Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TODAY'S MUST READ: this piece by Christopher Caldwell on Spain's very serious economic crisis. He does a great, balanced job explaining the situation, the causes, the historical and political context to a foreign audience who may not have followed the issue closely. It's long and worth your time if you want to understand what's happening in Spain. And if you're inclined to dismiss the piece just because it's published in a "neocon rag" or something, you'll be very mistaken.

SOMETHING ELSE for the "If it was Bush who did this" folder:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

DO YOU THINK that riding a bicycle is better for the environment than driving a car? If you do, think again.

IF YOU THOUGHT that Obama bowing to the Saudi prince was bad, how about this?
The fiercely pro-Israeli Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was among the guests at the controversy-filled Arab League summit in Libya with the supposed aim of forming a unified strategy against Tel Aviv's illegal settlement plans in Palestinian territories.

At one point, according to reports, Berlusconi, whose country ruled Libya for over three decades after 1911, stooped to kiss Gaddafi's hand upon arrival at the summit.

It's as if Silvio thought Muammar was a cardinal, or something...


Saturday, March 27, 2010

ICELAND, the most feminist country? So says The Guardian:
Iceland has passed a law that will result in every strip club in the country being shut down. And forget hiring a topless waitress in an attempt to get around the bar: the law, which was passed with no votes against and only two abstentions, will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees.

Even more impressive: the Nordic state is the first country in the world to ban stripping and lapdancing for feminist, rather than religious, reasons.
How is banning women the right to earn their living as they please feminist, exactly? It seems to me that it treating them not as adults, but as children who don't know better.

Friday, March 26, 2010

THE MAÑANA SYNDROME: Spain's government is not doing enough to tackle Spain’s economic problems, writes The Economist.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

THERE'S several things I don't agree with Ron Paul (particularly his isolationism), but his response to Obamacare's passing is totally spot-on.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

ANOTHER "neutral", "institutional" White House twitter avatar:

As you remember, a few days ago it was this, too... I still think any official administration communication should be above pure advocacy. As opposed to a party or individual, the White House works not just for the guys who agree with it, but also for those who don't. Or at least it should.

Friday, March 19, 2010

THE HORROR, THE HORROR! Wal-Mart a force for good? Even Matt Yglesias can't help but notice.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WHAT SPAIN'S dire economic situation means for Europe and beyond.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

AM I the only one who find's the White House's Twitter avatar a little inappropriate? Shouldn't it be a bit more, well, institutional?

For some reason I can't upload it for you to see it, so I can't guarantee it'll be the same when you look; I'll keep trying. As a quick description, there's a big number nine under the phrase "We Can't Wait".

UPDATE. Here it is:

UPDATE II. Yes, I know it's about healthcare, and I assumed everybody knew what I was implying. That's precisely the point: the White House using the avatar for policy advocacy, forgetting that the presidency is not just for those supporting its initiatives but also for those against it.

UPDATE III. Welcome, Instapundit readers; make yourselves at home. If you like this post, please consider visiting the homepage, or subscribing to the RSS feed. See you soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010

AND STILL MORE on the alleged problems between American and Spanish troops in Afghanistan: Michael Yon posts a letter by US Army Colonel Robert J. Ulses to Spanish Army Colonel Jesús de Miguel, where he says there's been no problems and that it's a misunderstanding around the procedures to raise concerns. Michael reads between the lines, though.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

THERE'S STILL MORE on the alleged problems between American and Spanish troops in Afghanistan on today's La Vanguardia (see previous post here). According to the Barcelona-based newspaper, the Spanish military attribute the friction to misundertandings at subordinate levels. Oddly, it quotes an unnamed ministry official, which could be either sloppy journalism (if the source wishes to remain anonymous the reporter should say so and the reason why), or that the Defense ministry wants to have it both ways: making it sound as a sort of official response without being a real official response, just in case they need to perform some CYA if the allegations are further proven.

Here's my translation (done in haste, with hardly any proofreading):
"The relationship between Spanish and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are good," Spanish Defense Ministry sources insist. They show documents and letters exchanged between senior commanders of both armies. In a letter dated yesterday, Col. Robert J. Ulses, responsible for U.S. military logistics in Afghanistan [NOTE: I believe this is wrong, since he is Chief of Staff of US troops in Afghanistan -- JMG], told Colonel Jesus de Miguel that the command in the Spanish base in Qala-i-Naw (one of three Spanish posts in Afghanistan) "has adequately addressed requests for help to USFOR-A DET (U.S. forces in Afghanistan) in the western areas of the country.

