Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The News Belongs to the Corporation that Prints it.

As we see elsewhere, the threat of new technologies or services is sometimes met head-on in Spain. The taxi drivers and the hoteliers both angry with their new competitors Uber and Airbnb, and both able to do something about it (by which we mean, talk to the legislators). Another business that is fearful of new forms of competition is the daily newspaper. This, again, thanks to technology. Why read one source (for a euro fifty), with much bulk that is inevitably left unread anyway, when you can read as many sources as you want, of things that interest you, on your computer or Smartphone, for free?
Along comes at least two major tactics from the ‘dailies’ (who are, of course, themselves large corporations). First we have the attempt to close down – or at least wound – those smaller news providers who use links in the reports (you can’t use links in the printed media, rather obviously). The Spanish ‘dailies’,  joined together into the AEDE – the Asociación de Editores de Diarios Españoles – has leaned on their friends in the Government to impose the notorious ‘Google Tax’, whose only victim so far has been Google News, an aggregator which sends readers to the original source! For the moment, this measure against other sites has been bounced by the Supreme Court, but the AEDE is keen to try again, as they don’t want the competitors drawing ever-more readers away.
But, what of ‘Fake News’? Here is The Telegraph: ‘Fake news was not a term many people used 18 months ago, but it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order’. Gracious! One should move to ban this terrible menace – maybe by creating laws! An enthusiastic initiative to do precisely this comes from the PSOE as reported in El País: ‘Spanish Socialists propose measures to curb online fake news’.
It is said that the Brexit vote, or Trump’s victory or the Independence movement in Catalonia, were all aided by fake news from Russia. Others say that on the contrary this is merely another case of fake news, or better still, ‘disinformation’. The Catalonian story of endless lies and provocations provided by fiendish Russian bots was investigated by a group called Transparency Toolkit and printed in a British parliamentary report which concluded that some of the items reported by the Spanish constitutionalist press were themselves planted by El País and others.
The report on fake news says: ‘...In some cases, there may be a temptation to use groundless allegations of fake news to support political arguments. Disinformation is not a technique unique to Russia, Venezuela, or any one country or group. It is necessary to explore how claims of fake news can themselves be used as a manipulative tactic and understand the impact this has on society’.
The Spanish national TV may also be guilty of manipulation, as the RTVE is investigated in the European Parliament this week, looking to see if ‘...the principles of objectivity, plurality and impartiality are observed’ in their news services as they must be under European law.
Fake News (we ignore joke news sites like El Jueves and El Mundo Today) may turn out to be little more than a Trojan horse, used to silence other news-sites, allowing (one can dream) for the resurgence of the traditional news-services – the daily newspapers, the major radio and TV channels. After all, corporations do not like competition. 
Business over Tapas editorial 26 April 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Right versus Left (They've got the Guns, but We've Got the Numbers)

This is merely a few subjective thoughts – but why do many of the poor support the conservative parties? It is of course understandable that those with money should see themselves as conservatives, since capital creates wealth and jobs both. But, how about those who are obliged to take on the lower-paid jobs, or those without employment, or those with low pensions or those with health issues, or those who find it hard, as the Spanish say ‘to make it to the end of the month’? Many of these people are of course left-leaning, but a surprising number of them are not.
We can partly blame the media for this, as the national TV news pumps out right-wing memes (with massive doses of Hollywood-style sports news) while news programs like Informe Semanal are so biased as to have become unwatchable. The press, too, is right-leaning as they take their orders from the corporations that own them, and accept huge amounts of ‘institutional advertising’ from the very government they are meant to control, in order to balance the books. Perhaps even the system of education itself – as we repeat what we have been taught (José Luis Sampedro with Jordi Évole here).
Who hasn’t heard of the severe problems of Venezuela (with its by now subconscious connection to Podemos)? Yet, we see and read little about Turkey or Saudi Arabia...
Perhaps it’s the same reason much of the working classes voted for Trump: perhaps (this time) some of that wealth will trickle down. Perhaps again, some of the working classes are distracted by the songs of the extreme right with their racism and their hatred (although not, I think, here in Spain).
I found that as I approach 65 years of age, with only eleven years of social security paid, I will one day (hopefully) receive a state pension. It will be ‘una pensión no contributiva de jubilación’ and will pay 369.90€ per month (call it 370€). If I had a vote, I might consider giving it to a party that offered to increase this sum...
Whatever the reasons, the latest poll shows the conservative Ciudadanos in the lead in voters’ intention, followed by the Partido Popular. Between them, they have 50%. The PSOE and Unidos Podemos (if one accepts that the PSOE is a leftist party) have 39.4% to share.
The opinion of the leader of the Izquierda Unida Alberto Garzón (the party is allied with Podemos) is that left-wing politicians need to understand their voters better. Indeed they do.
 Lenox dixit

