Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Catch Up Blogging.... Back in the Bay Area

Yeah yeah... I know it's been forever since I posted here. In my defense, I have been (to put it mildly...) insanely busy.

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk, in my new office in downtown Oakland, California. 12 weeks ago, such a scene wasn’t even a glimmer in my mind. 12 weeks ago, I was sitting at home in London, watching the telly. When my Blackberry vibrated with an email from my old employer, Kaiser Permanente.

Three Skype calls and three weeks later I had a job offer to return. Return to KP and return to the United States.  That was 8 weeks ago. Now I sit at my desk at  Kaiser Center in downtown Oakland, while I read news reports of the Brexit drama back home in London.

Back home in London… Is both an odd and perfectly logical sentiment at this point. I find that I am still in a bit of state of culture shock being back in the US. It is hard not to feel like you are half one place and half another. The news last week of an incident at Oxford Street Tube Station had me scouring the internet for details. Yet the right side of my brain was quick to point out; “Uh, that really has nothing to do with you...”

That’s an odd feeling... 

Life is about leaps of faith. What you do, who you share your life with, where you build that life. All leaps of faith. Leaving the US to move to London was a leap of faith. Now it’s a bit of deja’vu. Like picking up where I left off 7 years ago. Leaving  London to return to Northern California. I find I had to just take  a deep breath, and leap.

I am excited and happy to back at Kaiser Permanente. It is an organization I am very passionate about. I believe in our mission, I love our culture and am thrilled to be back among incredibly talented friends who share those beliefs. Still three weeks in, I find I dearly miss London. Part of it is, the odd transition. As familiar as the Bay Area is, it isn’t the place I left 7 years ago. (Nor should it be.) But some of that change has been a bit of a shock. 

When deciding where to live I thought I might go back to San Francisco, where I lived for nearly a decade. But the city has changed somewhat. The current tech boom has thrown the divide between those who are doing well, and those who are not, into sharp vivid relief. San Francisco feels…. mean.  

Not cruel- or evil mean, but more like New York City, every man/woman for themselves, kind of mean.   This  is partly due to the sheer sticker shock of moving back.   London is not a cheap city to live in, but  the SF Bay Area runs about  6-10% more expensive  in terms of cost of living than Greater London.    Case in point, the cost of housing.

When I left San Francisco in 2011,  I was living in a small, but nice  one bedroom apartment, South of Market.  Not in a bad area, but sort of close to a less than desirable area.  What  I liked to call  "Uhhhggh Adjacent".  Not in the "Uhhggh" but adjacent to it.

Still  it was a great place, walking distance to pretty much everything  and  it had a HUGE kitchen and a back patio deck  that I used for grilling.    

When I moved out  I was paying $950.00 a month.   That same apartment  now rents for nearly   $4,000.00 a month.   The recent "tech boom"  has made living in San Francisco akin to trying to find an apartment in Midtown Manhattan.  Possible, but only if you have a lot of money.   This has been a boom for landlords and driven development and yes, gentrification in downtown San Francisco.

So, not wanting to spend half of my income on rent,  (as well as forking over one of any bodily organ I have two of, for a deposit),  I, like many folks have opted out of  trying to live in San Francisco,  and instead, moved to the East Bay. (Oakland ).   Mostly due to the the cost of housing in SF, but also because what I mentioned earlier.  The city just feels...  angry.

There has always been a undercurrent of tension between many San Francisco residents, and the city's large  chronic homeless population.    Recent op-eds from various "tech bros"  decrying  the issues that come with a large homeless population, and the resulting backlash against such opinions, has given the city a feeling of being solidly divided along  socio-economic lines.   The angry "haves" who are tired of urban blight, and the even angrier  "have nots"  who have been driven out of their traditional neighborhoods by the recent Tech boom.  

"Don't give them any money, they'll use it to buy drugs or booze!"  A friend of mine used to scold me when I would hand a homeless man on Market Street a dollar.