With these documents, the Defense ministry reacts to a report circulating on the Internet in recent days: according to an email making the rounds among U.S. troops, the Spanish refuse to help U.S. Marines who live or stop at the base. [NOTE: Partial, short selection of a few quotes of the emails omitted here to avoid redundancy -- JMG]

Defense says the real situation is not so. A spokesman gave two examples to La Vanguardia. He said that the Spanish troops in Qala-i-Naw (northwest) responded well to twelve Marines who had called for help after a mission by the river Murghab, the most dangerous area of the Badguis province. "They were offered food and a shower, the same conditions as the Spanish troops," he said. And then he mentioned another example: a Spanish unit worked with an American unit in defusing an IED (improvised explosive device) in Mukuro.

"Every two weeks, he continued, U.S. soldiers camped in the open go to Qala-i-Naw. They eat, shower and rest a few days before returning to his mission."

According to the letter from Colonel Ulses, complaints circulating on the internet "might reflect the lack of understanding between subordinate units at the base. "We will take steps to ensure that in the future all matters are routed through the appropriate channel," he said.

In the past year, U.S. commanders have sent several letters to Spain's Chief of Staff General Jose Julio Rodriguez, thanking him for the support from the Spanish troops. They were signed by General McChrystal, General Petraeus or General McColl. Admiral Stavridis (1 December 2009) welcomed "the continuing commitment (from Spain) with the security and stability in Afghanistan at this critical and historic moment." During a meeting in Washington in July, Defense minister Carme Chacón and Defense secretary Robert Gates, emphasized the "total harmony between the two countries."

Today, Spain has 1,065 troops in Afghanistan, with 511 more joining the mission in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

THIS IS what happens when you're at a swearing-in ceremony (Chile's Piñera, in this case and there's a 7.2 magnitude earthquake:

(via one of my brothers, who is there and had to evacuate the building where he was in)

THE PROBLEMS for the US troops in the Spanish base in Afghanistan make it to the front page of the World section of La Vanguardia, one of Spain's most respected newspapers (it's not what it used to be in the good old days, but at least it's not as anti-American as the others are). It's a pretty big and visible piece, which is basically an explanation of Michael Yon's post, whom they mention by name.

The article also includes this reaction from Spain's ministry of Defense (I didn't get any response to my request for comment, BTW):
We don't know if the problem is real. For the moment, we won't comment on this matter. In fact, we only have knowledge of an email making the rounds among US servicemen. It's an internal channel to which we have no access. In any case, if the problem exists the US should come out publicly with it and communicate it officially. For the moment no one has filed any complaint. And under these circumstances, we cannot issue a statement".
(my translation)

There you go. They say are not aware there is any problem, and that it's all an anonymous email. So it looks like either the commanders on the ground are keeping this from their commands in Madrid, or the ministry in Madrid is lying, or at least playing with words and shielding themselves behind the lack of official complaint from the US (I assume there's been plenty "unofficial" complaint, since I don't think they'd quietly accept this). Of course, the critical point is not whether they comment or not, but whether they're doing anything to solve the situation or not. But still, it would be important to know where in the chain of command this got lost if it did. Or if someone is lying and, in that case, who.

SPAIN can still avoid Greece's fate, but it needs to do three things, and fast.

