Shag one sheep……

So you get asked to give a keynote to an organization, that’s wonderful, what is the first thing you do? Well you research the organization so that you understand the audience and can tune your presentation.

And when you do that, you note that the president of the organization used to be a grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.

So you write your presentation, and you go to the event, and it’s hard not to notice the type of people on the stage with and in the audience.

So you give your presentation, shake a few hands and get on with your life.

It’s possible that you are “that” oblivious of your surroundings, and did not notice the shaven heads, angular tattoos and general tone of the conversations, but it’s hard to generally ignore a large number of bigots, I know I try regularly.

The old “oh I didn’t realize they were racists” line, just isn’t going to cut it.

Why not go for the “represent all constituents” play, and that will work if there happens to be a few less white keynotes in your history. If not you’re just a racist (and that is not a good thing for a GOP whip btw)

If may have just been one white supremacist keynote, but as they say in Australia “shag just one sheep, and you’ll be known as a sheep shagger for life”


What the hell is going on! oh right the same as always.

What the hell is going on!

Like most kids around the world, when I was at school I learnt of the history of the Brits who travelled to America to find solace free from religious and social tyranny.

It was held up as the pinnacle of freedom. A country driven to see all people as equal and to allow each individual the freedom to live their lives as they wished.

Of course the next chapter in that children’s history book did explain that all wasn’t perfect, with oppression of native people, rampant slavery, racism and sexism issues and a history of political corruption and political cowardice that pretty much matched the rest of the world. I know now that this chapter is taught very differently in America.

It seems that maybe teaching the issues of the past more completely may have been a great way to help people to learn to stop repeating them.

The issues of today, seem to be all too familiar from that children’s history book.

Yes I’m looking at you corrupt Supreme Court, and you, paid for politicians, and you business owners who think you have rights greater than other individuals, and you irresponsible gun rights advocates, and you manufacturers who ship jobs oversees to save a buck irrespective of the long term social costs, and you climate change deniers who put your short term profits ahead of long term health and social need, and you union leaders who limit growth of your members to line your personal power bases, and you war profiteers, and you bigots who subvert the meaning of religious texts to support your bigotry…. Hmm it’s a long list when you think about it….


How can it be?

How can it be that the very loud people who are complaining about freedoms being restricted are just as loud about their personal need to restrict other people’s freedoms?

Personal freedom demands that no one else can impose his or her desires or views on anyone else.

It’s your womb, do what you want with it.
It’s your heart, love who you want.
It’s your religion, believe what you want.

My view of your life is irrelevant.

It’s my body, and what I do with it is my choice.
It’s my heart and I’ll use it as I see fit.
It’s my religion and I will believe whatever I wish.

Your view of my life is irrelevant.

Now saying all this I will go out of my way to make the world a happier place. It’s my pleasure to be part of society. I personally enjoy the variety of the world.

I know men who like women, women who like men, men who like men, women who like women, men who like being women and who also like women, and I’m sure somewhere I know every other permutation that is possible to imagine. And I’ve discovered something very simple and obvious, it’s irrelevant to who they are.

A person who thinks that anyone else’s lifestyle is relevant to them, is quite simply a complete asshole. I think it’s very hard work to be such a complete asshole, and it must take a lot of practice. But if people wish to be assholes, so long as they do it in the privacy of their own minds, I’m all for it.



The discomfort of ignorance

There is an old saying “Ignorance is bliss”. As I’ve learnt more about the world, the more I’ve come to realize that ignorance is the antipathy of bliss. The codification of ignorance as a way of dominating swathes of the world’s population has allowed virtually every terrible thing that has ever happened to take place.

I think there are levels of ignorance.

Level 1 – Your basic “lack of knowledge” type of ignorance.

Level 2 – As you move up the hierarchy you find what I like to call “emu ignorance”, where burying ones head in the sand can make a fact go away.

Level 3 – Then you move up to “abusive ignorance”, where you choose to not tell others facts that would save them from being hurt in some way.

Level 4 – And the pinnacle of ignorance, “controlling ignorance”. This is where people are forced to not learn new things as a way of keeping from improving their lives in ways that could lead to the current ruling class losing some or all of their power.

I can think of many examples of basic ignoramuses, emu ignoramuses, abusive ignoramuses and controlling ignoramuses.

There is an antidote to ignorance, and that is obviously knowledge and the skills to learn and teach.

Anyone who steals power by limiting education is evil.

And the ability to be evil is classless.



How many generations does it take to change?

