Saturday, November 14, 2015

Yeah... It's been a while. I blame the GOP.

 The blog has been quiet for a while. A number of you have emailed asking. "What gives?". Well, life gets busy ... Lame excuse I know,   but. It's all I got.

To be honest, I have also been waiting. Waiting for the Republican Party to sort out the bat-sh*t crazy cirque d'insanity that has been their Presidential candidate field to date. Every time I have sat down at the keyboard to comment on the GOP primary field, it just seemed a waste of time. None of the front runners were even remotely sane, let alone actual viable candidates for President of the United States.

The Republican Party has tried to cull the herd. Employing a process for deciding who gets to be in their Presidential Candidate Debates, so convoluted that is has become a bigger story than the debates themselves. Cue Rachel with a report on the chaos...

 That was LAST week. Things went downhill from there. By the time this week's Fox Business channel sponsored debate came around, not only was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie demoted down to the. "kids table" undercard debate for polling number underachievers; But South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, arguably the GOP field's most experienced candidate running, was bumped out of all debates.  

We are now at a point where people are tuning in to GOP Presidential debates not to learn about the candidates, but purely for the comedy value.

The GOP has their  two "front runners",  Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.  Trump... Sigh... Okay, I'll get to "the Donald" in a moment,  but for now  lets just say  the fact that we having a conversation about  the next Republican Presidential Nominee, and that conversation includes the words "Donald Trump",  pretty much sums up the state of  the Republican Party in 2015.     As far as Carson goes...  Where even to begin?   We have a man running for president with a backstory, that he seems to have simply made up because, hey!  It sounded cool!   

Carson's claims range from having been offered admission to West Point over lunch with US Army General William Westmoreland, to having tried to hit his own Mother with a hammer, and stab a "close relative". A violent streak that prompted him to lock himself in a bathroom for three hours, where he apparently found Jesus, and instantly and became a god fearing man of peace and justice.

The problem is none of those claims from Carson's personal biography have stood up to even mild fact checking by Journalists. Prompting Carson to shriek hysterically how NO OTHER CANDIDATE has EVER been subjected to the kind of background checking and vetting he is being forced to undergo... Because you know... Nobody has EVER done any investigating into anything about Hillary Clinton. Yes..... he actually made that claim with a straight face.
Lesson one in national campaign politics. If you attack the press for trying to verify claims you make. The press is going to take that as a big fat flashing neon sign that says. "KEEP DIGGING!" because clearly you are pants-on-fire lying. Annnnnddddd.... Cue the VERY predictable result:

Then there is Jeb Bush. At some level you gotta feel for poor Jeb, after all, he locked up the big GOP establishment donors right out of the gate. He is the closest thing the Republican party has to a Dauphin -style heir apparent. Not to mention the fact, that had he not lost to Lawton Chiles in the Florida Governors race back in 1994 it is likely that he, not his brother George W, would have been the GOP nominee in 2000. Oh how fortunes change...
The son of the 41rst, and brother of the 43rd President of the United States, a two term Governor of one of the most pivotal electoral battle ground states,  the heir to a political dynasty on par with the Kennedy;   Is running a campaign that makes the 1988 Michael Dukakis campaign look  good by comparison.
Over on the Democratic side, its all been pretty standard. Mild even. The Democratic debates have been far less entertaining, but have had their moments. Yes Bernie Sanders is a serious candidate, and he is slowly pushing Hillary Clinton out of her centrist comfort zone and to more progressive left-of-centre position. While former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley along with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb; (who you really don't need to know about, because they're both gone already), just wished people would remember their names.

If nothing else, the 2016 campaign will make sure late night television comedy is epic.   

Back to Donald Trump... ugh! It's like we are living in some bizarre Back To The Future alternate time line where Donald Trump is considered a serious voice in America's national debate. A voice that says sh*t like this...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the clear front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, Donald J. Trump. What is becoming more clear every day, is that GOP primary voters have basically become the American Idol audience that kept voting for Sanjaya (Trump), just so they could get to see the veins in the Judge's (Republican National Committee's) foreheads, throb in pain.

American Idol voters finally did vote Sanjaya off the show. It remains to be seen if GOP primary voters are willing to be equally as pragmatic, or if they will destroy the Republican Party's hopes of ever winning another national election, simply because they can.

Grab the popcorn kids! It's gonna be fun to watch... 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Looking back from the other side of the Closet Door...

The following is a updated repost of  one of the first blog entries I ever wrote, back in  October, 2006.   

I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.

A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.

I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.

For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.

So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.

Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.

And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.

I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.

Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.

Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.

( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)

I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .

Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.

I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?

Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...
FLASH FORWARD  Nine years...  October 11, 2015

It is worth noting,  the friend I wrote about  in  2006 , like so many other  amazing friends from my life  have shown me  in words and deeds  what I have always suspected,  my friends are in general, a lot wiser than I am.   As  I mark today's  National Coming Out Day there are straight allies in my life who  I still cannot thank enough,  

From the friend who answered that  letter in 2006,  and reminded me  why were friends in the first place, and  still today  reminds me to laugh at life  more than  30 years on.  To the Lawyer in Dallas who challenged my own  stereotypes of how I thought friends  would react to my coming out,  and instead ended up teaching me invaluable lessons about  acceptance and true friendship, traveling half way around the world to surprise me at my wedding.