Eva Belén Abad Quijada, Spain, 30 years old
Óscar Abril Alegre, Spain, 19 years old
Liliana Guillermina Acero Ushiña, Ecuador, 26 years old
Florencio Aguado Rojano, Spain, 60 years old
Juan Alberto Alonso Rodríguez, Spain, 38 years old
María Joséfa Alvarez González, Spain, 48 years old
Juan Carlos Del Amo Aguado, Spain, 28 years old
Andriyan Asenov Andrianov, Bulgaria, 22 years old
María Nuria Aparicio Somolinos, Spain, 40 years old
Alberto Arenas Barroso, Spain, 24 years old
Neil Hebe Astocondor Masgo, Peru, 34 years old
Ana Isabel Avila Jiménez, Spain, 43 years old
Miguel Ángel Badajoz Cano, Spain, 34 years old
Susana Ballesteros Ibarra, Spain, 42 years old
Francisco Javier Barahona Imedio, Spain, 34 years old
Gonzalo Barajas Díaz, Spain, 32 years old
Gloria Inés Bedoya, Colombia, 40 years old
Sanaa Ben Salah Imadaquan, Spain, 13 years old
Esteban Martín De Benito Caboblanco, Spain, 39 years old
Rodolfo Benito Samaniego, Spain, 27 years old
Anka Valeria Bodea, Romania, 26 years old
Livia Bogdan, Romania, 27 years old
Florencio Brasero Murga, Spain, 50 years old
Trinidad Bravo Segovia, Spain, 40 years old
Alina Maria Bryk, Poland, 39 years old
Stefan Budai, Romania, 37 years old
Tibor Budi, Romania, 37 years old
María Pilar Cabrejas Burillo, Spain, 37 years old
Rodrigo Cabrero Pérez, Spain, 20 years old
Milagros Calvo García, Spain, 39 years old
Sonia Cano Campos, Spain, 24 years old
Alicia Cano Martínez, Spain, 63 years old
José María Carrilero Baeza, Spain, 39 years old
Álvaro Carrion Franco, Spain, 17 years old
Francisco Javier Casas Torresano, Spain, 28 years old
Cipriano Castillo Muñoz, Spain, 55 years old
María Inmaculada Castillo Sevillano, Spain, 39 years old
Sara Centenera Montalvo, Spain, 19 years old
Oswaldo Manuel Cisneros Villacís, Ecuador, 34 years old
Eugenia María Ciudad-Real Díaz, Spain, 26 years old
Jacqueline Contreras Ortiz, Peru, 22 years old
María Soledad Contreras Sánchez, Spain, 51 years old
María Paz Criado Pleiter, Spain, 52 years old
Nicoleta Diac, Romania, 27 years old
Beatriz Díaz Hernandez, Spain, 30 years old
Georgeta Gabriela Dima, Romania, 35 years old
Tinka Dimitrova Paunova, Bulgaria, 31 years old
Kalina Dimitrova Vasileva, Bulgaria, 31 years old
Sam Djoco, Senegal, 42 years old
María Dolores Durán Santiago, Spain, 34 years old
Osama El Amrati, Morocco, 23 years old
Sara Encinas Soriano, Spain, 26 years old
Carlos Marino Fernández Dávila, Peru, 39 years old
María Fernández del Amo, Spain, 25 years old
Rex Ferrer Reynado, Phillipines, 20 years old
Héctor Manuel Figueroa Bravo, Chile, 33 years old
Julia Frutos Rosique, Spain, 44 years old
María Dolores Fuentes Fernández, Spain, 29 years old
José Gallardo Olmo, Spain, 33 years old
José Raúl Gallego Triguero, Spain, 39 years old
María Pilar Gamiz Torres, Spain, 40 years old
Abel García Alfageme, Spain, 27 years old
Juan Luis García Arnaiz, Spain, 17 years old
Beatriz García Fernández, Spain, 27 years old
María de las Nieves García García-Moñino, Spain, 46 years old
Enrique García González, Dominican Republic, 28 years old
Cristina Aurelia García Martínez, Spain, 34 years old
Carlos Alberto García Presa, Spain, 24 years old
José García Sánchez, Spain, 45 years old
José María García Sánchez, Spain, 47 years old
Javier Garrote Plaza, Spain, 26 years old
Petrica Geneva, Romania, 34 years old
Ana Isabel Gil Pérez, Spain, 29 years old
Óscar Gómez Gudiña, Spain, 24 years old
Felix González Gago, Spain, 52 years old
Ángelica González García, Spain, 19 years old
Teresa González Grande, Spain, 38 years old
Elías González Roque, Spain, 30 years old
Juan Miguel Gracia García, Spain, 53 years old
Javier Guerrero Cabrera, Spain, 25 years old
Berta María Gutiérrez García, Spain, 39 years old
Sergio de las Heras Correa, Spain, 29 years old
Pedro Hermida Martín, Spain, 51 years old
Alejandra Iglesias López, Spain, 28 years old
Mohamed Itaiben, Morocco, 27 years old
Pablo Izquierdo Asanza, Spain, 42 years old
María Teresa Jaro Narrillos, Spain, 32 years old
Oleksandr Kladkovoy, Ukraine, 56 years old
Laura Isabel Laforga Bajón, Spain, 28 years old
María Victoria León Moyano, Spain, 30 years old
María Carmen Lominchar Alonso, Spain, 34 years old
Myriam López Díaz, Spain, 31 years old
María Carmen López Pardo, Spain, 50 years old
María Cristina López Ramos, Spain, 38 years old
José María López-Menchero Moraga, Spain, 44 years old
