant — is a sacred right that all democrats must defend, and all the more if it is being done to protest the imprisonment of the political prisoners, as is the case here. In the name of freedom of expression and the self-determination of Catalonia, naturally.

    First and foremost, it must be said that not everything is equal and not everything is acceptable. The symbols of one group, which are divisive, are perfectly fine on jacket lapels and on houses, but they should not have a place on official buildings, in institutions, and on public properties. Now would be a good time for those who remove yellow ribbons from the streets to dedicate themselves instead to protesting and combating the use of facilities for all, paid for by all, for the propaganda of only one group against the other.

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  5. An Afternoon at the Bullfights

    Original Article: Tarde de toros
    Source: CTXT
    Published: 1 Sep 2018

    I’m not delivering recent news. I should have written this in May, which is when it happened, but since then I have been on the verge of collapse and I didn’t know how to find the tone nor the form to describe what I have experienced. It doesn’t matter much, because the feelings haven’t faded, but it’s important to mention for those current events purists who don’t like to read things that are so outdated.

    Chapu Apaolaza, a bullfighting journalist and a member of the Fighting Bull Foundation, invited me to join him in the callejón1 of Las Ventas bullfighting arena during the San Isidro Festival. Watching a bullfight from the callejón is not the same as seeing it from the front row seats, he told me, it’s a much more impressive experience. I confessed that I had never been to a bullfight in my life, and that I see myself as anti-bullfighting, if calling oneself the “anti” of something is a way to define oneself. For Chapu, that was great. He practically smacked his lips at the idea of introducing a virgin soul to bullfighting. He compared it to showing someone the ocean for the first time; he couldn’t wait to see my reaction. We’re inviting you so that afterwards you can recount whatever you want, he said, or you don’t have to recount anything, but I think it’s worth it for you to get to know the world of bullfighting.

    I got into an argument with my mother simply by accepting Chapu’s invitation; she got very angry with me. I don’t know why you want to waste your time there, she said, you’re not curious about it or anything. Some people on Twitter and Facebook reacted similarly, calling me a criminal and a murderer when I posted a picture of Las Ventas. And I hadn’t even been in the arena yet.

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  6. Exhuming Franco “Is Not Reopening Old Wounds, Because They Never Healed”

    They are reacting with calm and uncertain satisfaction. They are reacting to the decision the government made this Friday to remove the remains of Franco from the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), where he was buried with honors in 1975. The victims of Francoism are adding their own voices to the mixture of opinions, discussion programs and mutual accusations that have crowded the headlines and television programs the past few days; crowded, above all, by military personnel and politicians talking about the exhumation. “It’s painful that everyone thinks they understand the feelings of the victims. We know exactly what we want: justice.”

    Those are the words of Chon Vargas Mendieta, daughter of Ascensión Mendieta. Ascensión is the woman who, at the age of 91, recovered the remains of her father Timoteo, a union member who was murdered by the Franco regime in 1939 and thrown into a mass grave in Guadalajara. Last year, Ascensión realized the dream that has driven her, with an iron will, almost her entire life: to find her father and give him a dignified burial. “Independent of the fact that there are victims more directly affected, this transcends generations,” says his granddaughter. The “grandfathers’ war,” as People’s Party leader Pablo Casado disparagingly calls it, in reference to the “old timers” of the left, is also the war of the grandchildren.

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  7. The Public Sphere: Free or Neutral?

    Original Article: El espacio público: ¿libre o neutral?
    Source: CTXT
    Published: 22 Aug 2018

    For the past few months a growing controversy has frequented the news headlines in Catalonia: the appearance of anti-repressive symbols in the public sphere. Hundreds of yellow ribbons, crosses and other artifacts hang from lampposts and trees, appear on walls, and lie on the sand of Catalan beaches. In the last two months, some 200 cases of incidents against these political symbols have been reported, the majority of them peaceful — to remove ribbons is also a form of exercising public freedoms — and a few others violent in nature. In cities such as Canet de Mar, Verges and Mataró, groups of hooded individuals armed with knives have been involved in confrontations with Catalan independence activists, the former group backed by the rhetoric of the People’s Party and Ciudadanos. A few days ago, in fact, even Albert Rivera claimed responsibility for the removal by Ciudadanos activists of a “free the prisoners” banner hanging at Reus city hall.

    In my opinion, an error in the strategy of independence — flooding the public sphere with yellow might generate more opponents than sympathizers — is benefiting those political organizations that are interested in a higher level of tension in the streets. Ciudadanos would not be the primary political force in Catalonia without a healthy dose of belligerence: every political detente is for them also an electoral detente. Catalan authorities naturally have their own reasons for encouraging the ribbons. The two sides are now embroiled in a summer controversy that will continue until October, when jury trials resulting from last October’s referendum will appear as a new source of tension.

