He has promised that things are not going to be the way they were, that the practices of the past eight years under President Barack Obama will have an end, that it will be a new era taking us away from the American Carnage we have experienced. Anyone who watched the inauguration, and there must have been a few glued to the television and not out on the streets protesting, would have seen how this change is taking place.
We watched an inauguration ceremony unlike any other: more police than spectators; empty viewing stands; a total lack of jubilant crowds greeting the new man at the helm. At times it seemed as if there were more people in the marching bands than on the stands, and the aerial photographs tend to confirm this: the streets along the parade route were empty, the whole was a shambles. Each person makes their own choice, on which side of the barricade they wish to stand. I stayed home and witnessed the whole on Twitter.
And it was here on Twitter that I first experienced – aside from the shambles, the inauguration speech, the rain and disconsolate faces of those taking part, forced or otherwise – the real truth behind this idea that Trump is going to do things differently, and for that I must thank ABC News.
Screenshot Source: Twitter / ABC News
Here we have Trump at a surprisingly clear desk – compared to his own in Trump Tower which, for those looking closely, mainly seems to be covered with large piles of photographs of himself, books and magazines about or by him and a few trophies – signing the first of many Executive Orders which will take away what has been granted during the last eight years. EOs which will increase costs for the average or poorer person – such as rolling back the Affordable Care Act and increasing the mortgage costs for first time buyers – and put money back into the pockets of the richest in the land.
But here, thanks to ABC News, we see that Trump is indeed doing things differently; he’s not just signing the EO, he is singing it. Or, perhaps, humming at the moment because he doesn’t know the words. But I can see the future now, as Trump changes and destroys all our benefits and gains from eight years hard work, and Sings and Dances around the Oval Office, sharpie in hand, gleefully noting each and every landslide coming his way.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I read in the German news today that seven children lost their parents in one single crash on a highway here. Someone lost control of their vehicle, possibly hit a small patch of ice which hadn’t been cleared away properly, and destroyed a complete family.
Screenshot Source: Twitter / AP Oddities
And then I read this.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I have a great problem with the idea behind the title of this post, a title which has been used many times over the years and which, unsurprisingly, refers exclusively to the President of the United States of America.
I have a problem with it for many reasons. The main one, of course, is that there can be no leader of the free world, unless that leader has been properly and legally elected by the citizens of the free world. Not just by some of the citizens of the United States, but by all adults throughout all the countries which count. And there, of course, is the next problem: which countries count as being part of the free world? Do we even have one? I mean, if you take the USA first, is this massive country a part of the free world, with all its (claims of) voter suppression, inequality, poverty? Is it even a democratic country? Here we must remember that the USA is a republic, and that the leader of the country is not elected by democratic means, but by an Electoral College.
Photo Source: Chris Leishman – Creative Commons
Is there any country on our small globe which could be called free? Or, come to that, even democratic? Admittedly there are some which come fairly close, but not close to being free in that citizens can talk and act without fear. Every single country in this world has legislation which prevents, which bans, which stops freedoms and, of course, we all have different ideas of what freedom is or could / can be. Freedom to smoke hash, to have an abortion, to sing in the streets, to express an opinion, to follow no religion at all. Freedom, as I mentioned elsewhere, to buy a wedding cake for two people of the same gender, whether they marry or not.
However, I come back to my original point: leader of the free world. Not of my world. And not the world of the majority of people ion this planet, whether their country is termed free or not.
So can we just stop calling the President of the United States of America, no matter who it may have been or might be in the future, the Leader of the Free World? It would make things so much easier, especially with those who we – in the free world – claim live in the not-so-free world but believe, rightly or wrongly, that their world is just as free as we like to imagine ours is.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Someone on Twitter, today, said that they were going to pray for me. They suggested that I would be surprised that they pray for all LGBT people while we, the LGBT people, only sue good, law-abiding Christian citizens. We are unable to put ourselves in their place, so walk a mile in their shoes, to see why they, and not we, are right. And all the time, it goes on, we claim to always be right, never wrong. Christians, I was told, aren’t mean-spirited.