In all honesty he was probably right. Yet it is hard to just "walk by" a man lying on the ground who clearly has not spent a night indoors in a very long time. It is the greatest civic issue facing San Francisco. The mass of homeless. For years the homeless migrated here for the mild winter, and for cash. 

The city used to hand out cash to the homeless in lieu of services. Until 2003 San Francisco had the highest cash grants to the homeless in the country —nearly $400 a month, and recipients were not required to even prove residency. Well you can imagine what that did. It turned San Francisco into a magnet for the homeless.

It was Mayor Gavin Newsom, who started "Care not Cash". A program where instead of getting money, the homeless get housing and other assistance. It did make a difference. In the time that I lived there ,  there was a reported drop in the number of homeless on the streets. Yet, critics of the program said  the impact was  minimal, and never  addressed what they see as the root causes of homelessness. Critics of those critics, said  the "homeless advocates" were apologists for drug use and petty crime, and the "right" to live in the street, didn't outweigh the rights of  private property owners.

Reality as always, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Again, case in point,  my old neighborhood South of Market.   In 2011, shortly before I moved, the city closed off a section of the street in front of my apartment building, and made a very nice small urban pedestrian park  with benches and artwork.   What happened next was sadly all too predictable.  Having made the space safe from car traffic,  it immediately became a homeless encampment, strewn with trash,  human waste and used needles from intravenous drug use.

Local property owners had to eventually demand the city  remove the park and reopen the street to traffic. Which they did.  One former neighbor of mine said the risk of local children getting hit by a car,  was preferable to  kids having "to walk  through  poop and syringes."

Yet there was no mention of where those homeless people went,  after their camp was cleared out.  That part of the equation remains largely unsolved.

This past weekend as I walked down Market Street and through UN Plaza there was a palpable feeling of anger in the air. As techies lined up to buy a $6.00 cup of coffee, they glared with annoyance at the homeless man camped out on the sidewalk in front of them. Who in turn yelled in angry defiance that San Francisco was HIS city and he wasn't going to go anywhere. 

As I walked around downtown San Francisco  this conflict seemed to be  everywhere. Maybe it's just good old Lutheran  guilt, but it seemed where ever I went, I was  confronted by someone angrily asking me  for spare change .   It got to the point where I just didn't want to make eye contact with anyone. And I felt really crappy about it too. Yet in all truth what good is one dollar, or a hand full of change going to do this person? What they really need is housing, substance abuse rehab and mental and medical health services. None of which I  carry in my pockets as I walk down Market Street. 

The rational side of my brain is quick to remind me that I give every month to my church, which in turn supports programs like the Interfaith Homeless Shelter program and the  San Francisco Night Ministry. Which does try to provide those real needs I just mentioned. So why do I still feel so rotten when I pretend not to hear "Hey!! U got change?"  yelled at me by the angry homeless guy with the paper cup? 

Part of the problem is despite San Francisco spending over $200 Million last year on the problem,  the number of homeless that I see on the streets  seems larger than ever.

Yet I could give every cent I have to every homeless person I see and it wouldn't do anything to help solve the problem. So I keep walking avoiding eye contact and lamenting the fact that in spite of all the non profits, churches and social services working to aid the homeless in this city, it still seemed to boil down to someone coming up to me and furiously demanding spare change as I tried to make my way home.

I really don't have a point to make here. I hope that as we move through the Holiday season, everyone who reads this will find one organization that does good work, and donate to it. Be it the Red Cross, a church, a food bank or shelter. 

Happy Holidays from The Bay Area...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I've Been Told.....

I am going to violate my own embargo on posting about Donald Trump.

Normally I would ignore the latest lie / tantrum / tweet-torm / insanity as just more of the same from this administration and the infantile orange tinged sociopath who occupies the White House. Yet this time it is worth commenting on for a couple of reasons.

In a press conference in the White House Rose Garden yesterday. Trump was asked why, after two weeks he had still not commented publicly on the deaths of four US special forces soldiers, killed in an ambush earlier this month in western Niger.   The US troops had been embedded with a larger unit of Nigerien troops and were attacked as they left a meeting with local community leaders a few dozen kilometres from the remote town of Tongo Tongo.