    Neutrality is Impossible

    The install-and-remove altercations in the streets are accompanied by an ideological offensive on the part of constitutionalist leaders: Under the guise of “neutrality” of the public sphere, they have requested multiple times that the yellow symbols be removed from the streets as well as from public buildings. This idea has something perverse to it for two reasons: first, because neutrality is politically impossible; and second, because removing politics from the streets and the plazas would be to remove it from its natural place.

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  8. The Manifesto by Military Officers in Support of Franco Provokes a Cascade of Criticism from Associations and Members of the Army

    Several military groups have closed ranks against a manifesto praising Franco and signed by senior military officials. The Militia and Democracy Forum (FMD for its initials in Spanish), the Unified Association of Spanish Military (AUME), and the Democratic Military Collective have criticized the manifesto, entitled Declaration of respect and redress to General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, soldier of Spain, and signed by 181 retired military personnel. The manifesto denounces the “disgraceful campaign” that the “political left” is conducting to discredit the dictator via the “perverse plan” to exhume his remains from the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). The groups that are critical of the Francoist manifesto believe that the Socialist government and the Defense Ministry have taken a weak stand towards the signatories.

    Among the signatories are generals, colonels, admirals and naval captains. In fact, one of them was Chief of Staff in Command of Army Personnel in the Ministry of Defense as recently as 2016. The signatories are able to make the statements because they are not subject to the military regulation that prohibits making public political statements. They are all retired, and therefore enjoy the “full rights of freedom of expression.”

    “Once retired, they have shown their true colors,” said Jorge Bravo, organizational secretary of AUME, one of the groups critical of the Francoist manifesto, when AUME published its communiqué. “While in active duty they don’t show their Francoist leanings directly,” he added.

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  9. A New Nationalist International? The Reorganization of the Spanish and European Right

    The Political Right in Europe: A Changing Map

    In recent months there has been a steady stream of events that suggest a profound restructuring of the political arena in several European countries. Different parties, from the more or less radical right, are transforming themselves, in search of the influence that has eluded them for decades. Spain has been no stranger to these events. What exactly is happening in Europe?

    In May, The Visegrád Group (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) met in Budapest to welcome Steve Bannon, the strategist who put Trump in the White House, to debate the future of Europe. Bannon was accompanied by Raheem Kassam, former right-hand man of Nigel Farage and editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, and possible future mayoral candidate for London. Bannon’s visit culminated in a meeting with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban and a visit to Italy, where Bannon affirmed that “The rejection of the party of Davos, in Italy, is two-thirds of the vote.” Freddy Gray, of the London Spectator, wrote: “[Bannon’s] deeper point about Trump — the one his acolytes often make — is that economic nationalism is bigger than the Trump administration, and he’s not wrong. The 2016 Republican victory was about the country not the candidate.” Bannon’s plan for Europe, with his sights set on 2019: a “new Nationalist International,” with the creation of a foundation called The Movement.

    In Germany, Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke (The Left) announced in the spring the creation of a new party that has already met with the approval of Mélenchon. It would position itself as a sort of “Euroskeptic left,” with the goal to “distance itself from the moralist tendencies of the left” and capture the vote of the working classes that have fled Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It must be pointed out that Spain has not yet seen the pro/anti-Europe debate with the force that it has seen in France, where the dispute is with the Front National (FN), or in Germany, where the legacy of the old RDA and uneven reunification has caused large sectors of the population to view the liberal European order with skepticism.

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  10. Why Ciudadanos’s Discourse is Alarmist: Spain is Among the Safest Countries in Europe

    In Spain you are more likely to win the Gordo de Navidad (Christmas lottery) than be a murder victim, according to official statistics. Barely four months after the People’s Party monopolized the political debate with the subject of life imprisonment with possibility of parole [the most severe sentence in Spain] after the case of Diana Quer, Ciudadanos gets back in the game with another subject to win votes: denouncing the supposed lack of safety in Spain.

    A few days ago Ciudadanos published the following on their official account: “It’s time that we have order in the streets and that citizens feel safe.” Their campaign calls for “order and security” in Spanish streets, and to combat the mafias and ensure enforcement of the law.

    Up to now, no one in the party has offered data that justifies this alarmism. Is the crime rate higher in Spain than in other European countries? Are our streets more dangerous? Are more or less murders committed than on the rest of the continent? Has there been a rise in crime?

    To respond to these questions, we propose a test to you to compare your perception of the crimes that you believe are committed in Spain compared to the reality of the data, obtained from Eurostat, the European Office of Statistics, which harmonizes the statistics collected by the European member states.

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