The conversation came about when I commented on someone who complained that the pro-life movement had been removed from the Women’s March, due to take place across the United States while Donald Trump is inaugurated in Washington, DC. Having read something of this person’s profile, I commented that wedding cake aren’t wedding cake eaters if they’re gay. The idea here, which anyone with an ounce of intelligence would have spotted – and he did – was that it is somewhat ironic to complain that the pro-life people are removed from the march when they should have an equality of rights and, at the same time, applaud those who refuse to sell a gay couple a wedding cake because it goes against their principles.
Photo Source: Via Tsuji – Creative Commons
So now someone else is going to pray for me, and probably for my immortal soul which, as we all know, is in danger of being condemned to the fires of hell because of my birthright. Because I was born gay.
I’ll be quite honest about it, I don’t believe prayer, from anyone and to anything, is going to make me straight. But I’ve come across these people before, those who pray rather than taking action to help. I’m not talking about changing people who are gay into straight necessarily, but those who believe prayer will work to cure anything. Those who pray rather than take a child to a doctor for treatment, and let the child die. Those who pray for good fortune rather than working at it themselves.
Funnily enough, these same people would not pray that their god intervene and put out the fire which is burning down their house, they would call the fire brigade. I guess even the most fanatic appreciate that prayer doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes mortal assistance is far better than dirtying your knees and piously pressing your hands together, averting your eyes from the world around you.
For me remains one clear fact: if you are going to demand Rights, then that demand should go for all. There is no praying here, just logic and – something which is often left out of the equation – fairness. I have no problem living amidst Christians, people who believe in pro-life politics, those who pray to another god – or the same god with a different system. Therefore, I see no reason why these people should, according to their own reasoning, have a problem living near to me. It stands to reason. That is, unless your answer to any and all problems is to pray.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
This is probably not where you wanted to end up, in the eternal loop of the Matrix. You typed something completely different into your browser, or set a bot to do the searching for you, and expected to find something else. At worst, you’d have thought, a 404 page. At best, well, perhaps you were looking for a way to break in and tried to enter the URL for a theme file on the backend of this server, or for another file where you know there is a weakness, where you know that you could break in.
Life, however, is not quite so easy. You are being watched, you are being followed. Every single tap of your little fingers on that keyboard, it’s going into the eternal loop of the Matrix. You are going to be swirled in and lost forever, forgotten to man, to history. Your whole life, wasted. You will burn.
Photo Source: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center – Creative Commons
What was it then, one of these perhaps
Or perhaps you were a little more creative with
and still you ended up here. How can that be? What went wrong?
Let me tell you a little story: you’ve enough time, after all, you’re in the loop of the Matrix now, you’re not going anywhere in a hurry.
It’s all about visitors, clicks and statistics. When someone hits a 404 page, it doesn’t show up as a visit to the site, no matter how well produced and enthralling that 404 page may be, no matter how much time has been spent decorating it, adding links to other possibilities which might be of interest on the site, it is a nothing click. And every single day I have people like you, looking for something which I do not want to share, trying to wander nonchalantly into the working bits of my server and poke around in my privates. You think that I don’t notice. You think trying to grab me by the intimate bits and pieces of my website is going to go unnoticed, unregarded, but you are wrong. Eventually everyone has to stand up for what they have done, be it a British football trainer, pop star or radio presenter from the Seventies finally caught and brought before the courts for child abuse or a president-elect somewhere else in the world.