It is always interesting to watch Donald Trump answer a question he was not prepared for.   It is like watching a child try to explain a mess he has been found in the middle of.  It begins with rambling assurances that there actually isn't a mess and that the room is supposed to look like this. 

Then when it becomes  clear that isn't working,  the child segues to a big fib, to redirect blame and attention.  In this case how all the other kids made far worse messes  than him,  in fact  he is  the cleanest, neatest kid EVER.  

If Donald Trump were in fact,  a small child trying to get out of cleaning his room, this might be endearingly funny.    But instead  we saw a 70 year old man,  the President of United States do this in a desperate attempt to distract attention from the fact that he has not paid any attention whatsoever to the deaths of four American Green Berets,  in a terrorist attack. 

Like a Toddler caught in fib, When Trump gets caught in a lie his goto follow up is .... to tell another lie to justify it . His usual follow up fib has been, and was in this case as well; "I don’t know, that’s what I’m told.”

Just like he "was told" his inauguration had the biggest crowd ever?

Just like he "was told" that President Obama had wiretapped him during the campaign?

And who can forget all the times Trump "was told" about President Obama's Birth Certificate?

What makes this latest "it's what I was told", lie particularly pathetic was his desperate flailing attempt to blame this on the Military. Claiming he was told by Generals that President Barack Obama didn't call Gold Star families. When pressed to explain his lie, Trump stammered; "'President Obama I think probably did sometimes and sometimes he didn't,' Trump said. 'All I can do is ask my generals.'

So who was it who "told" Trump this time? Which Generals? When? Asking all of these questions is pointless because Donald Trump is lying. And like toddler with no concept of honesty, when when he gets caught in the lie, he just tells a bigger lie to try to shift the focus or blame.

But don't dwell on this too long.  After all, tomorrow's lie will be even bigger and crazier,  and in no time at all you'll have forgotten all about today's lie.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Remembering a different life...

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 zabasearch.com. 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  11 years...  October 11, 2017

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 JJ, the friend in Wisconsin  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.  There are our friends we shared growing up.  Ed, the police officer in Fond du Lac and, Mike the deputy sheriff in Madison  who still give me permission to be silly,  and when needed, permission to be serious; and at all times the incredible friendship and trust to just be me.  

There is Tim, the Pastor in Pennsylvania, and James, the School Teacher from Boston, who both  lived  remarkable lives of  always seeking the best in people and in doing so, taught me to do the same.  Each of their  passing has left me  missing them both every day.  There is Todd, 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, travelling half way around the world to surprise me at my wedding.

There is Tom and Karen,  the couple in Georgia whose friendship has literally spanned three decades and two oceans , and who always knew, didn't care, and have always loved me for who I am.  Mark, the Career Air Force officer in Germany, and Dale,  the IT guru in Wisconsin  who I had the honour of being a Groomsmen at their respective weddings, and years later are still both sharing their adventures with me.  All these amazing people, along with so many others I am blessed to call my friends.

Along with all these people, I have been blessed to have found  wonderful communities of faith where I was shown that God is Love,  and never hates.   Trinity Lutheran in Madison,  Holy Trinity In Chicago, St, Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco and St. Anne's Lutheran Church in London,

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

And yes,  to my friend PJ, and  others 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

Monday, September 11, 2017

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 16 years having passed since 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  and far more personal level than most people ever will.

So this evening, as many attend attend  memorial services,   people all over the world will think about 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, August 14, 2017

We have seen this story before...

There once was a time when to be a true American Patriot meant you fought against Nazis.

Now we have a President of the United States who is beholden to them, and therefore unable to denounce them, even when they commit cold blooded murder of Americans.

Those who keep trying to draw equivalences by saying " both sides in Charlottesville engaged in violence!", are showing their true colors. Yes some the anti nazi protesters engaged in violence,... while FIGHTING NAZIS. Fighting something so vile that the entire world once went to WAR to destroy it.

