Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Moments...

Commuting in and out of Central London  during these Olympic Games has been something of a mixed bag. Londoners were inundated  with  dire warnings  of transit  chaos.   "Plan ahead!  Don't get caught out!"; was the slogan we heard and saw everywhere.  

My commute usually consists of three trains. First is the London Overground.  To my friends in  San Francisco,  think of the Overground as kind of like BART.   Then I change to the London Underground  Jubilee Line, and finally the Northern Line which puts me about a block walk from my Office.

The Jubilee Line  is one of the main arteries  in and out of the Olympic Park,  so I have for the most part tried to avoid it, and the London Overground.   But all  the predictions of mass chaos on the trains have not come to pass.  It  seems that  most people  heeded the call and have either left town or,  (like me)  have found alternative routes to get in to work in the Mornings.   So much so that  as it turns out,  the trains  are actually less crowded than normal.    So today I figured I would risk it,  and give my normal commute a try.

It was pretty much  the same as any normal day.  As I  stood  reading my morning paper,  I noticed a worried looking older couple, who were staring intently  at the system map.  They clearly weren't sure where to get off .  I asked if they were looking to change for the Olympic Park. They said  yes, and asked if I knew where to transfer to the Jubilee Line.  I said not to worry,  and  said to just follow me, when I got off the train.  They looked very relieved and thanked me.

As we were chatting,  I asked  where they were from,  and if they were going to see any Olympic events today.  It turns out they were from New Zealand, and were  on their way to see their Daughter compete in field hockey. They were so excited, nervous and very proud of their "little girl".   Suddenly all the other people standing around us , started to congratulate them and wish them and  their Daughter good luck. 

It was,  for lack of a better term for it;  a wonderful  "Olympic Moment".  So my  own countrymen and women  can forgive me if  for one day I find myself  rooting for the New Zealand  Women's  field Hockey team.    

Go Team NZ!

UPDATE! -  The  New Zealand  Women "All Blacks"  won their match today.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mitt's Charm Offensive...

You have to hand it to Mitt Romney,  when he  turns on a  "charm offensive"  it  is really  offensive!  

Having been here in London less than 24 hours ,  he  has managed  to  show how out of touch, and gaffe prone  he is.   So much so that  even the  conservative  newspaper the  Telegraph weighed in on just how far  down his own throat,  Governor Romney is able to shove his own foot.   The nicest  thing the  Telegraph could manage to say  was this;

Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.

Foreign Policy.com picks up the story on how well Mitt's visit is going over...

Mitt Romney has landed in a spot of trouble here  in London for suggesting that Britain may not be quite ready to host the Olympic Games. Romney has walked back his comments, but it's not the first time Willard "Mitt" Romney  has slagged off the UK. In his book,No Apology, he wrote:
England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population.
Then when it was painfully clear just how much damage he was doing. Mitt reverted to form and went for the inevitable flip-flop.

This trip was to highlight Romney's international credentials. Remind everyone how he "saved" the scandal plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Yet as with Bain Capital, when you invite people to start looking into things, they tend to find all sorts of interesting tidbits.  (Hat tip to buzzfeed)

Enhanced-buzz-25205-1343315609-7 As head of the Salt Lake Olympics Mitt Romney became the first Olympic executive to approve a series of commemorative pins in his likeness. (They're in the news right now because they were made in China, but their mere existence is its own indictment of Romney's judgment.)

Romney will be here in town for two more days.  It will be fun to see  just how many  more Brits the GOP nominee can  "charm"  while he is here.

You know things are not going well  when earlier this evening,   London's Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson mocks you in front of 60,000 people in Hyde Park.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Talking Points vs. Reality

Last week  Fox News was giddy..  seriously  giddy.   The kiddies over at  "Fox & Friends" finally had their  PROOF  that  President Obama was a  SOCIALIST!  To that point they showed a clip where the President was apparently disparaging  the hard work small business owners  put in building those business and claiming the Government was really the one responsible for all their success.

They even had a "small business owner" on the show to voice her outrage at the President's  "insult".

The problem if course is that isn't what the President meant, or even said.  Fox News  selectively edited the clip, changing both the context and the meaning of the President's words.  Here is the full quote from the President's remarks.   The text in blue is everything  Fox News cut out of the clip:

OBAMA: [L]ook, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own.  You didn't get there on your own.  I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you've got a business -- you didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn't get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.   The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.  So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That's how we funded the GI Bill.  That's how we created the middle class.  That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That's how we invented the Internet.  That's how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You're not on your own, we're in this together.

