Thursday, January 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Nóos was a premeditated criminal act

The investigating judge in the case of Iñaki Urdangarin and the Instituto Nóos has made a statement in which he makes clear that he believes the activities of the institute were premeditated with the intent to access public funds. Judge Castro, in an "auto" (essentially the case for the prosecution) of over 500 pages, describes Nóos as an organised plot of willful criminal activity. The judge has imposed a civil bail amounting to over eight million euros on Urdangarin and his ex-business partner Diego Torres, meaning that he is seeking assets from the two amounting to the bail rather than this being a bail that must be paid to avoid entering custody.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Jonquillo catch goes ahead without authorisation

Fishermen in the north of Mallorca have started to catch the jonquillo fish, despite authorisation from Brussels not yet having been given. The fishermen have become impatient at the lack of movement by the EU and angered at the catches being made by mainland fishermen.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 12C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, predominantly West.

Another clear morning, colder in parts than in others. Very calm, as indicated by the sea conditions. The poorer weather for the weekend is not likely to last, as the forecast into next week sees an improvement.

Afternoon update (17.00): A high of 22.4C, which really is quite warm for the end of January. Wind whipping up over the weekend, and there could be very high northerly winds on Sunday bringing snow to quite low levels but then getting better again by Monday. 

The Incredible Shrinking Spanish Economy

The Spanish economy shrank again in the final quarter of 2012. The provisional figure for the slump during the whole of 2012 is 1.4%, worse than the Bank of Spain had been predicting only a few days ago. Never mind though, the minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos, says that the slump hasn't been as bad as predicted. You pays yer money, you takes yer choice as to whose version you prefer. If you had any money, that is.

The output figure is one piece of bad economic news, the other is the level of unemployment - 26% of the total workforce, with unemployment among the young now reaching 60%. Sixty per cent. Just hold that thought and ask yourself what the future holds for this unemployed youth.

The lost generation of Spain's youth is increasingly looking abroad for work. Overall, there was an exit of over 40,000 people from Spain during the first half of 2012, and many of them are heading to the UK. As the Trans-Iberian blog from "El País" points out, the volume of applications for UK National Insurance numbers by Spanish migrants is second only to those made by people from Pakistan.

It's not as if the young are going to the UK and finding employment commensurate with their qualifications. They are taking bar work, any menial tasks, but at least there is some prospect of work. What is there in Spain? Nada.

The recessionary statistic for the final quarter should not come as a great surprise. It can be partly explained by consumption having been squeezed into the third quarter in order to avoid the rise in prices as a consequence of the increase in IVA (VAT) at the start of September. There are other factors, though, one of them being an impact of the government's labour reforms. Welcomed by some, these reforms have nevertheless contributed to a further weakening of confidence. If job security is lessened, so is the temptation to consume.

De Guindos reckons that positive growth will return in the second half of this year. He may be right, but you shouldn't put money on this either. De Guindos is prone to talking rubbish. (The IMF haven't said as much but disagree with his forecast.) At the end of April last year, let me remind you, he dismissed the idea of increasing IVA until this year. His rationale, if you can consider it rational, was that growth would have kicked in in 2013 and so the time would have arrived to raise indirect tax. Seriously, this is a minister responsible for economic affairs. Not only was he wrong about the IVA rise, as it was made four months later, he was also wrong in his thinking. If there were growth, the last thing that was needed was to stop it in its tracks by increasing tax.

It is a cliché to suggest that politicians don't know what they are doing. Some do. But as far as Spain's are concerned, they do their utmost in proving the cliché to be right. The austerity measures are taking Spain nowhere, except further inside its own basket case. The enormity of the poverty of political economic thought is matched only by the enormity of the brassnecked spin. Take the Balearics own economic genius, José Aguilo. Tax increases will stimulate the economy, he stated earlier this month. The screeches of laughter were drowned out only by the screams of despair. Aguiló's probably next in line for a Madrid cabinet position.

The Balearics finance (and employment and business) minister believes that the rise in taxes will help entrepreneurs because of a consequent lowering in interest rates. But who will be doing any lending? Entrepreneurship is the current flavour of the month of both the regional and national government. Rajoy has announced tax cuts for young entrepreneurs. So what? Growth measures are what will help these entrepreneurs. And credit. Unavailable credit.

But what about tax cuts for everyone else? There is a growing counter-argument to the austerity strategy imposed by the Spanish Government and imposed on it by forces from outside. Spain's problems with its borrowing rate have been eased thanks to European Central Bank intervention. We know what the pound (or euro) of flesh has had to be for this intervention, but what on earth is austerity ever going to achieve? Consider this. If it takes 2% economic growth to cut unemployment by 1% (a not untypical ratio), how long will it be before the 26% unemployment rate is lowered at all significantly? An awfully long time, always assuming there were such growth. And where's this going to come from?

Any comments to please.

Index for January 2013

Balearics tourism promotion action plan - 26 January 2013
Bishop of Mallorca - 12 January 2013
Bradley Wiggins and cycling tourism promotion - 27 January 2013
Broadcasting interference in Spain - 24 January 2013
Floating Spain on the stock market - 2 January 2013
Foodstagramming - 29 January 2013
Glosadors - 13 January 2013
Hainan: where Mallorca can't compete - 4 January 2013
Handball - 16 January 2013
Health and safety and traditions - 9 January 2012
Ill Manors adaptation - 19 January 2013
Luis Bárcenas and Partido Popular corruption - 21 January 2013
Madrid Olympics bid - 3 January 2013
Magalluf and Trip Advisor - 30 January 2013
Mallorcan attitudes and winter tourism - 6 January 2013
Osborne bull vandalised again - 1 January 2013
Paradores - 25 January 2013
Pollensa festival funding - 22 January 2013
Porto Cristo's name - 17 January 2013
Reading and misinterpretation or misunderstanding - 7 January 2013
Sant Sebastià: the legend and gay icon - 14 January 2013
Spain stuck in the 1930s - 28 January 2013
Spanish and Latin rock music - 23 January 2013
Spanish economy and unemployment - 31 January 2013
Spanish military, Republicanism and independence - 11 January 2013
The Truth About Magalluf - 5 January 2013, 10 January 2013, 20 January 2013
Tourism areas developments - 8 January 2013
UK resident population in Mallorca - 18 January 2013
Winter season: will there ever be one? - 15 January 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.15am): 7C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 2 to 3, veering Northwest 3 to 4 by the evening.

A bright and sunny day anticipated and quite warm. The change in the weather at the weekend is likely to see snow to as low as 400 metres on Sunday.

Afternoon update (17.00): The 20 mark topped. Just. Sunny.

Eight Is Great - And It's Magalluf

There are times when you do have to wonder. There was this news item about Magalluf. Yes, really, Magalluf. You never normally hear anything about Magalluf, do you. If we were all in Pennsylvania, we would currently be preparing for Groundhog Day, and there was something of the groundhog about this news item. Had I not read it before? Or had I not been made aware of what it was reporting before? I had.

This was a good-news news item. For once. Countering the propaganda drive against Magalluf devised by the Goebbels of the British media together with their Leni Riefenstahl video presenters, here was something to be proud of. Number eight. "Two, four, six, eight, what do we appreciate? Magalluf is number eight. Isn't that simply great!" And let's not forget Palmanova. God's in heaven. Lucky seven.

What is this all about? Well, it's all about Trip Advisor Bingo, the fun game for all the family to play. Let's rate our best beach destinations in Spain. One fat lady: on its own, number eight - Magalluf. Let's rate our best hotels for a family holiday in Spain. Tom's tricks: on its own, number six - Viva Palmanova. Cue a quiff-and-swivelling-hip collective of Elvis impersonators at a local karaoke bar: "Viva, Palma Nova; Viva, Palma Nova."

Calvià town hall, battered and bruised by the BBC and the bully-boys of the red tops, is said to have greeted the results of Trip Advisor Bingo "effusively". Come on, everyone, let's run around the empty streets of Maga being effusive. Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday (later this year). Still, let's be grateful, or let Calvià town hall be grateful for anything to be clutched hold of that is positive. Here, have this straw.

There is just one slight caveat to all this calling out of "House". And this is where the groundhog comes into the equation. I knew I had seen all this before, and so I checked. Almost a year ago, I wrote an article about the number one beach destination in Spain. Kelly's eye, Puerto Alcúdia. And which resorts were seventh and eighth respectively? You have probably already worked this out. Palmanova and Magalluf. The town hall, it would appear, has finally cottoned on, about eleven months after everyone else had, to the rankings that Trip Advisor Bingo came up with. Hence, I think it justifiable to allude to straws and the clutching thereof.