There is the couple in Georgia whose friendship has literally spanned oceans and decades, who always knew, didn't care, and have always loved me for who I am.  The Career Air Force officer and his wife in Germany, who I had the honour of being a Groomsmen at their wedding, and years later are still sharing their adventures with me. To the School Teacher from Boston, who lived a remarkable  life of  always seeking the best in people, taught me to do the same  and  whose passing has left me  missing him every day.   All these amazing people, along with so many others I am blessed to call my friends.

And as always, my incredible family who just by being themselves  encouraged me,  and gave me strength  to just .... be myself.

And yes,  to those who,  for reasons political,  social,  and religious  felt they could not  continue our friendship,  I thank you as well.  Not because  I don't miss you,  for believe, me,  I  do miss you , every day. Yet  I owe you my thanks for  showing me that the choice to live authentically does not come without cost, and therefore must not, ever be taken for granted.  

Lastly,  to my amazing husband  Eric.   Who without even trying,  provides me with  living proof every day  that taking those steps to come out of the closet were by far, the best ones I have ever made.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

17 Years Ago... Remembering Matthew Shepard

Wednesday October 7th, 1998 was a fairly ordinary day in Chicago. I was working for a small consulting firm in the near West suburb of Oak Park, and had spent the day in a series of fairly productive meetings. So I felt pretty good when I got home from work. I was puttering around my apartment making dinner when I picked up the remote control for the TV and turned on CNN.

The lead story was a brutal attack of a young man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been beaten into a coma and left tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was a young gay man and was not expected to survive.

I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

I walked into the 7-11 there on the corner and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry, others sad, but we all knew that something in our own community had changed as a result of what had happened,  hundreds of miles away in field outside Laramie.

In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process,  and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.

On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical.  What's more, those cosequences now  had a face, and a name.

As I walked home, my thoughts turned to Matthew Shepard’s parents. What must they be thinking and feeling? Had they known Matt was gay? Did it really matter? Years later I would have the great honor of meeting Judy Shepard,  and hear her tell her own powerful story .

Now 17 years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day,  that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed,  on that October night in 1998.

Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.

People with a vested interest in keeping LGBT people as the one group it is still safe to hate. People who seek to profit, personally, politically and even economically from fomenting deadly hatred and fear of others. Bigots whose actions and beliefs are the farthest thing from being Christian, yet claim to have a monopoly on what they claim God thinks and who they claim "God hates".

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to say it’s important to remember Matthew and so many others like him who have died as a result of hatred and bigotry. If you want to get involved, here are a few great places to start...

The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The Trevor Project:

The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation:

The We Give a Damn Campaign:

The "It Gets Better" Project:



Monday, September 21, 2015

Time Flies... Towards Change

 Tempus fugit et nos fugimus in illus…    “Time flies, and we fly with it..”

It was a pretty hectic weekend around here. First there was the Malaysian Food and cultural festival in Trafalgar Square on Friday night. Normally my Malaysian Chinese husband would view such events with haughty disdain, claiming the food offerings had been watered down to be point of having lost all authenticity. Yet when the dust settled, even Eric had to admit they did okay.   

Then it was up early on Saturday to head over to London’s O2 Arena to hear a lecture by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Speaking to a fairly packed arena for nearly two hours on the subject of compassion. Followed by a very interesting Question & Answer session led by Daniel Goldman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence

By the time Sunday rolled around, we were ready for a more relaxed day. Having puttered around the house being domestic in the morning, watching the Rugby World Cup match between the United States and Samoa. (Samoa pretty much clobbered our boys I’m sad to say….) We then headed to Central London for a late lunch, and some window shopping. As we were walking down Shaftesbury Avenue, just past Cambridge Circus, it was there we saw it…

What we saw was the reason I am optimistic about the 2016 election in the United States, and the future of Western Civilisation in general.

You see, for the past few weeks the ultra-social conservative wing-nuto-sphere in the United States has been losing their collective minds over the idea that marriage equality for same sex couples is now a fact, not just a concept. Hypocritical bigots like three time divorcee Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, have shrieked hysterical cries of anti-Christian oppression because they are not allowed to impose their beliefs on others. While the usual cast of hate-peddlers line up to ride that train of contrived victimhood as long as possible,  to milk donations from the bigoted and gullible.

Then there was what Eric and I saw Sunday afternoon here in London. Two young men, they had to be at the most 16 or 17 years old. Clearly a couple, clearly in new young love. Arms round each other as they walked down the street, they stopped briefly to wait for a third friend walking behind them to catch up, seizing the moment to share a brief, sweet and harmless PDA (public display of affection). The shorter of the two, leaning up to kiss his boyfriend.

 Walking along behind them, I had to smile and marvel at how different the world is from the first time I walked down this same street in 1986. I wasn’t that much older than these two young men. At the time the idea of even being “out of the closet” let alone waking down one of the busiest streets in a major city as a couple, just like any other seemed inconceivable.

Yet here I was, 29 years later, again walking down Shaftesbury Avenue, but holding my husband’s hand, and watching these two young men ahead of us just… being a couple. No furtive glances to see if anyone was watching. No awkward looks or hateful comments from any passers by. They were just a beautiful young couple out enjoying a beautiful early fall day.

