When women kick ass; Why Marlene Farrugia is my current favourite MP

Here in Malta we are not that great with meeting gender quotas. This is a flaw with both parties and I’m not pointing my finger at any administration as both were, and still are, flawed in this respect. Be it the PL or PN, many times women are put on boards just so that there is a ‘skirt’ as a director of a company, and the same goes for women contesting election tickets.

There is much to be done in this respect and I look forward to the days when we have more women like Helga Ellul (who is now even a PN candidate for the MEP elections) or Claudine Cassar taking top positions with private companies and also involving themselves in public boards. And I will jump for joy the day we have more politicians like Marlene Farrugia as MPs.

I have to admit, I wasn’t her biggest fan in the past few years. During Labour’s time in opposition she was the spokeswoman for energy, but you could tell this was not what she was truly passionate about so her performance always seemed to be below par.

Marlene Farrugia

Fast forward a few months and as a government MP she is really kicking some ass. The more time goes by the more my admiration for her is growing. Reading the interview she gave to Illum only last Sunday simply reinforces these feelings. She is a strong, independent woman and the House of Representatives could really do with MPs, of any gender or allegiance, who think more like her.

Let’s face it, she has more proverbial balls than her colleagues. When Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took his stance against immigration, Marlene Farrugia was the first government MP to say she didn’t agree. But she didn’t just stop there, she also went on to propose a parliamentary committee dealing with immigration. Yes dear MPs, you cannot simply point at a problem, you should also try to have a way forward.

In her interview with Illum she also speaks about the declaration of assets and outlines how these declarations should be changed so more information in given to increase transparency. This was also a reaction to the controversy raised after Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia declared more than half a million euros in cash.

Marlene Farrugia is an intelligent woman and she is standing up for what she believes in, however I do believe she should have never apologised for her stint as the Health Minister’s aide. Yes Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia is her husband but that doesn’t mean a person cannot distinguish between her professional life and her private life. The witch hunt which happened to make sure she resigns was, simply put, evil. The Prime Minister, and the Health Minister, should have both stood by their decision of appointing her if she really was the best person for the post.

Having said that, the fact she did apologise does show she is humble and knows how to pick her battles.

What I can say is that Marlene Farrugia is showing everyone the true definition of Girl Power, and about time we had a Member of Parliament who was up to doing that. Kudos Hon. Marlene Farrugia.

Standing up does not mean acting without compassion. Pushbacks are not the asnwer.

 

Immigration in Malta - we are all human beingsI am sad. I actually feel like someone has hit me in the stomach. Yesterday, for the first time in eons, I felt ashamed of being Maltese. I felt ashamed of being part of that country which was going to send back immigrants to possibly torture or death (even the possibility of this happening should make a decent human being take a step back and think about those consequences), without the chance to seek refugee or asylum seeker status. I felt disgusted by the fact that so many ‘Chatholics’ and ‘dogooders’ on my Facebook page were spouting racist comments and engaging in this ‘I do this because I am patriotic’ sham. Yes, a sham! A sham fuelled by none other than the Prime Minister of Malta.

The Prime Minister’s idea of how to tackle this issue seems to be a bunch of buzzwords scattered at every opportune moment, amongst others the; “We will be compassionate with those who are vulnerable but strong with politicians.”

Instead of taking the hard decision, we have a government that bitches and moans, threatens to use the veto on unrelated matters in the EU – like a kid throwing a tantrum because mummy wouldn’t buy him chocolate, and then plays a very dangerous game of chess using human lives.

Yesterday evening the government had 2 Airmalta planes waiting to take off sending back the 200 immigrants which arrived in Malta this week. Bravo! That is definitely one way of being compassionate with those who are vulnerable.

To add insult to injury we have the know-it-alls on Facebook continuing to fuel all this misinformation about immigration. If only these big mouths would have the decency to check the facts before hitting that send button.  As Caroline Muscat says in her blog;

“The number of people actually living in Malta is 30 per cent, or 5,000 of the 16,617 who arrived by boat since 2002 according to government figures. In no way does that constitute a flood or a national security threat.”

This is not about being blue or red, black or white, this is all about knowing what is right and what is wrong. Sending people back to face possible torture and even death is WRONG.

Yes immigration is a problem, and it will stretch Malta’s resources but choosing the easy way out is just not on. How would you even sleep at night knowing you sent a human being to face torture and death? And this is not just a question I pose to the politicians but to all those who have been vociferous and in favor of pushbacks. Seriously, where has your humanity gone?