Better late than never, though, I suppose. "It is a great satisfaction," says the council's tourism spokesperson. Absolutely it is. "You are number eight." "Who is number one?" "You are number eight" (or should there be a comma after the "are"; this was always the McGoohan ambiguity).

Doubtless there was also great satisfaction at Alcúdia town hall when it became known that Puerto Alcúdia was number one. I recall there being a gaggle of happy, smiling Alcúdia sorts at a travel fair who were being effusive because of their great satisfaction, but this was about the only public display of having won Trip Advisor Bingo. A missed opportunity you might think. Where was the huge banner hanging from the sculpture of the alleged horse screaming out "we are number one"? There wasn't one. But if now Calvià opts to promote Magalluf as number eight, then it is at least taking advantage of this grand, online parlour game.

Because this is what the Trip Advisor Bingos are; representative of the players and sometimes representative of clever businesses who work Trip Advisor to their advantage. There's nothing wrong with this, but when, for example, a best restaurant quite clearly isn't a best restaurant, it should be obvious that the result is all part of the game.

Trip Advisor is just one place that you can play these games. There are many, many others. The best of this, the best of that; award for this, award for that. Fair enough, but when the best is chosen from a self-limited few that happen to have registered in order to qualify for possibly acquiring best status (or number eight status), who can honestly say that it is? No one, if they are actually being honest, because there are potentially tens, hundreds, thousands of others that aren't part of the game.

Magalluf could, just as easily, be number one (it does, after all, have a very fine beach). Or it could be twenty-eighth rather than eighth. Trip Advisor Bingo doesn't really mean anything, other than giving Trip Advisor ever more publicity. But if there is to be great satisfaction from achieving high ranking (or eighth place), then it's best if it is taken in a timely fashion. Like almost a year ago.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa Festival overtime payments queried

Pollensa town hall paid two employees overtime that amounted to nearly 7,500 euros during last year's Pollensa Festival, one of the employees getting 5,733 euros extra. While normal that there are payments for extra hours, it is not clear if the maximum number of hours of overtime permitted under law were exceeded.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Albufera 25 years as a nature park

The Albufera in Muro was declared a nature park by the then Balearics president 25 years ago yesterday. To mark the celebration, the environmental lobbyists GOB have criticised the park's management. Different types of celebrations will be activities to be staged on 2 February.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 8.4C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 reaching Southwest 3 to 4, swells of up to two metres diminishing.

A chilly, mostly bright morning with some cloud. Warmish and sunny today and staying so until Saturday when a change will occur and bring colder and windy weather.

Afternoon update (17.15): A high of just under 18C on a mostly sunny day. 

Sharing Your Dinner: Food and social media

Some New York restaurants are banning diners from taking photos of plates of food and from using flash photography. Among the reasons for instituting this ban are the distractions caused to other diners from flashes and the fact that the photos may not do justice to the chef's grand creations. The assumption with the latter is that the photos will, within a flash of flash, be plastered over social media: "foodstagramming" with Instagram.

There are other reasons why a diner should be less than rapid in whipping out the phone and snapping away. The diner who, for example, insists on getting up from the table and framing the shot is likely to look like a complete berk, but is there a wider issue we need to consider? That berkdom has taken hold on a universal scale. Why is there such a need to take photos of every damn thing we encounter?

In social media land, photomania is all part of a newly discovered human trait of sharing. It is sharing of the remote variety, not just because of the mode of communication but also because it doesn't involve sharing anything of any value. Sharing, caring social networkers will happily share a photo of a plate of steak and chips, but what else would they share? How about their home? Their wife? Their oxen? Or their neighbour's oxen? Or their well-endowed bank account? Social networking is sharing-lite, sharing that assuages conscience for otherwise not sharing, sharing for the typically and normally selfish, which is quite understandable. I mean, I'm not about to share my bank account with anyone else, even if it were well-endowed.

Social media have tapped into the latent, dormant human characteristic of displaying sociability via sharing. They are a get-out clause for the hoggish and offer a hands-off amelioration for selfishness, but by the same token they are equatable to other definitions of selfishness - egotism and narcissism. Or just plain and simple showing-off and braggadocio. Which brings us to food.

"Oh look, here I am in a Michelin-starred restaurant and this is the plate of minimalist, vastly overpriced, nouveau nosh that has set me back 70 quid." Even such self-deprecation cannot disguise the fact of the Michelin-starred restaurant. I'm here; you're not. Lol. Of course, it would be unlikely that the caring, sharing foodstagrammer would stoop to self-deprecation, because this would undermine one of the principal reasons for foodstagramming. The showing-off.

Not all of it is. Some of it is even justifiable, though to be honest, I can't think of a terribly good justification, other, I suppose, than it possibly being good publicity for the restaurant. But if it is good publicity, and not all restaurant owners are as against photography as some in New York, then how about they give a discount on the bill? Why should I, you or anyone potentially increase a restaurant's custom without getting something by way of return?

There is, though, the other side of all this foodstagramming. The downside side. "Oh look, here I am in Restaurant X with this pile of shit that they reckon is going to cost me 20 quid. They can reckon it, but I ain't paying. Would you?" Cue comments such as "no bloody fear" plus several recommendations and curious likes of the unliked. Oh, and some sharing.

And what of the potential for malevolence? The strategically placed dog turd next to the sausage, for instance. "If you don't give me a free meal, this goes straight to Trip Advisor, sucker." This would be an extreme case, I'd grant you, but there are those who might well contemplate scraping up the remains of Fido's dinner from the street and placing it by the rasher of bacon.

Scams that tourists try on in Mallorca's restaurants and bars are legendary. There really ought to be a manual that the tourism ministry compiles and hands out to all owners, just in case they haven't fallen foul of one of the many. And now, foodstagramming can be added to the manual. For every genuinely altruistic sharer of pork wrapped in cabbage, for every egotistical, five-starrer sharer with a serving of gold-encrusted lobster with hoopoe vomit sauce infused with nitroglycerin, there will be the snidey, pikey bill-non-payer who comes into an establishment with a bag of tricks with which to pull a trick and impregnate a potato with it.

Sharing? Don't just ban photos in bars and restaurants. Ban the phones.

Any comments to please.

Monday, January 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 12.4C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Having been North 7 during the night, easing during the morning to Northwest 3 to 5. Waves to one or two metres.

The wind was strong overnight and there was also rain. Damp this morning but also quite bright and mild. Though there are alerts still in place for the wind and poorer coastal conditions, these were for earlier. Wind has eased off now. The week should be good with temperatures in the high teens and the UV level rising to three. But wind and chill back again for the later weekend.

Evening update (18.15): A high, as forecast, of 15C. Felt quite warm in the sun and hopefully warmer still in a couple of days.

Back To A 1930s Future

The world of showbiz is inhabited by those who consider themselves well positioned to make pronouncements on matters far removed from the stage, the cinema or the rock-concert stadium. How many showbiz celebrities can you think of who have adhered to the corruption of the maxim of all the world being a stage and it being one from which they intend to pontificate, often repeatedly? Jane Fonda, Bono, George Clooney, the list is very much longer than these three alone.

Spain has its own celebrity activists. You may not have heard of them, but they are there nevertheless, and one of them is a leading actor called Willy Toledo. If Willy were British, his thoughts would be the target for ridicule by the "Telegraph" or "Daily Mail". Leftist loony, in other words.

Willy Toledo took part recently in an act of solidarity in the city of Gijón organised by something known as the platform against repression and for liberties. He fulminated against the actions of the current national government, one that, he claims, has converted Spain into a "pre-fascist country, if not already fascist".

The fascist narrative is overplayed in Spain. It is the consequence of historical memory in people's lifetimes, a narrative that is nuanced and moulded by this recent memory. It is one that the country cannot break out of. It lives in a fascistic past/present because the counter-narrative, that of a European, democratic, monarchical, free market but ideally egalitarian and clean society and politics, has struggled to consign it once and for all to the cesspit of history.

Toledo supports this fascist groove thing by styling the government as ultranationalist-Catholic, a descriptive picture of government that is suffused with dark colours on a Francoist canvas. It is more than a slight exaggeration. If Spain were either already fascist or pre-fascist, I think we might be more aware of the fact.

