Cruella – Life Immitating Art

Time for a change I thought. The Catalan saga rolls on and I am sure I will feel the need to report more on that one. But for now, a change of mood…

Classic Disney Animation

One of Dani’s favourite classic Disney cartoons is 101 Dalmatians. I liked it myself when I was a kid but recently having seen it far too many times I am growing a little tired of it. Then one day recently I became very intrigued by it. Out of the blue. I suddenly found myself wondering where I had seen that Cruella de Vil woman. Seriously. Then it hit me. She is exact image of Cherie Blair the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. An animated doppelganger no less.

Now it is fair to say that Cherie has been the butt of many a joke and has been called her fair share of names in the media. In today’s digital social media age you could call it trolling. With names such as The Blair Witch, the Wicked Witch etc… but never, as far as I am aware, has anyone spotted the likeness to Cruella. Look at the following pictures and judge for yourselves.

                   

          

    

Don’t try to tell me you can’t see the likeness. Come on! A little red lipstick and a little bleach one side of her hair and voilá! It is as if she was made for the part.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is a film being made for release next year (2018) called ‘Cruella’: A live-action feature film following the evil exploits of Ms. de Vil, and the lead role has been given to actress Emma Stone. I am sure the make-up department will do a sterling job on miss Stone but surely the part should go to Mrs. Blair?

Law and Lawlessness in Catalonia

What is going on?

It looks like the Catalan separatists have lost their nerve. Appearing to declare independence and then immediately “suspending” it. Maybe they have made a deliberate move to force the government’s hand.

Despite being seen on TV signing the UDI document the leading Catalan party never put it through the correct channels in their own regional parliament. They have a majority so getting it passed should be a formality but even so… For a party shouting about the Catalans’ democratic right to vote in a referendum it looks decidedly undemocratic.

One would assume that such a document is not even valid (‘legal’ does not seem to be the right word just yet) as it has not been presented to their own parliament. The central government have given them until Monday 16th October to say clearly whether or not they are declaring independence. But based on what I have heard the obvious answer has to be a resounding “No”.

So, was it all bluff for the cameras? It appears that way. Far from looking like a game of high stakes poker this is in danger of turning into a farce.

Who Will Blink First?

Mr Puigdemont’s decision to suspend the declaration of independence is both tactical and understandable. There is no clear scenario for secession and no obvious legal path offered by Spanish constitution. Right near the beginning of the 1978 constitution, Section 2 proclaims Spain’s “indissoluble unity”. Section (Article) 155 considers the consequences of breaking section 2. (see below)

If UDI goes ahead then Señor Puigdemont could well be considered guilty of sedition, the punishment for which in Spain is 8 to 10 years of prison.

He knows all this. He is either actively encouraging the government to make a move or simply trying to push the boundaries as much as possible. He may become a martyr (albeit behind bars) or the central government looks like it is beaten. Either way it seems, he wins.

Meanwhile there are stories that some businesses and banks in Catalonia oppose independence. Some are already moving head offices out of the region. Independence could be a recipe for economic disruption.

A little History…

In 1934, a man called Lluís Companys led a Catalan nationalist uprising, which was not supported by all Catalan representatives, against the republican government. He proclaimed the Catalan State (Estat Català) which led to him being arrested and sentenced to thirty years in prison. His actions were seen as an attempted Coup d’État as Companys had acted against the newly democratically elected centre-right republican government.

After colluding with the Soviet Union during the civil war and ending up on the losing side he fled to France but was arrested there when the German forces occupied France. He was sent back to Spain where he was jailed, humiliated and shot.

Apart from the ending it is easy to see parallels with what is happening now. The words “coup d’etat” (golpe de estado in Spanish) have already been used in reference to Mr. Puigdemont’s actions and inciteful stance.

He is safe in the knowledge that in this day and age the chances of being shot are zero. However, jail-time is a distinct possibility and some kind of martyrdom awaits.

It is too easy to make reference to Franco and his regime at times like this. The Catalans do not miss a chance to do so. However, señor Companys was arrested for his attempted coup d’etat by a ‘democratically elected republic’. Ironically, that is exactly what the Catalan separatists would like to declare themselves.

The Law is the Law…

Here’s the thing…There are going to be a lot of Catalans who are not going to like this section but it has to be stated. In 1978 all sides from all the region in Spain signed up to the Spanish constitution.

