Cosas de Esàña/Galiza
A gun-toting marquis kills his wife, as Spain fights against femicides. See the first article below.
Lenox Napier is quitting FB. Here’s why.
It might not be a new development but it’s surely an inevitable one – Our Asturian neighbours, who have many apples and grow a lot of cider, are promoting ‘gourmet’ stuff at around €8 a bottle.
Some local snippets:-
– Some parishioners near A Lama have fallen out with their priest, so they’ve built their own chapel on common land. And are presumably now seeking another cleric to say Mass there.
– The (worthy)winner of a Best Scarecrow competition:-
– Talking of clothes . . . It’s not only the male prostitute who dresses a la mujer in Pv city. I’ve seen this chap a few times, resplendent with jet-black beard and a calf-length skirt. Confused? Or just a display of one of the many gender choices now available?
– A disorientated chap of 68 from Vigo was found last week wandering along the edge of an autovia. So . . . Un vigués vago, you might say.
– In Monte Perreiro, on the outskirts of Pv city, the residents have to contend not only with wild boars wandering their streets but also the occasional young bull or two.
– While up on the northern coast, in Penedo do Galo, near Viveiro, a guy chose to climb a tree – understandably but probably unnecessarily – to get away from the 4 wolves he’d just met.
– The pedestrianisation of more and more streets in Galician cities has led to an explosion in the price of garages. Shockingly, some of these are paid for in (‘black’) cash.)
– Last weekend, the police stopped someone doing 236kph/142kph) on the AG-31. He was returning from participating in a rally in Ourense and presumably hadn’t managed to change his mind-set. He now faces a possible jail sentence.
– A little street I used to use in Pv city has had its one-way direction changed for the 3rd time in 12 months or so. As I’ve said, I suspect there’s a non-driving teenager employed by the council to do this sort of thing, so as to irritate drivers so much they stay out of the city.
A couple of follow-ups to yesterday’s article on the joys of Galicia:-
– I should have written that the 2 beaches said to be in A Coruña province are in Pontevedra province. And that the Cathedrals Beach isn’t there either; it’s in Lugo province.
– More importantly, reader Paideleo has noted that I missed the egregious error of calling Galego a dialect. It is, of course, one of the 5 Iberian languages descended from Latin – along with Castellano, Catalan, Valenciano and Portuguese. The last of these and Galego once formed the Western Iberian Galaico-Portugués language but separated over time into sister languages. With fanatics on each side of the border claiming to know which is the mother and which the daughter. Many Galicians say they can understand Portuguese perfectly – or the northern variety at least – but I’ve never been convinced about this.
It’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity but I do wonder if this is the case for the Britannia chain of hotels. For the 9th year running, this has just had its hotels judged to be the worst in the UK. Nonetheless, like Ryanair, they’re still in business
Worrying times. The Supreme Court, says the author of the 2nd article below, risks undermining the popular perception of legitimacy that is the bedrock of its authority
The Way of the World
BBC staff have been told there are more than 150 genders and urged to develop their personal ‘trans brand’ by declaring their pronouns on email sign-offs. This came in course materials from Global Butterflies, a transgender group drafted in by the BBC for training sessions last year
Two artists have created a “zero- star” hotel, a room with no doors, walls or ceiling plonked next to a petrol station in Switzerland. The idea is to give guests a dreadful night’s sleep during which they ruminate on climate change, human cruelty and world war. It costs £275 a night.
El flow: Says someone: This is a fashionable word. I don’t really know what it means but I’d like to. Me too.
Un led: An LED. Foxed me.
Re-titled great old song: When a man loves a womb-carrier.
Finally . . .
This is a Greek poet described in a podcast as Scouse, because he lived in Liverpool for a while. Quite possibly a joke.
For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.
1. Gun-toting marquis kills wife as Spain fights against femicides: Matthew Campbell, The Times
None of the neighbours considered calling police when they heard gunshots coming from the flat downstairs — they were used to it. Much to their annoyance, the marquis often did his target practice in the communal courtyard. A darker explanation emerged the next morning when the concierge peered through the kitchen window: Fernando Gonzalez de Castejon, Count of Atares and Marquis of Perija, 53, lay on his floor along with his wife Gema Jimenez, 44, and a female friend.
Police said the nobleman had shot the women in the head before putting his vintage Luger pistol in his mouth, describing it as a “crimen de machismo” whose other victim was the couple’s now orphaned, ten-year-old daughter. The narrative twist of an aristocrat helping to fuel what the government calls an epidemic of conjugal murder made this more than just another statistic — it has fascinated Spain, offering evidence, if any were needed, that the scourge of domestic violence knows no social boundaries.
With his mane of dark hair and impeccable tailoring, the marquis was remembered by waiters in the numerous bars he frequented in his smart home district in Madrid as a cheerful figure and a good tipper. Yet few of his neighbours had a kind word to say about the gun-loving grandee, describing an irascible, vindictive streak that had made him the only subject on the agenda at tortured tenant meetings he never attended.