Miguel de Luna Ocaña, Spain, 36 years old
María Jesús Macías Rodríguez, Spain, 30 years old
Francisco Javier Mancebo Záforas, Spain, 38 years old
Ángel Manzano Pérez, Ecuador, 42 years old
Vicente Marín Chiva, Spain, 37 years old
Antonio Marín Mora, Spain, 43 years old
Begoña Martín Baeza, Spain, 25 years old
Ana Martín Fernández, Spain, 43 years old
Luis Andrés Martín Pacheco, Spain, 54 years old
María Pilar Martín Rejas, Spain, 50 years old
Alois Martinas, Romania, 27 years old
Carmen Mónica Martínez Rodríguez, Spain, 31 years old
Míriam Melguizo Martínez, Spain, 28 years old
Javier Mengíbar Jiménez, Spain, 43 years old
Álvaro de Miguel Jiménez, Spain, 26 years old
Michael Mitchell Rodríguez, Cuba, 28 years old
Stefan Modol, Romania, 45 years old
Segundo Víctor Mopocita Mopocita, Ecuador, 37 years old
Encarnación Mora Donoso, Spain, 64 years old
María Teresa Mora Valero, Spain, 37 years old
Julita Moral García, Spain, 53 years old
Francisco Moreno Aragonés, Spain, 56 years old
José Ramón Moreno Isarch, Spain, 37 years old
Eugenio Moreno Santiago, Spain, 56 years old
Juan Pablo Moris Crespo, Spain, 32 years old
Juan Muñoz Lara, Spain, 33 years old
Francisco José Narváez de la Rosa, Spain, 28 years old
Mariana Negru, Romania, 40 years old
Ismael Nogales Guerrero, Spain, 31 years old
Inés Novellón Martínez, Spain, 30 years old
Miguel Ángel Orgaz Orgaz, Spain, 34 years old
Ángel Pardillos Checa, Spain, 62 years old
Sonia Parrondo Antón, Spain, 28 years old
Juan Francisco Pastor Férez, Spain, 51 years old
Daniel Paz Manjón, Spain, 20 years old
Josefa Pedraza Pino, Spain, 41 years old
Miryam Pedraza Rivero, Spain, 25 years old
Roberto Pellicari Lopezosa, Spain, 31 years old
María del Pilar Pérez Mateo, Spain, 28 years old
Felipe Pinel Alonso, Spain, 51 years old
Martha Scarlett Plasencia Hernandez, Dominican Republic, 27 years old
Elena Ples, Romania, 33 years old
María Luisa Polo Remartinez, Spain, 50 years old
Ionut Popa, Romania, 23 years old
Emilian Popescu, Romania, 44 years old
Miguel Ángel Prieto Humanes, Spain, 37 years old
Francisco Antonio Quesada Bueno, Spain, 44 years old
John Jairo Ramírez Bedoya, Colombia, 37 years old
Laura Ramos Lozano, Honduras, 37 years old
Miguel Reyes Mateos, Spain, 37 years old
Marta del Río Menéndez, Spain, 40 years old
Nuria del Río Menéndez, Spain, 38 years old
Jorge Rodríguez Casanova, Spain, 22 years old
Luis Rodríguez Castell, Spain, 40 years old
María de la Soledad Rodríguez de la Torre, Spain, 42 years old
Ángel Luis Rodríguez Rodríguez, Spain, 34 years old
Francisco Javier Rodríguez Sánchez, Spain, 52 years old
Ambrosio Rogado Escribano, Spain, 56 years old
Cristina Romero Sánchez, Spain, 34 years old
Patricia Rzaca, Poland, 7 meses
Wieslaw Rzaca, Poland, 34 years old
Antonio Sabalete Sánchez, Spain, 36 years old
Sergio Sánchez López, Spain, 17 years old
María Isabel Sánchez Mamajón, Spain, 37 years old
Juan Antonio Sánchez Quispe, Peru, 45 years old
Balbina Sánchez-Dehesa France, Spain, 47 years old
David Santamaría García, Spain, 23 years old
Sergio dos Santos Silva, Brazil, 28 years old
Juan Carlos Sanz Morales, Spain, 33 years old
Eduardo Sanz Pérez, Spain, 31 years old
Guillermo Senent Pallarola, Spain, 23 years old
Miguel Antonio Serrano Lastra, Spain, 28 years old
Rafael Serrano López, Spain, 66 years old
Paula Mihaela Sfeatcu, Romania, 27 years old
Federico Miguel Sierra Serón, Spain, 37 years old
Domnino Simón González, Spain, 45 years old
María Susana Soler Iniesta, Spain, 46 years old
Carlos Soto Arranz, Spain, 34 years old
Mariya Ivanova Staykova, Bulgaria, 38 years old
Marion Cintia Subervielle, France, 30 years old
Alexandru Horatiu Suciu, Romania, 18 years old
Danuta Teresa Szpila, Poland, 28 years old
José Luis Tenesaca Betancourt, Ecuador, 17 years old
Iris Toribio Pascual, Spain, 20 years old
Neil Torres Mendoza, Ecuador, 38 years old
Carlos Tortosa García, Spain, 31 years old
María Teresa Tudanca Hernández, Spain, 49 years old
Jesús Utrilla Escribano, Spain, 44 years old
José Miguel Valderrama López, Spain, 25 years old
Saúl Valdez Ruiz, Honduras, 44 years old
Mercedes Vega Mingo, Spain, 45 years old
David Vilela Fernández, Spain, 23 years old
Juan Ramón Zamora Gutiérrez, Spain, 29 years old
Yaroslav Zojniuk, Ukraine, 48 years old
Csaba Olimpiu Zsigovski, Romania, 26 years old