Toledo has also mused on the question of the monarchy. He is far from alone in wondering what will happen when the King dies or becomes too infirm to rule; the monarch's health is a subject to which an increasing amount of attention is being paid. Toledo is pretty clear in believing that the King's passing would mean the end of the monarchy. In continuing the historical narrative, he argues that the country should be preparing itself for the reinstatement of "that of which we were robbed", namely the Republic.

So there you have it. In Willy world, Spain is locked in a perpetual battle between a socialist-worker Republicanism and über-Nationalism, with the monarchy somewhere between the two, as, lest we forget, Franco was quite content for the monarchy to be sidelined.

Nevertheless, there are anxieties about the monarchy, and they come from elements of both left and right who have no desire to pursue a return to Republicanism and who are equally disquieted by an overtly nationalist agenda, one that embraces two competing forms of nationalism, one in a neo-Francoist fashion and the other, the nationalist separatism of the Catalans and the Basques. This is the broad centre of both politics and society which doesn't wish to keep re-living the 1930s and wants the European, democratic and, yes, monarchical model to prevail.

The trouble is that the 1930s won't go away. For all that Spain has achieved some sort of democratic modernity, the strains are evident. The position of the monarchy is just one, and it is a position that has deteriorated and may deteriorate further now that the previously dismissed could actually happen, namely Princess Cristina, the wife of the commoner Urdangarin and the King's daughter, being indicted on corruption allegations. Democracy doesn't demand monarchy, but in Spain, a virtuous and benign monarchy helps.

And then there is the economy. The journalist Javier González has made the point that Spain's unemployment is equivalent to the combined populations of its four largest cities - Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla. It is a point that is designed for effect, but the effect is striking, and it becomes even more so given the context in which González has written and for which newspaper he writes - "El Mundo". Right-wing, it, or González at any rate, invokes the same period of history as Toledo in further invoking the Great Depression and what came next in Europe. We are back to the same fascistic narrative.

One cannot and should not neglect the past. One learns from the past. But in Spain, there are some who want that past to reappear and others who have convinced themselves that it will reappear. This is a country stuck in the time warp of its collective memory. God help us.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 2 : 3 Malaga

Mallorca at home to the petro-finance-fuelled but not as rich-as-some-think Malaga. A bad start for Mallorca, Bigas injured and substituted after only five minutes and the one-time new Maradona, Saviola, putting Malaga ahead five minutes later. And then worse ... Isco adding a second on fifteen minutes. An open game, Mallorca creating opportunities despite the setbacks and deservedly getting one back through Victor. Into the second half and it was all Mallorca, raining in efforts on goal if not necessarily testing Caballero. Or it was Mallorca until Monreal added a third for Malaga, a quarter of an hour or so into the half. Finally, Mallorca's attacking was rewarded, Dos Santos pulling one back from a direct free kick with 20 minutes to go. And two minutes later, Malaga's DeMichelis was shown a straight red. Game very much on, but ultimately game lost. Mallorca in 19th place, propped up only by the current yo-yo artists, Deportivo. Next up, away at mid-table Sociedad and then a clutch of games against average sides. The next four or five games will probably decide Mallorca's season.

Calatayud; Nsue, Nunes, Geromel, Bigas (Kevin 5); Pina, Márquez; Pereira (Alfaro 61), Victor, Dos Santos; Hemed
Goals: Victor (26), Dos Santos (70)
Yellows: Pina (24), Kevin (36), Victor (36)

Caballero; Sánchez, Lugano, Weligton, Monreal; Toulalan, DeMichelis; Portillo (Duda 89), Saviola (Eliseu 67), Isco (Camacho 73); Santa Cruz
Goals: Saviola (10), Isco (15), Monreal (61)
Red: DeMichelis (71)
Yellows: DeMichelis (28), Caballero (65), Lugano (69)

MALLORCA TODAY - Spain are handball world champions

Having warily suggested that Spain's men's handball team might win the world championship for the second time (, well, it has. Denmark have been hammered 35-19 in this afternoon's final.

MALLORCA TODAY - Quarter of a million on improving Alcúdia's Mile

Long overdue, work on Alcúdia's (Bellevue) Mile, the Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus is underway. Costing just over 250,000 euros, this will result in, among other things, improvements to pavements and lighting and to the bridge which hasn't had anything done to it since it was built over years ago.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 10.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, reaching Southwest 4 to 5.

This is more like it. On the chilly side but the pigeons are cooing, there is a touch of spring to a sunny morning. Won't last as tomorrow there are alerts for wind and rough seas by the coasts again. But midweek, temperatures could be nudging 20C.

Afternoon update (17.00): The sun rather disappeared but a high of 16.6C. High winds coming in overnight and hanging around until mid-morning.

The Mallorca Branding Of Bradley

Yesterday, I referred to the small attention that the Balearics tourism promotion action plan is to give to cycling tourism. As cycling tourism is meant to be a key component of winter tourism, this small attention seems perverse. And as Mallorca is currently in the midst of yet more Wiggo fever, it seems doubly perverse that not more attention is planned and that Bradley Wiggins isn't a part of this promotion.

On the face of it, the face of Wiggins would make a perfect fit with Mallorcan promotion of cycling tourism and tourism promotion in general, especially to a UK market. He spends much of his time on the island, he has expressed his fondness for the island, he is able to benefit from its diverse geography in his training. Wiggo, the face of Mallorca, or a facet of Mallorca makes sense.

However, it isn't quite this simple. The Wiggins face and the Wiggins name are two of the most marketable assets in sport at present. His are not assets as strong or as recognisable as, say, Beckham, Bolt or Messi, but they are strong nevertheless. And such strength means value, the value that comes from both image and name rights.

Wiggins has a smart agent. He is Jonathan Marks of MTC. It is Marks who looks after many of his affairs and it would be he who would advise on image rights. If it hasn't already been done, the Wiggins name is surely worth protecting, branding it as a trade mark and name. The Wiggins image - that hugely recognisable face - would be worth even more from its intellectual property protection.

There is some grey area about the use of a name for marketing purposes, but there is also a growing amount of case law that makes even the use of a name something to be wary of doing. The protection of a person's physical image is better understood and more clearly made under law, but whether it is just name or both name and image, then any organisation which might wish to gain from using either should watch out.

So, using Wiggins, his name or his face, would potentially be fraught with risk were they to be used without permission. It doesn't automatically follow that permission means payment, but normally of course it does, and for a highly recognisable "brand" such as Wiggins, the payment would almost certainly not be cheap.

Given Wiggins' affiliation with Mallorca and especially Alcúdia and Pollensa, he may feel personally that he wants to give something back and would so waive the need for compensation. He may feel this, but would his agent? It is his role to do as much as he can for his client and to ensure that he optimises the return on himself as a brand.

Mallorca has of course used names and images in the past. How successful any of this celebrity association has been is hard to say. Michael Douglas may be the one exception to an otherwise questionable investment in various "faces", but I say may be. The tourism ministry has pretty much turned its back on these endorsements and relationships, recognising that they don't necessarily work. This said, one reason for them not working lies with the fit between the celebrity and what is being promoted. Wiggins equals cycling tourism most certainly does fit, so there may be grounds for revisiting the whole issue of celebrity association. A caveat to this, however, would be just how well known the Wiggins image is internationally.

The relationship, though, is two way. What might be good for Mallorca, might not necessarily be good for Wiggins. Hot property that he is, requests for his image are doubtless hitting Mr. Marks desk every day. Not all will be agreed to. Strategic development of the Wiggins image demands that agreements coincide with this development. Then there is the man himself. He is, as most of us are now aware, less than comfortable with the trappings of celebrity. As a part-time resident of the island, would he really want his face being more known than it already is?

Suggestions as to celebrity associations are sometimes made without fully understanding the implications. A prime example was Pollensa's idea of using Agatha Christie, an idea about which nothing more has been heard. I suspect I know why. Firstly, the image was wrong (unless Puerto Pollensa does wish to promote itself solely as a retirement home for ageing dames, as the typical Christie image would convey). Secondly, the Christie estate guards the image jealously, which means a high tariff being placed on it.

Wiggins is altogether more sensible, but if cost were a factor, and it more than likely would be, which part of local government would be prepared to bear the cost? At present, none would probably be the answer.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 9.2C
Forecast high: 14C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 4, and 5 at intervals, veering Northwest and North and finally tonight backing Southwest.

Damp and fairly grey, dry with some sun later. Still chilly; tomorrow set to be warmer as winds come in from the south west.