Sigh.... Normally I wouldn't even comment on stuff like this. But Fox News has spent the last two weeks flogging this little piece of selective editing like a rented mule.   The Romney Campaign, which was desperate to talk about something, ANYthing other than Mitt Romney's taxes, Swiss bank accounts and the fact he lied about when he really left Bain Capital; Jumped on this like a drowning man to a life raft.  

The problem with that of course is we live in a digital age, and sooner or later video of you making the exact same point that that President made, was going to pop up... and lo and behold....

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here is my problem with Mitt Romney.  I don't blame him for being rich or successful.  I congratulate him for that and wish that every American has the same opportunities for success that  Mitt Romney has had.   That isn't the issue.   My problem with Mitt Romney is that he truly has no core beliefs.  He will literally say anything.  If what Mitt Romney says today, is  a complete 180 degree contradiction of what Mitt Romney said yesterday, he simply ignores it and pretends everything else he has ever said or done, just doesn't exist.


I have made no secret  of my disappointment with President Obama's first term.  I feel he has been a weak centrist and not the bold progressive agent of change he campaigned as.  Yet  at the end of the day to put Mitt Romney in the White House is a recipe  for social and economic  disaster.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On My Honor...

A small item in the news  the other day has  created a bit of excitement in my email inbox.    As of this posting  no fewer than 33 people have contacted me asking what do  I think of the announcement by the Boy Scouts of America, upholding the  BSA policy prohibiting  Gays and Lesbians from  participation  in the American Scouting program. 

The Boy Scouts of America will uphold the organization's ban that prevents gay people from being members of the organization, after concluding a confidential two-year review.   An 11-member committee formed in 2010 unanimously agreed to uphold a ban that prevents "open or avowed" gay people from being part of the youth organization. In a statement released to the Associated Press, 
BSA chief executive Bob Mazzuca said the policy is supported by most Scout families:
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting. We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

Summer Camp Staff - 1987
Ok then...   If you really want to know what I think,  (and apparently at least 33 of you do...)  then a little bit of history and context  is required.   I  was involved in  Scouting for most of my life up until the late 1990's.   The  experiences  and friendships   that  I have had  while in Scouting  were, and  remain, a pivotal factor in making me the person I am today.   I truly believe that  Scouting is a force for good in  a troubled world, and  participation in  Scouting is  one of the greatest gifts any parent can give their child. 

The decision to keep the current membership policies in place was the right one.     I understand many of you may be very  surprised to hear me say that.  But hear me out...      I understand  the anger many of my fellow  former Scouts and Scouters feel towards the BSA  on this issue.  It is  very easy, and even cathartic to point fingers at  Irving Texas and decry the bigotry  and discrimination  the current membership policies  perpetuate.  

The fact is,  the BSA  is not at present,  able to make that kind of cultural  change.  The reasons for this  are not  because of a “culture of homophobia”  that critics of  the BSA  like claim is behind the decision. The policies  on membership in the BSA  have very little to do with  morals or  social  attitudes, and  very much to do with political and financial realities.

Scout Camp Staff - 1991
I was an active member of  Scouting for over a quarter of a century, and not once, did I ever hear  anyone say  being  Gay or Lesbian was either good or bad.  The subject simply never came up.   The topic of  human sexuality  really  had nothing do  with  outdoor  skills and  leadership development.

The argument that many supporters of the policy make, that banning Gay and Lesbian volunteers is a “Youth Protection Issue”  is equally ridiculous.  Statistics on abuse cases  in organizations  like the BSA  paint a clear and very different picture of who is a threat to kids in Scouting   The majority of cases involve married,  self-identified heterosexuals with children of their own in the program, and not Gay and Lesbian parents. So why is the policy still there?  The answer is complicated but  the reasons can largely be traced back to a deal the BSA made over 30 years ago. 

In the 1970's the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) offered to make the BSA an  official youth program for the entire  Mormon church. Meaning EVERY LDS church in America would sponsor a Boy Scout Troop and/or Cub Scout Pack, or Explorer Scout post. This was at a time when membership in Scouting was in dramatic decline and many thought the program had seen it's day. Then the LDS Church  came along with their offer, and with it tens of thousands of kids joined the program. It made the Mormon Church the single largest sponsor of Scouting, which also gave the LDS church a great deal of say over how Scouting is run.