But right now you’re in the loop. In the Matrix. You’ve been caught, and trapped. Luckily I’m a vegetarian, otherwise there would be skinning and roasting on the menu too. So, rather than wasting your valuable (!) time trying to break into my server and ruin one of the few virtual pleasures I have in life, why don’t you browse a few of the posts here and find something interesting to pass the time? Grab yourself a coffee – or a Monster Energy Drink if that’s your thing – settle down and appreciate rather than ruin. You’ll feel so much better for it, and I’ll be able to pack away the fire extinguisher and barbecue.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
I think it was the Donald who claimed that there is – or is not, hard to keep up – a fat hacker sitting somewhere in Russia who concentrates on disrupting things. Sometimes this fat hacker is good, when he or she hacks other people, sometimes bad. Either way, the hacker is clearly fat, because he or she spends all their time sitting in front of a computer, gaining access to different websites and mail accounts and sending the results either to WikiLeaks (good for the big D) or the press (bad for the big D).
I have great difficulty following some of these ideas. That the hacker is fat really throws me; is this a sort of body-shaming attack to try to draw this person out? Challenge their ego by calling them fat, or lazy, stupid or under-educated? It might work with some criminals – according to many TV shows – but in real life? Perhaps these people are as intelligent as Doctor Sheldon Cooper, and equally insensitive to sarcasm or personal insults. And are the hackers really sitting somewhere in Russia? I get to see about thirty attempts to breach this website every single day, either by a forced attack or attempting to log in with a guessed-at name and password (no, I dumped admin right at the start and, really, who uses test as an administrator’s name these days?). Each time I get to see the IP and name of the server being used; sometimes it is France, or Pakistan, or Houston, Texas. I’m sure it would be possible to trace back through these servers and find the origin of these attempts. But I am an ordinary person, no specialist. That’s a job for the professionals, when they’re not bickering about authority or defending themselves against their future boss – or past boss, or potential boss, or one or both political parties. Do they even have time to do their work?
Photo Source: Jared Tarbell – Creative Commons
Aside from the WikiLeaks rubbish – a mass of paperwork hacked which told us nothing useful and contained, as far as I can see, nothing along the lines of a smoking gun whatsoever – most attempts to gain access to a site are either to use it as a forwarding post for commercial purposes, or to gain data stored on the server, for commercial purposes. Everyone is out to make money, very few are in it for transparency or Freedom of Information reasons, not even WikiLeaks. They want to earn, and that can mean taking information out and sharing it – where all these addresses for spam mails come from – or putting stuff on and claiming money to take it off again.
Ransom is the new way to make money, with so many insecure servers around the world, and so much depending on a site which functions, or on a site which contains all the company information there is. A small piece of code which blocks the site, or which threatens to destroy its contents, and a complete multi-national concern could be at the mercy of that fat hacker – who is probably not fat, and not in Russia. Although, breaking and entering for the information contained is still quite popular, even for married couples in Italy!
There is no one fat hacker, and there is no one country which is responsible for hacking across the board. They come from all walks of life and all countries. They have different ideals and plans, mostly to do with making money, sometimes with a more political agenda. But if we concentrate on this idea of the fat Russian, we’re going to lose our way. Rather, we ought to concentrate on ensuring that our servers are secure – or as secure as is possible – and taking the malicious hackers out of service through judicial means. Prevention as much as anything, and then systems in place which trace and obliterate. Words are all fine and good, but action speaks louder.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
It’s easy to understand those who make fun of the panic which arises every single year during the surprise outbreak of winter. You’d think most people had managed to grasp the concept of seasons, how the weather changes from rain to snow to fog to an occasional hint of sunshine. Sadly it doesn’t appear to be so, and thus we have a whole genre of fun-making.
I must admit, I do it myself. Every time when the shops have to close for one whole day, because of a public holiday which recurs every single year, I make fun of those who stockpile food and essentials. As if the shops weren’t going to open again!
Photo Source: Andrew Currie – Creative Commons
The same with weather. We can be reasonably sure that winter is going to reappear at much the same time year after year; that the weather is going to be either rain or snow; that spring will follow and, when we’re lucky, a warm summer. We can only be reasonably sure because, with climate change, things are not quite as settled as we might wish them to be. Snow in December, or even November, in northern Germany was once normal. Now we’re lucky if it snows mid-January.