I am an engineer so unlike a scientist who can deal in the theoretical I am used to dealing in reality. Either something works or it fails. In other words I like to deal in the facts only. And the facts are as follows:

It is quite clear that Mr. Puigdemont is breaking the law and is guilty of sedition – as are all who signed that UDI paper.

That may come as a shock to pro-independence Catalans. It may even anger them. But consider this. It is a law of the land and quite clear and unambiguous. Should someone not be prosecuted by the law if they rob your house at gunpoint? Should someone not be found guilty of breaking the law if they drive a van up onto a pavement and run over and kill innocent pedestrians? The latter example actually happened in Barcelona recently of course.

The point being this: Either there is a list of laws to be followed or there is not. You cannot pick and choose just because you like the idea of being an independent state.

Therefore Mr. Puigdemont and indeed all those that signed that paper calling for UDI should be prosecuted under the law of sedition. Unlike the UK sedition is a still against the law in Spain.

I am genuinely trying not to take sides here but can any lawyer please explain how these people can stay out of jail?

I cannot see it.

Spanish Constitution 1978

Section 2

The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.

Section 155

  1. If a Self-governing Community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the Government, after having lodged a complaint with the President of the Self-governing Community and failed to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by the overall majority of the Senate, take all measures necessary to compel the Community to meet said obligations, or to protect the abovementioned general interest.
  2. With a view to implementing the measures provided for in the foregoing paragraph, the Government may issue instructions to all the authorities of the Self-governing Communities.

 

The Curious Case of Catalonia

As promised here is my take on the Catalan saga.

Even the spelling is contentious. Cataluña; the Spanish spelling – the “ñ” character being unique to the Spanish alphabet. The Catalan alternative spelling is Catalunya. For simplicity I will use the name Catalonia (the anglicised version, as in Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’).

I am just trying to play devil’s advocate here but I do think that there are two sides to the story. Sides we may not even be hearing as the media and politicians play out their usual games.

My Catalonia…

Firstly, let me say that it was while living and working in Catalonia that I fell in love with Spain. It is the reason I made the effort to learn Spanish (well, sort of) and ultimately, I suppose, why my son is Spanish. That was only a couple of years before the new millennium. Even at that time it was easy to see that the recent and ongoing events were inevitable.

Possibly my favourite place in all of Spain is in Catalonia. So, I have no axe to grind with Catalonia as a place or the people I have met there. Unfortunately, it is always the people you do not meet who can complicate things . The politicians.

Economics and UDI

Much of the wealth and employment in the region is due to foreign companies who have chosen Catalonia to base their Spanish (European) operations. It is easy to see why. The area is one of the more attractive parts of Spain with its cities and beaches and mountains (which include the ski area favoured by the Spanish monarchs.) Some of those companies while enjoying the benefits of the Catalan location also clearly need easy access to the rest of Spain. They want to be able to attract the best talent form across the whole country and it is possibly this that is making them nervous – if the media are to be believed. On the other hand, can the media be trusted in such cases?

In 2015 there was a “referendum” that the central government allowed although they called for non-separatists to boycott it. And they did, in their droves. Just over 40% of voters turned out and only 80 % of those voted for independence. That means less than one third of those eligible to vote actually wanted independence. So why all the fuss now? And why do the nationalists want to go through such humiliation again? All that is unclear.

So now there is talk of Unilaterally Declared Independence (UDI). Wow! UDI would be an incredibly brave move. History has shown this to be the case.

Personally – and this is purely my opinion based on what I know from living and working in the region and what I have heard in the media this past few weeks – I believe it is the usual megalomaniacs who have power in the Catalan regional government. And sadly, they are playing to their audience.

Where are the EU?

To add to the circus the Catalans have asked the EU to get involved. Or have they? It is unclear to me and the EU appear to be uninterested; apart saying that Catalonia should be part of a multicultural Spain. It is not difficult to see why. Think about it…

Spain – having been mainly a net receiver – has always been a staunch EU supporter. It was the first country to vote on the Lisbon treaty and voted overwhelmingly in support it. No other country voted in favour of it – unless they were asked to vote again. In the case of the UK (and others) the people were never asked to vote on it. You would be right to think that the EU have no interest whatsoever in allowing or assisting in breaking up a fully pliable Spain.