My great grandparents and many of their brothers, sisters, cousins and others travelled from villages in Eastern Europe to England and America. They came with their culture and education, and while life was hard for them they worked hard, and made a life for themselves. I say made a life, but by todays standards it was not that great, they lived in rented tiny rooms with no indoor plumbing, but their children (my grandparents) were able to have a better life than they did, even going to school, and some of their children were able to go to university, and all of my generation was able to go to further education. My nieces and nephews will all have the chance to go to university.

Now imagine if things had been different. Imagine of my great grandparents or their parents or their parents didn’t get to bring their culture with them when they came to the western world. Imagine if they were brought over in chains, and were broken up as a family and forced to work on farms or in factories as slaves. Imagine if they were given new names, and had their history driven from them in very possible way. Imagine of their children were automatically going to be treated the same way? How many generations would it take to allow they decedents to get to the same place as my family?

We don’t need to imagine this of course, because that is exactly the scientific test that has taken place over the last several hundred years. When slavery was abolished, all of a sudden the ex-slaves didn’t get back their culture. Everyone else didn’t instantly forget his or her prejudices. And the ability of families to support and foster the welfare of their children didn’t instantly become better. It’s very hard work to bring up children teaching them the skills of live and these are skills that are passed from generation to generation.

I’m amazed at how hard it is for a family of color to compete in the US. The culture that has grown over the last couple of hundred years clearly has some excellent attributes. Despite the challenges many families are doing very well. But the deck is still very stacked. The statistics on people with a darker dye under their skin being stopped by the police, or jailed is stunning in the clarity it brings to the discussion. There may be some validity in the police acting this way, but it’s doesn’t change the situation that there is disparity. I’ve personally never been stopped by the police walking or driving (except for a speeding ticket), never been searched (except by the TSA), and never worried about what the police are thinking of me. I cannot imagine any person of color being able to say the same thing.

There is also still very overt racism in play today. I’ve had personal experience of this. I’ve seen people excluded from getting jobs because of their skin color. One terrible boss I once had, had the team I worked in interview a person for a job as the final stage in a hiring process. All other interviews had taken place via the phone and the final interview took place in person. The candidate was ideal, great skills; excellent attitude and we all agreed this was the one. But this boss said no, his words “didn’t you see him, he was (in a whisper) black”. We were all disgusted at this, even reporting this weak human being to the human resources department of the company we worked for. But nothing changed, the great candidate didn’t get the job, the nasty boss wasn’t even reprimanded. Was this because they didn’t want to create a problem, or had the companies “quota” already been met? I don’t know. But it showed me just how broken the world can be. However rare this example may be, it still exists. I personally think it’s prolific, but I have no scientifically valid research to prove this.

Life can be hard for everyone, but if you live with the additional burdens of relatives who have been beaten down a million tiny different ways, and of people who actively dislike you or discriminate against you for how you look, then the deck is stacked against you.

It’s easy to question peoples ability based on overt differences such as accent, skin color, gender, height or weight, we all do it all the time, either consciously or subconsciously. And covert differences such as religion and club memberships play their part. It doesn’t make it acceptable.

I believe we are not even close to a place where the playing field is level.

But I suspect this won’t stop the current make up of the supreme court of the United States deciding that affirmative action has run it’s course.



The Limits of National Pride

Living in America, you get to see many very overt shows of national pride. Many buildings and businesses fly the stars and stripes, people at national events take off their hats, place their hands over their hearts and listen or sing along to the National Anthem and political rallies resonate with the sound of the audience chanting the letters U, S, A.

So all in all it’s clear that America is a very patriotic nation, that truly believes in the exceptional nature of itself, and frankly this feeling is honest and often well deserved.

National pride also extends to its men and women who serve in the armed forces. The four arms of the forces (Army, Navy, Airforce and Marines) are all well respected, with civilians regularly showing their respect to vets with comments such as “Thank you for your service”.

There have been times when politics has muddied the waters a little, with veterans returning from wars in Asia not always given the warm and supportive welcome home they deserved. And honor guards to honor the returning dead from more recent wars were at times been shrouded in some levels of secrecy. But these acts driven by politicians and those who were trying to make a political point at the expense of these returning heroes were eventually shown for the mistake they were, and were apologized for and (hopefully) learnt from.

And recently we had the Olympics, where the whole of the United States got behind the US team. The papers were full of descriptions of every performance. Whole swathes of TV broadcasting was turned over to the games. In fact the biggest controversy was that not enough games were being shown, people wanted more!

So for a country that takes every opportunity to display its National Pride, how was it that the Paralympics were absolutely and totally ignored!

