News Media Working At Full Steam

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 9, 2016 in News & Opinion |

It’s been a tough few days for the media, far harder than any other election cycle we have ever experienced. Never has the media been forced to fact check so many statements, to delve so deep into the archives – their own and those of others – to sift through leaked and falsified documents, to keep up with the mood on the hustings, in the street and in every single backroom debate preparation room. I don’t doubt for one moment that coffee shares are going to hit a high before this campaign ends in November.

And while everyone is trying to ensure that what the produce – what is printed or published on the Internet – beats the competition and attracts more subscribers, more viewers, more attention, it is the little things which are going to slip through.

Washington Post Confusion

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Washington Post

Understandable, when a deadline has to be brought forward or, suddenly, information is received which changes the overall message needed in a new article, a visual report. The occasional spelling mistake, a name not quite right, signs of hurry where every second counts. The stories are changing so fast, being enhanced with new revelations, with polls, with facts, fictions, statistics, interviews, that it is easy enough to forget to change a graphic.

The Washington Post has fallen foul of this, and I cannot say that I find it surprising. Their work of late has been so hectic, and so intensely revealing, that the odd faux pas can creep in.

But perhaps, by the time you get to see this post, they’ll have deleted the original and published a new Tweet advertising the debate tonight; one with the presidential candidates and how to watch them, rather than the second runners. Corrections are all part of the story too.

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Piers Morgan: The High Moral Ground

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 8, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

The backlash against Donald Trump in the United states, following the revelations of his attitude towards women and clear belief in sexual assault and the right of the alpha male to command and control sexually, has begun. Several high-ranking Republicans have rescinded their endorsements, others have called for him to either set down from the presidential nomination, or reconsider his position.

Not all those who have endorsed Donald Trump will rescind; some will weather out the storm and hope that everything passes them by, that their strong support in their home constituencies will remain and keep them employed as senator or representative for many more legislative periods.

What is most interesting about the whole debacle is what brought about the change in people’s opinions; not just of the staunch Republican politicians, but also the voting base, the ordinary people of the United States. It was the clear belief that sexual assault against American women is acceptable put forward by Donald Trump. The idea of abusing, of banning, of walling out foreigners, regardless of male or female, children or adult, does not strike a note. The national protectionism within the United States, built upon immigration, is still very strong.

Piers Morgan and Morality

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Piers Morgan / Richard Bacon

For some people, those who claim Donald Trump as a personal friend, he can do no wrong. Regardless of what he says, regardless of who he abuses, attacks or assaults – and remember, it was Donald Trump who claimed he could shoot a person on an open street and no one would do anything against him – they will support him and claim that the uproar over his words and actions is merely a distraction from the real problems at hand. But it is these which cause the real problems. It is the attitude of people towards their fellow-men and women which has, as we have seen all too often and recently with the Black Lives Matter movement – despite all its faults – which is the foundation for the problems.

Piers Morgan, a British journalist, is someone who appears to support all that is wrong with American society. He claims that people in the United States are over-reacting to the revelations, to the inherent faults within a system which allows such a man as Donald Trump to achieve a position of power. He appears to support the building of walls – clearly the wall separating sections of Belfast in Northern Ireland are homegrown examples he can call upon – as good policy, despite the proven fact that they do not work. He appears to support the ban on Muslims which Donald Trump put forward, and the racism inherent in such a move – although Donald Trump himself is descended from a German immigrant. And now, with this Tweet, he clearly endorses sexual assault by celebrities and people in positions of power against women.

People are not positioning themselves on a moral or ethical plinth when they rally against racism, sexism and crimes against women. They are not taking the high ground or claiming themselves to be better than anyone else. They are voicing concerns, and following an ages old belief that such actions are wrong, that they go against the moral grain of all the United States should stand for. They are supporting Human Rights as much as personal standards of social behavior.

If a candidate for the position of Prime Minister in the United Kingdom acted and spoke in the manner Donald Trump has done – and that for many years – would Piers Morgan support that person for election? Clearly this must be the case, or does he have a different moral stance when it comes to leaders of other countries? Such a candidate should not be acceptable in the United Kingdom, just as this one, Donald Trump, cannot be acceptable in the United States.