He had once threatened to shoot a neighbour’s dog. He had hurled abuse at another tenant when she was watering plants on her balcony and inadvertently splashed his windows below: “He said, ‘Stop watering, you slut, you’re fucking up my Picassos’,” she told Spanish media. More disturbingly, however, he had turned the communal courtyard into a shooting range. “He would come out in the afternoons or at night with a shotgun and fire at targets painted on canvases he had hung on the walls,” another neighbour said.
If anyone complained, he would play fascist marches from dictator General Francisco Franco’s era at full volume. The walls of his flat were adorned with portraits of Franco and Adolf Hitler. The Picassos may have been imaginary.
Police also discovered an unlicensed arsenal of weapons in the flat and a substantial quantity of ammunition. The marquis appears to have collected military uniforms, combat knives, bows and arrows, rifles, silencers and pistols, including the Second World War Luger police found at his feet.
He lay in the sitting room, next to his wife’s friend, a woman of 70 who police did not identify but who, according to neighbours, had often stayed at the flat and apparently sometimes helped with the cleaning. Jimenez, his partner of more than a decade, was found next door in the kitchen. She had been shot in the forehead. She had returned that day, earlier than expected, to Madrid after a break with her daughter in Paris, where they had stayed with friends and visited Disneyland. Friends believed that she had finally plucked up the courage to announce she was leaving the marquis and, knowing that this would enrage him, had left their daughter in Paris and asked the older woman to stay with her in the flat.
The couple’s relationship was said to have deteriorated years before: the marquis’ mood had darkened in 2015 when the collapse of the Banco Madrid, he claimed, had done him out of more than £500,000 in savings. In 2018, he was briefly detained when police intervened to stop him mistreating Jimenez in public. Jimenez declined to testify against him. In 2009, his mother and sister had made an official complaint about his behaviour and won a restraining order against him. He inherited his titles of marquis and 16th count of Atares, along with substantial property three years later upon the death, aged 92, of an extremely wealthy but childless uncle.
The murder of Jimenez brings the number of women killed by their partners in Spain to 1,150 since 2003, when records began. The figure has fallen from a high of 75 in 2004 to 44 last year. But Pedro Sanchez, the socialist prime minister who leads a self-declared “feminist government”, has made a priority of the fight against killings of women, which Spain used to describe as “crimes of passion” or “love crimes”.
He seized on the latest crime to argue in a tweet that — in spite of heftier penalties under gender violence laws introduced in the early 2000s — women “are being killed every day” and “there are some who still deny the reality of gender violence”. He went on: “This is one of the most serious and urgent problems in our society, we can only stop it with firmness and unity.”
2. The Supreme Court risks undermining the popular perception of legitimacy that is the bedrock of its authority: Iwan Morgan, The Times
With two incendiary judgments in 24 hours the US Supreme Court has placed itself at the heart of America’s political polarisation and raised questions about its own constitutional and democratic legitimacy: Iwan Morgan is Emeritus Professor of US Studies, University College London
First, on Thursday, the judges struck down a 1911 New York state law regulating the carrying of a concealed weapon outside the home. Deliberating amid a growing clamour for stricter gun control following recent mass shootings, they found that in the case of NYSRPA v Bruen, the 111-year old law violated the right to bear arms, enshrined in the Second Amendment to the constitution. The next day, in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they upheld a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and in the process overturned Roe v Wade, the court’s totemic 1973 precedent that legalised first-trimester terminations nationwide. The constitution, the court’s conservative majority argued, does not confer any right of abortion.
The country’s 18th-century founders intended its highest tribunal to be above politics. They established a separate and unelected third branch of national government to provide objective adjudication for all cases arising under the constitution and the laws, free from the political passions to which the executive and legislative branches were susceptible. Its most significant power, the prerogative of judicial review established through early 19th-century precedents, authorises it to assess the constitutionality of federal and state laws.
Last week’s decisions mean that America may well now be approaching a constitutional boiling point. There is a real risk of Democratic government officials at federal and state levels thumbing their nose at judgments striking down rights they consider legitimate. The presidential election of 2024 looms as a moment of maximum danger.
A Supreme Court judgment, Bush v Gore, effectively consecrated George W Bush’s legitimacy as president in the disputed election of 2000. At this time the Gallup poll recorded 62 per cent public support for the way it was acting. In 2022, a Marquette poll indicated support had fallen to 44 per cent overall and to 38 per cent and 26 per cent among independents and Democrats respectively. Were the Supreme Court to rule in 2024 in support of a Republican state legislature that chose to allocate the state’s electoral college votes to their party’s candidate in defiance of the actual count — by no means an outlandish possibility — no Democratic candidate would accept its verdict in the manner of Al Gore in 2000.