Watching the Republican Presidential debate last week from the Reagan Presidential Library, the likes of Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal shook their little fists and stamped their feet. Claiming “radical homo-facists” are out to criminalize Christianity. Claiming these two young men were attacking western civilization itself. Opportunistic hate merchants like Tony Perkins, and Bryan Fischer desperately trying to keep alive a battle to preserve bigotry.  

The base of Republican party has decided to try to stand in way of history. Like George Wallace in the doorway of a school in Alabama shaking his little fist in defence of racism. A generation later the Kim Davis’ of today are just as out of touch.

The good news is, it is a battle they are losing. In so many places, the world truly has moved on. Not everywhere of course. There are still many parts of the world, even in the United States where that wonderful young couple would be quickly attacked or even killed for such a harmless display of affection. Yet in many other places, the tide has clearly turned.

The millennial generation isn’t buying the hatred and bigotry that Tony Perkins and his ilk are peddling . Instead we see a generation that sees diversity as a good thing not a threat.  In his lecture last Saturday, the Dalai Lama spoke of how compassion is a innate human characteristic, that sadly in many instances we are taught to disregard. Yet he said he is hopeful that as a species, we can reclaim it.

Those two young men, blissfully caught up in each other’s company are not a threat to Kim Davis, or anyone else, Love is not a zero-sum proposition. My marriage doesn’t diminish anyone else’s.

Tempus Fugit… Time flies, and as with all things, the only constant in the Universe is change. By clinging to the strategy of trying to get people to vote against other Americans  because they are unable to get  get people to vote for their ideas, the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Clown Car will clearly and thankfully, end up where in belongs. In the electoral ditch.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering A September Morning...

(The following is an updated repost  of an entry from Sept. 11th, 2011)

Today the media, and the blogposphere will undoubtedly be full of all sorts of remembrances and commentary around what is the 14th  anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.

To be honest I really don't like to dwell on the topic. Not out of any sense of personal pain, but more out of respect, for those people I know who were far closer to the events of that day than I was. My experience that day was a somewhat surreal one.

I had gotten up very early and caught a flight from Chicago Midway to Houston. I was heading there for work. It was about 20 minutes into the flight, the seat belt sign had just turned off, and people where shifting about, getting comfortable. I had just pulled out my laptop to work on the presentation I was going to be giving later that day. Suddenly the seat belt sign came back on, and the crew announced that everyone was to return to their seats and prepare for landing, the flight would be returning to Chicago.

The Pilot then came on the speaker system to say that there was nothing wrong with the plane, and we were returning to Chicago because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had ordered the flight to return to "clear air traffic". He said that was all the information they had, and he apologized for the inconvenience.

Everyone on the plane thought the same thing. (Not terrorism.) Chicago Midway had upgraded to a new Air Traffic Control System earlier in the Summer and a few weeks prior, there had been a series of glitches that had delayed several flights. Everyone groaned, made comments about "Government Efficiency" assuming it was yet another problem with Midway's system that was going to mess up  our day. 

This  assumption that was bolstered when the captain came back on the loudspeaker  and announced  that we were not returning to Midway but rather we were diverted to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The woman sitting next to me was happy about this thinking at least it might be easier to get on the next flight out to Houston. I nodded, and said "I hope so", thinking of how I might salvage the rest of my schedule that day and make my afternoon meetings on time.

It took us about 30 minutes of circling over O'Hare before we could land. Sitting in a window seat I watched as the line of planes waiting to land stretched to the far horizon and oddly enough, no planes were taking off. I commented on this to the woman next to me, and she said "wow Midway's systems must be really screwed up!" I laughed and said that what we get for Ronald Reagan having fired all the good Air Traffic Controllers. She laughed and said she had forgotten about that.

We landed and had to wait an additional 20 minutes to get a gate. but finally pulled up to a jetway , and we all lumbered off the plane into the gate area I was getting annoyed because people were not clearing the area in front of the door but were all standing around the televisions that were tuned to the CNN Airport Network. I was about to say a loud "excuse me!" when I happened to look up at the TV and saw CNN  replay footage from ABC of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center.

CNN then cut to live shot of a column of smoke and ash where the World Trade Center Towers were supposed to be, but weren't. I called my office and my boss told me not to come in, The area in downtown Chicago around the Sears Tower was being evacuated. I called my parents and let them know I was not in Houston, got on the CTA Blue Line and went home.   The rest of that day I did what most Americans did, watched the news, and when the images became overwhelming, I put on my roller blades and went blading along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was brilliant sunny day. One of those late Summer, early Fall days that you get in Chicago that make you appreciate what a beautiful city it is. As I stopped at Oak Street Beach and admired the downtown Chicago skyline, I didn't think that somehow the "world had changed". But rather I found myself thinking how the United States had  sadly, finally  joined the rest of the world.

Before that that morning, Terrorism was something that happened in other places, Israel, Lebanon London, Belfast , places far away. Even the first World Trade Center bombing for many people, didn't seem like international terrorism. After all, the people responsible were caught when they tried to get the deposit back on the rental van they had used. (How sinister could people that dumb be?)    That is what changed I think, it was the moment America lost the illusion that somehow our two oceans would keep us safe from global terrorism.