Afternoon update (17.45): Morning rain eventually gave way to some sun, but it stayed chilly, a high of 13.3C. 

Less Is Less: Tourism promotion

The Balearics ministry of tourism and sport has released its plan of action for 2013. Fifteen pages long, it could probably have all been fitted onto one sheet of A4 or even the back of a fag packet. But as there are fifteen pages, what gems of promotional action do they reveal?

The first thing to be said about this plan is that it is one of six elements in the "integral plan of tourism", by which is meant the "route that will make the Balearic Islands a motivational, competitive and modern destination". One might ask, therefore, if the Balearics have previously been none of these things. Whatever, the strategic objective of the promotional element is to "adapt to new consumer behaviour" in positioning a different tourist destination. Note the word "different". Supporting this objective are three further elements - brand management, positioning and Web E.0 (or the Web as consumer experience). Which is all terribly interesting and might be more so if the action plan mentioned Web E.0 again. It doesn't, and by the way, if you are wondering what is meant by Web E.0, then we're talking social media among some other jargon (knowledge management on-demand, digital media relationship management). If you don't know what these mean, don't worry, no one does.

Instead, the action plan is concerned exclusively with trade fairs and visits of various sorts. A total of 107 separate "actions" will be carried out this year in promoting the Balearics, and the average cost of these actions will be around a fifth of what 60 "actions" in 2009 cost. This greatly reduced average cost is of course designed to impress: more for less, the mantra according to Delgado.

It is when you delve into these actions that you begin to form a rather worrying conclusion. Where, for example, are all the actions designed to capture emerging tourist markets? Even the Russian market, held up as the great saviour of Balearics tourism, gets a mere three actions. One of these is the Moscow fair in March. As for the other two, the plan doesn't specifically say. Brazil and India both get one unspecified action. There isn't a single one for China, the Middle East or other Latin American countries apart from the solitary action in Brazil.

Yet, the next great boom in international tourism will come from such countries. The predicted growth in Chinese outward tourism over the next 20 years or so is 30%; Latin America is 15%. Where also is any attempt to take action in Japan or Canada, both of them with good growth prospects?

Instead, which country will get the lion's share of promotional attention? Germany. Over twice as much effort as the UK. Far from being strategic in being forward-thinking, the plan looks like more of the same. The key markets such as Germany can't be ignored, of course they can't, but the architects of the plan seem not to appreciate how international tourism is developing and will develop over the next few years.

Then there is what is "different" for the "different tourist destination" that the plan envisages. What type of attraction do you suppose will get most promotional attention? If you say sun and beach, you wouldn't be wrong, just that the plan refers to it as "coastal". Nothing else comes vaguely near, which sounds in one way a sensible understanding of where Mallorca and the Balearics strengths lie - flat out on the sand, soaking up the sun. But in devoting, for example, 1% of actions to nautical tourism, 2% to cycling, where's the diversification, the drive towards low-season, winter tourism? About as hidden as the diversification into the new emerging tourism markets. Yet, the tourism ministry has boasted that this plan is all about ensuring improvements to low-season tourism.

That the plan says absolutely nothing about the use of social media and other so-called Web E.0 techniques makes one wonder if its inclusion is simply there for show. Does the ministry even know how it intends to exploit these techniques? The fact that the plan is silent and the fact that the targeting of the actions is anything but innovative leads me to conclude that this plan is just an exercise in window-dressing. The government wants to be able to make its more or less boast, but what it has ended up with is less for more; more actions but with less strategy and less clarity as to future needs. A plan for inaction. If they want, they can give me the 25 grand average cost of the 107 actions and I'll come up with something better.

Any comments to please.

Friday, January 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia ordered to pay dismissed legal advisor

A court has ordered Alcúdia town hall to pay a legal advisor who was dismissed soon after the current administration came into office in 2011 a monthly salary of over 2,000 euros. The dismissal was adjudged to have been unfair some months ago, but the town hall ignored either option of reinstatement or a payoff of compensation amounting to just under 60,000 euros.

In other developments at the town hall, the budget (31 million euros) has been approved for this year, but a surplus that the town hall holds (11 million euros) will not be used as, the administration argues, the law requires it to keep this in order to ensure payments to suppliers.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 7.8C
Forecast high: 13C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 3 to 4 and locally 5. Swells to three metres easing.

A thunderstorm last night but it has cleared the cloud away and it is a bright, crisp morning if still rather damp after the rain. Lows of four degrees in parts. Weekend outlook is for warmer weather and fair amounts of sun.

Afternoon update (17.00): A nice sunny day, not that warm though, especially by the coast where temperatures have struggled to get over 13 degrees. Otherwise, an inland high of 15 in Sa Pobla.

The Parador Paradox

The visitor to Mallorca is unlikely to know a great deal about the Spanish "paradores". Mallorca doesn't have a parador; nor do the other Balearic islands. The Canaries have five and there is a parador in both of the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Otherwise, the more than ninety establishments are on the mainland. All regions of Spain have at least one, except the Balearics.

The paradores are state-run hotels. Not any old hotels. They are hotels in converted buildings of historical and artistic interest, such as former castles and monasteries. They are not some cheap and cheerful, backpacker hostel-type accommodation. Anything but. They are luxury, predominantly four-star, though there are some five as well as three-star hotels. The first parador came into being in the late 1920s. The network underwent its most rapid period of expansion during the 1960s when the number of establishments doubled to 83. Nowadays, they offer in total more than 10,000 places.

The rationale behind the paradores has always been clear. They are representative of Spain's heritage and so fit with a broader concept of tourism than the usual sun and beach. Not exclusively rural, they nevertheless form part of a tourism philosophy that has always gone hand in hand with sun and beach, the cultural philosophy.

The paradores website says that the network is in the midst of its greatest growth stage since the 1960s. Fourteen more establishments are due to open in taking the total number to over a hundred. This is the plan, but the plan is unlikely to be fulfilled. The paradores are in trouble. Deep trouble. Roughly a quarter of them are included in a new plan - one of restructuring - several of them are closed temporarily and at least one will be closed permanently. Negotiations with unions regarding redundancies have been going relatively smoothly.

Take a look at any of the paradores and you can't fail to be impressed. Some are much grander than others. Santo Estevo in Galicia, for instance, is a fine building with cloisters and courtyards. One of the less grand is the Puerto Lumbreras in Murcia. This three-star Mediterranean-style house (a rather large house, it must be said) is one that will definitely be closing.

It is the grandness, though, which partly explains why the paradores are in trouble. They cost a great deal to maintain, and the state, you may have noticed, is a bit short of readies just at the moment. There is also the fact that they tend not to be cheap to stay in. In the current economic climate, they face strong competition from the less grand and less expensive and they are also subject to a downturn in the home tourism market.

The financial strains that the paradores are experiencing has brought into question their viability as state-run hotels. In a way, they are something of an anomaly in being in public-sector ownership. But then, they are also part of the nation's heritage, and the 80 or so years history of the network is not something that even the national government with its austerity measures is keen to give up.

Privatisation of sorts is going to happen, though. The government says that it is not privatisation in the purest sense. Rather, it intends to put out to tender the management of hotels with a rider that as many jobs as possible can be guaranteed. So far, however, 350 job losses have been confirmed. More restructuring may be required to salvage the network that, in 2011, lost 35 million euros and experienced a decline in occupancy to under 60%. By way of comparison, in 2004, it made a profit of 20 million and had occupancy of over 70%. 

The paradores are not the only example of government-controlled accommodation having to be farmed out to the private sector. In Mallorca, for example, the island's council has bowed to the inevitable and privatised two of the refuge hostels on the Tramuntana dry-stone route; the council simply can't afford their upkeep.

In the end, the privatisation of the paradores may have to be purer than the national tourism ministry wants, so long as it can maintain the network and the branding. But would it be able to? It is the parador brand that makes privatisation and the possible dismantling of the network paradoxical. At the same time as these hotels and their brand, magnificent in showing off Spanish culture, are threatened, the government is attempting to boost cultural tourism as part of the "marca" España, the Spain brand. 