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USA: Consider The Country First

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 8, 2016 in News & Opinion |

Every single politician ever claims to be thinking of their country when they stand on the hustings and begin their campaign for election or re-election. For many, however, it is often more Party first, follow the line, give the people what they want to hear and secure a victory. What follows is often completely different to that which has been promised.

Sometimes it is possible to see through the lies and the propaganda, the spin and the playacting; whether this makes a difference or not is another matter. The news media will always be accused of twisting stories, of taking sides, of having an agenda and, in many cases, this is also true. Media sources do have their preferences, and they often show them with endorsements and column inches. A truly independent media, interested in the story and not just selling copies, would never endorse, should never endorse.

In the USA the electioneering between the Democrats and the Republicans is all about Party and winning, very little about the country itself. Policies are brought out and suggested which appear popular, but which have little chance of success, little hope of getting through the legislative process. This year, however, we are being treated to a spectacle like no other: this year we are seeing two candidates investigated in a manner no other politician has ever been handled. We are seeing the true colors of those attempting to gain the highest position in the land. And none of it is pleasant.

Time To Go

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Fortune Magazine

Neither of the two main candidates has a clean, white vest. Both of them have either a long career in business or politics behind them where decisions have been made which effect ordinary people, which could be considered illegal, which have gone against the grain as much as against good sense or taste.

Hillary Clinton has been involved in politics for much of her adult life. She has held positions which command respect as well as carrying a great deal of responsibility. She has made mistakes as well as good choices, and her life as a politician has been blessed or damned, according to your point of view, by the parallel life of her husband.

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Politico

Her greatest problems have been – and are – the Clinton Foundation, her private server and Bill Clinton. For the first two there are enough revelations to cover many posts, and which have been covered in hundreds of articles throughout the media. Undoubtedly there will be many more, especially on the activities of the Clinton Foundation and its influence on her political activities. Her mail server has also been the subject of many reports, a FBI investigation and, more recently, a series of leaks by the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It is worth remembering here that her server, unlike the State servers she should have used, were never hacked. The copies of her privately paid speeches, now being released, reveal nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary. It would have been far better for her to have released the speeches openly and early: a bad decision on her part.

The infidelity of her husband is another matter entirely. What seems to have been forgotten is that no one has so far claimed that the sexual liaison between Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton was non-consensual. They are, and were, both adults. Hillary Clinton’s decision to remain with her husband could be seen as a political move, but it also tells us a great deal about her strengths and her belief in the family, no matter where fault may lie.

Donald Trump is a different matter entirely. He has no experience in politics, as has been amply shown over the last months, and is a businessman who does not allow small matters such as tax payments, worker’s rights and the settlement of invoices for work done bother him. He is plagued by the Trump Foundation, by several bankruptcies, by possibly less than legal business practices, by his outpourings of misogynistic attacks on individuals, his sexism and racism.

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Kara Swisher

His attitude toward women has now overtaken that of his abhorrence of foreigners in the media. A recording of comments he made a decade ago – which has been mildly described as lewd – has surfaced and been widely publicized. In it he details he attitude towards women in a manner which can leave no doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind that his macho attitude is not just playacting: he believes that women are there for the taking, for sex, and are mere playthings for the alpha male. His vilification of other politicians are perverts can now be seen in a new light, as he joins their ranks and, for many, is their leading star.

His continued attitude towards sexual transgressions can also be seen in comments about the Central Park Five who, as we all know, were innocent of the charges placed before the courts. He attacked them as sexual monsters for something they did not do and spoke of the death penalty. The actions they were accused of – sexual assault and rape – are actions which he condones, when it comes to himself. Sexual assault, non-consensual sex appear to him, and only for him, to be acceptable. His personal standards reflect a completely different perspective to that which he has always propounded when it comes to other people. His initial apology for the comments made a decade ago was not so much an apology – not even close, since it only apologized to those who might have been offended – but an attack on Bill Clinton and other men, claiming that such talk is normal, locker-room banter. His former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, now working for CNN, claimed that such talk was quite normal, even held around the dining room table at home, an idea which should send shudders down the spine of every single family member of every single family in the United States.