The 2nd largest sponsor of Scouting is the Catholic Church.   The reality is, the membership policy needed to be upheld.  For the simple reason that both the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church have said that should the membership policies in question (the ban on Gay and Lesbians  and the requirement to believe in a God (any God, the policy does not specify, all it says you have to believe in a higher spiritual Power) Should either of those policies be changed BOTH churches would pull out of Scouting completely.

That would mean the end of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA, at present, would not be able to function without the membership and money that the sponsorship by those two churches provides.   So the question becomes  do you kill the entire program, over this one issue?  

Many in the BSA would in all honestly love to be able to just quietly get rid of both policies , The public relations nightmare that has resulted from keeping in place discrimination is one the BSA would really like to be free of.  But it really is not up to the BSA at this point.   The Boy Scouts of America is for better or worse, a hostage to the financial support of two religious organizations that practice politically expedient  homophobia.  Until that changes,  the BSA is not in a position to make any change in its membership policies.

So what should parents who disagree with the policies do?  Simple you need to take responsibility as a parent and do what  the BSA suggests that you do - "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting...."

The decision by the BSA offers parents of Scouts the opportunity to have a conversation with their kids about the issues of equality and civil rights. And by that, I mean the rights of Gays and Lesbians AND the rights of a private non-profit organization like Scouting to set their own membership standards.  My mother is an ordained Lutheran Minister, so naturally I feel the Catholic Church's ban on female clergy is incredibly stupid, therefore, I am not a Catholic. Yet the United States Constitution protects the Catholic Church's right to be incredibly stupid.

At my last Scouting
 Event in 2000
For me, the decision to leave Scouting was incredibly painful. I love the program and to say it has been a huge part of my life, would be a massive understatement. I have met the most amazing friends  I have ever known  through my involvement in the Boy Scouts of America.  But for me to have remained in Scouting as an adult, meant  I would have had to lie.  Lie about who I am,  and who I love.  So I had to make a choice.   As a result of that choice, some of those friends,  I have lost.   Many however, most however,  understood, and hope one day to see me back in that  Scout uniform.

Likewise if you in good conscience cannot live with the BSA's membership policies,  then you need to make a choice.  Does this one issue negate everything else positive about Scouting?  If for you, it does, then by all means, don't join,  or if you and/or your kids are in Scouting now, the choice may be to get out.  There are plenty of other activities and organizations out there for young people to join.

It is worth noting,  there are groups who are working  to bring about  a change in the policies of the BSA.   Groups like  Scouting For  All,  have worked to educate both the BSA and its sponsoring  organizations.  The fact that  Scouting has spent the last two years  studying the issue is testament to the impact these groups and individuals  are having.    
 Lord Robert Baden-Powell,  the founder of Scouting   once said  "Your influence, like your shadow may reach places you will never be..."    Change for the BSA won't  come through a task force of 11 people, debating for two  years. It will  come through the power of example of people who believe the values of Scouting are not limited only to heterosexuals.  

So if you understand that a movement can be better than, and bigger than the organizations that represent it. If your experience in Scouting isn't defined by this one issue. Then by all means, stay in the program.  Be the example.

To those among my friends who see this week's announcement as a defeat,  my response is,  (as frustrating as it is to hear...)  be patient.  The arc of history bends toward equality.  I honestly believe the BSA will get there.  When it does, I will be first in line to  once again,  put on a uniform, and give of both my time and money.

In the meantime,  I would point out  that  you may be focusing your anger on the wrong target.  It is the bigotry and homophobia of the Mormon and Catholic churches that is at the center of this issue.   Yes the leadership of the BSA does bear responsibility for keeping these policies in place, but I would also say,  don't JUST blame the hostage.  Blame the two groups who are holding the BSA hostage.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mitt Romney is Losing ...

And the candidate who is beating him is.... Mitt Romney.

You know you are losing when your inability to answer even basic questions about a particular issue inspires stuff like this...

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Republicans are Starting to Lose it... Seriously.

Faced with the reality that their Presidential candidate really is Mitt Romney, the leadership of the Republican Party has started to panic. Now that the GOP primary process has run it's inevitable course, many in the Grand Old Party have had the chance to take a good long look at what they are left with.