* For information on the paradores:


Any comments to please.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Urdangarin will testify again in February

Palma can prepare for another day of high media interest when, on 23 February, a year after his first appearance in court, Iñaki Urdangarin (the Duke of Palma) will be asked to declare in front of Judge Castro. The specifics of this appearance relate to alleged fraud committed by the King's son-in-law's Instituto Nóos between 2007 and 2008. Urdangarin's former business partner, Diego Torres, will testify the week before.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Dismissal of Estrany in Pollensa called for

The Alternativa per Pollença party is leading the way in calling for Malena Estrany to either be sacked or to resign over the management of this year's Pollensa Festival, the consequence of the town hall's report into last year's festival and apparent criticism of its director (see previous article -

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 9.6C
Forecast high: 14C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Northwest 6 to 7 easing by the afternoon to Northwest 3 to 4

A soggy, grey morning, rain continuing during the day and the wind and poor coastal conditions persisting this morning but improving later. The outlook from tomorrow is a lot better with far more sun around over the next few days and higher daytime temperatures.

Afternoon update (17.30): Little by way of sun, more by way of showers, and chilly. High of 11.6C

The Manipulation Game: Spanish broadcasting

In 1968, Tony Benn launched an attack on the BBC and gave us a memorable quote. "Broadcasting is really too important to be left to the broadcaster." Benn went on to call for the establishment of "representative broadcasting" instead of that controlled by the "constitutional monarchs" at the BBC.

What Benn was referring to has long been and in truth always has been behind the media's conduct, namely the wielding of influence over the output. Arguably, there is no such thing as true freedom of the press (or wider media) and never can be. To offer another quote, that by A.J.Liebling, an American journalist who died 50 years ago: "freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one". Even then, the freedom is subject to influence.  

Interference, ideology, bias all collide in massaging the message, with influence bordering on being synonymous with interference and determining the ideology or bias. Yet, is this influence as strong as it once was? When Tony Benn was making his speech, communications media were limited. The internet has changed the rules of the game and has made the more overt use of influence in manipulating the messages of the conventional media subject to far greater scrutiny and potential ridicule.

Theoretically, the democratisation of information that has been enabled by the internet exposes the ways in which influence is brought to bear. This hasn't stopped the peddling of influence or the degree of interference, but because of the existence of a present-day media-savvy, cyber-connected public and bloggerati, this influence is shown up for what it is, to the extent that one wonders whether some of those who seek to wield influence really understand what world they are living in.

In Spain, there are some troubling examples of seeking to influence and of outright interference. They are so obvious that one is left to conclude that certain politicians are either ignorant of the changed rules or are perfectly well aware of them but choose to thumb their noses at them in acts of craven disregard.

The interference at the national broadcaster, RTVE, has already been chronicled. It has manifested itself in the sidelining of certain journalists and in the downgrading of importance attached to specific news items; these journalists and news items not being to the liking of the government. Last weekend, the Partido Popular government attempted to interfere with what was entitled "The Great Debate" on Telecinco. The debate was to be about the scandal that has erupted regarding the party's former treasurer. During the programme's broadcast, a text message was sent by the PP which made it clear that it was threatening to sue.

In effect, the party was looking to stifle the great debate, yet seemingly nothing that Telecinco raised wasn't already in the public domain. Crucially though, the scandal is massively important; it required debating, not neutering.

Once upon a time and under a former regime, such a debate couldn't have occurred and the public wouldn't have been aware of any alleged or actual corruption. The PP seems to be living in the past not just because it lumbered in with its heavy, censorious boots but also because it neglected the scrutinising other world of the media on the internet. It might want to take on the conventional media, but it only succeeds in web-viralising its actions.  

If the PP nationally is engaged in overt attempts to influence or interfere, its regional wing in the Balearics is acting in an even more overt fashion. President Bauzá, likened by opposition parties to Berlusconi because of his rewriting of the law on political transparency, is taking the comparison further by acting like Berlusconi in controlling a television station. Or so it is being alleged. The charge has been made that the public IB3 channel is being manipulated by the director of Bauzá's cabinet, Javier Fons.

It has been suggested that certain organisations are in effect banned from IB3, and Fons has been vetoing the appearance of some individuals. He had previously prohibited one particular journalist from being involved in an interview. He is also said to have interfered with an interview with the president of the Fundación Kovacs, a research organisation that has clinics for the treatment of neck and back complaints. A grant of a million euros was one topic for the interview. President Bauzá is on the foundation's board. 

Broadcasting may indeed be too important to be left to broadcasters. Faults they may have, influence they may be unable or unwilling to reject, but broadcasting is too important to be left to politicians in whose hands it becomes undemocratic. The PP would do well to understand this.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Subterfuge claimed in jonquillo catch

More on the problems caused to fishermen at the island's northern ports because of the European Union ban on the catching of the jonquillo. The regularisation of the catch remains pending, but meantime fishermen in Catalonia and Murcia are getting round the ban by, for example, the catch being declared as being for scientific research. While the Mallorca fishermen are abiding by the ban, the markets in Palma are being stocked with jonquillo from the mainland.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.30am): 9C
Forecast high: 13C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 5 to 6 reaching 6 to 7 by the afternoon. Rough conditions.

The wind has died down for the time being but there is still an alert for coastal conditions. Rain around, though hopefully brightening. Chilly with the wind still quite strong during the day.

Evening update (18.00): A biting wind, occasional rain, occasional sun, and a high of just under 13 degrees.

They Won't Let It Grow: Spanish rock music

It is a thankless task being asked to come up with a list of the ten best. One man or one woman's ten best might well be another man or woman's ten worst. Lists of the ten bests provoke debate rather than being definitive, though there are doubtless selectors of ten bests who would argue that their choices are definitive.

Music offers a ripe breeding-ground for lists of the best. The ten best pop/rock singles of all time might, typically, include some of the worst crimes committed in the name of popular music. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", for example. Ghastly, pompous, self-indulgent and made all the worse by a video featuring some of the most unpleasant haircuts in musical history. "Hey Jude". When Macca stumbled into the intro to this at the Olympics, I thought oh God no, anything but that. A too-long song that would have benefited from serious editing: about six-and-a-half minutes of editing.

"Rolling Stone" magazine has come up with its ten best, nay greatest, Latin rock albums of all time. What this has done, apart from sparking the anticipated debate as to the merits of these ten greatest, is to highlight the almost total absence of efforts by Spanish rock acts. For the casual observer, a pertinent question might be: what Spanish rock acts?

The Rolling Stone ten have been drawn from what is a wide interpretation of "Latin": Spanish, Portuguese, central and southern American, plus a touch of US Latino. The all-time number one, it would appear, is the 1994 album "Re" by the Mexican band Café Tacvba. Only one of the ten is likely to register with most of you, Santana's "Abraxas" ("Oye Como Va", "Black Magic Woman" and others). Of the rest, there is only one by a Spanish artist, Manu Chao's "Clandestino", recorded in 1998.

Santana couldn't have been ignored. It was they, more than any other act, who popularised Latin rhythms within the rock genre. Though the singles are the best known tracks from "Abraxas", lesser known is "Incident At Neshabur", a startling instrumental which was to bring down the curtain, for the final time, at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore West theatre in 1971.

But if I'm right in thinking that Santana would be the only name that means anything, what does this say for the general popularity of Latin rock outside of a Latin music audience? Not very much, I suspect. Santana would register among a select group of acts that have acquired anything approaching global fame - Julio Iglesias and the boy Enrique, José Feliciano, Gloria Estefan, Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, Los Bravos, Ricky Martin - and none of these are exactly rock, while Los Bravos were brave for only as long as it took for everyone to forget their one and only big hit. Latin pop has given us Shakira, Thalía, Christina Aguilera and J-Lo, none of them Spanish. Pitbull, who is from Miami, divides opinion. If he's as bad as some argue that he is, then why is he so popular?

The anonymity of Spanish and Latin rock acts may be due to the fact that they aren't particularly good. But there may well be other explanations, such as a bias towards white Anglo-Saxon rock and a lack of obvious official promotion of music, as is pretty much the case in Spain. Or perhaps it is because Latin styles are better suited to other genres. Spain, and the Balearics in particular, have been to the fore in dance and club music over many years. Ibiza, in Europe at any rate, held the key to the explosion of various club styles from the mid-1980s onwards.

There are some efforts to lend a hand to Spanish rock. For example, Mallorcan and Catalonian bands were given financial assistance to cross the Atlantic last year by the Ramon Llull Institute. They took part in various festivals, such as South By South West in Austin, Texas. Of Spanish mainland acts, La Oreja de Van Gogh has cracked the international market better than most, but the group's success has nevertheless been confined primarily to foreign Latin markets. 