For friends of mine who lived in New York on that day,  I understand  that  today  is a much different  experience for them.   A good friend of mine is  a New York City Police Officer  who  lost an arm in the attack that day.   Another friend of mine worked  for an investment bank housed in the  North Tower,  she had a doctors appointment so she didn't go into work  that morning.   For her, today  is a reminder of  the  friends and co-workers  she lost  that day.

For the numerous friends of mine who have served, and currently serve in both Afghanistan and Iraq with the American and British Armed Forces, they deal with the effects September 11, 2001 on a far different level than most people ever will.

So this evening, as many Londoners and ex-pats attend the 9-11 memorial service at Westminster Abbey , people all over the world will remember the events of that day, pray for those who were lost, and show solidarity and support for friends and family for whom this anniversary is far more personal than political.

God Bless America, God bless us all.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Scott Walker and The Audacity of Hype…

Labor Day, the traditional end of Summer, the last hurrah of holidays, Barbeques and Beachcombing. Soon Autumn will be upon us and as the American humourist Garrison Keillor once wrote,  fall is the time we all go “back to school and study for Winter”. Carefree warm weather days grow shorter, and that slight hint of a chill in night air reminds us all that darker, colder days are just around the corner.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is undoubtedly feeling the chill these days. An essay of how Scott Walker spent his Summer vacation would be best summed up by one Iowa Republican strategist who described Walker as having spent the Summer ; “on all three sides of every two-sided issue.” Walker’s Summer of Confusion is quickly heading into a Winter of GOP Voter Discontent.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The 1.5-ish term Governor was supposed to be the GOP’s golden child. The answer to Bush fatigue. The fresh face who would appeal to both the party’s base, and the GOP establishment. The petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers all but showed up on Walker’s door step with balloons and an oversized check for $500 million dollars, while the Fox News only viewing, Breitbart / WorldNet Daily reading masses of the GOP base were going to rally to Walker’s side, because of his fight against those lazy, socialist “Libtard” Unions who hate freedom… or… something …

When I met with Walker back last February here in London, he was calm, cool and very confident. Talking my ear off for over 20 minutes about how America needed rescuing, in the same way it did in 1980. Drawing clear parallels between himself and Ronald Reagan. He had the bearing of man convinced destiny was whispering his name.  

Now six months later, Scott Walker looks like a beagle that was just whapped in the snout with rolled up newspaper. A newspaper with the headline- TRUMP!   The remarkable fall of the GOP rising star is best chronicled by this insightful passage from a piece in The Guardian last week, on Scott Walker's Summer of no love..
In theory, Walker should have been the most experienced, most natural and most effortless Republican candidate. Jeb Bush hasn’t run this decade; Ted Cruz only ran once; Chris Christie is dogged by corruption allegations; Rick Perry has the mental aptitude of two dogs in an overcoat; and Rand Paul was gifted his father’s movement and all his out-of-state donors but none of his charisma at talking about basing an international currency on stuff you dig out of the ground.

Walker should have been able to campaign circles around everyone else in the race. Instead, he’s getting his rear end handed to him by a meringue-haired hotelier and a political neophyte surgeon who speaks with the dizzy wonderment of someone trying to describe their dream from last night while taking mushrooms for the first time.


In the face of the Trump reality show circus, Walker made, (as the Donald would say..) a HUUUGE mistake. Rather than positioning himself as the principled grown up in the room, he tried to out crazy the Rodeo Clown. 

When Trump promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico, what did Walker do? Speak to the challenges of balancing effective border controls with our Nation’s great legacy as a beacon for immigrants throughout our history? Nope. Seize the opportunity to cast himself as the heir to the Reagan legacy by saying the GOP is the party that tears down walls between people and opportunity, not builds them? Nope. Not even close.

Scott Walker decided to double down on nutty, and say he wanted to “look at” building a wall on the border with CANADA.. Wow… That’s different. I’ll give you that.

Let’s set aside Walker’s dismal record in Wisconsin. Let’s set aside his all but invisible performance in the first GOP candidates debate. Let’s even set aside Walker’s complete inability to function outside of the Conservative media bubble, and how every time he is pressed for coherent answer on policy positions, he either “punts”, or drools out an answer so twisted and convoluted, that his campaign has to spend most of the next week either walking it back or “clarifying what the Governor meant to say…” None of that is Walker’s core problem.

Walker’s biggest problem is, he believed his own hype. Wisconsin is not an electoral bellwether for Presidential politics. His success in Wisconsin was largely due to the Karl Rove playbook of divide enough people to win just enough votes to get elected. Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election had far more to do with the disorganized sack of cats that was his democratic opposition, than support for his policies as Governor.

For Wisconsin conservatives, the effort to recall Walker was a personal attack on them. So they fought back like it was personal. Conversely the Democrats, mired themselves in a bitter primary battle, resulting in a message that basically was “Walker..BAD!” but pretty much stopped there.  

The resulting victory gave Walker a belief in his own electoral invincibility. A belief that right wing floggers in think tanks and on talk radio stoked with rhetoric of how Walker was the candidate who could “take on the left and win as an unapologetic conservative! "      The problem is that hypothesis has not stood up to real world testing. When faced with more than softball questions from gushing Fox News hosts Walker crumbles. When baited from the far right, he takes the bait.    

So as this Summer comes to an end, Scott Walker has ended up looking less viable as a Presidential candidate than... Donald Trump. Ouch.   Republican friends of mine who have pinned their hopes for a second Reagan Revolution on Walker, are cheerfully insisting it’s still way to early to write any political epitaphs . They are sure the Trump balloon with run out of hot air and fade away. It may well be that they are correct. But that isn’t the real problem here.