That long look revealed that like it or not, the GOP is stuck with a nominee with all the charisma of a bucket of warm spit. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, (seriously, that is the guy's real name... ) recently  went on GOPTV (Fox News) to desperately re-frame the debate not as America should elect Mitt Romney, but rather, America needs to fire President Obama,  "for the sake of Liberty and Freedom",  or fish heads,... or  something.

Meanwhile, the Democrats and the Obama Campaign have had the months of the GOP primary circus to prepare for going up against Willard "Mitt" Romney. From Romney's time with outsourcing giant Bain Capital ...

To the former Governor's off shore tax shelters, the Obama Campaign has clearly found their narrative.

The Republican Party is hoping that hundreds of millions of Dollars in unchecked, untraceable super-pac money will convince 51% of the electorate to vote against Barack Obama, since they clearly won't be able to get even the majority of their own base voters excited about the prospect of voting for Mitt Romney.

They key to the strategy  appears to be  keep  Mitt Romney away from  as many reporters  who are not with  Fox News as possible.  When asked by  CBS's  "Face the Nation"  why Governor Romney only goes on FOX News, the Romney Campaign was quick to point out that  Romney doesn't just talk to FOX,  but he recently also  talked to  to schoolchildren....  Wow.

It is going to be  an interesting campaign...  stay tuned kids!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Ex-Pat Musings... "Home" Again...

Well I  got back to London yesterday from  my two week business trip to the  U.S.  As good as it always is  to get back to the United States, it is  at the same time  a reminder  of  the reasons I had to leave in the first place.

First was a week in New York, which  is always a bit of a blur.   I  do love  NYC but  it is a city that moves at a ridiculous pace.   It is largely why New Yorkers are the  resilient , slightly cranky people that they are.   New York  is an argument.  If you want to live there,  the city is going to fight you most every step of the way.     I forget who it was who once wrote that every person should live in both New York City  and San Francisco once in their life.  But  not stay in  NY  so long as to become hardened by the experience, or  in SF long  enough to become soft.

My week in New York was incredibly busy, but  I did manage to find time to hang out with  my amazingly talented friends Daniel and Gerardo.  They  moved from  SF to NY  shortly before I moved to London.  So getting to see them in their  new NY Life is always  a plus for me.  As Eric was unable to  come with me  this trip,  Daniel and Gerardo prevented me from spending every night in my hotel room watching MSNBC.

After a week in New York,  I  then flew back to San Francisco.   I  spent Pride Weekend  with my incredible Niece Sophie and my wonderful adopted niece (her flatmate)  Sogole.    It was great to get back to  SF, even if only for  a day and a half.    Of course the frustrating part of it was,  being a just a regular spectator  at  SF Pride,  after years  of being heavily involved at a volunteer.   It was the first time since  2004 I had watched the Parade  from the public side of the barricades.

Then after that all too short visit back to SF,  it was on to Los Angeles  where  I spent all of last week.    I will confess,  LA  has grown on me.  I still could never ever see myself living there.  But  I find I enjoy visiting there far more  then I have in previous years.   I think, as with most  cities,  the more you get to know it,  the more comfortable  you feel.  There was very little free time,  but  I did manage to get down to Manhattan beach and dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean.   Then after  some required  shopping at  Walgreens  to  pick up the various odds and ends I can't get in the UK,  I headed back to LAX and  flew home.

While in New York, I was  walking down Broadway with one my co-workers who had accompanied me on this trip.  We were discussing the  pending  Supreme Court ruling on Health Care.   I remarked that   the United States still didn't have a  NHS  "like we do at home".  My colleague  looked at me in amusement and  pointed out that was the fist time he had heard me refer to London as  "home".    He was correct,  during my previous   business trip to the US, back in January,  I  still spoke of  how nice it was to spend sometime visiting "home",  meaning  California .  

The ex-pat existence is an odd one.   It is a life of  living neither here nor there.   London is my home,  but  it is a city where  I am always  a foreigner.  New York and  Los Angeles are  cities I have never lived in, and therefore certainly can't call them  "home", but  even so,  for  two weeks  I will confess it was very nice to not be the foreigner  for a while.    Back in London,  this week I will celebrate yet another  American Independence Day  from outside the United States, looking in.

As the rhetorical battle  over  equal rights for  LGBT Americans  plays out over the coming months of the  U.S. Presidential election campaign,  those of us who live in  DOMA-Exile  will watch from across oceans and borders and continue to hope for the day that all American couples are treated  equally by our own country.

Happy Fourth of July everyone...