The third branch of government has faced similar controversy in the past. In 1935-36, it struck down legislative measures at the core of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programme to combat the Great Depression, ruling them an unconstitutional expansion of federal authority. FDR then won re-election in 1936 with the largest popular vote and electoral college majorities in history. This emboldened him to propose a bill expanding Supreme Court membership to 15 as a means of ensuring a liberal judiciary. Despite huge Democratic majorities in both chambers, the measure failed in Congress because of the threat it posed to the constitutional separation of powers but Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes nonetheless recognised that continued opposition to a popularly elected president would undermine judicial legitimacy. He persuaded Justice Owen Roberts to join him in aligning with their liberal colleagues to uphold New Deal legislation thereafter. This went down in history as “the switch in time that saved nine”.
From the late 1930s, the Supreme Court shifted from socio-economic regulation to focus on nationalising the Bill of Rights. It employed judicial review to strike down state laws that violated personal rights enshrined — implicitly or explicitly — in the first ten amendments to the constitution and the post-Civil War 14th and 15th Amendments. This put it at the forefront of liberal efforts to protect racial minorities, workers, political and religious dissidents, and women from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s under the leadership of Republican chief justices Earl Warren (1954-69) and Warren Burger (1969-86). Key judgments included: Brown v Topeka (1954), ruling segregated public schools unconstitutional; Baker v Carr (1962), requiring equal-sized electoral districts; and Roe v Wade.
By getting too far ahead of public opinion on some issues, however, the court’s legitimacy came under attack. Swann v Charlotte Mecklenburg (1971), which mandated bussing as a solution to informal school segregation resulting from racial patterns of settlement, was deeply unpopular. A host of decisions defining the rights of the accused also earned condemnation for not protecting victims of crime — a key theme of the highly popular Clint Eastwood movie, Dirty Harry (1971). The appointment of justices with a more restrained view of rights by the Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan brought the court back in line with mainstream opinion.
From the mid-1970s until recently, an effective balance of power between liberal and conservative judges generally succeeded in keeping the high bench on the centre ground, helped by having a “swing justice” or two with a foot in both camps. Change came with the three Supreme Court associate justices nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate from 2017 to 2020: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett (the latter a direct replacement for the deceased liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Conservative justices now hold a six-three majority over liberal ones for the first time since the 1930s. The resultant shift of constitutional interpretation to the right pleases most Republicans but makes the Supreme Court appear an unelected, unrepresentative and anti- majoritarian participant in today’s extremely partisan environment in Democratic eyes.
President Biden has been publicly critical of the NYSRPA and Dobbs rulings but lacks the mandate of a massive election victory to put pressure on the court like FDR did. There is no prospect of new judicial appointees to change the court’s composition as in the 1970s and 1980s. Of today’s conservative bloc, associate justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, aged 74 and 72 respectively, and Chief Justice John Roberts, at 67, probably have another decade of service in them before retirement, while the three Trump picks are all young enough to go on for another 30 years. The only option for the Democrats is to mobilise voters to express their resentment against judicial conservatism at the ballot box. At a time when substantive policy issues pertaining to economic problems are uppermost, it is questionable whether this strategy would work. Its most likely effect will be to draw the Supreme Court deeper into the mire of partisan polarisation, the very opposite of what the founders intended.
Aware that the institution he leads is playing with fire that could consume its very legitimacy, Chief Justice Roberts has sought to position himself as the bulwark of judicial restraint. His hope was to persuade one of his conservative colleagues to join him in upholding the Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks without overturning Roe in a manner that allows states to ban abortion immediately after conception if they choose. There was no “switch in time” on this occasion.
The more conservative quintet outflanked the chief justice to demonstrate that the “Roberts Court” is now their court. It appears likely that the five will train their judicial guns on other rights that they consider beyond constitutional validation. In his concurring opinion to Dobbs, Clarence Thomas, an African American put on the court by George H W Bush in 1991, urged reconsideration of substantive due process precedents like Griswold v Connecticut, 1965 (protecting the right to contraception), Lawrence v Texas, 2003 (invalidating state laws banning sodomy), and Obergefell v Hodges, 2015 (legalising gay marriage nationwide). Personal rights that have become embedded in American society and culture now appear threatened. Furthermore the Supreme Court will soon rule on two cases involving prayer in schools and religious education that could undermine church-state separation.
Unless the Supreme Court can recover self-restraint, it risks undermining the popular perception of legitimacy that is the bedrock of its authority. Conservative justices, who appear to believe that the constitution is what they say it is, would do well to shed delusions of judicial grandeur. They might heed the admonition of Robert Jackson, the only official to have held the three great legal positions of national government — solicitor-general, attorney-general, and associate justice (appointed by FDR in 1941): “We [the Supreme Court] are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible only because we are final.”