If some of the protestors were violent, it was because what they were protesting is PURE EVIL in it's darkest form. So spare me the "we need to respect others right to free expression," nonsense. No, I don't. There is no right to freely advocate rounding up people like me and putting them in camps for extermination. There is no right to advocate that others are somehow less human than you are.

Whoever says "both sides were at fault" in Charlottesville, is saying It is ok to believe that I should have to wear a pink triangle, and that I am less human than they are. Anyone who says I should respect someone's right to hold those views, is a NAZI SYMPATHISER ,
and needs to know that is never going to happen.

There is no room for "finding common ground" it is not stooping to their level when we fight back. Turning the other cheek here is not morality, it is stupidity. There are times when evil must be fought, not negotiated with, not educated, not even resisted.. but FOUGHT. This is one of those times. It starts with angry young men with torches demanding the "right" to attack others. We have seen this story before we KNOW how it ends, the ONLY response it to must be to END it before it goes any farther.

Today is a very good day to stop and remember our history...

Anyone who believes what these monsters espouse is my mortal enemy, and I will treat them as 

I will give Keith Olbermann the last word on this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Donald Trump - Everything A Scout is Not...

A Scout Is.... Those three words begin what is known as  "The Scout Law", the twelve points of which, are meant to be guiding life principles that  members of the Scouting movement are to live by. Most Boy Scout meetings begin with a recitation of those twelve points, along with the pledge of allegiance, and the Scout Oath.  

As a youth, young adult and later Adult Scout volunteer, I couldn't tell you how many times I have said those words.  More  than would be possible to count, and never once in the nearly 40 years i have been associated with the Boy Scouts of America  have I ever felt anything but pride at being a part of a movement that holds those twelve principles  at its core.

That is, until now.

Yesterday  in West Virginia, at 19th Boy Scout National Jamboree.  President Trump, spoke to the assembled Scouts and Scout leaders,   continuing  a tradition that dates back to  the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.

The President of the United States is also the honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America.  Over the years Presidents have spoken both in person, or by pre-recorded video.

1n 1953 Richard Nixon attended while he was Vice President, where he shared a recorded message from President Eisenhower.  Ike would attend in person in 1960.    In 1964, at Valley Forge, President Johnson challenged Scouts to remember that the future of the country is in their hands.

Nancy Reagan attended standing in for her husband in 1985. President George HW Bush in 1989 praised Scouting’s role in battling “the five unacceptables: illiteracy, unemployment, child abuse, drug abuse and hunger.”

 President Clinton challenged Scouts to continue their tradition of service and Good Turns for others.  Then in 2001, President George W. Bush began his remarks with a tribute to a group of scouts who had lost their lives earlier that week, before going on to exhort the attendees to continue Scouting's long tradition of service and duty to God, Country and Self

In 2010 President Obama  was unable to attend in person but instead, he spoke via video to mark the  BSA's 100th birthday.

Yesterday at the The Summit Bechtel Reserve national Scouting center, President Trump stepped upto the podium in front of 40,000 of America's future leaders and what did he talk about? Service? Patriotism? Duty beyond self? Nope.    Donald Trump spent the occasion doing what he does best. Talking about himself, and complaining about people he doesn't like.   Donald Trump decided this was a great opportunity for a campaign rally.  From The Telegraph

Mr Trump flew to West Virginia to a field full of 40,000 chanting and cheering Boy Scouts, telling them he was happy to leave Washington behind.

"Who the hell wants to speak about politics?" Mr Trump said, telling the boys at the National Scout Jamboree he wanted to talk about how to achieve their dreams.

But politics proved too hard for Trump to resist

"Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. you've been hearing about with the fake news and all of that," he told the teenaged boys, sitting state by state in brightly coloured t-shirts.

"You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians and I see the swamp and it's not a good place," said Mr Trump

Mr Trump said he has 10 former Boy Scouts serving in his cabinet and White House, and brought a few on stage as examples of Boy Scout leadership in action, including Tom Price, his health secretary.

"Hopefully he's going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare," Mr Trump said, referring to Obama's signature health care legislation, as the boys booed.