The Republican Party is a mess, and has been for several years. There has been talk, earlier in this campaign, that Donald Trump will be the death knell of the party. That will most certainly be so if all those Republican politicians and Republican-leaning newspapers do not withdraw their endorsements and condemn their nominee immediately. The various Evangelicals – God-fearing churchgoers – who have endorsed Donald Trump should go the same way and not, as some have already done, play the whole thing down. His actions and words are not those of a Christian, or a member of any other law-abiding religion with principles.

No matter what happens over the coming month, voters should look to their country and not to their chosen party. The idea that a man such as Donald Trump could be in the highest position in what is arguably the most powerful country in the world is untenable.

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Update: Well, That Was Fun

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 7, 2016 in Internet |

Remind me never to try to do an update when most of my traffic is due here. Despite all the statistics various services offer, the bulk of my visitors live in the United States and they, for those of you in the know, tend to live in different time zones. My evening tends to be their morning or early afternoon. It’s been that way for years, but sometimes I just forget and try to do something which disrupts a little.

This evening was no exception, but it was the only time I really had free to work on the server, with noticeable results. We were gone for an hour. And that does not make me the happiest bunny – or monkey – in the patch but it is my fault. Or, to use the words of a certain misogynistic presidential candidate who I will not name: I hope no one was offended.

Update Fun

Photo Source: Ron DunningtonCreative Commons

It should have been simple, but I over-stretched myself slightly. I have PHP v7 available for the server, and wanted to use it. WordPress recommends PHP v5.6 or higher, and PHP v7 is definitely higher. It didn’t, however, quite come out as I wanted it to. I guess I’ll just have to wait for a while before trying the latest PHP version and getting the server right up there with the most modern.

Still, we are now on a good and stable PHP v5.6.25 and I am quite happy with that. Have to ask WordPress a few questions about other versions and see how it goes.

Not that too many people would have noticed I was down….

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Food: Read The Small Print

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 6, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

I read the small print. Many vegetarians and vegans have learned that not reading the small print on the packaging of their food, unless they cook everything from raw, can lead to some unfortunate moments. Some people are very strict with their diet, with their refusal of each meat and meat products, with their need to avoid certain products such as milk, eggs, peanuts and so on. For some, reading the packaging, knowing exactly what is inside a product, is a matter of life or death.

I read the small print because I want to know what is in a product when I have to buy something ready-made. I am serious about my vegetarian lifestyle, but not missionary serious; I’m not going to sell my way of life to anyone else. You make your choice; live with it.

Today we had pizza. When she told me we were having pizza I thought: Great! Are we ordering in, or making pizza? She had brought frozen pizza from the store – which was a massive downer for me because no matter who the manufacturer is, fresh pizza is always better – and only because it was a vegan pizza. We should try a vegan pizza, she said, nothing wrong with that.

I read the ingredients list.


Photo Source: KaylaCreative Commons

The last time she bought a ready-made it was vegetable soup. In a can. With a chicken broth base. I usually do the shopping in our family. This time I couldn’t fault her, because I don’t expect her to read the ingredients list every single time she buys something – that’s my fetish – and the packaging clearly says that the pizza is vegan and it has a badge saying it is vegan. Badges are good. Badges tell us things.

The packaging told me that all the ingredients were fine – although, a pizza without cheese? There are vegan cheeses, so why no cheese? – but there was that little note for those with allergies: can contain traces of eggs. That, for me, speaks of two things: the product hasn’t been made in a completely clean atmosphere if an ingredient which does not belong and is not included could be in the end product; the pizza is not vegan.

PETA in Germany, who have been promoting these particular pizza variations from Lidl, think otherwise. Their web site says that anything with a claim of traces of something non-vegan can still be vegan (German text). I disagree with them, for those two reasons I mentioned above. If there is a need to write that traces of a non-vegan substance or product could be in there, then that is a clear indication that the end product is not ‘clean’, is not vegan.