My two cents can only describe how I feel and what I think about the matter. If you would like to read a few exceptional blogs on the issue of immigration check out Akkuza, MarkBiwwa and as mentioned above Caroline Muscat’s blog.

It’s my party and I’ll arrest you if I want to – the Silvio Scerri gaffe

Seems like Dr Manuel Mallia, the Home Affairs Minister just cannot catch a break and bad PR seems to be buzzing around him more than flies do on a hot summer day.

The bad PR juju seems to have started as soon as the 100 day amnesty was given to all the prisoners at Corradino and, since then, it’s been a slow and aching journey downhill. No wonder Ramona Attard has that kind of salary, she must be suffering from a few sleepless nights with kerfuffle after kerfuffle going on.

Just recently we heard about Minister Mallia interviewing secret service recruits, and on Friday we heard the news of police members doubling as chefs and waiters at an official banquet, unrelated to the police corps, organised by the same Ministry.

Even the firing from TVHemm/transfer of Norman Vella back to the Immigration Office was handled incredibly badly and ended up creating another dent in the Ministry, and its head, Dr Mallia’s reputation.

Now to make matters even worse The Times of Malta published a story about the Ministry’s Chief of Staff, Silvio Scerri, demanding the arrest of the Security head at the Isle of MTV event for not allowing ‘unaccredited persons’ access to the VIP area.

Mr Scerri is saying that this is nothing but a ‘storm in a teacup’, unfortunately he fails to realise that the rest of us are seeing this as one great abuse of power. As things stand, he better zip his mouth and apologise at once. We all do mistakes, and while using your powers and asking for someone to be arrested, even as a joke, is just not on, gaffes happen to everyone, so simply say you were wrong and we’ll move on.

As the saying in Maltese goes fuq tlieta toqgħod il-borma (things usually come in threes) and Ramona Attard together the PR guru surely have a long week ahead of them.

Silvio Scerri

image via maltarightnow.com

Don’t be fooled, Transforma have learnt NOTHING from the advert fiasco.

First of all I want to thank you all for sharing and supporting this little crusade of mine. Within a few hours the blog was viewed by more than 1000 people.

After the outcry on social media channels something must have resonated with Transforma because at around 13:00 yesterday they issued an apology;

Official Apology
10th June 2013

The Management and Directors of Transforma would like to extend their apologies to their clients and the general public alike for any offense or distress caused following the publication of the above advert.

The Company would like to assure all that the advert was never intended to target eating, body weight, body image and/or thoughts about one’s self or insinuate that being skinny equals perfection.

The way the advert was interpreted (it’s not our fault) and viewed by many was not what the Company wished to portray and put across at any time and the feedback received runs counter to Transforma’s values as a company and its standards of professionalism.

The thought behind the advert was to promote and extend the variety of services listed beneath the picture for men and women independently and not as a form of negative criticism in any way.

The Company’s decision of going against the traditional slim and perfect figure (both for the male & female models) was due to the Adam and Eve concept and was intended to welcome and offer the Company’s services to both males and females whatever their size, cosmetic or beauty needs may be.

Transforma’s extensive clientele can vouch that we always took personal interest and pride from our clients’ successful treatments and that we have always supported them financially or otherwise in ensuring they reached their desired goals. Their success is OURS.

We personally take liability for this advert and assure you that all future marketing concepts will be analysed in extended detail in order to avoid a repeat misinterpretation (get it? You misinterpreted).

The Company deeply regrets any disrespect this advert has caused and once again apologises to all.

Well thanks, but no thanks Transforma. This is not you admitting to making a mistake, this sounds more of an ‘I’m sorry you didn’t understand the advert’ apology, that is, not an apology at all.  

Transforma advert Malta

Since it seems you have no problem treating the rest of us like fools I have no problem telling you, you are idiots for not taking anything away from this. This was a great opportunity for you to show the rest of us that you really care about the well being of the customers and not how much fat and money you can suck out of them through lipo.

Also Transforma, together with some segments of the public, which are mainly found trolling the TimesofMalta comment boards, seem to not be able to grasp what was wrong with this advert, or why people suddenly turned ‘so sensitive’.

I personally wasn’t offended by it, I was disgusted, which is very much different. I was disgusted by the fact that you are trying to dictate what perfection is, and in turn implying you can help other people achieve such perfection. I was disgusted by the fact that you decided to use a beautiful, curvaceous yet unhappy female body in the foreground and a man pleading for help in the background. I am disgusted by the fact that you are trying to say that being overweight is disgusting.

