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.