It isn't that there is a lack of talent or that language is an obstacle. If I had to nominate one Spanish group that deserves being heard by a wider audience, it would be the Madrid band HATEM (Hola A Todo El Mundo). A single released last year, "They Won't Let Me Grow", is a gem. The group was nominated by "Rolling Stone" as one of its emerging acts in 2011. Maybe the title of the song says much, though. Official indifference to Spanish popular music is preventing it from growing.

* For the ten greatest Latin rock albums, go to

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Less expropriation of coast in Playa de Muro

The strict application of the old coasts law had led to the possibility that some 100,000 square metres of coastal land occupied primarily by hotels in Playa de Muro could have been expropriated. The reformed law means that there will now only be 20,000 square metres due to be taken back, but the town hall plans to contest this.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Jonquillo catch still banned

After last year's intervention by EU inspectors which put a halt to the catch of the small jonquillo fish (a goby fish like whitebait), it had been understood the catch would be regularised this year. But it hasn't been, and so fishermen in the northern ports are prevented from making the catch, even though off the mainland the catch is permitted.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 8.7C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 4 to 6 backing Southwest 5 to 6 and easing by the evening to Northwest 3 to 4. Waves to one metre, risk of storm tonight.

A cold morning with lows of four degrees in parts, some blue sky as well as cloud. Dry and likely to stay dry until the evening. Colder during the day tomorrow and into the weekend and then warming up on Sunday.

Afternoon update (17.15): 15C has been the high on a day when it has become increasingly windy, an alert now in place for winds and coastal conditions. On parts of the mainland, this alert is red.

The Bravery Of Joan Valent

Pollensa's festival was able to go ahead last year thanks almost exclusively to the efforts and the contacts of its artistic director, Joan Valent. It was festival-lite as there wasn't any money. Valent is the Catalan word for brave. Joan Valent was brave to have taken on the task of organising the music and cultural festival. Indeed, he was more than that. If one can describe the organisation of a festival as heroic - and to be realistic, one can't - then brave Valent was a hero. So what does he get for his trouble? In his words, humiliation. 

In order to stage the festival, Valent called in favours from his many friends in the arts world, including the British composer and pianist Michael Nyman. He also needed to get substantial financial and sponsorship assistance from the private sector, which he did; from the Camper foundation, for example. However, there was one slight snag with this amassing of private sector funds. They couldn't, for bureaucratic reasons, be paid directly to Pollensa town hall under whose auspices the festival is organised. Instead, this private money went to an association that was set up by Valent expressly for the purpose of receiving the funds. It is this association that is now at the centre of a row that threatens not just Valent's future participation in the festival but possibly also the festival's continuation.

The town hall is going to open up the management of this year's festival, assuming it does happen, to tender. This is in response to "anomalies" that have arisen from the arrangements made for the 2012 festival. These anomalies do not mean any wrongdoing. They relate, so says the town hall's report, to a lack of detailed documentation and a problem with transparency and correct control of funds for public activities caused by the system that was put in place last year.

The trouble is that as soon as the word "anomalies" gets mentioned, it can be interpreted in a way that isn't intended. It is for this reason that Valent feels humiliated.

What is staggering about the whole affair is that Malena Estrany, ostensibly the number two to mayor Tomeu Cifre, despite the total current confusion at the town hall regarding councillor roles, was and maybe still is responsible for both culture and finance. The Pollensa festival clearly brings these two responsibilities together. Yet Sra. Estrany says that last year she and the town hall didn't know about the association until the festival was underway.

This beggars belief. How can the town hall not have known how the funds were being accounted for? If councillors genuinely didn't know, then questions must be raised as to, at minimum, their curiosity. Even if they did know, how else were the funds meant to have been organised, given, as Valent has pointed out, they couldn't go directly to the town hall?

The news of the report regarding the "anomalies" was badly managed. And to make matters worse, and so make Joan Valent even more upset, were remarks about the issuing of free tickets. Too many were given away, it has been alleged. Valent has come back on this one, referring specifically to the ten tickets (rather than the usual four) given to Sir Norman Foster, his family and friends. Foster was the guest of honour at the opening concert, one dedicated to him by Valent. Foster had paid for these people to come to Mallorca and for their stay. Valent, rightly enough, has queried how or why, under such circumstances, he should have refused the six additional free entrances.

And it wasn't only Norman Foster who was paying for his own travel. Valent himself says that he spent upwards of 30,000 euros of his own money in organising the festival, one which, in the end and despite the private-sector generosity of Camper, Barceló and others, was run on a shoestring.

Prior to the town hall's announcement of the tender for this year's festival and to the release of the critical report, Valent had been making progress in contacting various figures from the arts world to participate in this year's festival. One of these is the British author Ian McEwan. Now, arrangements for this year have been thrown into confusion.

There is one final point to make on this affair. Malena Estrany has been at pains to refer to "transparency" in connection with funding. Yet she is a councillor at a town hall which is consistently accused of a lack of transparency. Her argument smacks of expedience, the result of the current turmoil at the town hall, and perhaps it is one that is intended to deflect questions as to why she wasn't more aware of what was happening last year. 

Any comments to please.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Northwest 4 to 6. Occasional string surges and waves to two metres reducing to one.

Hopefully a bit brighter and a bit warmer today. Grey stuff mingled with blue stuff at present. Colder again later in the week with snow anticipated down to 500 metres on Wednesday.

Evening update (18.00): A high of 14.5C on a day of the occasional light shower and some sun. 

Biter Bit: The PP and corruption

The national government of the Partido Popular is trying its hardest not to appear to be squirming, but squirming is what it should be doing. Members of this government, such as the man in charge of finance, Cristóbal Montoro, and the party's general secretary, María Dolores de Cospedal, had been to the fore in attacking the Catalonian president, Artur Mas, over allegations that he had money stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. These allegations were contained in a report that apparently emanated from police sources, yet the report was one that not even the national interior ministry was aware of. They are allegations that were seemingly without foundation, yet the PP hierarchy, sensing a means of discrediting Mas, latched onto them. They now find themselves with an accusation uncomfortably closer to home - one of secret Swiss bank accounts in the name of former party treasurer, Luis Bárcenas. It is more than an accusation. As part of the ongoing corruption investigation known as "caso Gürtel" (all about kickbacks for contracts), a court has revealed that Bárcenas had an account with as much as 22 million euros in it.

This is only part of the story. When Bárcenas first came under suspicion, the money was moved from the account. At that time, leading figures in the party, including the now prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, were proclaiming Bárcenas' innocence. These leading figures are now attempting to distance themselves from Bárcenas by arguing that he is no longer the party treasurer and is indeed no longer a member of the PP, prompting one source to say that the affair has nothing to do with the PP because of Bárcenas' non-membership.

However, things are rather murkier. "El Mundo" has alleged that Bárcenas was responsible for arranging for illegal payments to members of the party and that these payments were made during the time that José María Aznar was prime minister and have been made during Rajoy's time as leader. In addition, Bárcenas declared only 10 million euros as part of the amnesty that the current government set up under which only 10% of the value of the undeclared assets had to be paid. The government has denied that the amnesty was instigated partly as a way of smoothing the Bárcenas question.

A further problem for the PP hierarchy is the fact that Bárcenas, although no longer a member of the party, remains close to it. So close indeed that he still has has an office at the party's Madrid headquarters and a secretary paid for by the party. Even more of a worry for the PP is that Bárcenas knows where bodies are buried. The affair threatens to become highly damaging to the PP and the current government.

It is not acceptable for the party to wash its hands of the affair by pointing to the fact that Bárcenas is an ex-party member. It is very much a matter for the PP, as, apart from any personal gain that Bárcenas may or may not have benefited from, there is also the question of party funding. He was, after all, the party's treasurer, and the wholly unsatisfactory system of political party funding is once more coming under the spotlight. The lack of transparency and the absence of mechanisms to force parties to declare sources of income conspire to raise suspicions as to what these sources are.

It should be noted that several corruption charges in Mallorca relate to political party funding, most notably that of the former Unió Mallorquina, but also of the PP. That these charges may be historical, in that they date back a few years, do nothing to allay suspicions that corruption, far from being a thing of the past, is still very much alive, despite protestations by both national government and the Balearics regional government that they are getting to grips with it. And against this background, there is now the astonishing decision by President Bauzá's government in the Balearics to modify a law passed just prior to it taking office in 2011 which requires a certain amount of transparency. Modification does not mean tightening but loosening the requirements. It is a staggering decision, one justified on grounds of current "socioeconomic circumstances", whatever they are supposed to be. The opposition allege it is all a manoeuvre to cover Bauzá's business affairs.