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TIME TO END Spain's labor market apartheid: "Take a look at a crowded street in any Spanish city and you will see two classes of workers. You won’t be able to distinguish them by their clothes, their skin colour or their schooling. But when they show up for work, receive their payslips at the end of the month or think about their future, they are very different." It's a good summary of one of the reasons, the main one, why the unemployment has skyrocketed.

ALLAH only takes the best: Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar university in Cairo, and a moderate who called for the ban of the burka, has died of a heart attack this morning while visiting Saudi Arabia.

IT'S THE DINERO, CAUDILLO: Spain can't anger Hugo Chávez, even if he's aiding Basque terrorists.

HILARIOUS. And so true.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

NEGLIGENCE, HARRASMENT: an email sent to Michael Yon details the trouble that US troops are allegedly experiencing at a Spanish base in Afghanistan. Read it all. I have asked Spain's Ministry of Defense if they want to comment on this; will update if I hear from them.

BARCELONA WEATHER UPDATE: turns out that it wasn't Al Gore but Baghdad Bob who was in Barcelona yesterday... Anyway, it did get worse yesterday, with thousands of people still without power in northern Catalonia and scores of schools closed. Today's a sunny, but very chilly day.

SPAIN, or what not to do with a country's solar industry.

MARTIN VARSAVSKY, the Spanish-Argentinian entrepreneur and millionaire, wants to be a Swiss cow.

Monday, March 08, 2010

AL GORE must be in town, because it's snowing heavily in Barcelona, something that doesn't happen often, especially in mid-March. Take a look at the view from my apartment (click to enlarge):

And it keeps on, so it's going to get much, much whiter soon...

UPDATE. Here's a live webcam, less than a mile from my place.

ANOTHER harsh piece at the WSJ on Spain's dire economic situation:
Before waxing ecstatic over Greece's ability to flog some bonds, remember this: Greece is a sideshow. Spain is the main event.

Its economy, the euro zone's fourth largest, is five times the size of Greece's, and almost twice the size of those of other financially struggling countries — Greece, Ireland and Portugal — combined.

So it matters that Spain's socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, seems to be an admirer of Charles Dickens's Mr. Micawber. Ask him what he plans to do about his country's 11.4% fiscal deficit, and he first promises to extend his country's retirement age, and then says he won't. He promises a public-sector wage freeze, but his Finance Minister, Elena Salgado, says he really doesn't mean it. But somehow he will cut the deficit to 3% by 2013. "We have a plan," says Spain's deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega. To most observers, that plan seems to be Mr. Micawber's: "something will turn up."
Read the rest.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

PEDIGREE DOGS AD shot at 1000 frames per second:


THE TOP five green myths.