You can call me over sensitive as much as you want but I, and I’m sure I’m not alone, have struggled with weight all my life. I have a condition called PCOS and even though I follow a healthy diet and try and exercise every day I still find it hard to lose weight.

Dear Transforma, do you know how that advert makes me feel? Humiliated and filled with shame. Thankfully, I know I shouldn’t run to the toilet as soon as I have eaten dinner, but what if that thought crossed someone else’s mind after seeing your advert? Have you even stopped to think of the ramifications your advert might have had on a person struggling with their weight? Or did you think they would have all come flocking to your clinic? Do you even care about the stress that advert puts on people trying to lose weight?

Fat shaming is WRONG. And if I hear someone else commenting about how fat people cause the rest of society to pay more taxes, or some other stupid reasoning about why the advert is not wrong,  I swear I will go find the Tarxien dude and eat half a truckful of his donuts.

You know what would’ve actually been good PR? If Transforma had realised the error of their ways. But that seems like wishful thinking at this point. The only thing Transforma have taken away from all this is that Facebook is in fact a powerful tool, and in fact they have now started a Facebook advertising campaign.

Transforma apology

And just in case you had any doubt about a carveacous woman being beautiful, check out the sizzling hot Magda, featuredin the latest video by Gypsy Genes, Red Hot Money.

Transforma, the pro eating disorders clinic?

Few things get my heart pumping to the extreme that I will contact a government authority and request action to be taken. This is a quick story about one of these things, and from the bottom of my heart I am asking you to please help me.

While browsing Facebook I came across a shared post about an advert by Transforma. I will be sharing the details here as this was publicly shared on Facebook and I really hope the person who originally shared the post doesn’t mind.

Ann in her post said;

I was reading one of the Sunday magazines this morning and came across this preposterous advert by Transforma Cosmetic Clinic. Not only is it extremely sexist, but it is also disseminating the idea that perfection (insinuated by this advert as being not like this woman) can actually be achieved. Thousands of girls (and boys too, mind you) die every year because they starve themselves to reach this so-called state of perfection.

Marketing their products in this manner is extremely disgusting and I hope never to see this advert, or any shamelessly derogatory statement by them, ever again.

The advert in question is this one;

Transforma advert

I am in complete agreement with Ann. The advert is nothing but shameful. The most disgusting thing about it is the man in the background asking for help – like the woman in the foreground was so abhorrent only God can help him.

As Ann says, not only is this advert sexist but it is also promoting an idea that a fat woman cannot be beautiful, or in the words of the advert itself, cannot be ‘perfect’.

Transforma, according to their website, is a ‘cosmetic clinic’ and ‘forms part of the Saint James Hospital Group’. And since they offer medical services, their adverts need to abide to the ethical considerations imposed by the Medical Council. So what happened here? Was the Medical Council involved in the screening of this advert, or were they simply bypassed? Whereas a medical institution should promote health, here we have a medical institution promoting thinspiration.

The Code of Ethics on ADVERTISING and FINANCIAL CONDUCT by Medical and Dental practitioners, which you can download here, clearly states the following;

‘Advertisements must be subject to review by the Medical Council in order to assess that they give objective advice and do not make use of photos or slogans that are, or may be interpreted to be deceptive in nature. Clear examples are the use of images of young people, exploitation of the female body, and slogans that in themselves are deceptive and manipulative.’

This advert is in breach of the above, and this is where I need your help. Email the Medical Council and express your opinions about this advert, or you can copy the email below.

Email the Medical Council here 
medicalcouncil@gov.mt

Subject
Transforma advert

Content
I think the Transforma advert is in breach of the Code of Ethics on Advertising by Medical/Dental practitioners. It is shameful that a medical institution uses blatant stereotypes to market their products. The advert is manipulative and derogatory and should not be allowed to be published. I ask the Medical Council to take the necessary steps and I sincerely hope that Transforma issue a public apology.

Transforma need to make a public  apology and stop using adverts which demean the female body. You can make a difference, so please spread the word and share this with your friends.

UPDATE – Check out my follow up blogpost about Transforma’s apology by clicking here.

Will you be going Premium with the Times of Malta?

I started writing this blogpost 2 days ago when I came across a post by Akkuża about the Times of Malta’s new subscription feature for overseas viewers.

The news left me shocked and a little puzzled. Why would the Times of Malta go for the ever failing subscription model? And, while we’re at it, why not make any distinction about which content needs a subscription and which content does not (for overseas viewers).

In the meantime, I abandoned the blogpost and continued on my merry way, selfishly thinking this is not going to really affect me.

