The CIA Torture Report and who Takes Responsibility

US Flat at Guantanamo Bay - Image credit Paul J Richards AFP/Getty Images

US Flag at Guantanamo Bay – Image credit Paul J Richards AFP/Getty Images

The CIA torture report, as discussed on Independent Online, on CIA torture practices is out and it’s a shocker. I suppose if it were a report about the Al Qaeda or the IS we wouldn’t be that shocked. After all you would expect this sort of action from the Muslim extremist groups. But from a Government Agency of the USA?

And it’s pointless for the US citizens to ignore this and to wash their hands off it. The CIA is government which means the people of the USA voted for the politicians who appointed the CIA Director. Their taxes pay their salaries.

It’s even more shocking if you consider that the USA considers itself to be a predominantly Christian society. What does it say about Christianity? About the same as what Christians say about Muslim extremists. Although in many cases the hate speech against Muslims extremists actually means Muslims in general. Murdering, torturing heathens.

What’s even more notable is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a huge public outcry in the US about this report. Perhaps it’s because it’s no torture on Christians. Or perhaps because the tortured are mostly Muslims and they deserve it. Could also be because at the end of the day the end justifies the means and the USA is after all under threat of extreme terrorist attacks. Just go through airport security in the USA and you can see that fear.

Scary stuff.

Hypocrisy at its best – Pope Francis speaks to the EU

Pope Francis addressing EU Parliament. Image Credit Patrick Hertzog via Getty Images

Pope Francis addressing EU Parliament. Image Credit Patrick Hertzog via Getty Images

Pope Francis and the EU
There is a lovely saying that goes: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Makes sense doesn’t it. It’s a saying that could resonate with one when considering the speech Pope Francis delivered to the EU on November 25, 2014.

Here are some points he made in his speech.

EU has lost its way
Pope Francis spoke about Europe having lost its way. Of letting economic crises and bureaucracy beat the energy out of people and countries and that it was increasingly becoming a bystander to what was happening in the world.

Good coming from one of the biggest ‘nations’ in the world with it’s own sovereign country based in Rome. If any organisation has lost its way and its relevance it is the Catholic Church. Once a relevant player in people’s lives the church has significantly lost touch with it’s constituency and the society that its members have to live in.

Even its recent Synod on the Family held in October 2014 ignored the issues closest to the hearts of its members such as divorce and gay rights. It’s an organisation that has totally lost touch with the world and truly has lost its way.

EU not serving its people
The Pope stated that the ‘EU citizens showed growing mistrust towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as incentive to individual people, if not downright harmful.’

This statement, coming from Pope Francis, is preposterous. If any institution could be described in these words it is the Catholic Church. Here is a body of people who want to dictate to its members what the members have to do to comply and belong. Surely the church should serve it’s people and not the other way around?

No wonder the members of the Catholic Church are allowing their faith to lapse and are quietly shuffling away. Attend any normal weekly service in a Catholic Church and see the average age of those taking part.

EU as a grandmother
He described the continent as a ‘grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant’. Let’s reflect a moment on the Catholic Church and it’s significance to the community it serves. Living on Malta, an island steeped in the Catholic faith with 360 churches across a minute island, one would imagine this could be an example of a ‘fully fertile and vibrant young woman’.

Yet attend any service in these beautiful old buildings and the average age of attendants are grandmothers, no longer fertile and vibrant. And the services are held by old men in frocks. Not necessarily old in terms of chronological age.

EU as non Humanitarian
He had some pertinent things to say about the lack of support the EU is providing to refugees and the fact that the Mediterranean is becoming one big graveyard. There is no doubt that this is the truth.

However, with all the wealth the Catholic Church has one doesn’t really see the church implementing a huge outreach programme or showing a helping presence towards refugees themselves. Considering that the entire EU countries bordering on the Med are fully catholic ones, one would imagine that the church and its members would be standing on the beaches with outstretched hand helping people off boats. As per the Bible’s teaching. None to be seen.

And in fact the Catholic Church could take note of what the Muslim faithful are doing. 1.6 million Syrians are currently seeking refuge in Turkey.

Final bits on Pope Francis
There is not doubt that Pope Francis is a man of virtue and integrity. And there is further no doubt that what he had to say is relevant and accurate. However, Pope Francis takes his authority and credibility from the organisation he represents and which has given him his title.

And it is this representation that has allowed him to speak to the EU parliament. Nobody would give Jorge Mario Bergoglio the time of day. Even as a man of virtue and integrity. His authority stems from his title and position in the Catholic Church. And it’s the Catholic Church that is not really entitled to voice the opinions he had. It needs to get its own house in order first before preaching to others.