When my son is old enough to read these things and understand them I wonder what the political landscape will look like in Spain, Europe and everywhere else?

UDI Put on Hold…

The weekend’s promised UDI never materialised. The Catalonia regional government have put off calls for UDI – for the moment at least. What a shame. I was quite looking forward to where it might lead – but that’s the mischievous boy still in me.

I watched the events unfold this weekend and there were two notable events. One was the march by Catalan nationalists who turned out in white as a gesture of peace (following the clashes with police the previous weekend). An interesting angle.

The second – and perhaps more telling event -was a large anti-independence (united Spain) march In Barcelona. It is easy to forget that anti-independent voters are still in the majority in Catalonia. They simply choose not to have their voice heard on the streets in the same way that the separatists choose to. At least not until this weekend. Both sides it seems are becoming increasingly more vocal and the situation is becoming completely polarised.

Confused…

I watched news of The anti-independence rally with interest, But then amongst the Spanish and Catalan flags I noticed a smattering of EU flags. It is almost as if they are were pro-Spain and pro-EU as part of the same argument.

But what about the Catalan nationalist’s? What is their view on EU membership? I am finding it hard to fathom. If anyone can tell me then please let me know.

If they really want to go it alone (so to speak) and have full independence then I cannot help but have some sympathy for their cause. I would have a sneaking admiration for them. If however their intention is to declare independence from the Spanish government in Madrid yet somehow seek to re-join (or stay in) the EU -as the Scots proposed -and be ruled from Brussels, then I only have one question for them:

What is your definition of independence?

One of Those Weeks

This week has been one of those unforgettable weeks in the news – despite many wishing they could actually forget.

There was the mass shooting in Las Vegas (a place I particularly like visiting) and the so called “illegal” referendum in Cataluña – something that being in Spain (and Cataluña is still in Spain) could have some impact on my son’s future. There was even mention of something that most people my age hadn’t heard for a very long time; UDI (Unilaterally Declared Independence). But more about this in a future post to follow soon…

There is a saying that a week is a long time in politics. Well it’s a very long time in a kid’s life. Meanwhile back in 3-year-old land…

When you’re ill, you’re ill…

Last week Dani vomited in school. I never got the full story as his mum forgot to ask. That chance disappeared in an instant of course as there is no way the lad will disclose any sensitive top secret school information.

All we know is that he never made it into one of the courses in the school canteen before boffing all over himself, mostly his trousers.

After school that day he and all his classmates were off to celebrate one of their friends’ birthdays. It was none other than his favourite girl – Clara M. Yes, the wonderful Clara was 4 years old last week. Ok: Possibly his 3rd favourite girl after his mum and his cousin Susana naturally. But that’s only because he spends so much time with those two. Now that school is back no doubt we will start to hear Clara’s name a lot more.

Anyway, I digress slightly. By the time his mum picked him up all the other kids were walking the short distance to the party location. When asked if he felt OK to go all he could say was “No. I want to go home”. Now it’s times like that when you truly know you are ill.

Fortunately, he made it to his swimming class the following day. As they say; “It was probably just a virus”.

Where is small Iron Man?

Speaking of viruses….

Small Iron Man has gone missing and he has been gone for a couple of weeks now. All hope is lost we think. He was part of a box set of (classic-toy-soldier-sized) superheroes, supervillains and accompanying book. I tried to help look for him and asked all the right questions.

“Where did you last see him”

“I don’t remember”

“Who is that one over there?” (pointing to a small figure close to disappearing under the sofa)

“Nick Fury”

“What’s Nick Fury doing there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Right; there’s Captain America, Loki, the Might Thor, Hulk…..Where’s Abomination?”

“I don’t know. I can’t find Abomination either”.

“Ahaa… Maybe the two of them were fighting and fell. Out of the window, maybe, eh?”

“I don’t know”.

Neither have been found. I have been asked to buy a “big” Iron Man – that’s about 12 inches or 30 centimetres by the way.

I seem to recall that those Iron Man suits can be flown independently. Maybe this one took off on its own due to some computer virus infecting the suit’s homing programme. Marvel Malware perhaps? You might think that such hi-tech armour came with a full set of anti-virus software.

It begs the question: Who is in charge of cyber security at Stark Enterprises anyway?