"He better get them, otherwise I'll say, 'Tom, you're fired!'" he said, borrowing the catch phrase from his reality television show, "The Apprentice."

The political-style rally drew widespread criticism on social media, particularly from parents.

The Donald didn't stop there, he went on to rehash his electoral college victory, insult Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Bloomberg News reporting:

Trump spent several minutes reminiscing about his electoral victory recounting the night of Nov. 8, as several states were being called for him. He said Clinton didn’t work hard enough, and paused as the group of boys responded with a hail of boos.

“Do we remember that day? What a beautiful day,” Trump said, adding that it was difficult for a Republican to win the Electoral College and attacking the media for discounting his chances.

“These dishonest people, they said, ‘There is no path to victory for Donald Trump,’’’ he said. “They forgot about the forgotten people.’’

Trump also took the opportunity to attack his predecessor.

“By the way, just a question. Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?’’ Trump asked the crowd. “The answer is no, but we’ll be back.’

I am not going to post any of the video from the speech, you can find it online yourself if you want to relive the rantings of narcissistic sociopath.    The was beyond embarrassing. It was an insult to everything Scouting is supposed to stand for.

CNN's Chris Cilliza  has compiled the 29 most cringe worthy moments from the speech:    Here they are -- in the rough order Trump said them.

1. "Boy, you have a lot of people here. The press will say it's about 200 people. It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today. You set a record."
The Charleston Gazette estimated 40,000 people in the crowd -- which is a lot! Not sure there is a "record" for attendance at a Boy Scout Jamboree. Also worth noting from the Gazette: "Press staff handling the event did not allow local media to bring film equipment into the amphitheater."
2. "I said, 'Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?' Right?"
Trump, apparently. He spent the VAST majority of this speech jabbing at his political foes and recounting his 2016 successes.
3. "Today, I said we ought to change it from the word 'swamp' to the word 'cesspool' or, perhaps, to the word 'sewer.'"
Remember: "Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?"
4. "Many of my top advisers in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my Cabinet were Scouts. Can you believe that? Ten."
One of them is Eagle Scout and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump neither brought along on the trip or mentioned in his speech.
5. "Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important."
Your guess is as good as mine.
6. "We're doing a lot with energy."
This was part of Trump's introduction of Boy Scout and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was in attendance. Apparently, we are "doing a lot" with energy.
7. "He better get them. Oh, he better -- otherwise, I'll say, 'Tom, you're fired.' I'll get somebody."
This "joke" was directed at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who was, awkwardly, standing on stage next to Trump. It came amid Trump's public effort to force Sessions to resign and less than a week after Trump threatened Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, on health care.
8. "As the Scout Law says: 'A Scout is trustworthy, loyal' -- we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that."
Is this about Sessions? Republicans in the Senate on health care? Staffers leaking to reporters? All of the above?
9. "I'm waving to people back there so small I can't even see them. Man, this is a lot of people."
This has to be a record, right?
10. "By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero?"
As Trump was saying this, CNN was showing shots of the crowd. Also, that crowd was "massive" and "record setting."
11. "By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?"
"Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?"
12. "I'll tell you a story that's very interesting for me when I was young. There was a man named William Levitt -- Levittowns, you have some here, you have some in different states."
This is my favorite part of the entire Trump speech. He regales a crowd of kids -- most of whom are teenagers -- about life in New York in the post-World War II age. Nothing like knowing your audience!
13. "Oh, you're Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So -- look at you."
14. "He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places."
15. "And in the end he failed, and he failed badly. Lost all of his money."
Aim for the stars, kids!
16. "I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party."
Again, Trump is speaking to a crowd of teenagers. And recounting his glory days in New York City high society -- decades before they were even born.
17. "You have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum, and if you don't have it, that's OK. Because you're going to go on and you're going to learn and you're going to do things that are great."
Momentum is the key. Having it is everything. If you don't have it, though, everything is still going to be great.
18. "I have to tell you our economy is doing great."
For the 80th time: Trump is speaking to tens of thousands of teenagers.
19. "Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date."
He's talking about Election Day 2016. Because of course he is.
20. "But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say?"
ICYMI: Donald Trump won the 2016 election, winning 304 out of a possible 538 electoral votes. That election was 260 days ago.
21. "And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College -- popular vote is much easier."
"Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?"
22. "I went to Maine four times because it's one vote, and we won. But we won -- one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we're at 269."
He's speaking to teenagers gathered for their annual Jamboree in West Virginia. And he's talking about how Maine splits its two electoral votes by congressional district.
23. "But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years -- Michigan came in."
"Many, many years."
24. "Wisconsin hadn't been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I'd leave these massive crowds. I'd say, 'Why are we going to lose this state?'"
Not sure if you've heard but Trump won Wisconsin. He was the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
25. "So I have to tell you what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again."
Most of the people who were in the audience weren't 18 in 2016 and, therefore, did not vote to Make America Great Again.
26. "And by the way, under the Trump administration, you'll be saying 'Merry Christmas' again when you go shopping. Believe me. 'Merry Christmas.'"
Trump gave this speech on July 24.
27. "They've been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You're going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again, folks."
First of all, "they." Second of all, Merry damn Christmas.
28. "I promise you that you will live scouting's adventure every single day of your life, and you will win, win, win and help people in doing so."
So much winning. You will be bored by all of the winning.
29. "I've known so many great people."
The best people. Believe me.
To say I have always been incredibly proud that Scouting is pivotal influence in my life would be a massive understatement.  The experiences and friendships that I have had and made while in Scouting were, and remain, a key 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.   What happened at the Jamboree yesterday  is an affront to everything about the program I hold dear.