In other parts of the world snowplows have been out and about, fighting their way through the mess so that everyone can get to work. People in London had a wonderful example of what it’s like struggling to get in to work recently, but not because of snow. A small strike by underground transport workers brought the usual stoic manners of the British out, and they still made it through.
So, this morning, when I noticed that a snowflake or two had fallen, but the sun was shining, I knew what to do. None of the panic, no rushing out to the shops to stock up on toiletries. I put on my warm mittens and my woolly hat, and brushed the snow from the sidewalk.
Just another day in white.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If there wasn’t so much news at the moment, especially surrounding the President-elect of the United States, then we would just be reading about the weather and precious little else. Either that, or trying to struggle through stories about dogs, cats, and miraculous twins. And there we have a problem: there is so much news, so many reports, it is hard to fight a way through them all to get to the facts. Quick responses, denials, fake news, conspiracies, they are all there and, as far as we can see, they have been specifically placed together so that some matters which should be of note or interest sink below the radar.
It used to be that any news a government or company didn’t want a reaction to – such as bad annual reports or unpopular legislation – would be pushed through right before a weekend or when most people are asleep. With the advent of the Internet much has changed: the news media never sleeps and print run times no longer exist. A news item no longer has to be written and edited in time for the printed version of a newspaper to be laid to bed, it can be worked on and published on the Internet at any time of the day or night. The result: some entities start bringing out their unpopular items along with a mass of other information, in the hope that popular stories will take the headlines, and what they don’t want to be seen will vanish under the load. Help is given here by so-called news media who have no connection to journalism whatsoever, but push out fake news, conspiracy theories, and plausible stories to a willing audience, shoving the real news into the background and, often, causing those who should be working on matters of the real world to concentrate on killing or diminishing the damage caused.
Photo Source: Theilr – Creative Commons
One of the big stories which hit the headlines today has been from Buzzfeed, an online news portal with a very broad range of interests. They published a dossier of so-called evidence alleging many infractions by the President-elect, Donald Trump, including what can only be called a perverted action of revenge against the current President: the hiring of prostitutes to foul a bed used by the President in a Russian hotel. For anyone who is unsure what a Golden Shower is, here is a brief SFW description.
This publication was immediately jumped upon by news media and politicians alike. Some reported the publication, without going into too much detail, simply referring back to the original. Others, especially the politicians, began attacking Buzzfeed for publication of the dossier and making various claims about its veracity and the standards of the news portal in publishing an unverified document as if it were factual.
Reading through the article on Buzzfeed, however, a completely different story emerges. The title of the piece sets the form for anyone reading further with the use of the word ‘allege’. The sub-header goes even further:
The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.
And then throughout the text are qualifications highlighting the fact that these claims have not been verified, and perhaps cannot be verified. The dossier has been published to allow the public – or at least readers of Buzzfeed – to make their own decisions. It also allows other news organizations the opportunity to use their resources to investigate and confirm or deny the allegations. From this point of view, Buzzfeed and its reporters has covered itself very carefully. They are making it clear that the allegations may be Fake News, that the allegations compiled by a former British intelligence officer are not confirmed and should be taken as a report on unsubstantiated information from several unnamed sources who may or may not have a different agenda. An attack on Buzzfeed is, therefore, unjustified, especially when looking through reports and news items by almost every other news portal worldwide, where similar instances of unsubstantiated information can be found.
It now only remains for these allegations to be investigated and either substantiated or dismissed as lies. Attacking Buzzfeed is not the way to go, neither is attacking Donald Trump, until the truth behind these allegations, this collection of snippets from unnamed sources can be brought to light.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Another day, another clear-cut case of harassment. I could easily have written another hour, even another minute, and been correct. Harassment, in its many different forms, is all around us and it is all the time; not just sexual harassment but also harassment in the work place, because of political or religious beliefs, ethnic origins, the color of a person’s hair. For some harassment is having people watch them as they walk, looking a little too intense perhaps. It is a cat call in public, or an attempt to go beyond the cat call in semi-private. It is stalking, verbal abuse, denigration, sarcasm and all those other terms we have seen reported which, due to the number of times they are reported, are slowly becoming a normal part of our day. Harassment is also a high-ranking official publicly announcing that an increase in rape reports is not worrying.