But I am vegetarian, so it shouldn’t bother me. And it didn’t, despite what I see as false advertising. Even so, we didn’t finish the pizza. I’m sure some people would find the Lidl ‘vegan’ pizza fine, but we didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps the lack of cheese, or the bland flavor. It could have been better. We ordered in.

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British Politics: Name And Shame

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 5, 2016 in News & Opinion |

Welcome to the new, improved United Kingdom, while it lasts.

If you thought that things couldn’t get worse than they already are, the latest news from the small island out there in the North Sea will undoubtedly make you splutter over your Earl Grey tea and buttered scones in consternation. The United Kingdom Independence Party are undoubtedly having a field day, as are the old guard of the National Front, Britain First and all the other protectionists. Plans to force British firms to reveal the names of their non-British workforce, and then be shamed, have been tabled by the Conservative Party led by Theresa May. One hundred days as Prime Minister, and things are taking a turn many would never have imagined.

What exactly, though, does this naming and shame policy mean, aside from some form of bad taste populism? Will the British government really force companies to name all of their foreign workers or face public vilification? Perhaps Theresa May should better take a glance at who could be named, and begin with those institutions to which she and her government have a very strong link indeed.

Theresa May

Photo Source: UK Home OfficeCreative Commons

The clear favorite for name and shame is, of course, the National Health Service. This is staffed by many foreign doctors and nurses who have been educated in the United Kingdom, and are using the skills they learned to both earn a living and help ordinary people. For some employment in the NHS would have been a prerequisite to their studies: they have their education paid for and repay the costs by working in the UK for a set umber of years. The British government doesn’t want to suffer brain drain or the loss of highly educated specialists unless, it would now appear, they aren’t British.

The Diplomatic Service employs many foreign nationals as translators and interpreters, as native speakers, rather than train up their own citizens to speak foreign languages better than the natives.

Next on the list to name and shame is the army, and their Brigade of Gurkhas which currently numbers about three thousand six hundred soldiers, none of whom are British. They celebrated two hundred years of British service in 2015. Will they still be there in 2020, or shamed into non-existence?

The British Broadcasting Service employs countless foreign nationals for their World Service transmissions, funded partially by taxpayer’s money, partially by a licensing fee. Send them all home and cut off the propaganda machine?

On a smaller scale, can Theresa May really imagine every single business listing their foreign workers? What about the Indian, Italian and Chinese restaurants which cover the entire country; every single major city and most towns have a restaurant run by these foreigners who are stealing British jobs. Far better, you’d think, to have a British citizen, born and bred, going back several generations, cooking the finest, authentic Indian curry.

My chosen photograph is a blast from the past: “The Home Secretary Theresa May meets with students from the Young Leaders Programme, spiritual leaders, and community representatives in a visit to Al Madina Mosque in East London.” This was back in February 2015. I wonder whether she would risk visiting them again after airing her future plans.

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Another Downside Of Dating Sites

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 4, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

I honestly thought I had read everything there is to read about the downside of dating sites, about the cheating when setting them up, about the money-grabbing, about the level of fraud. I was wrong: it has taken a step towards the middle ring of Hades. Just reading the sparse information on this screenshot from the New York Post is enough to tell you everything that you need to know.

Screenshot Source: Twitter /New York Post

I don’t know which country they are in, nor which site they used. I do not know – nor do I want to know – what was written in their profiles or how they managed to keep their blood relationship secret from each other prior to the nuptials. I also don’t want to know what the rest of their family, their friends and acquaintances think of this whole mess.

Love, it is said, is blind, but there have to be limits.

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Exposure: Sinking To A Despicable Low

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 3, 2016 in News & Opinion |

Many will already have caught this story, which hit the news media and the world of literature yesterday: Claudio Gatti, an Italian ‘journalist’ claims to have discovered the identity of the writer Elena Ferrante, and has had no reservations in revealing it.

I do not doubt for one moment that many will view this revelation as an extremely vile action on the part of this man, and will justifiable vilify him for his actions. I also do not doubt that he will revel in the publicity he receives and carry a large check to the bank for his pains.