Shocking increases in Top Bosses earnings

Top bosses earnings

Top bosses earnings

According to an article in the Independent top bosses are now earning 143 times what workers’ get paid. This, says the article, has tripled over the past 15 years. That is a seriously huge gap in earnings. And remember, this is an average. There are obviously a bunch of CEOs getting more than this.

Why is this happening? Because they can. It’s that straight forward.

Here are some underlying reasons. Bound to be more of course.

Shareholder’s greed for profits. ?

Provided the CEO can deliver on huge returns to its shareholders, they don’t care about the inequalities of pay rates. Of course some shareholders themselves are at the mercy of their own shareholders in having to deliver high returns. After all most investors in companies or stocks are institutions themselves. These are pension providers, municipalities, hedge funds, investments companies such as Soros Fund Management or Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway company. And they have a gun at their head to deliver high returns to their shareholders.

A misconception that high salaries retain good staff

Many research papers have pointed out that high salaries is not the most important factor in employee retention. In fact most surveys point out that ‘making a difference’ is the prime motivator for employees.

In fact a recent article in Forbes has pointed out that employee’s who stay in companies longer than two years are making less on average every year than those staff members who move around more. This puts paid to the theory that high salaries retain good staff. You can earn more by jumping around.

No action by employees to change the status quo

There is overall no concerted action by the low paid employees to actually change that status quo. The main reason for this is probably fear that they will end up getting fired if they complain. Not only could they lose their jobs but could find it near impossible to actually get another one.

Of course one problem is that an employee with low level skills is easily replaced with hundreds waiting at the door to submit their CVs. One need only to see the queues outside factories or standing in line at employment offices. These are people who have limited skills or skills that are outdated. If you have a job, you are not going to want to jeopardise your position by complaining about how high the upper level salaries are.

An Old Boys Club

It’s not what you know but who you know. It’s an Old Boys club that runs the show. This is true whether in politics or in business. A high percentage of CEOs will have come from wealthy families, and/or will have worked their way through the elite schools and universities.

Of course there are entrepreneurs that have managed to found their own empires without help from family wealth or powerful educational institutions. Thinking Steve Jobs and Apple, or Bill Gates and Microsoft. But have a look at the big banks, investments institutions, big professional firms and see who is running these. Old names, old money, big connections.

As lowly employee it is almost impossible to rise above the rank and file. And this Old Boys Club is in fact another reason why women knock at that proverbial glass ceiling. They just don’t have the in into those Old Boys Clubs to easily allow them into the top management levels.

Does this mean that nothing will change? Probably not in the near future. Unless the workers can get some form of powerful base together to make a collective noise, nothing will change. The trade unions have certainly lost their bite and their ability to make a difference. Mainly one supposes because trades themselves are no longer required manufacturing having been pushed into developing countries where there are no trade unions.

Perhaps middle management unions need to be founded, sales or marketing unions, tech support unions or banking and investment staff unions just to note a few. Or just a general union of workers reporting to CEOs could do it.

Whatever solution can be found to address this disparity in salaries should be found soon before this gets out of hand. Or more so. One thing is certain. CEO’s will continue to pay themselves as much as they can get away with. It’s the nature of the beast.

Trolls beware, anonymous attacks could be dangerous to your health

Troll warning. Image credit Wikipedia.

Troll warning. Image credit Wikipedia.

Trolls Beware

At the end of the day, for regular internet users as well as trolls, there is no such thing as being anonymous online. Any clever hacker, competent staff at internet service providers, government authorities and the clever folk managing social media companies can find out the identity of trolls. They just don’t want to bother.

Somehow freedom of speech has been translated into allowing the nasties out there to attack innocent people with verbal abuse and even threats to personal safety. And the more vicious the attacks it seems the less inclined the folk, such as Twitter in this instance, are to do anything about it.

Two Trolls go to Prison

But in a well publicised case in the UK two nasty trolls have been sentenced to prison terms. A victory for decent behaviour. A victory for the defence of victims and a great outcome for the previously condemned to ‘sitting duck’ status.

The internet has allowed people the opportunity to viciously attack other people for no reason whatsoever. And they feel they can do this because they can hide behind a bunch of anonymous accounts and hidden identities.

You can’t hide

But this is a misnomer. There is no such thing. Everybody can be found. There just has to be sufficient will to bother to do the hard work. It’s all very well for companies such as Facebook or Twitter to hide behind the ‘use at your own peril’ kind of attitude. It can only last so long. Surely at some stage your customers are going to get annoyed.