The real problem is Walker as a candidate is simply not up the to the task. When your belief in your own electability comes primarily from weeks of hiding in your office in the State Capitol taking prank phone calls from people pretending to be David Koch, and giving interviews to Sean Hannity where you say teachers, fire-fighters and nurses are greedy and out of touch; the real problem isn’t Donald Trump. It’s Scott Walker who is the Walker campaign's worst enemy.

As far as the good citizens of Wisconsin are concerned, I would point out there is a silver lining in the collapse of Walker's presidential ambitions. Yes, it means that Scott Walker will have to come home at some point, but. It spares Wisconsin two horrifying words...

Governor Kleefisch.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

When Reality Beats Fear...

Its been an interesting couple of weeks.   First the Boy Scouts of America ended it's ban of LGBT adults volunteering in the program.   It is far too soon to say exactly what this means for Scouting organizationally in the long term.   But for me,  it means I can once again give of my time, and talents to an movement that played a crucial role in making me the person I am today.  

I left Scouting after "coming out".  At the time I  believed that I would never be able to go back.  Not just because of the membership Policies at the time, but I just assumed that for many of my friends in Scouting,  this one truth about me would be a bridge too far, and they would most likely find ways to slip quickly and quietly out of my life.

For the record..  It turns out, I'm an idiot.  

I am blessed with friends who are much smarter than I am.  Who either already knew/guessed why I had left  and never stayed in touch and were quietly waiting for me to get a clue.   Or when they did find out, rightly called me a complete and utter doofus  for thinking it would ever affect our friendship.  That isn't to say there weren't some people  for whom whom it did.   There are friends I have lost.   Some I will confess,  were not a surprise, but some very much were.   Yet  at end of the day,  the loss serves as remainder that the choice to live honestly doesn't come without risk, or cost,  and reminds me to cherish what I have gained, all the more.

Coming out stories tend to fall into what now seems, a number  clich├ęd categories.  Either they tend to have  enough tragedy and eventual  triumph to fill an ABC afterschool special from the mid 1980's, or are dark stories of fear and bigotry .  The internet is full of horror stories of young people who are rejected by their families when they come out.   Stories of lives cut short,  either swallowed up  by the darkness of trying to live a live half in half out of  the closet.  Or brutally ended by the fear, hatred and bigotry of friends and family,  the very people  who should be their greatest advocates and protectors.
1997 in South Korea

By comparison , my own journey out of the closet was remarkably anti-climatic. After a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood of living every day gripped with fear that coming out would destroy my life; I just pretty much got over it.    Okay... I'll admit,  it wasn't THAT simple...

It would be a journey that would lead me to move to the other side of the world in hopes that putting a crazy amount of distance between me and my "old life" (i.e. all the friends and family I had known and had up to that point), would give me the space I needed to come to terms with who I was, and what I really wanted in life.

In truth, it did help. My time living and working in Asia was a turning point in my road to self acceptance. Its where I would finally look in the mirror and say those two terrifying words: "I'm Gay" without expecting the sky itself to come crashing down on my head, Its where I would fall in love, and get my heart broken, and healed for the first time. (by the way JDM, If I never told you , thank you...)

Yet after returning to the U.S.,  in terms of having the all dramatic "coming out moment" with my parents,  they kinda beat me to it.  They had figured things out long before I was ready to talk to them about it.  And as they have done all through my life,  they did what they do best;  They patiently,  (ok... very patiently)waited for me to be ok ... with me,   All the while making it clear  that they already were.

I am ridiculously lucky in that My Parents are the two most remarkable people I have ever known.  They have mastered the three key arts of parenting;  They love unconditionally,  they teach and mentor constantly ,  and yes,  when called for, they criticize strategically.   Their love and encouragement  for Eric and I on our journey from insane long distance relationship,  to our life together as a married couple was a key support structure for both us. 

Then today,  my blackberry,  (yes I still use a blackberry,  you  iPhone/android hippies got a problem with that??), buzzed  notifying me that I had an email from my dad.  I assumed  it was just to set a time for our weekly Skype video call we usually have on Sunday nights.  

Instead, what was in the mail was this picture, from Madison Wisconsin's LGBT Pride Celebration.    A celebration that I have never been to, and as kid growing up there,  I never thought I could ever attend.   Leave it to my parents to once again,  beat me to it,  and get there before me.  

My parents have always gone out of their way to let me know they are proud me.   Today its high time I made up for lost time and did the same.  Thank You Mom and  Dad.  I  love you both so much and  being your son,  is the greatest gift and blessing I could have ever hoped for.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Celebrating a Century of Service

He who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows greatest….

This week has been one where I have “servant leadership” on the brain. Its a tricky topic in this day and age. Striking many as more than a little bit old fashioned. As I sit here in Manchester England (I am here on a two day business trip, I’ll head back to London later today...) On the other side of the world at Michigan State University, over 15,000 members of the Boy Scouts of America, who are members of an honor society known as the Order of the Arrow have gathered to celebrate the organization’s centennial at their National Conference (NOAC).