Sadly some of blame here must fall on the heads of BSA Leadership in Irving TX.   They knew exactly what they would get with Trump,  and allowed this happen anyway.   Arranging to have Vice President Mike Pence speak instead would have been a slightly awkward, but hardly impossible thing to arrange.    Instead what happened is the integrity of the BSA itself, was seriously damaged yesterday.

Listening to Trumps self- aggrandising partisan  tirade I was sickened and horrified,  and for the first time in my life  I am ashamed to say I am a Scout.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The (new) Doctor will see us now...

Well the wait is finally over.  After the Wimbledon  final,  the BBC announced the actor who will take over for Peter Capaldi as the new lead in Doctor Who, is Jodie Whittaker.

In retrospect  we all saw this coming.   The show's producers have been dropping TARDIS sized hints that a female incarnation of everyone's favorite Timelord (lady)  was a real possibility.   Beginning with recasting the Master with the brilliant Michelle Gomez (aka Missy).   So  this should come as a surprise to ...well,  nobody.

Reaction has predictably, fallen into two distinct camps.  1) Horror, and predictions  that casting a woman as the Doctor will be final nail in the show's coffin, after what has been largely seen as a weak 10th season; and  2) Anger at those expressing disapproval, saying they are , closed minded sexists and misogynists who are unwilling to even  give Whittaker a chance.

As is often the case with a large shift in popular culture,  the truth  lies somewhere in between the two.    Let's get this out of the way right now, I have no problem with a female Doctor.  My issue is why the the BBC decided to do this now.

The BBC cast a female lead simply to show that they could.   Not because it made sense in terms of the narrative arc of the show.     How do I know this?   Simple,  if casting a woman as Doctor Who was done to further the show's story-line, they would have cast Olivia Colman, not Whittaker.

The show had already established  that  the Doctor can  deliberately choose the face of his (now her) next incarnation.   Peter Capaldi appeared in the episode "The Fires of Pompeii".  His character, along with this family  and was saved by David Tennant's Doctor.   The 12th Doctor deliberately picked that face to remind himself that he is the Doctor, and the Doctor saves people.

It was the brilliant actress Oliva Colman,  who as "prisoner zero" met Matt Smith's  11th Doctor in his first ever episode, and first told him that "silence would fall".  Setting up the brilliant story arc that ran all through  Smith's tenure in the role.