And this is precisely what happened in the case of Ms Caroline Criado-Perez who was attacked via Twitter for wanting to promote having a woman portrayed on a UK bank note. Not exactly what one would consider a mind blowing contentious matter, one would think.

In response to an online user movement Twitter finally introduced a ‘report abuse’ button. After all, at the height of the nasty campaign, Criado-Perez was getting 50 rape and murder threats per hour. That’s no small attack. Of course sending two trolls to prison is hardly going to dent that kind of vitriolic abuse.

But what it does, by sending these two rather pathetic individuals to prison, is to broadcast a warning to other trolls. You can be found. And where people really want to, they can stop being a victim and get the authorities to step in. Of course they shouldn’t have to. Surely society should allow a woman to campaign to have a famous woman on a bank note and not be attacked for this? You’d think.

Pope Francis sends out a strong message against economic greed

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

It’s been a long time since I have listened to what a Pope might have to say. But Pope Francis strong words against economic greed certainly made me sit up. It’s always been my feeling that the Catholic church has lagged behind its community. Not that other religions are necessarily doing a better job of keeping up with the global societal changes. Saudi Arabian’s women not being allowed to drive is a case in point.

However, this new Pope is bringing a fresh breath of air into a rusty and quietly working towards becoming defunct religious community. For once it feels like the Pope is a humanitarian rather than a doctrine sprouting head of a church mostly out of touch with its people.

It’s almost like the previous Popes were supporting big business and keeping their regular customers out in the cold. This South American Pope is calling it as it is.

Economic greed is killing off the world.

It’s really strange that we middle and lower class folk are accepting the status quo. Sure there have been some minor skirmishes. Some grass roots movements. I even had to look up the Occupy Wall Streeet movement’s name. That’s how far it has receded in our minds.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who used to wonder at how the people in past historic times lived through oppressive regimes without doing anything to improve their own lot. Think of various Kings and Dictators who treated their subjects with total disdain. And the masses took it all in. How could they we think.

Well. We are doing it again. Aren’t we? We are allowing a bunch of people, a small handful to totally dictate how we live. 10% of the population in the US own 80% of the wealth. And we allow this. And we buy into it because the propaganda these folk spit out at the population is that according to the American Dream anybody can make it to that 10%. You just have to work hard.

Ah no. Not really. You have to first of all be white, male and be born into a family that already has the silver spoon to give you at birth. This way you can buy your journey into Harvard or Yale if necessary and you can network your way into CEO positions. And you can gather the support you need on the Board to pay yourself outrageous salaries and bonuses.

Of course there are some outliers who have made it without the above advantages of birth. That’s why we have such a celebrity culture. Most of the celebrities have gotten to their position through talent, hard work, luck and by knowing how to manipulate the system. Same applies to the Tech billionaires.

But the real money and power lies with the banking sector and business.

And for the first time a Pope, who is supposed to represent the moral compass of society, is pointing out in his Christmas message that the world is totally unbalanced and dictated by a greedy few folk. Too much money is sitting in too few hands. And the inequality is as bad outside of the USA. Even socialist Europe has a sinking middle class.

What to do about it? Well it’s a good start when people with power, such as the Pope, start pointing this out. Perhaps a ground swell can get going. People actually realising that they do not have to buy into this. That they do have power in numbers. And it’s just about getting those numbers together. Of course I’m not advocating another French Revolution with heads being chopped off. But a vote against excessive salaries would be a good start.

Pity the Swiss didn’t manage to push their really sensible law of minimum wages for senior management through i.e. linking Executive pay to the lowest paid worker. The law was supposed to ensure that Executives should not earn more in a month than the lowest paid worker earns annually.  Didn’t quit make it.

There is no reason why 10% of the population own 80% of wealth except that we allow it. We ordinary people who are happy when we can make ends meet and have a bit over for a treat. This is not our lot. This is not fate or karma. It’s straightforward theft by a few on many.

What to do? Well taxation is a good start :) The system is there. It just has to be implemented.

Penitence for the bad amongst us

 

Messina: Pulling the float for the Virgin Mary during La

Messina: Pulling the float for the Virgin Mary during La Vara, August 2013.  Image Credit.

Italy has been in the news quite often for the goings on of its rather colourful politicians. One noteworthy proponent being Silvio Berlusconi. He conjures in ones mind the perfect example of what the Mafia stood for. Political player, entrepreneur and above all else a person who felt he or she stood above the law.