Back in 1915  two men,  Dr. E. Urner Goodman, and Col. Carrol A. Edson  were running a Summer Camp for Boy Scouts at Treasure Island, just   outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania .  As the Summer progressed,  they wanted to come up with a way to recognize  young men who  exemplified the idea of  “cheerful service”, of going above and beyond the norm of what was expected in being both an example to,  and  a servant –leader of  their fellow campers.  

Moreover, they wanted to make that recognition something special. Something that would be both and meaningful and forward facing. Meaning, it would both recognize and motivate those who were honoured, to dedicate themselves all the more to the idea of serving others. To achieve this, the two men drew heavily on their Masonic background to create and induction process that would embody and emphasize the core principles of this new honor society; Brotherhood, Cheerfulness and Service.

Additionally, they decided that the decision of choosing who would receive the honor of membership in this new group would be made by non-members. Election to the Order would be something bestowed on you by your peers, not something you campaigned for. 100 years later, The Order of the Arrow has grown from a creative idea to recognize and inspire campers and staff at one Summer camp, into American Boy Scouting’s national honor society with over 180,000 current active members and hundreds of thousands of alumni spanning the globe. The OA counts among its ranks, Presidents, members of Congress, Astronauts, CEO’s Generals, Admirals, Cabinet members and Hollywood icons. 

Consequently , the OA has often been regarded (as many fraternal organizations are..) as some sort of “secret society”. While untrue, the assumption is understandable. To ensure that new members going through their induction in the future do not have their experience lessened or spoiled, some aspects are safeguarded as confidential. This Allows the Order of the Arrow, to utilizes mystery as a tool in its induction process. Yet the OA will never withhold information from any person legitimately interested in investigating its nature, purpose, or methods of the organization.
The mission and focus of the Order of the Arrow has grown over the past century and includes areas such as environmental responsibility, promoting the protection, sustainable use and conservation of the outdoor camping environments in which the Order was founded. The ArrowCorps Program provides hundreds of volunteer hours annually. Yet the Order's core purpose is and has always been, this idea of servant leadership. Or “Cheerful Service” to others.
Programs to achieve this include the aforementioned National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC), held every two years and happening this week at Michigan State University.
Also, the OA regularly runs National Leadership Seminars (NLS). A two day conference focused on the skills and attributes of leadership. The program enhances the leadership skills of the members as they seek to improve their services to the Boy Scouts of America and the greater communities in which they live.

The NLS complements other week-long, more detailed leadership programs for both youth and adults in Scouting. The NLS prepares members to become better leaders both within and outside of Scouting program. It is an outcome I can attest to, first hand. From 1987 to 1992 I taught sessions as part of the staff of more than 20 National Leadership Seminars at both the Regional and National level .  

It is not an overstatement to say, my experiences in Scouting, but more specifically in the Order of Arrow, are largely responsible for my more than twenty year career in organizational learning and leadership development, that has spanned the US, Europe and Asia. 

There is not a day when I am not able to apply the principles instilled me as a member of the Order of the Arrow in both my personal and professional life. My experiences as an “Arrowman” both influenced and informed key choices I have made, and have also given me some of the greatest friendships I have in my life.

So to my friends, and fellow “Brothers” (and more than one Sister as well... ) in the Order of the Arrow, happy 100th birthday. Here’s to the next century of service, friendship and fellowship.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Alternate Universe of Conservative Denial

  “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
I have watched the current unfolding collective melt down on the American social and political Right, with a mixture of amusement and disgust. The Republican Party, and along with it, the broader conservative movement in the United States; faced with a reality that doesn’t even remotely support their talking points, has instead, opted to wallow in delusion. 
After years of using  the idea of LGBT  civil rights  as an effective wedge issue, the American Right Wing just can’t bear the idea  that those days are over. Unable to accept the reality of a generational shift on civil rights issues; they instead opt to stamp their feet and regurgitate the same nonsensical arguments that bigots in the 1960's spewed against interracial marriage.  Declaring that clearly, legalized polygamy and bestiality are coming next.  A  bit of "reasoning" by which you could say that  freedom of the religion in the US  will lead to inquisitions, witch burnings and Sharia Law.

All while GOP Presidential contenders make ridiculous promises to amend the U.S. Constitution to strip civil rights from all those icky Gay people they have been telling their base for decades, they are supposed to hate. An amendment that will never happen but again, for American Conservatives the delusion is so much more comforting than facing reality.

After decades of completely ignoring the issue of Health Care disparity in the United States. Followed by desperate attempts to block, derail, overturn then just flat out demonize the Affordable Care Act; The American Right has opted to just pretend the facts don’t exist. To sit in the bubble of Fox News and the right-wing blogosphere and parrot false talking points that the AFA is a “job killer” and millions of Americans have somehow lost health insurance .

The fact that the reality is exactly the opposite is too uncomfortable for conservatives to face. It is much more comforting for them to hear candidates make ridiculous promises to “repeal Obamacare on day one!”

The delusion that conservatives  are “standing up for freedom” by trying to take health insurance away from millions of Americans, is more comforting than accepting the reality that the black man in the White House did something good.   

Now in the face a historic agreement that blocks all possible pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, the American Right once again has opted to embrace  delusion over facts. An alternate reality where all the world’s leading experts on nuclear technology and proliferation can’t possibly be more knowledgeable than Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads of Fox & Friends.
Where cheering a GOP candidate's  delusional schoolboy threats to start another war in the middle east “on day one”, is more comforting than facing the reality that under this President, American diplomacy works.