Casting Colman as the next Doctor would have been a perfect and completely  logical choice.  Now to be sure,  Jodie Whittaker is fine actress, but  let's be clear, her casting  was  PR decision not a narrative one.

Recasting gender in science fiction reboots is not new.   Most notably , the casting of  Katee Sachhoff and Grace Park as  Starbuck and Boomer, respectively  in Battlestar Galactica.  Both casting choices that worked out brilliantly and even added new depth to both characters.  

Yet it is worth noting that the Roles of  Commander Adama and Apollo  remained  true to their original male genders.   The American television series "Elementary" re-imagined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ever faithful Doctor Watson as an Asian woman, played brilliantly by Lucy Liu.   Yet, again it is worth noting they kept Sherlock Holmes and didn't go  for Shelia.   The great Dame Judy Dench brought wit and gravitas to the role of  'M'  in seven Bond Films. Yet again,  we still had James not Jennifer Bond.

In all of these cases, the Male lead was not recast, this wasn't because casting a woman was not possible, or even permissible.  It simply didn't make sense.  That is what we have here.   What the BBC have done here is the equivalent of doing a reboot of Star Trek Voyager and re-imagining Captain Janeway as a man.  Possible to do?  Absolutely.   Does it make sense?   No, not at all.

That being said, this could still work.  As always with Doctor Who, it boils down to the writing.  A strong Doctor can overcome a weak script.  We saw that over the course of this  past season, were Peter Capaldi had weak stories that  he was able to carry via the strength of his portrayal as the Doctor.    This new casting choice means the show's writers don't have that luxury.

The writers are now facing the daunting task of having  to win over a significant percentage of the show's existing fan base.  One weak episode and the TARDIS could very well  find itself grounded again, as it was following Sylvester McCoy's tenure.  Only this time, it could be permanent.

I certainly hope both the writers and Whittaker are up to challenge.   I look forward to tuning in Christmas Day to see how this goes.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Trump Administration Colluded With Russia .... and?

Hey there Trump Voters!

As the massive plume of smoke spewing forth from the White House gets closer and closer to bursting into an actual political wildfire, I am thoroughly enjoying your desperate but none the less endearing attempts, to say the real scandal is, given the opportunity, Hillary Clinton would have done the same things the Trump Campaign did.

That’s so cute! It’s like a car-jacker telling the judge that he shouldn’t go to jail because if the car had been his to begin with, his victim would have clearly done the same thing.

What is painfully obvious, dear Trump Supporters is, You don’t love your country nearly as much as you (still, even now,) HATE Hillary Clinton. The fact that President Trump and pretty much his entire inner circle have lied about their collusion with Russia doesn’t matter. Your defence of the President of the United States having conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections is to stick your fingers in your ears and yell ; “CROOKED HILLARY LALALALALALA!!!!”

Setting aside for the moment, that Millions of Americans are going to have their lives put at risk by the loss of their health insurance, just so the top 2 percent of Americans can get a huge tax break. Setting aside for the moment, that The United States is more isolated and marginalised than at any point since the turn of the last century.

Setting aside for the moment, that President Trump released a budget with a $2 trillion math error. Setting aside for the moment, the gutting of environmental protections, and complete removal of science from the mission of the EPA. Setting aside the myth that somehow, coal is going to be America’s economic silver bullet, and let’s not even dwell on the fact that Trump has instructed the interior department to review dozens of national monuments to see if they could be scrapped or resized to allow better access for oil and gas drilling.
Setting all that aside… I get it, none of that matters as much as how much you hate Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States rants on social media like a toddler on meth. It doesn’t matter to you that the President of the United States gets his understanding of the world from a cable news show that has to habitually issue so many blatantly obvious corrections that it has become a running gag on Saturday Night Live.  

Nope, none of this even registers with you, In your world it's fake news.
The fact that the actions of the this administration will hurt you far more than it will any of the creatures in the “swamp” Trump promised to , but then completely forgot to drain must, in your mind, just be a democratic lie to excuse their electoral college loss last November.

