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.