The prevailing opinion here in Europe  is that  American Conservatives. WANT a war with Iran. Either purely for fun and profit (Hello KBR and United Defence,... shall we all take a look at who your major stockholders are again? ).   Or because they are still angry at Jimmy Carter for being a big peacenik hippie and denying them a war with Iran back in 1979. 

Or because American evangelical conservatives think if we can just start a big enough war in the Middle East, it will bring Jeebus back and they'll all get raptured to some big all inclusive resort in the sky.

I used to try to counter the alternate fact free reality of American Conservatives. Recently a couple of conservative friends of mine posted on Facebook a link claiming CA Senator Diane Feinstein “said” American Veterans were to blame for their own PTSD. I responded , posting a link to fact checking site debunking the false story, 

I then went on to point out that in the latest congressional scorecard from Disabled Veterans of America, (rating members of the House and Senate on their support of veterans issues;) Feinstein scored 100% and their Senator (WI Republican Ron Johnson) had scored 0%. The response from one of them was a curt “thanks for the information”, yet he kept  the link to the false story posted, and then promptly "unfriended" me from his Facebook profile.  I guess  facts that don’t support  right wing talking points are too uncomfortable to face.

Instead we have a delusion-based parallel universe where Donald Trump is the front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination. Where republicans who attacked Senator John Kerry’s heroic service in Vietnam, are shocked when Trump does the exact same thing to Senator John McCain. Where a former half-term Governor of Alaska, who claimed she could see Russia from her house, is treated by Fox News as a more credible expert on foreign affairs than the former Secretary of State.
The American Conservative movement now lives in a state of near permanent denial; where a man born in Hawaii can’t possibly be a real American, where reducing the deficit by nearly half,  is claimed to be “tripling the deficit” Where spending two thirds less time on vacation than your predecessor makes you “the golfing President”. Where seven straight years of private sector job growth, is an example of  having  “wrecked the economy”.   The list goes on.. and on...

So like many Americans, I am done trying to have the conversation.   So instead I’m opting to live in the real world. A world where my marriage doesn’t impact anyone else’s, where science has more weight than ideology, where the effective use of American diplomatic power is preferable to just staring yet another war in the Middle East, for fun and profit.

Thankfully, it's also a real world  where  I truly believe the overall majority of Americans live.   As the Cirque  d'Insanity of the 2016 election cycle gets underway, it is imperative that those of us who do live in the real world, call out the delusions on the Right. 

That way we can make sure the only way any of the current occupants of the GOP Presidential Candidate clown car will ever see the inside of the White House,  is by taking the pubic tour.   



Monday, June 29, 2015

The Post SCOTUS Right WIng Meltown...

In the wake of Friday's historic US Supreme Court ruling, legalizing same sex marriage across all 50 states, the collective freak out on the social conservative right wing in the United States as been epic.  If you want a great recap of the assorted wailing and gnashing of teeth, by all means head over to Joe Jervis' brilliant  blog  JoeMyGod, for a recap.

My favourite though,  was the American Family Association's delightful spokes-bigot Bryan Fischer who managed to invoke  the death of Buddy Holly, Pearl Harbor, and the Attacks of September 11th during his colossal twitter meltdown.

I get a real kick out of all the Attack on Marriage" rhetoric.      Always when the  subject of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples is part of   our national discourse conservative evangelicals always claim it  is an "attack" on marriage and the family. So I decided to look   up the word `attack' in the dictionary. The Merriam-Webster   Online Dictionary defines it as:

Pronunciation: &-'tak
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle French attaquer, from (assumed) transitive senses.
1 : to set upon or work against forcefully
2 : to assail with unfriendly or bitter words
3 : to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
4 : to set to work on
5 : to threaten (a piece in chess) with immediate capture
intransitive senses : to make an attack
6: the act or action of setting upon with force or violence

 Hmmm… to set upon or work against forcefully huh? Ok, so if we take the arguments being shrieked on the Right seriously, The SCOTUS running last Friday giving gay couples the same rights as straight couples, not more rights, not any new rights that straight couples do not currently have, but only the exact same rights, is going to injure, damage and potentially even destroy heterosexual marriages and families.

Wow. I guess I only have one question then. How?  Does Marriage Equality marriage mean that straight couples have now lost any of the 1,100   federal benefits and protections that they had before last Friday? Does marriage equality now mean straight couples can’t file joint  tax returns, have, adopt or raise children, pass on social   security survivor benefits, or make medical decisions for each
other? Does the legalization of marriage for gays and lesbians   mean that straight people can no longer marry each other and instead must get “SCOTUS Gay Married"? Does it mean those who are presently  married must now get divorced? 

In other words; Have the marriages or families of any heterosexual changed in any way as a result of last Friday’s court decision? 

The answer is, no of course not.   But when faced with these facts , the right wing nuto-sphere spews back   three basic arguments. The first, is the claim that God says being gay is sinful because the bible say!  So Gays want to destroy Christianity.     So  how does that square with the fact that so many LGBT activists ARE Christian?  