The pains, however, will be felt more by the person who Gatti claims to be the author writing under the name of Elena Ferrante. It should be clear to all that she has very good reasons for wishing to write under a pseudonym, whether we know what those reasons are or not. It should also be clear to all that this exposure goes well beyond the ‘need to know’ principle of journalism and into the realms of invasion of privacy.

Screenshot Source: Twitter / The Guardian

Gatti is certainly not to be lauded for his revelation, no matter how much publicity and ill-gotten fame he may gain from the news. More, he should be put back in his place, in the gutter where he belongs, and taught what real journalism, especially investigative journalism – which he undoubtedly claims this to be – really is.

It is one thing to reveal misdoings and crimes, but quite another destroy the privacy and peace of mind of a totally innocent person who has done nothing but create pleasure for millions of readers around the world.

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Panic In The Aisles

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 2, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

It’s that time of the year again and, unlike last year, that time of the year falls on a weekday. Happiness for those who can claim an extra day off from work, rather than complaining that a holiday day falls on a day which is free anyway, but mass panic when it comes to the essentials of life.

Yesterday the shops were packed with people doing what appears to have been panic shopping. You could almost imagine that the end of the world was just round the corner, or that food would be in short supply in Germany for the next few weeks. It was hard to move in some of the supermarkets; extra staff had to be put on the registers; shelves were cleared of all the basics.

Shopping Panic

Photo Source: Happy MealCreative Commons

What happened? A holiday: reunification day, yet again. An extra day when all those who normally do a week’s shopping sometime during the week suddenly decide that they cannot survive a one day closure of the local supermarket. It was literally as if there was going to  be nothing else available, as if shops were going to be closed for a whole week.

I avoided them all. My weekly shopping was completed Friday morning, as always, and the extra day without the possibility of buying even more had been taken into account. The same amount of milk as always. The same amount of vegetables as always. The same vegetarian supplements, soya and tofu, as always.

Why do the Germans go into a mad rush panic whenever the shops – aside from Sunday – are going to be closed? Do they believe that they will never open again? Is it some primitive instinct? For me, it would ruin the whole weekend, fighting my way through the crowds to buy what I always buy, with the extra, unnecessary stress. And nothing on special offer because of the holiday either. Let them get on with it, this year, next year, whenever. Calm and relaxed, I can enjoy my weekend without the panic, thank you very much.

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The Thing With Dating Sites

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 1, 2016 in Immoral Conversations |

I have been amusing myself recently over an advertising campaign by a dating web site which (as they all do) claims to be the biggest and most successful in the world. Their posters are in all the major cities and have a standard format: a single person in a plain, head and shoulders shot, smiling slightly, looking at the camera. Nothing spectacular. And then there is the single line of text: every eleven minutes a single falls in love.

Now, you can read this in several ways, and this is undoubtedly what the makers of this advertising campaign are counting on. The idea, of course, is that you read into this single line that every eleven minutes a person using their site falls in love. This is, of course, difficult to prove or disprove, but could be dangerous when it comes to standards and ethics. So it doesn’t actually say a person using the site is falling in love; the viewer must assume it.

Dating Sites

Photo Source: txmx2Creative Commons

This assumption is what sells the site. It is a pay site, as are all dating sites, no matter what they may claim. You want the information someone has freely given to us, you pay for it. Clearly this business plan works, street advertising is not inexpensive. Whether someone is falling in love with a real person, a fake profile or a lovebot – and I do not mean the toy – is another matter entirely. And, in case you’re interested, there is a petition against the toy. It could well  be that there is nothing behind the profile attracting a person’s affections at all, other than a means of making money.

What amuses me, though, is another connotation of this single line of advertising text. The idea that a single is falling in love, but only a single. There is no reciprocation. It does not say that two people fall in love with one another, merely that someone has seen the profile of someone else and fallen in love with that profiled person. All in all very sad and, I guess, also very frustrating. Still, it all depends on how an individual reads  that line of text. I read it and smile, perhaps because of the unlikelihood of there being a successful outcome, perhaps because, when it comes to online dating services and their true rates of success, I have a more realistic grasp of life.

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