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spain to Control Single-use Plastic

It's no secret that the sea is full of plastic. Dire warnings are found regularly on Facebook and on Sky News and indeed, in the media in general. Plastic pollution is a horrible thing, affecting both ourselves and the animals that share this planet with us. A whale was washed up on the coast in Aguilas the other day, dead, with enough plastic discovered inside it's stomach to become a serious competitor to MasterCard.
We throw our garbage out the window or out the door, in plastic bags or otherwise. We litter the campo and we leave junk on the beach. We even haul our trash to the contenador, the municipal  rubbish bin, and then leave it next to it as a sort of prize for the next person to come by.
Plastic, blowing in the wind, adorning our trees, flopping in the waves, cast aside in the ditch.
Most of this plastic is non-degradable and will be lying around somewhere for many years to come.
The plastic farms of Almería (always said to be 30,000 hectares, or 300 square kilometres of them, but more likely to be well over double this figure) use, understandably, a lot of plastic. The used, rotted stuff had always been sold to the Chinese until January this year when the trade was abruptly closed down by Beijing. What do they do with the stuff now? (Answers on a postcard).
Spain (to at least my surprise) has just bravely passed a law regarding single-use plastic. From the beginning of 2020, plastic forks and plates, cups, drinking straws and so on will neither be imported, exported or sold in Spanish territory. Plastic bags will also be controlled from that time, and will need to be biodegradable in the future.
Supermarket food wrapped in polystyrene will also be controlled.
The law was passed with the support of the PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos, and the Partido Popular abstaining.

 .. .. .. ..

Recycling plastic? Forget it, says an article in Público. ‘We live surrounded by adverts that tell us that we have to recycle, that it is very important to throw plastics in the yellow bin so that they can have a second life and the planet becomes a better place. What no one says is that plastics are very difficult to recycle and the small percentage that is recycled becomes a poor quality and economically uneconomical plastic. As a result, much of the plastic that we produce is simply incinerated...’.


Thursday, April 05, 2018

More on The Indalo

The Indalo is a figure, sometimes known in Mojácar as 'el tótem': a little man with a rainbow over his head, or an arch, or a curved stick. A god. Maybe it's a woman (goddesses are protective,  fecund, and have open legs). La Indala. One puts the effigy on the wall of the house to bring luck and protection. One puts a gold Indalo on a chain round the neck, again for luck - and also because it is a beautiful, classic symbol.
All good stuff.
The Indalo was named by the Indalianos, a group of Almerian artists painting and boozing in Mojácar in the early 'sixties. The little figure needed a name (it was called 'el hombrecillo mojaquero' until then). The town had many of them, and the old forge in the Cuesta de la Fuente used to knock them out and consequently enjoyed a reasonably brisk trade.
By the 'seventies, Mojácar was famous internationally, and  the Indalo and Mojácar were both recognised and known in London and Paris when nobody had ever heard of Almería.
Then, in 1988, a meeting was held in Almería at the diputación (the county council). The PSOE politician Tomás Azorín told the mayor of Mojácar that the totem would, from then on forwards, become the emblem  for the entire province. A tourist thing. Since that edict, we see the Indalo in Almería, in Vera, in El Ejido and in Adra. We see it on trucks and in the tourist guides. The classic version, simple and instantly recognisable. From that time, Almería finally had its own identity.
Since that meeting in 1988, several changes occurred. Mojácar lost its Indalo and its leadership (it is now well behind Vera, Roquetas, Almerimar, El Toyo and Aguadulce in importance); a rival and spurious claim for the Indalo came from Vélez Blanco (the Cueva de los Letreros has a number of prehistoric stick-men, including one that looks somewhat like an Indalo, but was never revered or identified - or indeed named) and lastly, Mojácar was obliged to create, with the help of Manitas, a French jeweller who had a shop in the village, a new version of the totem: a drunken Indalo, which is now 'plastered' all over the resort. 
The 'Golden Indalo' meanwhile, created in the late eighties by Mojácar's tourist councillor, was given to 'high-flyers' in Madrid at the FITUR, the international tourist fair. The first year it was presented to singer Miguel Ríos (who often visits Mojácar) and Pedro Piqueras the television personality - who probably visited once...  Later it was given to politicians, Belgian cyclists, scallywags and other notables. Once, it was even given to a British resident - Bob Jones - after a large and dedicated Facebook campaign. Bob, a photographer, would send his pictures to the weather channel who often published them. Now, this singular honour has declined in importance too, with last year's Indalos de Oro given to the children of Jacinto Alarcón, who died a few years ago (no one did more); and this year, given by the tourist board... to itself. One awaits next year's effort with trepidation.
The Indalo, despite the manipulations of politicians, publicists and shop-keepers, it the symbol of Mojácar. Wear yours with pride!