Oh naïve me, the subscription for overseas viewers was nothing but a trial run. Today, Times of Malta have announced they will be going premium as of the 13th of May.

Times of Malta premium

What does this entail?
In essence a reader will be charged €2.99 weekly to access the news portal. A little bit of Maths will tell us that amounts to €12.00 a month, €155.50 a year – at least the pricing model does not feel too cumbersome, I spend more on iPhone apps which I forget by the end of the month. But, why not provide discounts for yearly subscriptions? It’s Sales and Marketing 101, not rocket science.

Their full page advert goes; “It’s now time for YOU to think of new ways how to obtain your news”, then continues to list the advantages of having a subscription – “Premium Content – All the exclusive stories, plus opinions, analysis, blogs and videos”.

This is where I really hope TOM will be distinguishing between their content. Frugality being the key word here, simply put, no one will pay to read news which is freely available elsewhere.

Taking the recent news about Reno Bugeja being appointed head of news at TVM, this can be accessed for free on The Malta Independent, MaltaToday and Di-ve.com for the English speaker, together with the mediocre TVM news site which still needs a lot of work, but is, at a snail’s pace, slowly getting there.

This will alienate TOM readers and there will be a sharp drop in site views, further denting advertising within the news site itself. Content distinction is important. Yes I might pay a subscription fee to read an insightful opinion piece, or one of my favorite blogs, even a well written feature or a kick ass interview, but not something which I can get on another website, for free.

Furthermore, if I am paying a subscription fee I expect a certain standard. The minute I see an opinion piece of some politician trying to ram down his/her ideals down my throat, or some mediocre piece by Gift of Life which is only printed because there was nothing better to publish I’m hitting the unsubscribe button.

Yes, QUALITY over quantity, something Times of Malta need to grasp quickly if changing to this model.

Time to cut some slack
Newspapers have been bleeding money from every orifice since the dawn of online news. This is not an easy business, and TOM have taken a bold step. They need to be ready for criticism, and they need to be fluid, ready to make the necessary changes. It’s not going to be an easy ride for sure, especially since standards need to go way up, and yes that includes proper moderation of comments. 

Just in case you’re looking for a way to bypass the Times of Malta paywall I have some good news for you, that is, you don’t have to a be a rocket scientist. Using Mac it was as simple as turning my javasript off, but if you want to learn more head over to MarkBiwwa’s article

 

The Malta Potatoes dude is my hero

I decided to come out of hiding for a little bit to talk about the Maltese Potato dude – also known as my hero!

Just in case you were wondering, it’s been a little quiet around here because I’ve been working hard on another blog which I co-founded with a friend of mine. Head over to YesHub.com, I promise you won’t regret it.

Back to the potatoes – what a beautiful clip that is, it warmed me up throughout and gave me so many fuzzy feelings. It made me proud to be Maltese, and it made me want to head to the green grocer and ask for some of our delicious potatoes. Just in case you haven’t watched the clip, here it is.

After watching that beauty, how do you feel? I cannot understand all the criticism directed towards potato dude. He’s got passion, he’s got love and he’s proud of what he does. Most importantly he’s got job satisfaction – how many of you can say they have all that; I know I certainly can’t at this moment in time, and that’s what I’m striving for.

So what if he has broken English? As they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t really throw any stones. Yes, I’m talking to you, the person who thinks they speak perfect English and then insists on using ‘literally’ and ‘like’ in every sentence.

You can taste the sea, the church and the sun. You can feel that you are eating Maltese Potatoes.

How beautiful is that? So, to the Malta Potatoes dude, I just have two words: Thank You! For igniting that bit of pride and for showing me why, albeit the many times I criticize this little island of ours, I love Malta with all my heart.

Day of reflection – where to draw the line?

Social Media is a beautiful thing but in the wee hours of the morning, on the 9th of March 2013, when Malta had to wake up to vote in the general elections, social media turned ugly.

It was a whirlwind of events. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a well known journalist and blogger was arrested for expressing her opinion on her blog on the day known as the day of reflection. On this day, (for 24 hours before the crucial vote) no political propaganda is allowed to be broadcasted.

Timesofmalta.com reports this law was drafted in 1991 – when internet access was the stuff of science fiction movies – while on MaltaToday it was reported that social media and bloggers were defying the day of reflection.

Going back to The Times, the article concluded by saying that the Police didn’t answer questions about the prosecution of individuals who breach the day of reflection.

Well I guess we all got our answers now.