Berlusconi is such an individual. For years he has done all of the above. With his media empire he has manipulated the opinions of the Italian electorate and has managed to stay in power even though he has spent a fair amount of time in court defending himself against a bunch of suspected crimes such as soliciting sex with minors, bribery of civil servants, accounting fraud and more. Above the law. And in fact when it came to the push, even changing the law so that he could escape conviction.

Just like Al Capone, famous Mafia godfather in the USA, he was finally caught on tax evasion charges in 2012. And yet he remained in government. Ignoring all against him. It was only during the last week that he has been forced out. And it seems he is finally offering penitence in the form of community service.

An image on Spiegel caught my eye during the past few days. An image of penitent sinners pulling a float holding the Virgin Mary taking place in Messina during August 2013. It seems the most penitent people are also sometimes the most corrupt. Apparently the people pulling the heavy float (physically) are doing this to be forgiven for their sins. Anybody see Berlusconi there?

Unlike Berlusconi the new mayor of Messina is a barefooted, anti corruption teacher who is seriously fighting the evils of the Mafia in his part of Sicily, historically considered the birth place of the Mafia. One wonders how long he will survive.

Makes me think of the various processions held in Marbella, Spain. Virgins of various names and functions get pulled around as statues or floated in the sea. And the cities governing officials from a few years ago have just been handed long term prison sentences for corruption. A cool €24 billion fraud. Wonder how many of the crew being marched into prison have pulled the Virgin Mary’s float here.

Is there any correlation between penitent Virgin Mary float carriers and the level of corruption practiced by the individual. Probably not…

Welcoming the Evening Wedding in the UK

Evening weddings now allowed in the UK.

Evening weddings now allowed in the UK.

Did you know that wedding venues in Yorkshire and the rest of the UK were not allowed to offer wedding ceremonies after 6.00pm. That is until October 2012. Finally a new law came into effect that replaced some element of the Marriage Act of 1836. One wonders what else in that Act could be ever so slightly outdated…

That’s surely some time ago. In 1836 the Marriage Act stated that people could only marry between the hours of 8.00am and 6.00pm. The reason for this was to ensure you married the right person. The thinking went that you needed to be able to see them properly to ensure that you weren’t about to get swept away by a dark and handsome stranger.

Strange it took so long. It’s an age where we are constantly bombarded with new technology, advances in medicine, scientific discoveries and more that impact on the way we live our lives. This law seems from another age. Literally.

Of course the churches are also having to change their rules in line with this. Perhaps church officials will need to be available now to marry couples after hours, so to speak. Church facilities need to be opened in the evenings and not just for praying. But why not. Like all other businesses and institutions, they will have to offer what their consumers wish for.

Seems that the UK is slow with some changes to its traditions. Only in 2002 the law was changed that allowed wedding ceremonies to be conducted outside of churches, registry offices or specifically licensed facilities.

Perhaps its a hankering we have for stability that makes us hang onto traditions that don’t make sense anymore. With electricity we don’t need to avoid evening weddings. We can see whether we are meeting up with the right person in front of the marriage officiant. Or not.

Or perhaps we are just used to believing that the law is right and can’t be pushed over to make changes for new ways of doing things. We are just so used to following the letter of the law it doesn’t occur to us that it is in our power it could be changed. And should in fact be changed to be more in line with modern trends and thinking.

It is surprising sometimes to see the UK living back in the land of its ancestors. Actually England and Wales in this case as Scotland changed their law regarding evening weddings some time ago already, It’s otherwise such a forward thinking, all inclusive society that one is fairly surprised to stumble across a law from 1836 that has only had changes made in the past year.

At the end of the day folk didn’t think the change was worth hassling over. And that’s probably it.

Do you want success in Online Dating? Watch this Video


Online dating is about two sides
This fabulous TED video discusses a woman’s path to finding the right life partner. It’s a great view of online dating and shows how one woman tackled her journey through this landmined field of finding the right one for herself.

There were two elements to her quest. The first one was to find the ideal person online. This was of course relatively easy as she checked through profiles and identified the type of person she wanted to be with via a long list of points she had compiled to indicate what she was looking for in her partner.

She did find this person online. However, to her shock and dismay this person didn’t find her attractive and did not respond to her message.

The online dater needs to present an attractive picture
This small disappointing fact made her realise that there were two aspects to this search in the field of online dating. The second part of successful online dating is all about how the searcher presents herself. And cutting and pasting out of ones CV isn’t really going to work too well.

She tackled this part of her task with much energy setting up ‘test’ profiles to review the market so to speak and identifying the best online profile that could offer her a chance to attract the right person.