Funny how people who say  the United States should be  theocracy where church rules the state are very selective in their piety.  Gay Marriage?  Hell No!   But divorce? No problem.   Yet the Bible says clearly that  divorce should be a criminal offense. ( The fifty percent of heterosexual couples that avail themselves of divorce I am sure are thankful this is not the case.)  Yet you never see  Bryan Fischer or any of his ilk truly following the bible they love to so selectively cite .  A fact brilliantly illustrated in a now famous scene from the TV series  "The West Wing".

The second response was  even more fun. An oldie but a goodie...  Allowing gay marriage  will now lead to polygamy, bestiality, pedophile marriages, and who knows what else. Yet civil marriage is and has only ever been   about two and ONLY two consenting adults of no direct family   relation.  Find me the person who truly wants to marry their dog,   and for that matter, find me a dog who is over 18 years old, can  read and then sign a marriage application and can then say the  words "I do". If Shaggy and Scoobie show up at the Vegas wedding chapel, then this argument might be worth taking seriously.

The third  response to last Friday's ruling  legalizing gay marriage is actually a bit   more honest on their part. Conservative evangelicals say that   gay marriage cheapens or lessens the value of the institution of  marriage in the eyes of society. But since none of the   marriage rights or benefits that straight couples enjoy have  changed now that same sex couples are able to marry, what opponents of equality are really saying is that letting gay couples marry cheapens their straight marriages in their eyes. Letting gays and lesbians get married means they now have a right that until Friday, only heterosexuals had. And that makes them mad.
It's not just  that these people are upset that LGBT Americans now have  equal marriage rights, they are upset that gays and lesbians have any rights at all.  They see equal rights for everyone as an attack on them.

That's interesting. Even though heterosexual marriage clearly  has not changed in ANY way, some people firmly believes that marriage  has now lost value, status and might even come to an end, because gay  couples are now able to marry. It suddenly occurred to me there is   another word for someone who is irrationally fixed on the   artificial preservation of inequality that they feel is in their
favor. Merriam-Webster's dictionary has the same word for it.

Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite, bigot
1: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own
opinions and prejudices

This small group of even smaller minds, are angry about losing  what they feel is superiority that is due them. They want to take their religious beliefs and codify them into civil law, then force them on the rest of us. The fact that the US Supreme Court said no, has caused many of them to lose their minds.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Mariage Equality in The United States of America

With those simple yet moving words,  Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5 justice majority of the US Supreme Court,  affirmed the idea that equal protection under the law, is not limited to some Americans.  But rather,  is  true for all Americans.

I remember  when I was a child,  watching the movie  The Sound of Music on television.  When it would get to the scene late in the film where Maria and Captain Von Trapp get married in the grandeur of the Salzburg Cathedral;  I always wondered why the nuns had to stay behind a locked iron gate in the back of the church, and were not allowed to attend the wedding with everybody else. 

I remember asking my Mom at the time "What did the Nuns do wrong?  Why are they in Jail?"  Laughing, my Mother replied that Nuns were not allowed to get married,  that they were "married to the church".    At the time I really didn't understand the concept of being married to a church,  but over the years that followed, I would come to understand all to well the idea of not being  "able" to get married.

"...and they lived, happily ever after."  Think of all the stories,  plays, movies,  songs, poems and even paintings, where that idea;  Living happily ever after with the person you love, marrying the person you love,  was exclusively the domain of  boy meets girl.     The coming out experience for LGBT people is as unique as each individual who goes through it.  Yet there are some commonalities.   One of the most common, is the moment when you looked  at world around you,  and became resigned to the idea of marrying the person you love and living  happily ever after ...was not ever going to be in your future.  

As someone who was Gay,  I was convinced  of this.   I  thought, I may as well  just hang out with Nuns locked behind the iron gates.   Marriage,  was not something I would ever be allowed to share.   Or so I thought...  Now years later,  I  can say  that there is incredible  joy in being proved so completely wrong. 

In a week when I recently wrote a blog asking "What is wrong with America?". Today we see what is so completely right with America.   E Pluribus Unum.  Out of Many, One.     The idea that America is never finished.   We are always  and forever a work in progress.  Far more potential than  presently realised.   Forever expanding the idea that  we all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

That is what  the United States Supreme Court did today.   Defended and expanded that Jeffersonian ideal,  that. American ideal.   That my love,  is as valid is yours.   That the  life that my husband and I build together,  is as valid and worthy of affirmation as yours.     That our family is as part of the fabric of America as yours.   My country,  that  on September 21, 1996 passed the odious  "Defence of Marriage Act", a law that fifteen years later,  would force me to leave my country   and move the UK just to be with my spouse;  Today, on June 26, 2015, that same country finally stepped out of that shadow and on to the right side of history.

To those who decry this progress and are filling the airwaves and internet with bile and vitriol, to you I say,  I am sorry.    Sorry that you have so little faith in the country you so loudly say that you  love.   Sorry that you see freedom and equality as zero sum propositions.

But mostly I am sorry you have so completely failed to understand  both the nation in which you live, and  religious faith you claim to profess.   Today is a very GOOD day for America, and  this weekend in cities all over the world, there will be one amazing party.   I am sorry you are too afraid to  step out of those shadows and  join us in celebrating what truly is a victory for all Americans.  

There will  plenty of time in the weeks to come to analyse  and debate the events of today and what it means  for the United States, but for now,  even here in London we will celebrate this latest chapter in the American story.  

Happy Pride Weekend everyone,  and  God Bless America.