Left Abroad #3: Podcasting Spanish Politics with Alan McGuire

I talked to British writer, teacher, podcaster, and fellow immigrant to Spain Alan McGuire last week about politics, history, books, and his own podcast Sobremesa.

There’s a dearth of in-depth information in written or podcast form in English about Spanish politics that doesn’t have the same tired tourism angle and I wanted to talk to him about how he came to Spain, his own political trajectory, and why he decided to start his project.

It ran a little long, because Alan and I have quite a bit in common. Thanks to Alan for taking the time to and to you for listening to Left Abroad! Please give us your honest review on Apple Podcasts if you get a chance.

Show Notes

Blueprint for a Barely Functioning United States

With the untimely passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican hypocrisy regarding SCOTUS confirmations that liberals seem to think will eventually shame the GOP into doing the honorable thing (it won’t), massive unrest over the troika of economic, social, and environmental conditions, the contradictions in American life have become much too obvious for anyone with half a brain to ignore.

I hate to admit it, but there is no Left with any real power. And The American death cult and its financiers faces a weak centrist façade that placates and sloganeers. History will show the DNC to be the party of dangerous (white) moderates. The rest of us simply have no other viable vessel for political expression.

Nobody’s asking me, but this is my blog and we could start demanding some things to make life more livable:

  • Restructure the immigration system and dismantle ICE: Family separation, hysterectomies in immigrant concentration camps, young Americans of color locked up for weeks despite having citizenship, raids in hospitals. Tell me where to stop.
  • Abolish the Senate: An antiquated chamber that is wholly undemocratic. Wyoming and California are not equal. It impedes progress. But look, it was designed that way, a mechanism for the new American aristocracy to keep a lid on the popular classes.
  • Along with the Electoral College: Popular vote.
  • End impunity for the ruling class: Bush and Obama for American war crimes and accessories to Saudi crimes in Yemen. Trump for corruption, along with those senators accused of insider trading before the pandemic. If not in court trials at least a public reckoning. As a two-time Obama voter, it’s hard to deny his epic failures on Guantanamo, the Middle East wars, deportations, and more recently orchestrating the consolidation of centrists during the democratic primaries for Biden and squashing an NBA wildcat strike with a phone call. Sound like an impediment to hope and change? Thanks Obama.
  • Close the racial wealth gap and pay reparations: I’ll defer to Darity and Coates.
  • Green New Deal for planetary survival: Fires, floods, heat waves, droughts, etc. It’s happening and it’s finally not just confined to developing nations in the global south.
  • Legislate Medicare for All: Again, the only industrialized country to not have public healthcare. Pandemic, meet employer-based plans that work tooth and nail to deny coverage.
  • Cancel student debt: Give more economic freedom to the generations crushed by debt. It’ll be in everyone’s interest.
  • Reform the courts: Lifetime appointments are monarchical.
  • Demilitarize/defund the police: Duh. They keep murdering people of color without repercussions. They don’t need tanks, they don’t need heat rays, they need accountability.
  • Take away the assault weapons, at least: This one should have happened already.
  • Promote homesteading and invest in rural communities: The rise of masks, staying home, social distancing and telecommuting have pointed the way. Let’s be pioneers,
  • Reduce the workday: 6 hours at most. Let people live. Or at least be able to help their kids with Zoom school in the immediate future.
  • More municipal/state rights: How do we undermine an imperial presidency? By diminishing the reach of the office, building local power, and affecting change at a smaller, and more manageable, administrative level. We have a federal system. Things like health and LGBT rights must be built in to the whole system, but sustainable energy solutions, how to participate in civic life, and what to grow are all regionally and culturally dependent.

And many others. Stop the wars, stop the fracking, stop the pipelines over indigenous land.

Yes; Republicans, structural barriers inside the our political institutions, the “both sides”-ism of the corporate media, and disinformation on social media are huge hurdles to overcome. You know what is also a hurdle to progress? The Democratic Party. I’m almost 34 years old, and as much as I hoped and dreamed for the DNC to be a progressive party.

No more funding equivocating on economics or norms. One guy demolished all our norms and the economy almost collapsed just because people were staying inside and only buying essentials. We just gave away billions to corporations and dead industries like cruise lines. Planes are flying to nowhere to secure contracts with airports, despite their massive carbon footprint. And the government has left Americans with $1,200 (for some, not even that’s).

Whatever happens in November, we’re at the eleventh hour and it’s high time for radical thinking.

The Obligatory iOS Podcasting Setup Post

Yesterday, I recorded a great conversation that I’ve been looking forward to and wanted to share how I use a phone and tablet to record the podcast.

After finally working up the courage to record and edit my voice in conversation with others, I think anyone can start a podcast with very little equipment. Fancy microphones, expensive mixers, etc. are not really necessary and in fact many people are just using their phones and a platform like Anchor.