I get it, the fact that women’s reproductive rights, minority voting rights, consumer protections and access to affordable health care for millions of Americans are all being wiped away by theTrump Administration isn’t nearly as important as your being able to say, “We won! Get over it!” on internet comment threads. 
I get it, you are completely okay with having a President whose main response to the greatest single threat in terms of nuclear proliferation in the last 40 years is to tweet about it. You are totally cool with a President who has turned the executive branch of government into a money-making operation for his “brand”.

You are giddy with excitement that access to the President of the United States can now be booked online at  hotels.com.

You are thrilled about rounding up kids born in this country, and then deporting them because their parents weren't. You really do believe building a wall on the Southern US border is physically possible, and a substitute for an actual immigration policy.

None of this bothers you at all.  You are standing by your man.  After all it's only smoke... lots and lots of smoke.  Which the Trump Administration's new Air Quality Standards claim is completely harmless. So breath deep Trump Voters. I really do get it. You hate Hillary Clinton, (and by extension, President Obama) far more than you love your country. 

Consequently you will happily accept any and all damage done to the country, as long as it means you never, ever have to admit that maybe, just maybe, you might have been wrong.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Thoughts...

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I have a mild obsession for the American Declaration of Independence, It is a magnificently written document that expresses in glorious Jeffersonian prose, the hopes, and dreams of the people living in those thirteen British colonies in 1776.

As a result, the Fourth of July, has always been one my favourite holidays. I love all the Americana that goes with it. When I lived in Chicago, I would practically force my friends to come with me and picnic in Grant Park where we would sit on the grass eating watermelon, waving sparklers and listening to the Chicago Symphony play “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the fireworks boomed over our heads.

It was always at that moment, seeing the thousands of people around me cheering and waving flags, I’d feel so fortunate to have been born an American. A nation that, despite all its flaws and foibles , has nevertheless, never stopped striving to be that place Katherine Lee Bates called “American the Beautiful”.

The experience of celebrating American independence from outside the United States is not a new one for me. Today is the fifteenth July 4th holiday in my life, spent as an “ex pat”.   I have observed this day in Germany, in South Korea and here in the UK. Friends and co-workers here, were surprised to learn I was not going to take the day off today. I had thought about it, but when you get right down to it, Tuesday, July 4th, is just another workday here. So when in Rome... or in this case, London...

Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, which came to be seen as a sweeping statement in support of human rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I have always loved those words, because at their core, they proclaim why American was designed to be different. What would set us apart from the other nations of the world. No feudal systems of hereditary privilege for us, thank you very much. You keep your Kings, and Dukes and Earls and Viscounts and whatnot.

For us, America would be a place where power and governance would rest in the hands of the many, not the one.

Now on this 4th of July I find myself feeling another emotion... Embarrassment. Now don't misunderstand, I am not embarrassed to be an American, quite the opposite in fact. I have been and always will feel I am blessed to have born a citizen of my country. No I am embarrassed by my country's Government, my country's electorate, and by its choices.

I am horrified, appalled and disgusted by my country's President.

On this day, of all days. It is worth revisiting that brilliant founding document. Jefferson's masterful expression of the American Mind. The American Declaration of Independence

Never in my lifetime would I hear those words and think that a passage written in defiance of a mentally unstable king, would apply so aptly to the President of the United States.

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

The legacy of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and all the other Men and Women who on this day in 1776, set sail in "a skiff, made of paper"; is now in the hands of a mentally unstable, narcissistic man-baby, whose infantile reaction to one of America's core freedoms, the freedom of the press,  was to take to the internet and post.... this:

This... whatever  you want to call it, is what passes for an official statement from the President of the United States in 2017.   To all Americans  wherever you are in the world, if  you are not embarrassed by that, then you are as ignorant of  what this day means as the rodeo clown  in that video is.   

It is my fervent hope that  my nation will soon come to its senses and  reclaim our legacy as an example to the rest of the world.  Instead of what Donald Trump is making it...  An embarrassment.

Happy Independence Day everyone.