And she discovered there were definitely characteristics that allowed certain online daters to be more successful in the online dating environment than others.

She did end up meeting the right person during her trip through the online dating journey. And if you are looking for a partner, you might want to check out her video to see how she did it. It’s an interesting take on online dating. Or Mi Amor en Linea as the Spanish might say.

It’s never really just black or white

Hamburger Hill. Image from 'Slaughter of the innocents: The Vietnamese war as never seen before.'

Hamburger Hill. Image from ‘Slaughter of the innocents: The Vietnamese war as never seen before.’

Nothing in life is ever set in stone. Or illuminated in black and white. Nothing. Nada. Which means you should never say never. Statements like there is no reason for homes to have a PC, or what would you want a mobile phone for, or there will always be cars or trains to take commuters to work should never be believed in.

Then there are opinions held by folk that advise us that the Russians will always be our enemies (harhar) or that Communism is evil. Perhaps you would believe that North Korea will always hate South Korea? Is that possible?

Before you say yes, best have a look at this statement. The USA will always hate Vietnam and North Vietnam will always hate the USA. Mmmh. No. But it certainly felt like it during the Vietnam/USA war didn’t it. And it’s this black and white fact that has now disappeared that I want to mention.

Commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the start of the conflict a book of photographs by press photographers is being published. Slaughter of the innocents: The Vietnamese war as never seen before. It is considered to be the last newspaper war. That is one where  journalists were the bringers of actual news. What the press photographers shot was what people saw.

What made me take note was one image that showed a US paratrooper wounded in battle at Hamburger Hill in central Vietnam. You see I actually drove past Hamburger Hill in a bus with staff from Hope Center on a work outing. They pointed it out to us. We were past the little bump (hardly a hill really) within seconds, hardly seeing the gun that commemorated the spot.

Yet that insignificant spot was a nasty battleground with many dead soldiers from both sides. And what were they fighting for, both sides? Besides the hill? During those years perhaps the issue was black and white. Communist against Capitalist. Or whatever. But it wasn’t really. It was a bunch of determined locals prepared to die to keep their country safe from a foreign invasion.

And now nobody could be bothered to even remember the hill. Except perhaps the relatives of the hundreds of dead soldiers. What happened to that black and white principle that had to be fought for with guns and human sacrifice?

So before you get stuck on defending a principle you think is cast in stone think really hard. Is it still going to be this black and white in a few year’s time? Think of gay marriages, or women priests in the Anglican church, or women car drivers in Saudi Arabia or time travel or never aging. What of that list is impossible? Thought so.

Lucky to come across young violionist David Garrett

Every now and then I thank my lucky stars that I have been able to experience the interwebs. Why? Because I can find stuff on it that I would never have been lucky to experience if I did not have this resource at my finger tips.

Here is how it went down! I like to read at least one German article a day just to keep my language skills from fading entirely. But to make it easier I read a more popular magazine. In fact my German family thinks I’m truly slumming it. I don’t think so. I really enjoy their articles and the scope of what they write about. I can read and understand their articles without fuss. And it drops into my email post box every day. easy enough as I have subscribed to two newsletters a day. And it gives me easy access to German. No need to look up words. I get it.

So today I read about an Austrian jeweler who has built up a hugely successful silver jewelery business. He started off as a mechanic, ended up on a tour of Asia after his qualification and ended up falling in love with Asian funky decorative accessories. And the rest if history.

Many stores later his own as well as supplying well known jewelery stores he has made it big. Checking his website after watching a video on him on my German magazine website I see his company has signed up some long haired musician to endorse a range called Rebel. So of course I got to check this musician. And where else but YouTube.

And young musician is fabulous. A true cross over artist. That is he crosses over to every genre, kind of. But then who says you have to only play classical music as a violin player. Well of course there are the Irish who throw in violin into everything that is music. And fabulously so.

But mostly the violin has been banished ever since the demise of the local village bands who were the main entertainment of the folk back in the days. Now only allowed to perform in the hallowed halls of the classical concert venue.

Until you get to see somebody called David Garret playing Guns and Roses. Long hair tied back or waving around dramatically this young man is redefining the violin. And it’s gorgeous. Of course Vanessa-Mae kind of debuted the sexy violinist bit, but she always kind of sold it to me on sex appeal. Perhaps unkindly so. I’m sure she is totally talented and she certainly made a ton of money.

But this young man really gets it. Gets the play music to entertain bit. No matter what it is. As long as it is gorgeous. So as I was saying. Love the interwebs.