The public in Mallorca and in Spain are being asked to make huge sacrifices, but what do they see by way of return? Nothing. No improvements. No jobs. No money. Nothing. Only more cases of corruption. And lack of transparency. The public has had enough. The political system is shot through with corruption. Who will rid us of these turbulent politicians? That's the scary part.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa festival threatened because of "anomalies" report

This blog item from Elena Valles sticks the boot into Pollensa town hall over a report on the Pollensa festival last year which suggests there were "anomalies" regarding its finances. They weren't irregularities, just the way that the financing was organised. The director, Joan Valent, has said he feels humiliated, and Valles suggests there may not be a festival this year.

(I shall be having more to say on this.)

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 11C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 5 to 6 easing rapidly to 3 to 4 but then veering Northwest 5 to 6. Risk of storm.

Rainy overnight and heavy clouds this morning. Chance of a bit of sun but also more showers. The week ahead nothing to write home about, sunny periods but also rain and highs generally of 15 degrees.

Afternoon update (17.15): A 12.5C high. Some rain. Some sun. Not much warmth.

The Truth About Telly Rubbish

There is a term in Spanish which sums up television programmes that concentrate on the sensationalist and the scandalous. The term is "telebasura", literally telly rubbish. There are various shows on Spanish TV which have been accused of pumping out telly rubbish and there is one channel that is criticised more than any for this type of programming. It is Telecinco.

British television has telly rubbish. Under the Spanish definition, "The Truth About Magalluf" was one such example. In Spain, unlike Britain, telebasura is relatively recent, and Telecinco has been singled out for its development.

This has led to a debate as to what such television represents. In Spanish terms, this has been styled as distortion and even the undermining of democratic and civic values. It is against this background, one that is rather more high-minded (ironic, given the generally poor standards of Spanish broadcasting) than in Britain, that one has to consider the impact of "The Truth About Magalluf" in Mallorca and Spain. And it is having an impact.

The programme will now have been forgotten in Britain. In Spain, however, the programme hasn't been forgotten. Telecinco's Ana Rosa Quintana is just one member of the media who has picked up on it, a condensed version of some of the seamier aspects being packaged together as the basis for an investigation of reactions to the programme.

As part of this, Ana has unearthed her own little truth about Magalluf. Its nickname. Seemingly, she was unaware of Shagalluf and what it meant. This in itself is telling, as it suggests an ignorance about Magalluf. But there shouldn't be such ignorance. Another channel, Cuatro, ran a report on Magalluf last summer. This contained some similar scenes to the BBC documentary. The print media locally in Mallorca often reports on Magalluf's drunkenness, prostitution, balconing and violence.

Two reasons why "The Truth About Magalluf" have been given the prominence locally that it has are that it is indicative of a clash of broadcasting cultures and that there has been a lack of understanding regarding its actual broadcast in Britain. Much was made of its prime-time slot, but it was on BBC3. The programme attracted an audience of less than 3%, while it has to be seen in the context of what else was on that particular Monday evening. There were two, more sophisticated travel shows, but immediately after the BBC3 programme had finished, on Channel 4 there was "What Happens in Kavos". It had a far higher viewing audience, over 10%, while its content - urine-drinking contests, for example - was arguably more unpleasant than Stacey Dooley's.

The broadcasting culture of telebasura in Britain along with a high demand for travel programmes of differing types, a need for ratings and a need to fill so many channels all conspire to mean that one moment it's Magalluf, the next it's Kavos. But because there is so much telebasura in Britain and because the messages can be similar, the messages end up getting lost among the sheer weight of broadcasting noise.

Another aspect of this broadcasting culture clash reveals how naïve and disingenuous people in Mallorca can be. Even the sensible "Hosteltur" travel magazine, in reflecting on the BBC programme, misunderstood it, saying that it overlooked the positives of new developments in Magalluf. Well of course it overlooked them. Just what had people expected? They provided support to a programme without the slightest inkling as to how broadcasting culture now is, without appreciating that telebasura is widespread in Britain and even without, as Ana Rosa suggests, understanding that Magalluf is Shagalluf.

We learn that the mayor of Calvià was interviewed for 50 minutes, yet he featured only briefly. And? I'm sorry, but this is what programmes do. They get a lot of interview and then whittle it right down. It may suit their purposes as to how this edited material is used, but this is how it is. Among the reactions that Ana Rosa's show got was one from the president of the Acotur tourist businesses association who said he "could not understand the attack" on Magalluf. Oh come on, Pepe, it wasn't an attack, and how many of the tourist businesses in Magalluf that you represent contribute to the problems of Magalluf?

The naïveté, the disingenuousness and the lack of understanding of broadcasting culture and as to how programmes are made all deflect from what the real issue is. It is not one that the BBC invented. At least Ana Rosa does seem to get this. Perhaps it's because she is from a channel known for its telebasura. In challenging one of those interviewed in Magalluf, she said: "but the images were real; the truth".

Any comments to please.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Court decides casino in Palma is illegal

The Balearics Supreme Court has decreed that the establishment of the casino in Portopí in Palma and its transfer from Sol de Mallorca in Calvià was illegal, so annulling authorisation granted by the previous government. The court has specifically drawn into question licences for the casino. The move was opposed by Calviá town hall which itself questioned some of the activities that were being claimed for the new site of the casino. Though deemed illegal, the casino, so it would appear, will continue to operate.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - American students will work at Son Real

Santa Margalida town hall, which has had to assume much of the burden for looking after the Son Real finca and the ancient necropolis because of lack of government funding and organisation, has arranged for American students to work at the necropolis this summer on its restoration and maintenance. The students will not be paid but will have accommodation provided.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 15C
Forecast high: 18C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 5 reaching 6 and 7 at intervals.

Very windy overnight, and there is an alert in place for winds, especially for the morning, and the wind from the southwest brought in warm air; there was an overnight high of almost 20 degrees. Sun at present, but rain anticipated later and possibly heavy. Wet tomorrow as well and rough by the coasts.

Afternoon update (17.30): A high of just over 18 degrees on a windy day and one during which the rain arrived in the early afternoon, but not heavy. Winds gusting to almost 70kph.

MALLORCA TODAY - Espanyol 3 : 2 Real Mallorca

An incident-filled match with Mallorca perhaps unlucky to get nothing from their visit to Barcelona. Espanyol were in control early on, Mallorca surviving a penalty appeal for handball against Kevin and having little attempt on goal, save for a Dos Santos effort. The home side, on top, scored through a free kick by Simao that hit the inside of the post and went in. Mallorca came back into the game, though, and Dos Santos was luckier when a mistake by Moreno let him in to equalise, Márquez then getting on the end of a loose ball and putting Mallorca ahead just before the break. In the second half, Espanyol resorted to a more long-ball game without threatening until Moreno, heading against the bar, rallied the home team, and a Nunes foul on Longo in the area gave Verdú the chance to bring the score back to 2-2. Victor came close to restoring Mallorca's lead, but with Luna sent off for a second yellow, Baena pounced six minutes before the end to give Espanyol the win. Mallorca stay in the relegation zone in 18th place, and the Osasuna-Deportivo bottom-of-the-table clash on Sunday could end with Mallorca being pushed further into relegation trouble. Next up for Mallorca at home to Malaga on Sunday week.

Casilla; López, Colotto, Moreno, Capdevila; Forlín, Baena; Rui Fonte (Longo 46), Verdú (Christian 85), Simao, García (Tejera 90)
Goals: Simao (17), Verdú (68 - penalty), Baena (84)
Yellows: Verdú (28), Forlín (39), Tejera (90+)

Aouate (Miño 61); Nsue, Geromel, Nunes, Kevin (Hemed 62); Pina, Márquez (Martí 79); Pereira, Dos Santos, Luna; Victor
Goals: Dos Santos (36), Márquez (42)
Red: Luna (80)
Yellows: Luna (45), Pina (65), Hemed (78)

Ill Manors - The Majorca Re-mix

Let's all go on a summer holiday
The telly makes us less than ignorant
So we know it's true
That means off-face pissed and violent
She's got business for more than a hug
On second thoughts you don't wanna get mugged
Oh shit, too drunk that was simply dumb
Whose idea was that balcony
He's lost his life, haven't we all
Be a diver, act the fool
What's holidays all in all
Inclusive gaff, sex rituals
Not all year round, not at all
Fewer months before the Fall
Get away with thieving in town halls
Four figure bungs the minimum rule
We're all liars, piss takers
Every single one expat's not what they say
Keep on believing what you read in the papers
Airhead, air-heeled "girls", sloshed blokes all day
Think you know how life on a paradise island is
From everything you've ever read about it or heard
Well it's all true, but not truth that's nicest
There's no need to set foot on the strip
Truth is here, Stacey lets it rip
The cheats and lies, we've lost our grip
Feed the fear that's what we've found
Crisis reigns, we all fall down

Oi! I said oi!
What you thinking of, you stupid Raj-oy!
We're poor round here, run home and lock our doors
But there's no homes no more, we're getting robbed for
Real (yeah) makes my manors ill
My manners ill
For real
Yeah you know we've taken ill, crisis ill!