Two weeks after the end of the London Olympics the worlds para-athletes gathered in the same location for the world Paralympics. And the United States sent a large team. There was a huge opening ceremony, followed by weeks of incredible sport, followed by most of the world and a very impressive closing ceremony (by all accounts). And in American the coverage was incredible, every channel offer equal time. No channels were differnt, every channel on TV, Radio and in print offered exactly the same coverage. And the coverage from each and every station, channel, publication and website in the United States of America was exactly ZERO.

Yes that’s right, the country which spends so much time talking about its exceptionalism and patriotism, didn’t think it was interesting or important to support its citizens who were disabled.

I just don’t have the words to express how shocking I find this.

Jessica Long , USA Gold Medal Winner

One of the presidential candidates this cycle was the head of an Olympic organization for a winter games in the US, and even he hasn’t been talking about this lack of support for these amazingly talented sports stars.

America won nearly 100 medals in the 2012 London Paralypmics.

31 Gold medals, 29 Silver medals and 38 bronze medals

The USA Paralympic team at London 2012

233 United States of America athletes completed in total.

When they arrive home, will there be any public recognition of their amazing success?

I hope so!



Major League March in DC

Dateline: Washington, DC (on a brutally hot August Saturday)

Prior to the Washington Nationals home baseball game this past weekend there was a “breast-feeders’ rights” protest march/gathering in the city to bring awareness to the fact that women are being forced to cover their exposed breast/s and stop nursing their children in ballparks, restaurants and other public venues in our nation’s Capitol and elsewhere (including other Major League Baseball (MLB) cities).

It’s been a while since I was an infant but I believe I do recall being hungry every hour or so for most of my life so I’m going to agree when told the little guys need to eat that often as well.  And if “mom” provides the best, healthiest and most cost-efficient meals, then I’m on board for that too.

While observers said that this “Million Mammary March” may have come up a little short on total numbers (that would be 500,000 women for you non-math majors), the expressions on the faces of male and female onlookers showed that these proud women protesting with their glistening, naked  breasts in the 100 degree heat had a major league impact on them.  And I can see why it did.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig

I can just see MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appearing visibly moved by the sight and even briefly joining the busty babes as they completed a memorable march from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to Half St. and into Nationals Park.   He of course would be reportedly, “…later treated for heat exhaustion and potential retina damage in both eyes – but of course planning to participate next year.”

Keep up the fight ladies, there are baseball fans and many other men and women that are with you!





Why are we scared of differences

My dog is a racist. It’s a fact of nature, he barks at other dogs that are not like himself. Anytime he sees a small white fluffy dog, it’s all sniffing and hugs, but when he sees a brown dog all of a sudden it’s barks and running around. Squirrels, birds and cats of course get the same treatment.

Now he’s a dog, so I’m willing to give him a little latitude for his limited brain capacity. But I’m not willing to give people the same “get away with being stupid” card.

When I grew up, the only black people I ever saw worked on the underground system, and so I used to call black people train drivers. My parents explained to me at a very early age that skin color is just a pigment that sits below the skin, and is a way that the amount of sunlight that is reflected is controlled, and is a factor associated with their place of origin. I grew up in a very cosmopolitan environment and so just saw skin color as an indicator of where a persons most recent ancestors came from. It’s not complex.

Skin color, cultural background, religion, hair color, height are used by people to differentiate themselves from others. And many people (like my stupid but lovable dog) only like people like themselves. I believe these stupid people are scared of anything not like themselves. It must be terrifying to be scared of so much.

Of course some differences are not so obvious, and for those terrified individuals they must shit themselves at the possibility that the person next to them may have a different sexual orientation. How scary that the bloke next to them on the train may have a boyfriend, or the nice lady at the supermarket once had a penis.

The terror must be very deep when they are willing to look like such bigoted assholes and actively fight to restrict other peoples human and civil rights.

Sexual orientation is so clearly just a genetic coding position in everyone’s DNA. People are who they are. But how can you expect anyone who doesn’t accept science as fact to understand that simple truth. Actually I don’t expect idiots to understand anything, I just expect them to deal with the reality that everyone has the right to live their lives as they please, and accept the fact that everyone has the same rights.

It seems likely that a lot of the most fervent campaigners against equal rights, are in fact fighting an internal battle over their own personal sexuality. And if they can’t accept themselves, how can they accept others.

Stupidity ,self hating and bigotry seem to go hand in hand.

There is no place for bigotry in this universe, so get over it.