Now everyone is in agreement that this law is archaic, very vague and for lack of better word (it’s 4:00 am – what am I doing up?) is stupid. With its vagueness, if taken to extremes, would even take into consideration private conversations. But then what about freedom of expression? Does one law trump the other? And what is the difference between a media organisation and a private individual expressing their opinion, and what about blogs, Facebook and Twitter; are these regarded as private means of communication similar to private conversations?

The interesting thing is that a quick Google search will come back with blogposts from the previous election asking the same questions and J’accuse contemplating on the matter ahead of the divorce referendum.

What raises concern in this instance is the case of two weights and two measures. Why was Daphne Caruana Galizia arrested but the rest of the people expressing their opinion on Facebook – and yes this also included politicians and half of Malta – weren’t. Political ads on Google were still running, and so were Facebook ones.

More worrying is a page like this one who wants to appear independent at all costs yet has no shame in posting these kind of statuses;

So much for being independent!

So much for being independent!

In the mean time a page has been set up on Facebook to show support for Daphne Caruana Galizia. I understand she is not Malta’s favourite blogger but for now this cause represents freedom of expression, it represents someone being arrested in 2013 for expressing their opinion – think about it!

Daphne Caruana Galizia arrested

The Ghost of Muscat’s Twitter account

I missed this one! I was out celebrating a little bit of Christmas time.

Reading the news I was surprised to what had unfolded but it was late and I yearned for sleep. First thing I did this morning was to read the various news reports, watch all the videos and go through Facebook and Twitter to see what everyone else had to say.

I will not be delving into Xarabank’s happenings, it’s not a program I free my Friday nights to watch. However, if you would like to read all of yesterday’s faux pas head over to J’accuse for a top notch account.

What I found interesting about yesterday was the lack of an opinion from Joseph Muscat on Twitter. This is not the first time I’ve criticised Joseph Muscat’s use of Twitter, click here for a previous blunder of his/theirs.

Throughout last night there was a constant feed of retweets from his account, but not one single tweet from him. I find it very hard to believe that the Leader of the Opposition didn’t have an opinion about what was undolding, or wasn’t even available for a quick 140 character comment. Retweeting other people’s opinions is all well and good, as long as you also add something to the mix, but Joseph Muscat, or whoever is running his Twitter account didn’t, and that reflects very badly on the Leader of the Opposition.

I hear you say, what about Lawrence Gonzi, no 140 character comments from this either. The only difference is that there wasn’t a constant flow from the Prime Minister’s twitter. This shows a level of maturity the PL Social Media “gurus” lack. A person’s Twitter is about a person’s message, not a notice board where you plaster all kinds of rubbish. Out of 35 retweets, 32 were about the Xarabank debate, and yet Joseph Muscat had no personal opinion about it?

I expect more from the person running Joseph Muscat’s Twitter account – Grow up for everyone’s sake, especially the party’s sake, Twitter users were not impressed.

The Court needs to send out a clearer message

Clearly there is something wrong with our justice system. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why violence never seems to be properly punished, and if it is, it never feels like justice has been made.

I am of course referring to the latest judgement given to an AFM soldier who was violent towards his wife during their separation. This seems to be happening more and more often, but then again what would you expect when we live in times when an affluent, former politician, chair of the Saint James Hospital Group, is quoted as saying that women often provoke men into violence?

Even if provocation is the case, violence is never the answer, and condemning such acts is not enough, the justice system should be sending out clearer messages.

The Times reports; “Before jailing him, Magistrate Giovanni Grixti said Mr Psaila was not a first-time offender and, considering the torture he put his wife through, he would not benefit from any reduction in punishment.”

What about the fact he is also an AFM soldier and that he is duty bound not to offend the peace? And this happened just a few months after it was reported that a policeman fired three shots at his wife at her place of work critically injuring her.

It feels like crimes of violence are being taken very lightly.

Take some of the most recent notorious examples;

  • Punching of protestors in Marsaxlokk – €60 fine (not even taking into consideration priors and turning up to court in shorts).
  • Man runs over another man because of a sexual slur – conditionally discharged

And yet, we still have a person serving a 12 year jail sentence for growing a marijuana plant on his own property, even when a man who raped his 3 adolescent daughters was only given 10 years of jail time.

My point is that, from where I am standing, I cannot seem to understand the weight and measures used by our legal system.

Marijuana IS illegal, and yes I do understand that a person should be punished for possession because they would be breaking the law. But why is possession of marijuana worse than violence and even worse than rape? Violence, of any kind, needs to be properly condemned.