If the police aren’t too worried about such things, what chance is there for the rest of us? And, in this particular case, is a rape within a family less serious than rape by a stranger? Can we say the same about other types of abuse? Sure, domestic abuse is not as bad as being beaten up – once – on the streets by a stranger. This, though, is the mindset, and this is why it is so hard to combat abuse and harassment. It is not something taken seriously. We’ll get over it. Until we don’t.
Photo Source: Steven Depolo – Creative Commons
You can be brave and shrug it off, or you can be resourceful. There are far too many people who turn a blind eye – oh, they didn’t mean it that way, it’s just a bit of harmless fun – even when harassment is directed at them or their family. There are those who over-react too, and that is just as bad: an over-reaction is as bad as the boy who cried wolf; eventually no one is going to believe.
You can be brave. Block a mail address or a telephone number so that the person harassing doesn’t get through. Change your own number, hide away from the attacks. Of course, this doesn’t work on the street, in school, in the workplace. An abused woman (or man) in a domestic situation is not going to escape the abuse by calling themselves a different name. You can be brave and let them carry on: the abuser will soon get bored. Don’t rile them up, and they’ll go away. It’s no fun if the target doesn’t react, doesn’t show pain in one form or another.
You can be brave and they will go away, perhaps to start harassing and abusing someone else, someone who isn’t so brave. Perhaps they will be emboldened: the first one didn’t do anything, so we can go a step or two further with the next one. Gain experience, find out what hurts, how far we can go, and then step over the line. That line is the difference between harassment and murder.
Or you can be resourceful. There is good reason help lines are there, why care centers have been built up, why internet providers have abuse departments. They’re not there because a pizza delivery company sent the wrong topping or your grass isn’t as pure as it should be. They are there to help, either with good advice or with immediate assistance. And they are not there so that someone else can do something about it all, not just, they are there so that you can do something. So that you can call in, can report, can have an abuser stopped, blocked, arrested if need be. Because the first person who needs to react to a case of harassment is the person being harassed.
Here in Germany we have a very good law: if there is an accident or a person who clearly needs help, you are legally required to assist to the best of your ability. That assistance could be immediate first aid at the scene of a traffic accident, or it could be a simple call to the authorities so that an ambulance gets to the scene in time to help save someone. The same should go for cases of harassment: you see, you react. You see, you help.
Turn the tables against those harassing and support those in need. It could be you or your family next time. It could be someone you love raped and murdered because someone else didn’t bother reporting the sexual harassment of that nice, quiet boy down the street.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
The Internet and news media have been playing on a short video which surfaced today. In it twins are seen playing in their room around a chest of drawers. Two of the drawers are open and a clear challenge to climb upon, and so both do.
Any parent half within their wits will know exactly what happens next: the now unstable drawers tip forward, on top of the twins. The Swedish furniture concern IKEA can tell you a few things about this, since they’ve just been sued for exactly this type of accident, and their apparent failure either to prevent it, or to tell a bunch of clearly ignorant parents of the dangers. For IKEA it is one of those ‘I didn’t know coffee was hot’ law suits which merely goes to show how stupid some people are.
This video, however, is something else. It has been lauded as a good example of the intelligence of one of the twins, who miraculously saved his brother. Not that he really needed saving, he was well on his way to freeing himself, but this is news media, and it makes a good story when inconvenient truths are left out.
Such as the fact that both of the twins caused this piece of furniture to fall over. Such as the length of time which went by where it was clear that the ‘hero’ brother really didn’t care that his twin was trapped, crying and perhaps even hurt. Such as the small section of the video where the ‘hero’ twin climbed over the drawers, crushing his brother and endangering him even more.
There are heroes and there are news stories. The two are not necessarily the same.
- Viktoria Michaelis.