You'll get found in a beach concrete jungle
New hotels keep ripping up our nature
Whichever road leads to a blinged-up Russian
Hoods in hoods rob blind and fracture
We've got an eco-friendly government
Waste imports help pay Endesa
Built an entire congress centre
Around where we live for sale for rent flats
Take away our money and keep raising tax
Island's health care, yes please many thanks
Petrol tax for health so less in the tanks
Nice knowing there's the FO when we get attacked
Don't give us all that
We're all losing our temper
When'll they close down the consulate centre?
Killing time in what used to be winter
Tourism's confined from May to September
Schools don't work, which language rules, let's get out
People hurting, I predict a riot
Year in year out
No one knows if things'll turn about
What does the King say? Stuff about the youth
Kids on the street no they'll never work, only looking for cheap
Street drinking at botellón proof
All go looting
No not Luton
Stacey, it's closer, cover your eyes
But if you see, you might realise
It'll make you wish you'd stayed outside
Here's what you get for corruption, all the lies
Do what Rajoy does ... smoke a cigar

Oi! I said oi!
What you thinking of, you stupid Raj-oy!
We're poor round here, run home and lock our doors
But there's no homes no more, we're getting robbed for
Real (yeah) makes my manors ill
My manners ill
For real
Yeah you know we've taken ill, crisis ill!

We've had it with corrupt politicians
The bloody rich kids always prosper
'Cos of papa's millions in broken Majorca
Everyone else broke in Majorca
What needs fixing is society
And that means all the impropriety
It's not Stacey's television
It's all the crooks who should be in prison

Oi! I said oi!
What you thinking of, you stupid Raj-oy!
We're poor round here, run home and lock our doors
But there's no homes no more, we're getting robbed for
Real (yeah) makes my manors ill
My manners ill
For real
Yeah you know we've taken ill, crisis ill!

* With full acknowledgement to Ben Drew (Plan B).


Any comments to please.

Friday, January 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's satirical Sant Antoni bonfire

The Alternativa has been up to its usual tricks. Taking the chance of having a pop at the dysfunctional town hall administration in Pollensa, its own Sant Antoni bonfire shows the splits in the coalition between mayor Tomeu Cifre and ex-La Lliga's Malena Estrany plus the splits between the former members of La Lliga, presided over, on the purple pine of the El Pi party, by Jaume Font and Josep Melia, the leaders of the merged El Pi.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sant Antoni reports - part two

Yet more on events for Sant Antoni.

The glosadors in Sa Pobla reserved their wit for politicians, one target being the regional president, José Ramón Bauzá, who was compared to a demon.
Diario de Mallorca

The blessing of the animals in Muro is one of the most important blessings ceremonies for Sant Antoni. Hundreds of people turned up to see it.
Diario de Mallorca

At the pine-climbing in Pollensa, 19-year-old Sergi Gómez was the first to get to the top, a little before ten o'clock and a couple of hours after the pine was finally in place. It was the second time he had managed the feat. During the preceding event, the bringing of the pine to the Plaça Vella, a policeman had a foot run over by the carriage and needed attention.
Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 January 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 12C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 4 easing to 3 and veering South and Southwest, finally Southwest 4 to 5. Swells to three metres diminishing to one metre.

A bit of dampness this morning, less sun likely today than had been forecast. The general outlook for several days is not that good. Tomorrow warmer but with rain later on and rain continuing on Sunday. Next week getting colder again with rain on and off.

Evening update (18.45): And there was only a bit of sun. A high of just 14C.

So Many People? UK residents in Mallorca

The annual league table of the populations of Mallorca's towns has been published. You can now amaze your friends with your knowledge of all sorts of population statistics. There are 876,147 people living in Mallorca. The total foreign population amounts to 185,824, and the total number of UK residents is 16,163, down slightly on the figure for 2011.

These population stats are useful if only because they represent the official version of what is otherwise unofficial - the guesswork that is made in arriving at a figure of UK residents. As I have mentioned previously, this figure is inflated. Hence, one is told that the Balearics have 50,000 UK residents, of which some forty odd thousand have to be in Mallorca. Why is there such a wide discrepancy between this guess, which is plainly wrong, and the figure that is arrived at from totting up the number of residents who are registered with their respective town halls?

One reason, or at least I suspect this to be the case, is that a higher figure can be used to justify certain things, whatever these things might be. The British Foreign Office, through the embassy in Madrid, adheres to the 50,000 Balearics figure, but where does it get its figure from? Local guesswork would be my guess. The Foreign Office hasn't the faintest idea how many Brits live in Mallorca. Or anywhere come to that. For its purposes, and apropos all the kerfuffle over the British Consul to the Balearics not being replaced, it would surely make sense for the FO to take notice of the locally produced statistics. 16,000 or so is far lower than the guesswork figure. As it is this low, and therefore considerably lower than in other parts of Spain, the FO could be said to have a case for not continuing with a regular Consul.

A further reason for the discrepancy is the widely held assumption that there are vast numbers of Brits knocking around who don't register. There are some. But vast numbers? I simply don't buy the argument. Registration at a town hall is vital for all sorts of reasons. Not only does failure make one a non-person it also denies one access to health cover and residency status. I can think of reasons of course why someone might not wish to register, but vast numbers? Nah.

This assumption, this perception that there are in fact more Brits and foreigners than the official figures indicate is not one that everyone shares. In the past, when I have mentioned in conversation the official number of Brits in Alcúdia (now 1,072), a reaction (a British one) is to ask where they all are. It is similar in Pollensa. Its official number of Brits is now 811. Oh, there must be more, say some, while others would find 811 rather high. The fact is that as percentages of the two towns' populations, these official figures are very similar and they are both higher than the percentage for the whole island (1.8% British population overall versus 5% or more in Alcúdia and Pollensa). I have no reason to question the figures. There may be more Brits, those few who don't register, but equally these figures comprise those who don't live in Mallorca all year round. Having a house and so registering with the town hall places someone on the "padron", regardless of the length of time spent on the island.

The statistics reveal what has been the case for a number of years, that Calvià has more Brits than anywhere else, twice as many as Palma, and that Alcúdia and Pollensa occupy positions three and four in the league table. One interesting aspect of these figures is that the British and foreign populations have helped to swell the size of towns to the point where they acquire a new status or might acquire a new status. Calvià has 51,114 people in total, and the 50,000 number is important. Once reached, it means a town hall takes on greater responsibilities. It also means it can have more councillors. If a downward trend in British residency were to continue and to be more pronounced, Calvià would lose this status, and while Calvià's population has shrunk since last year's figures were produced, the shrinkage in the past two years is quite startling - around 2,500 people, of which Brits make up roughly a quarter.

Likewise, Alcúdia is only 414 people away from reaching the 20,000 mark, at which point, it would assume more responsibilities and be allowed to have more councillors. Alcúdia might in fact, assuming it wants to keep its councillors, have a drive to try and get the figure up to 20,000, as the national government seems likely to cut the number of councillors and the responsibilities of towns with fewer than 20,000 people.

Population of Mallorca's towns with UK residents - in order of total populations (click to enlarge):

Any comments to please.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Supreme Court will decide whether Ternelles is private or public

The ongoing and unresolved issue of the access to the Ternelles finca in Pollensa - this access being demanded by ramblers who want restrictions lifted to be able to move freely to the Castell del Rei - is set to be decided, once and for all, by the Balearics Supreme Court. The previous legal decision, by a court in Inca, failed to satisfy anyone. The town hall is pressing the case for public use against the owners, Menani S.A., which represents the March banking family.

See more: Diario de Mallorca