THE MICROSOFT COURIER, the digital journal / tablet / ebook reader that will be launched later this year, looks pretty cool...


Friday, March 05, 2010

ARE SPAIN'S BANKS SAFE? Maybe not as much as it's often told:
Spain's property woes and economic downturn finally may be catching up with the country's two largest banks, Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.

The big banks have remained profitable throughout the financial crisis despite the bursting of the housing bubble in Spain, high unemployment and other problems. One reason: the government's strict requirements for Spanish banks to maintain high reserves against bad loans, in part a response to a previous property downturn in the 1990s.

But now there is concern whether these cushions can withstand the impact of an increase in nonperforming loans. As these mandatory reserves wane, the banks' profits could be hit by the same economic and real-estate-related losses that have dogged banks in the U.S. and Europe.
"Having outperformed the sector during the credit crisis … recent results cast doubt over the adequacy of generic reserves to absorb future losses," said Barclays Capital analyst Tom Rayner in a recent note. Barclays ranks the banks "underweight."

Both Santander and BBVA maintain that their provisions are adequate and in compliance with the central bank's rules.

At the same time, some analysts have raised questions about whether the Spanish banking sector in general is underreporting problem loans, by agreeing to loan modifications that help borrowers make payments before the loan is officially categorized as delinquent. Recent data from Spain's National Statistics Institute show a 55% rise in mortgage "novations," or changes to the terms of a mortgage, to 435,835 in 2009, for the sector.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

MUSLIMS moving to ban the burka? Good.

THE EURO to devolve into two currencies, the Euro1 and the Euro2?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We can, and should, ease the pain of those who lose jobs. But the government can't find you a job any more than it can find you a spouse or a hobby. The process of matching individuals to employers can only be done by individuals."

GOOD FOR HIM: "A prominent Islamic scholar will use a speech in London to issue a 600-page religious edict, denouncing terrorists and suicide bombers as 'unbelievers'."

Monday, March 01, 2010

ALAS, some things never seem to change:
Israel lodged a formal complaint with Spain on Sunday, charging certain individuals in Spanish schools of promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideas among young children. The letter comes after Israel's ambassador to Spain, Rafi Shotz, recently received dozens of anti-Semitic postcards from Spanish elementary school students.

The postcards bore statements including "Jews kill for money," "Leave the country to the Palestinians" and "Go somewhere where they will accept you." A Foreign Ministry official said the handwriting appears typical of children six to nine years old.

THE FINANCIAL TIMES on Spain's economy and the ability of Zapatero to do what needs to be done:
Spain, at four times the size of Greece in terms of its economy, is by far the largest of the budgetary laggards that will be facing renewed scrutiny, and probably higher financing costs, in the sovereign debt markets.

The crucial issue for Spain and its European neighbours is the credibility of its “stability plan”, which outlines sharp cuts in government spending, including a near-freeze on hiring civil servants, and aims to reduce the deficit from 11.4 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 3 per cent of GDP in 2013.

Although it will have no short-term impact, Madrid has also proposed increasing the retirement age to 67 from 65 to secure the financial health of the pensions system.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, prime minister, faces an uncomfortable spring, for very few economists, analysts or foreign investors are convinced either that the plans are plausible or that the government has the will or ability to implement them.

“It is all air,” said Luis Garicano, professor of economics and strategy at the London School of Economics, “just ideas that for the most part the government cannot put in place by itself, particularly on pensions or public employees.”

Nomura said it was “not convinced” that the austerity plan could be implemented. Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, predicted that the budget deficit would stay above 5 per cent of GDP until 2013, well above the eurozone’s widely abused 3 per cent limit.

Critics of the austerity plan, which has been sent to Brussels for approval, point to three main obstacles. First, its economic forecasts are over-optimistic. Second, central government has direct control over only about a quarter of expenditure, with the rest disbursed by autonomous regional governments and the social security system. Third, the Socialists lack the necessary will.
When they talk to foreigners, Spanish ministers say they are determined to do whatever it takes to restore order to their public finances. But when they address their supporters at home, they emphasise plans to maintain social spending.

The result is confusion and disarray.
You don't say.