Equipment

I knew I didn’t want to buy extraneous and bulky equipment. I wanted minimal and portable, like the two devices I use. Even more so because I’d like to do in-person recording sessions in the future, like my episode with Hudy.

The only investment I made was in Røde’s SC6-L Mobile Interview Kit. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s pretty fantastic if you have an iPhone with a Lightning port.

The kit comes consists of a small dongle and two lapel microphones. I haven’t used it yet, but I also bought one mic extension cable. This will probably come in handy for socially distant conversations.

The dongle has three audio jacks; two for the microphones and one for headphones. By using Røde’s Reporter app, I can also split the two mics into different channels and monitor the audio with headphones. This means when I import the audio into Ferrite on my iPad, I can edit the channels separately.

Recording

For my last two sessions, I’ve recorded remotely in my downstairs room. I haven’t needed to fiddle with acoustics at all, and my audio (despite my elongated pauses, ummm’s, and pronunciations) sounds pretty good to me.

But this means I’ve had to rely on my guests to record their end. There are ways around this. I didn’t have good luck using a Discord voice channel, and the chat bot Craig + Ennuicastr for a first test run. But when I can get this set up properly, it will simplify things greatly for other remote participants.

Theoretically, I’ll be able to invite guests into a private Discord (which could be web-based and without downloading an app) and they can use some earbuds and talk like a normal phone call.

On my end, I use my phone with the dongle to record my audio and take a FaceTime or Zoom call on my tablet. I use one AirPod connected to the iPad/call and one wired headphone plugged into the dongle to monitor my side’s audio.

Editing

One thing I didn’t think I would enjoy so much was the actual audio editing process. But Ferrite by Wooji Juice makes things pretty intuitive with a combination of touch or a stylus like the Pencil and keyboard shortcuts. There are many resources out there for people interested in editing on a tablet (or a phone) using Ferrite.

Posting

While I’m not sure my method of hosting and posting will be sustainable if and when listenership increases, right now I upload the compressed .mp3 files into my WordPress media library and use Blubrry’s plugin and Category Podcasting option. I only want iTunes to scrape the Podcasts category for the RSS feed while ignoring everything else on Among the Stones. If you have a dedicated site to for your podcast, you wouldn’t need this particular capability and any other podcasting plugin would work.

I used Graphic to make some quick artwork.

That’s it! I’ll be editing yesterday’s conversation tomorrow and hopefully getting it out on Monday.

“We Have Nothing to Give You But Your Own Freedom”

I thought the quarantine would allow me to read more books than I have. Old habits of only starting longer books, or becoming distracted by articles or tweets, die hard.

But having Deleted Twitter™ (once again) and consciously making time to read every night before bed, I finished Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed yesterday.

And I loved it.

A good friend of mine gave me his copy when I was last in California two years ago and it’s been with me since, yet sitting. On a recent FaceTime call, where we inevitably discuss all that’s interesting to us in a hodge-podge of rapid-fire questions, quips, and segues of politics, culture, history, etc., he mentioned he had reread it. I vaguely knew the premise;

170 years after a group of anarchists settled a capitalistic planet’s moon after a successful revolution and absolutely no interplanetary contact, one comes back.

As usual, whenever I make time for fiction, the stories that draw me in occasionally have more profound thoughts than some dense book of theory or history.

What do social relations look like in a planet where there is no government, no currency, no prisons, no law? Where everyone consciously chooses what to do but with the awareness of themselves as part of one social organism, scrappily making a life out of a planet with very little natural resources?

Le Guin’s imagination and the big ideas in the book were much more interesting to me than how she wrote them. The book oscillates between the Shevek’s (the protagonist and Anarres’ most brilliant physicist) life on his native Anarres and after he lands on Urras.

The story was good, but for me, the book’s what-if scenario drew me in the most. What if there was a successful anti-capitalist social revolution? What if the victors win concessions, like almost two centuries of uninterrupted peace?

“We have nothing but our freedom. We have nothing to give you but your own freedom. We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. We have no government but the single principle of free association. We have no states, no nations, no presidents, no premiers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bankers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. Nor do we have much else. We are sharers, not owners. We are not prosperous. None of us is rich. None of us is powerful. If it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands. You must come to it alone, and naked, as the child comes into the world, into his future, without any past, without any property, wholly dependent on other people for his life. You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” — Shevek

The end of the book was easily my favorite part. A mass demonstration, the consequences of when popular unrest meets the ruling class, a meeting and conversation with another planet’s ambassador, and a revolution inside a revolutionary state.

I sped through the last forty or so pages to catch my friend on FaceTime and discuss it. In our long-winded way, he touched on the book, the moment, and everything else that we fancied. Then he dropped another recommendation; *Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. Another author who I’m aware of yet have never made the time for. This one is an alternative history if the Black Death had wiped out most of Europe and speculating on the last 700 years if Islam and Buddhism were the major poles of power on Earth.

I think I might just go to him for every fiction recommendation.

But first, Murray Bookchin’s The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy.