Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

The video above is the preview for the film, A Walk in the Woods, which based on the memoir of the same name by Bill Bryson. It’s one of my favourite of his books, for several reasons, so I’m not sure if I’m intrigued or horrified. The YouTube description says:
“In this new comedy adventure, celebrated travel writer, Bill Bryson (Academy Award winner Robert Redford), instead of retiring to enjoy his loving and beautiful wife (Academy Award winner Emma Thompson), and large and happy family, challenges himself to hike the Appalachian Trail - 2,200 miles of America’s most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine. The peace and tranquility he hopes to find, though, is anything but, once he agrees to being accompanied by the only person he can find willing to join him on the trek – his long lost and former friend Katz (Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte), a down-on-his-luck serial philanderer who, after a lifetime of relying on his charm and wits to keep one step ahead of the law – sees the trip as a way to sneak out of paying some debts and sneak into one last adventure before its too late. The trouble is, the two have a completely different definition of the word, “adventure”. Now they're about to find out that when you push yourself to the edge, the real fun begins.”
First, it’s amazing how many people don’t realise it’s possible to use paragraphs in YouTube descriptions. Okay, that’s not about the movie—it's just something that bugs me.

The cast looks good, and it could be entertaining, which is why it intrigues me. But the book, while comedic, is also very serious. Among other things, it tells the tale of Rebecca Wight, who was murdered on the Appalachian Trail. I met her partner, Claudia Brenner, who was wounded in the shooting, when we were both campaigning for what became the Hate Crime Statistics Act. While we weren’t friends, we were certainly friendly. Claudia gave a moving talk about the murder, and wrote a book about it, Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence.

So, a "comedy adventure" hardly seems like the right place to discuss such a horrific event, but it was a part of the book. Can other serious tales told in the book survive?

Still, I’ll probably watch the movie, eventually, at least. I’m curious how the real book is treated in the “comedy adventure”. Plus, the Appalachian Trail fascinates me. But I bet I’ll also think about my former colleague, Claudia, and her lost love, Rebecca.

All the young dudes

There’s one thing about YouTube that I admit I simply don’t get: The massive popularity of young guys, cute as a button, often gay, and none of them seeming to have done anything else. Why are they so popular?

YouTube is enormously popular with young people. It attracts more adults 18-34 than any cable TV network, according to Business Insider. They go on: “Nearly half of people in this age group visited YouTube between December 2013 and February 2014, according to Nielsen. It was rated by millennials as the top place to watch content, ahead of digital and TV properties like Facebook and ESPN.”

According to Digiday, in March 2015, “YouTube drew 31.8 million users aged 18 to 24 (98.3 percent of U.S. Internet users in that age bracket).” That’s a massive audience of young people. They also spent an average of 10 hours, 15 minutes on the site.

So, the young dudes and dudettes on YouTube start out with a big potential audience—far bigger than there would be for channels targeting older people. In March 2015, Digiday said, YouTube “attracted 19.4 million visitors 65 and older (74.4 percent of Internet users in that demo) who spent an average of 3 hours, 54 minutes using the video-streaming service”. So, it’s not just about numbers of potential viewers, it’s also about how much they watch.

Young people are accustomed to living their lives online, so getting their entertainment and information there is natural for them, less so for older people. There’s also a distinct pro-gay spirit at YouTube, which may help to explain all the young gay guys. But there’s also a long history of young teen girls going mad for pretty, non-threatening boys (look at the history of magazines aimed at young teen girls for more about that).

So, maybe it’s not surprising that some of those young YouTubers are hugely popular, even if most of us 35+ folks have never heard of them. Consider just one example among many, Joey Graceffa. I’d never heard of him until the other day when a young gay YouTube star I’ve watched for years, Tyler Oakley, shared a video where he was mentioned. It turned out to be a comedic reaction to the music video up top in which Graceffa shares a kiss with another young man.

That video is fine as such things go, and the kiss was kind of sweet, but the reaction turned out to be widespread. I noticed that the main page for Yahoo! featured this story from Huffington Post: “YouTube Star Joey Graceffa Comes Out As Gay In Magical Music Video”. I’d never heard of him until that night, and suddenly he seemed to be all over the place.

A quick Google search turned up another story, “Joey Graceffa Came Out In His Music Video For ‘Don't Wait,’ And It Is Basically The Millennial Fairy Tale We've All Been Waiting For”. Okay, then.

It turns out that Graceffa has 4,679,677 subscribers. That’s more subscribers than there are people in New Zealand. That’s pretty impressive.

It also turns out that Graceffa, like several other young YouTubers, has a book deal. In fact, the music video pre-empted the coming out he’d planned for his book, as he explained in a follow-up video he posted (below). Tyler Oakley, among the biggest of these young YouTubers, also recently announced he’s doing a book, and I’ve seen references to several other doing books, too.

A few months ago, one of my fellow podcasters, younger than me but just above the main age demographic for these videos, expressed disbelief at how hugely popular these young YouTubers are. I understand why he felt that way, of course, but I’ve come to realise that their popularity feeds on itself and gains them more popularity (and money, to be honest). It’s also the reason so many of them ended up with book deals: Publishers wanted to cash in on the young YouTubers’ enthusiastic fanbase—millions of potential purchasers.

In the end, this is really all about demographics: These young YouTubers are in the same age demographic as their core audience and can speak to them with authenticity. Most of them are also fun to watch, with most of their videos less than four minutes long—perfect for modern attention spans (including mine). Add it all up, and it's not surprising that they’re as popular as they are, or that at such young ages so many are getting book deals to tell their life stories.

As someone in an older, under-represented YouTube demographic, I may not instinctively get these young YouTubers’ popularity or success, but intellectually I can completely understand. Still, how many of them will have lasting careers because of this YouTube fame?

Until recently, I’d never heard of Joey Graceffa, which is precisely why I decided to use him as an example of what I’m talking about. It’s probable that most of us, especially the older we are, haven’t heard of him, or most of the other young YouTube stars, either. Such is the nature of Internet fame.

So, I wonder through all this, what happens when their fame fades away? And, I wonder, who will tell that story?

Related: Last year the Daily Mail ran a story on some of the biggest young UK vloggers on YouTube.

Another Democrat

While pundits continue to talk about the Democratic presidential nominee being a foregone conclusion, others clearly disagree—including declared or potential candidates. There are now three candidates for the nomination, with a couple more expected eventually. This is a good thing.

Martin Joseph O'Malley has entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president, and chances are good that most Americans, if they even heard the news, thought to themselves, “WHO?!” O’Malley, governor of Maryland from 2007-2015, is by anyone’s reckoning a longshot to win the nomination.

At 52, O’Malley is the youngest of the announced Democratic candidates. Since I’ve mentioned it for older candidates, I’ve decided to start mentioning this factoid for all candidates who announce from now on: On Inauguration Day, O’Malley will be 53 years, 3 days old. Is that an advantage or irrelevant? I have no idea, but at the moment I’d bet it’s more irrelevant than anything. In general, voters tend to care about a candidate’s age mostly when they’re worried a candidate is “too old” or “too young”.

Interestingly (to me, anyway) O’Malley’s also a musician and songwriter.

The Democratic field is dominated, of course, by Hillary Clinton, but Bernie Sanders, an Independent US Senator from Vermont who caucuses with Senate Democrats, has been raising a lot of money and getting attention, particularly on the left wing of the Democratic Party, and among the Left outside the party. O’Malley will need to distinguish himself from both candidates in order to get any attention at all.

O’Malley is a pretty mainline Liberal Democrat, as shown in a piece published by ThinkProgress, “5 Things You Need To Know About Martin O’Malley”. His record as governor is arguably more liberal than was Clinton’s at the same time, and probably not as far to the left as Sanders. One likely weak point will be his stance on crime during his time as mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), during which large numbers of people were arrested for minor crimes as part of O’Malley’s “zero tolerance” policies. Critics argue that this policy led, ultimately, to the recent riots in Baltimore due to the police’s alleged overzealous policing of black people.

O’Malley has, so far, struck a populist chord, similar to the other Democrats, but he’s also trying to cast doubt on the sincerity of Clinton’s stance on things like Wall Street reform. My guess—and it’s only that at the moment—is that O’Malley will try and position himself as a sort of “less scary” (i.e., not socialist) alternative to Clinton that Left-leaning Democrats can rally behind if they’re unsure of Sanders for whatever reason. I don’t think that will be enough.

For both Republicans and Democrats, the people who take part in the presidential selection process tend to be core members of their party’s base: Religious social conservatives for Republicans and liberals for Democrats. Traditionally, candidates had to “run to the base” to win their party’s nomination, then tack back toward the centre for the general election. However, the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that this is now pretty much impossible for their nominee to do credibly. But the Republicans’ rightward march has also moved the centre to the right, so candidates now branded (admittedly, mostly by rightwing pundits and politicians) as “extreme leftists” are basically old-fashioned liberals at most.

The most ardent leftwing voters—the voters to whom Sanders in particular appeals—tend to remain outside the Democratic Party, usually backing quixotic third-party or independent candidates or puffing up their chests with self-righteous hubris and declaring they won’t vote at all. The only time I can remember this not being the case is when Barack Obama ran in 2008 and some of the Left outside the party participated to help him get the nomination—and then they promptly abandoned him and the party in 2010 when it turned out that neither Obama nor the Democratic Party were as ideologically pure as the Left, for some bizarre reason, expected.

So, what this all means is that Sanders’ main appeal is outside the party, and O’Malley’s could be within the party, including the very base that actually participates in the selection process. That’s an advantage for O’Malley. However, there’s momentum behind Clinton, along with the undeniable attraction of the possibility of electing the first female president. Those are huge advantages for Clinton.

However, we all know that in the months ahead the Republican Party will continue to attack Clinton, seeing her as the strongest candidate; Republicans want the weakest Democratic candidate to give their eventual nominee an at least fighting chance. The Republican Party has been posting anti-Clinton attack videos on YouTube for months, and they’ll continue to do that, just as they and the official Republican Party propaganda channel, Fox “News”, will continue to gin up constant fauxrage over fake “controversies” about Clinton, thereby, they hope, weakening her as a candidate. If they succeed, it will give another candidate an opening.

On the other hand, if there were no Democratic challengers, there would be little mainstream media attention paid to Hillary Clinton, despite Fox’s best efforts to create something. So, challengers will help gain mainstream media attention, particularly because two of them will have to campaign against the frontrunner (journalists love drama and conflict). As long as all the Democratic campaigns stay positive, even in when comparing and contrasting, this contest will be a good thing.

So far, all the Democratic candidates are credible, even if they’re not equally so. This is in stark contrast to the Republicans—but the list of contrasts is very long. At least all the Democratic candidates are all on this planet; that’s a very good starting point.

There’s still 1 year, 5 months, and 9 days until the US presidential election.

The photo above is the official portrait of Martin O’Malley as Maryland Governor, taken in 2013.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The last Campbell Live

Tonight I watched the final Campbell Live, New Zealand’s last prime time public affairs programme. It was a bittersweet affair, a reminder of what was, and of what we won’t see again. Public affairs broadcasting died tonight, as was the plan all along.

First things first: John Campbell signed off with the same grace he showed throughout his show, and he showed far, FAR more grace than the CEO of Mediaworks, Mark Weldon, could ever show. That’s not a slam, it’s just a simple fact. If there’s a more useless CEO in New Zealand than Marky, I’ve not seen him.

Campbell Live was killed off by a Tory corporate head (Weldon), and a Tory corporate bigwig (Julie Christie) and a lackey of both, Mark Jennings, all of whom hated Campbell Live because they thought he was “too hard” on their best mate, John Key, and his government. These are obvious facts, no matter how much the Tories deny it.

The larger issue here is that with TV3 firmly in the back pocket of the National Party, and with TVNZ doing whatever it can to please the same National Party, including giving a job to its biggest fanboi in the 7pm slot, who speaks for the ordinary New Zealanders that National rejects? Simple answer: No one.

Campbell Live, for all its faults, was the ONLY daily show to stand up and speak truth to power. Yes, it made John Key and National squirm sometimes, but it did that to Labour, too, and Labour never—ever—tried to silence John Campbell as National has. The times have changed.

Where to now? Mediaworks, owners of TV3, are firmly under the control of the National Party, and, so, irrelevant. TVNZ is also under the thumb of National because their bosses serve at the pleasure of John Key and his ministers. So, who speaks for ordinary New Zealanders now? No one.

Many of my friends on the Left tout Native Affairs on Maori Television, but that network and show have been compromised, too, as dispassionate commentators have noted far too many times to link to here. It may be better than nothing, but that’s hardly good enough.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is. A public broadcaster, with a somehow legally impregnable wall preventing the partisan political interference that we have now would be a good thing, but a National Party government will never—ever—agree to that. That leaves us only with developing alternative media. Can that happen? I honestly don’t know, but will that happen? No. We’re appear to be far too content to let John Key tell us what we can think, what we should think, what we should care about, and the vast majority of things for which we should give no shits whatsoever.

Wait, isn’t there a “Dancing with the X-Factor Stars Kitchen Rules On Their Block” to watch? FUCK politics! All Hail John Key! Because, that’s now all we have left.

Related: "Campbell twice as popular as Henry - TV3 research" - NZ Herald

Not a clown, a WHO?

George Elmer Pataki has decided to run for the Republican presidential nomination, too (announcement video above). Most people reading that will be thinking, “WHO?!” and that’s only one of the many obstacles he faces.

George Pataki left office in 2006, and has been little heard from since. Not even Wikipedia has paid much attention: When I entered his last name, I expected it to come up with “Pataki, George” as a suggestion on the list of possibilities, but instead I got a long list that didn’t even mention him. Ouch. I tired a second time and “Pataki (New York Governor)” was one of the lower suggestions. More ouch.

George Pataki
The reality is, most people know nothing—not even the names—of most governors of other states (or, tragically for democracy, all too often the governors of their own state). But when a governor has been out of office for a decade, and little heard from since, words like obscure or longshot seem appropriate.

In addition to obscurity, his age could be a problem. On Inauguration Day, he’ll be 71 years, 211 days. The oldest US President, Ronald Reagan, was 69 years, 349 days when he was sworn in. For comparison, Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 87 days on Inauguration Day and Bernie Sanders will be 75 years, 135 days.

As I’ve often said, age of and by itself ought to be irrelevant, but we know it’s not. Among other things, the older the candidate, the harder it is to present oneself as a leader of change. On the other hand, it can also lend an aura of experience, even of authority or gravitas. Regardless, I think that age is probable the least of Pataki’s barriers.

Pataki is a small government conservative, but unlike all the clowns in the Republican Clown Bus, he actually means it. He wants to reduce the size of government, not use the power of government to micromanage people’s lives like all the Clowns want to do. This is a problem for a Republican candidate, where primary voters expect them all to be fire-and-brimstone culture warriors.

Pataki is usually called a “moderate” mostly because he’s not a culture warrior. At all. He’s pro-choice, he’s considered an environmentalist, and as Governor of New York he dislodged the stalled bill outlawing discrimination against gay people, and then signed it into law. None of those things wins any points with the Republican base.

IF Pataki won the Republican nomination, he’d stand a good chance in the general election precisely because he’s not a radical nutjob (or acting like one) like all the other announced Republican candidates are. In fact, of all the announced candidates, Pataki is the only one who could appeal to a broad base of independent and moderate voters, most of whom would—and should!—be scared shitless by the denizens of the Republican Clown Bus. Which is precisely why I don’t think he stands a chance. In fact, he’s got to be near the top of the betting list of candidates mostly likely to drop out first.

Still, politics is a game full of surprises, so you just never know. In the meantime, he’s sort of the grown-up chaperone on the Republican Clown Bus, and definitely not one of the clowns.

There’s still 1 year, 5 months, and 11 days until the US presidential election.

Photo of George Pataki By Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Update – related: “Who Is This George Pataki Guy And Where Does He Stand On Issues Like Same-Sex Marriage?”

New AmeriNZ Podcast episode

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 310 – Winterish” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This clown is also a dangerous joke

So, the Republican Clown Bus had a new clown clamber on board today. This one is a joke in so many ways, though apparently he doesn’t know it. There are other clowns/jokes soon to board the bus, too, but this one is his own category.

Richard John "Rick" Santorum, dumped as US Senator from Pennsylvania in 2006, is a far-right religious extremist, as so many Republican politicians are. He’s said that his adamant opposition to marriage equality, and his opposition to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships, is based on his Roman Catholic religion. Well, yippee, how nice for him. He’s entitled to believe whatever he wants to, and to advocate his peculiar religious beliefs, but he is NOT entitled to impose his religion on everyone else. The American people don’t agree with him on marriage equality, so why does he think he gets to dictate how things should be?

Santorum’s anti-gay bigotry is well-known. For example, in the past he called for criminalising homosexuality itself; since he’s never repudiated that sick ideology, we must assume he still supports that. Like Huckabee and Cruz, Santorum throws around his religion to justify all sorts of oppression of people who don’t share his religious beliefs. That’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous, and is little short (if at all) from religious fascism (technically usually called “authoritarian theocracy”).

He’s apparently hoping that people will forget about all that he tries to rebrand himself as the champion of the working class, but so far Republicans aren’t buying it. That’s actually good news, because Santorum would be an enemy of working people and a friend of Big Corporations and the ultra rich. I bet that if he does poorly in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses, he’ll re-re-brand himself as a culture warrior. Again.

I have nothing but contempt for Santorum. He’s wrong on every single issue he pontificates on, of course, but what I most have against him is his determination to force his religion on everyone else, against their will and their own beliefs. The dangerous arrogance of that leads not to freedom or liberty, and definitely not to morality, but instead leads to a theocracy like Iran. And that’s not just un-American, it’s anti-American.

I hope he’s defeated badly in every state he runs. Maybe when he loses yet again, we'll be rid of his extremist bullshit once and for all. We can only hope.

“Ten Outrageous Ideas Rick Santorum Actually Believes”
“Ten Of Rick Santorum's Worst Anti-Gay Comments”
"Five things to know about Rick Santorum"
“The Rick Santorum record: The original Ted Cruz, but with George W. Bush baggage”

Below: Facts about Rick Santorum from the Human Rights Campaign

There’s still 1 year, 5 months, and 12 days until the US presidential election.

The photo up top is a screen grab from Santorum’s announcement today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2Political Podcast 106 is available

Episode 106 of the 2Political Podcast is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

This episode was recorded a couple weeks ago, but then I had a gout attack and couldn't use my mouse, so no editing was possible. A new episode has been recorded since and is waiting patiently for editing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Time to advance Australian fairness

It’s time for Australia to adopt marriage equality, and ensure fairness and equality for all its citizens. The recent approval of marriage equality in Ireland has put renewed pressure on Australia, which is that last developed English-speaking country without it.

Australia is similar to New Zealand in that it only needs to change its marriage laws, and doesn’t need to amend its constitution, as Ireland needed to do. Leader of the Opposition, Australian Labor Party Leader Bill Shorten, has announced plans to push marriage equality in the Australian Parliament (he shared the graphic above on Facebook). New Zealand’s marriage equality law began as a private member’s bill by Labour MP Louisa Wall, who was then, as now, an opposition MP.

Australia, like New Zealand, doesn’t normally put referenda to popular vote. In Australia, only constitutional matters go to referendum, and anything else is only advisory and non-binding, which makes it nothing more than a very expensive taxpayer-funded opinion poll that Parliament may ignore, anyway.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, correctly, “I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.” Both he and Bill Shorten have dismissed the idea of a referendum.

However, Abbott went on to say that whether or not Coalition MPs would be allowed a conscience vote, as happened here in New Zealand, was “a matter for the Coalition partyroom”, and there’s the problem: Abbott is a staunch Roman Catholic, having once studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, and so he is adamantly opposed to marriage equality, in line with the dictates of his church. That’s fine, and it’s his right to believe whatever he wants to, but by denying a conscience vote, he’s effectively imposing his beliefs on all Australians because their elected representatives aren’t allowed to vote the way their own consciences or constituents dictate.

Polls show huge support for marriage equality among the Australian people, and it’s thought that if there was a conscience vote it could pass the Australian Parliament. All of which suggests that Tony Abbott is using the political process in Australia to prevent a conscience vote in Parliament because he doesn’t like the probable result. As Bill Shorten said, “Most places in the world are dealing with marriage equality, why is Tony Abbott stopping Australia becoming a more modern nation?”

Tony Abbott needs to get out of the way. As the New York Times said in an editorial about the Irish victory, “The outcome in Ireland sends an unmistakable signal to politicians and religious leaders around the world who continue to harbor intolerant views against gays and lesbians.” Indeed it does. Politicians like Tony Abbott need to catch up with their own people. As the editorial also said, “The tide is shifting quickly. Even in unlikely places, love and justice will continue to prevail.”

It’s time Australia ensured all its citizens were treated equally, it’s time for marriage equality in Australia.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Just one more: ‘Yes to love’

Today I ran across two more videos about Ireland I wanted to share, and since tomorrow it’s on to other topics, why not just one more share? Good news always deserves a little extra attention, I think.

In the video above, Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny makes a statement after the referendum results are released. It’s a “raw” video from Reuters, which means there’s no reporter providing a narration.

In the video below, also a raw video, crowds in Dublin express their joy at the referendum results. Who can't help but smile at such utter happiness?

And that’s a great place to leave this topic.

Messages from the Yes campaign

The campaign to win marriage equality in Ireland actually began many years ago, and during that time many video messages were produced to advance the cause. Some of them are among the best I’ve ever seen, so I wanted to share them all together, even though I’ve already posted many of them.

The story begins, in a sense, with the Irish election on February 25, 2011. The new Irish government planned to change the country’s constitution to enact marriage equality. That’s when the campaign most of us know about began.

However, the campaign actually began years earlier. The first ad I saw was from the group Marriage Equality, which began advocating for civil marriage equality back in 2008. The following year, the group posted their first ad, “Sinead’s Hand”, which brilliantly points out the offensive absurdity of having to ask others for the right to marry. More subtly, the ad was also generating sympathy for gay people because having to ask for the right to marry was unfair.

Marriage Equality’s “Rory’s Story”, from 2011, plainly and simply explained why the country’s civil partnership laws weren’t good enough: In this case, because “civil partnership neglects the rights between a child and his or her non-biological parent, and the consequences are real.” The ad ends with a title card displaying the text “Civil partnership is not Marriage Equality”.

Some of the best ads were made by BeLonG To Youth Services. The first of their videos I saw in what was already the Yes vote campaign, was “It’s in your hands”, in late 2014. It was encouraging young people to register to vote so that they could help “make Ireland a more equal place for our LGBT friends.” Since young people are overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality in every Western nation, this was a very smart move. It was also an absolutely brilliant ad—one of the best I’d ever seen.

But the single best ad I’ve ever seen was also from BeLonG To, “Bring Your Family With You”. The ad brilliantly places the Yes vote in the context of family. It made no attempt to make the intellectual arguments (they had other online videos for that), but instead sought only to make people care about voting, to motivate them to put their love for their family and friends into action by voting Yes, together. It played right into Irish values

There were plenty of other messages, too. For example, Irish comedian Brendan O'Carroll, star of top-rating Mrs. Brown’s Boys, made a Vote Yes video as his character, Mrs. Agnes Brown. The message is simple, direct, and well done.

Also placing the Yes vote in the context of Irish culture were videos like Yes Equality’s “Marriage & Family Matter - Hurlers for Yes”. Hurling is a very big sport in Ireland.

Summing up all this messaging is “Every Vote Counts!”, also from Yes Equality. I think it’s a really good look at the campaign in Ireland, and the various ways the messaging was used and reinforced. It’s a feel-good, positive video—as all the messaging was.

Below, I’ve included links to the various YouTube channels most of these videos are from. It’s well worth checking them out to see some of the other video messaging done, particularly the personal stores that were shared, because they helped win the day. There were plenty of other videos posted by all sorts of people, far too numerous to mention. And, obviously, I’m not sharing any of the “no” videos on my blog because, well, no—just no.

Not all of the work done in Ireland will be applicable to other countries, but much of it will be. Since young people support equality so overwhelmingly, it’s vital to engage and energise them. This is why the social media aspects of the campaign were so important.

However, what mattered most was that it was a simple issue that people cared about a LOT. Along the way, Ireland really did have a “national conversation” because of this campaign, and I have no doubt that theirs is a better society for it. I hope all of this serves as a useful example for other places, Australia and Northern Ireland in particular.

So, my deepest and heartfelt congratulations and thanks to everyone who took part in the Yes campaign. You all were absolutely brilliant.


The YouTube Channels for all the organisations I’ve mentioned:
Marriage Equality
BeLonG To Youth Services
Yes Equality

Ireland shows us the way

Ireland has become the first country in the world to approve marriage equality in a popular vote. In doing so, the Irish people placed themselves firmly on the side of love and equality, and gave a lesson to the world.

While I’m unalterably opposed to ever putting civil and human rights up for popular vote, this situation was a little different. The reason there was a referendum at all is because they were amending the Irish Constitution in order to enable marriage equality, and all such amendments must be approved by a simple majority in a referendum. So, the referendum was actually about the “Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015”.

In total, 1,935,907 voted in the marriage equality referendum, of which 1,201,607 people voted Yes and 734,300 voted No. That means that Yes had a majority of 467,307. So, according to official results, marriage equality won with 60.52% of the vote to 37.93% against—a landslide victory for equality. Turnout was 60.52%.

Only one of Ireland’s 43 constituencies voted against equality, and only barely: The No vote in Roscommon-South Leitrim was 51.42% and the Yes vote was 48.58%. Dublin constituencies, as expected, voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality—better than 70% Yes—but rural areas also voted yes, if less overwhelmingly. As Irish Times writer Una Mullaly put it, “The decency of the Irish people was not limited to the liberal leafy suburbs of Dublin, nor the solidarity from the flats, but that decency came from the cliffs of Donegal, the lakes of Cavan, the farmyards of Kildare, the lanes of Kerry.”

This was also a victory brought about by the young, who mobilised heavily for the Yes vote. Young voters, statistically speaking, often don’t bother to vote, much less get involved in campaigns. As one organiser among the young put it, this issue “affects people regardless of what stage of life they’re at. We all know someone who is openly gay.”

And that, too, is at the heart of this victory: People. On the one hand, the Yes campaign worked hard to ensure that ordinary Irish voters understood that this affects real people (my next post will be about some of that messaging). But ordinary Irish people responded, volunteering in huge numbers all over the country, and, of course, voting for equality. Una Mullaly said of it, “If you want examples of active citizenship, if you want to learn about the spirit of volunteerism, if you want to see democracy in action, then this is the campaign for you.”

The Yes campaign captured the hearts and minds of ordinary Irish voters as perhaps no other issue has in recent times. Expat Irish people returned home in large numbers specifically to vote Yes, something I don’t recall ever happening for any other country’s election.

There’s also an important symbolism in a landslide approval for equality. Our rightwing adversaries—who in their honest moments admit they oppose any legal recognition of same-gender couples’ relationships, not just marriage—often say that most of the USA’s marriage equality laws are “unjust” because “the people” didn’t approve them. Well, in Ireland, the people DID approve—loudly, clearly, deliberately, and unequivocally.

This referendum mattered a lot to me personally. I wrote about it on this blog and shared things about it on social media more than the struggle for marriage equality in any other single place—apart from New Zealand, obviously. Some of that’s because Ireland is similar in size to New Zealand, with some similar urban/rural divides. Also, Irish immigration has been important to both New Zealand and the USA. So, yes, all those sentimental reasons. But the main reason of all is the symbolism that this victory provides.

This huge victory will give hope to people in countries that don’t yet have marriage equality, of course, but it may even give some hope to the people in the 79 countries where homosexuality is criminalised. After all, Ireland only decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, so anything’s possible.

The Irish people have shown us all that love does win in the end. And if that isn’t good news to celebrate, I don't know what is.

Congratulations, Ireland!!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Advertising the future

Earlier this week, I talked about how I wanted technology from Star Trek, and some things that now exist. We really are living in the future. The video above is a compilation of ads from AT&T from more than two decades ago, pretty accurately predicting the future we now live in.

I remember those ads, and I remember how exciting they made the future sound—and how fantastical, yet believable, the technology sounded. Nearly everything they predicted now exists in one form or another, and what doesn’t is mostly technologically feasible, if only there weren’t human barriers of one sort another.

There were only two things I noticed that don’t exist. First, real-time, live language translation of speech. Instead, we can only translate written text (sort of…). We also don't yet have virtual personal assistants, though we can at least accomplish many of the bits and pieces with the technology and software we do have.

This week alone, I used technology to do many of the things mentioned in the ads. For example, I read a book on my Kindle—a book I bought from Amazon, “from thousands of miles away”. I used Skype to record a podcast with Jason, and while that was audio-only, it could have been a video call. In fact, I’ve used Skype video calling many times, and I’ve used video hangouts on Google+.

I also have GPS on my phone in case I need to find some place “without stopping to ask for directions”. I frequently email PDFs (the modern-day equivalent of sending a fax). And there’s much more, too.

When the ads aired, the Internet as we now know it didn’t exist, so neither did any of the Internet services we take for granted. So, the fact that AT&T correctly predicted so much of what would exist in twenty years is pretty extraordinary, since it depended on technology that didn't actually exist at the time. However, what I think is even more extraordinary is that the promise was fulfilled mostly by people who were little kids—teenagers or young adults at most—when the ads first aired.

I can't wait to see what today’s little kids will deliver for us in the future.

Tip o’ the Hat to VOX, which shared and talked about the video today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A reason to be cheerful

A new cross-party working group on LGBTI rights has been set up by MPs in the NZ Parliament to provide education, leadership and legislative progress on LGBTI rights. This is a very good thing, and should be praised. Some don’t see it that way, of course.

The working group was initiated by Green Party MP Jan Logie, and initially included 12 members from National, Labour, NZ First, Act, and the Greens. National Party MP Amy Adams invited all MPs to wear pink to show their support for Pink Shirt Day, and the photo above shows MPs from most of the parties in Parliament. It was posted by MP Lousia Wall, author of the marriage equalty law, on her Facebook Page.

The photo was met with opposition by those on the Left, of all things—you know, the people who have the most to gain from cross-party cooperation on LGBT issues—oh, wait, many of them are not, in fact, L, G, B or T. Never mind—ideological purity!

The Left’s argument seems to be, if a politician opposed marriage equality, they are forever branded as anti-LGBT. I think that’s stupid, shallow, and self-defeating.

First, politicians DO evolve: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and any number of NZ politicians prove that. And that means that we don’t really want to lock politicians into always being the narrow-minded folks they once were. Enlightenment is good, dammit.

But, let's assume that some politicians are anti-LGBT, and they’re happy for us to be, at best, second-class citizens. Yet those same politicians think bullying is really bad. Should we refuse to allow them to say that? Only stupid people would say so.

It takes some politicians longer than others to accept LGBT people as full and equal citizens. But if those same politicians recognise that bullying is evil, why shouldn’t we embrace that? It’s only a short hop to recognising our humanity overall.

In New Zealand, anti-discrimination is law. So is marriage equality. The question before us is, what else can we do to make sure that LGBT people are full and equal citizens? If a politician who formerly opposed our rights now opposes bullying, I see that as progress, not hypocrisy.

Obviously, politicians can do good things. And, sometimes, silly politicians can reform themselves and help our society to move forward. That ought to be celebrated as a good thing, not an opportunity for partisan point-scoring.

I’m among the most partisan people I know, but I applaud the creation of this multi-party group. Let me prove that. I think that Act Party Leader David Seymour was spot-on when he said, “We believe in the equality of all human beings and we still have legislative and policy work to do to realise those rights for LGBTI people.” Who doesn’t—apart from our true adversaries, all of whom are outside of Parliament?

Or, how about the right-of-centre NZ First Party. MP Denis O’Rourke said, “Last year a New Zealand group reported to the UN that there remain a number of barriers to the realisation of LGBTI rights in NZ. I think it’s important for MPs and parliament to consider those concerns.” He’s right, of course.

And, the National Party’s Paul Foster-Bell added: “A recent Westpac survey found discrimination is still rife in our workplaces as well, and an international survey has found disturbingly high levels of homophobia in sports in NZ. I’m proud to be working towards a solution to these shameful situations.”

The point is, fighting homophobia and anti-LGBT bias is NOT a partisan issue, and we should welcome allies from wherever they come. I’m truly sorry that some of our friends on the Left don’t understand that creating change is far more important than ideological purity, but I’m from the old school that understands this. I've always kept my eyes on the prize, and I’ve always been willing to work with anyone who can advance the rights of LGBT people—party doesn’t mater.

So, I applaud the cross-party working group, and I hope they do great things. I also applaud all the MPs, of whatever party, who embraced Pink Shirt Day. For me, the politicians’ success will be determined ONLY by what they achieve, not by who they are, what party they represent, or whatever positions they once held on public policy issues affecting LGBT people. Tell me what you’re going to do, not who you were.

This is a reason to be cheerful, not to be churlish. I understand the difference.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On the other hand

Yesterday, I wrote about dictating text to my computer so that I don’t have to use my hand for mousing. What I didn’t say is that I have other problems that I can’t solve so easily. Like the majority of people in the world, I’m very right-handed.

Some 90% of people are right-handed. Around 30% of all people in the world can use both hands reasonably well, at least for some tasks, but only about 1% of the world’s people are truly ambidextrous.

So, like most people, I can’t just switch hands whenever I want to, and this is certainly a time I’d want to.

There are some things that I can do with my left-hand. For example, I can drink out of a glass held in my left hand. I can also… um, uh, well, that’s really about it. Sure, my left hand can hold things for my right-hand, but it can’t do very much other than that. I can’t even pick up things with my left hand as well as I can with my right. In fact, when I use my left hand, it sometimes seems as if the hand belongs to someone else, or as if someone else was controlling my hand—there’s that much of a disconnect between what my brain instructs and how my left hand works

This is a problem because of my gout attack, of course. Gout usually just attacks one joint at a time, but it can affect nearby joints as well. Part of this is because the attack causes swelling in the area around the affected joint, so if there are any joints nearby, they can also be affected because the swelling can make it difficult to move the other joints. Combine that with wanting to avoid pain in the affected joint, and pain can actually “spread” to other joints from lack of use as much as referred pain.

So, a gout attack in one joint in a hand or foot, which has many nearby joints, can potentially affect other joints nearby. That’s why it can be hard to walk or to use a hand in the midst of a gout attack. This is what I’m facing right now.

I could try to teach my left hand to do some things, although I’d obviously rather not need to do that. In any case, the odds of doing that successfully are not very good at all.

Most of the time, I don’t have any problem being so heavily right-handed. It would be nice, however, if I was a little less dependent on that one hand. But, like so many other things about me, it’s just one more thing I cannot change.

I dictated this post, too. On the whole, it did reasonably well—apart from thinking a burp was the word third. Good thing the sound wasn’t out the other end—although it might assume I was reading some earlier blog post or other…

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dictating the future

When I was a kid, I used to dream about the future technology would bring. I watched Star Trek on television, and I used to want communicators like they had, computers you could talk to, and transporters. Nowadays, we have cellphones, we can talk to our computers—though we still don’t have those transporters. This weekend, I tried out talking to my computer.

Last Thursday, I wrote about cleaning the drains and mentioned lifting the grates on the slit drains. When I did that, I wrenched my index finger. For most people, this might not be a big deal, however, for someone with gout, any injury to a joint can cause an attack. That’s what happened to me.

I had an attack in that same joint several years ago. It was a minor attack, but still damaged the joint, and that joint has been bothering me lately. So, even if this slight injury wouldn’t ordinarily have caused an attack, this time it was primed for badness to happen.

The problem with this injury is that it’s my mousing finger: That means that it’s very difficult to use my mouse, so I found using my computer to be difficult—even painful. So, I thought that I’d try dictating to my computer and letting it do the typing.

The results were uneven. My first problem was that the audio levels from my microphone were too low for the computer to register. I’ve had a similar problem recording podcasts, actually. So, I plugged in my webcam, which has its own microphone, and that worked perfectly–well, that mic did, at least.

I found that there were issues with the word recognition. First, it often didn’t understand that it needed to put wordspaces after punctuation. Other times, it used entirely the wrong word. For example, if I said I’ve the computer heard Eyes (though, of course, not when I dictated that sentence for this post…), even if I emphasised the letter V. Of course, sometimes the results were funny, but that’s not what I was after (some of the oddities are at the end of this post).

Another problem was that I felt silly talking to the computer when Nigel was in the house. That’s the same reason that I don’t record a podcast when he’s home. But, if I’m honest, the larger issue was that I needed to speak slowly and to enunciate clearly, both of which may be good things in themselves—I often do talk too quickly and mumble too much—but the pace of speaking isn’t natural and it made me feel silly.

Still, it did work to an extent. It meant I didn’t have to type everything, although I still had to do heavy editing because of the errors in word choice and spacing. Even so, it gave my index finger a rest, which was the whole point.

I was surprised to realise through all this that when I type I often don’t use my index fingers. That’s because I was never taught to type—I taught myself. So, this really was more about avoiding the mousing problems, and not just about not typing, and it did somewhat help with that.

This morning, before I finished dictating this post, I dictated a short email and it went pretty well. Maybe length of text is the real problem..

In sum, I can say that this dictation thing can be a sort of a help, but it’s nowhere near what I wanted when I was a kid. Sure, it’s much better than it used to be, but it ain’t there yet. Good thing that cellphones are so much better than the Star Trek communicators were.

I think I’ll wait until they get dictation right before I ever trust any transporter, though.

Summary of my experience:

It often didn’t put in wordspaces, and it sometimes misheard words, such as: Often became Awesome, Wordspace became Workspace (that one I can understand happening), and Enunciate became E Nancy eight.

On the other hand, it got some words right that I thought it wouldn’t: Star Trek, Nigel, mousing, and ain’t, for example.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A dog’s life

Sure, the photo up above may look like an unmade bed, but it’s really just a messy bed. Which is to say, it’s a deliberately messed-up bed, courtesy of Jake. It’s the oddest thing he does, really.

We keep the guest bed made up all the time—or, more accurately, I keep making the bed. For some reason, Jake jumps up on it and paws all the covers down, sometimes knocking the pillows onto the floor, but not always, like in this photo. I have no idea why he does this.

Jake doesn’t mess up our bed, maybe because he also sleeps on it (don’t judge). But the guest bed is like a doggie playland or something, and I have to make the bed several times over the course of a week.

I know that the behaviours of cats and dogs have a logic from their perspective, even though we’re often oblivious as to what’s behind their behaviour. Maybe Jake thinks he’s making a little nest or something. Or, maybe he’s secretly aware of how exasperating it is to have to make up the bed several times a week.

The truth is, it isn’t really all that annoying—just odd. Apart from some barking, this is about as bad as their behaviour gets, and I know this would be heaven for some other dogs’ people. And, this oddity also reminds me that he’s here and has his own personality—he’s not part of the background.

So, I can put up with making the bed several times a week. Apparently it helps keep Jake amused, so it seems like a fair trade to me.

But I wonder if he wouldn’t mind cutting back to just once a week…

Proving Michelle right

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama (video above). In her speech, she shared some of her experiences as a Black woman in America, experiences that many people in the audience clearly related to. The rightwing freakout that followed was predictable.

The thing is, their fauxrage actually reinforced her points. Rich, white men often can’t see beyond their own privilege, but when they arch their backs, puff out their chests and declare that something they’ve never experienced isn’t true, that it isn’t even possible, it says a lot about the deniers. In the end, they merely proved Michelle right.

The rightwing freakout was as entertaining as it was predictable. But Michelle Obama was the only one worth listening to.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meanwhile, the Democrats

Most attention, including my own, has been focused on the gaggle of Republican candidates for president because, well, they’re so entertaining. It’s not for nothing that we refer their “clown car” (or “clown bus”). But Democrats now have a contest for their nomination, too.

On April 30, Bernard "Bernie" Sanders, the Independent US Senator from Vermont, announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. Pundits describe him as “a longshot”, though even they had to take notice when Sanders raised $1.5 million in the first day after he announced. Sanders has pledged to not use PACs or Super PACs, but plans to build a campaign on small donations.

Bernie Sanders stands to the Left of Hillary Clinton. By US standards, he’d be “far left” among politicians, however, this is mainly because of how far to the right the centre of US politics has shifted. Most of his positions would be mainstream for traditional Liberal Democrats of a generation or so ago; Bernie Sanders hasn’t moved to the Left—the USA has moved to the Right.

The fact is, Bernie Sanders has had a consistent political ideology for over 40 years, which—love him or loathe him—is both remarkable and extremely rare for a politician. I think that Sanders’ ideology will both help and hinder him.

Sanders has been consistent in his attacks on money in politics, and he noted that even if his dream of raising $100 from 3 million people came true, it would still be less than a third of what the Koch Brothers will be spending to elect whoever the Republicans nominate. This anti-big-money-buying-politicians actually resonates with people all over the political spectrum.

His fight on behalf of the poor and working class people will endear him to parts of the Democratic base, and also to some non-Democratic voters who have been left behind while Republican politicians play partisan political games in Washington and in state capitals.

Sanders also voted against the Iraq War and was in favour of marriage equality all along, both unlike Hillary Clinton who voted for the Iraq War and opposed marriage equality until recent years. Ideologically, on those issues Sanders is closer to the Democratic base than Clinton was—but past tense is the important part.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has definitely moved to the left compared to the 2008 campaign. She’s been talking about some of the same issues as Sanders has, though perhaps usually in less forceful ways. Still, she’s saying things that appeal to the base.

Sanders does have obstacles, starting with his ideology. Sure some of the Democratic base adore his ideology—and, full disclosure, I’m much closer to Sanders ideologically than I am to Clinton—but will the broader party support him? After all, the Republican Fear and Propaganda Machine has made the word “socialist” an effective poker to rile up ordinary people and get them to vote against their own best interests by voting for Republicans. Will Democratic primary voters back a democratic socialist? Or, will the disaffected see a champion and rally round him?

Age is an issue for Sanders. He’ll be 75 years, 135 days old on Inauguration Day in 2017. Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 87 days. Ronald Reagan, the oldest president so far, was 69 years, 349 days when he was sworn in as president. Does age matter? Does gender? Obviously, gender shouldn’t be an issue—but age? Whether or not Reagan’s Alzheimer’s Disease really began while he was president or not, he was undeniably getting doddery by the end of his second term. So, should age be a concern? The reality is, even if we agree that, like gender, age shouldn’t be an issue, we’re na├»ve if we think that voters won’t consider both.

The one thing we know for certain is that if Sanders or any of the other presumed Democratic candidates do well enough, they’ll influence the tone the campaign will take, probably ensuring that it takes a more Liberal and Progressive tone than it otherwise might. This will show a huge, stark contrast between the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee, whoever they are. This is a good thing—or, it would be without big money in political campaigns.

The only force Democrats had to even begin to counter big cash from corporations and the rich elites were unions, but Republicans at the state level have been working hard to smash unions, and take away a source of campaign cash for Democrats to counter, even if only slightly, the huge piles of cash corporations and rich elites will spend to buy a Republican president and other politicians.

Then, there’s Republicans’ work at voter suppression, including attempts to enact unconstitutional poll taxes by other names (like Ohio’s, for example), to keep Democratic-leaning voters from registering and voting. And that’s all on top of their efforts to restrict access to voting to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

Add it all up, and the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, will have a big battle to win the presidency.

On the other hand, look at what we’re up against: A bus full of Republican clowns trying to win their party’s nomination, all of them spouting all sorts of whackadoodle nonsense, and all of them in a party increasingly held hostage by believers in utter batshittery. For example, recently Public Policy Polling found that ONE THIRD of Republican voters said, why, yes!, they DO “think that the Government is trying to take over Texas” (poll results are available online as a PDF). One. Third. Of. Republicans.

And this is why I can say with certainty I'll vote for whoever the Democratic Nominee is. Sure I laugh at and mock the Republican candidates, but the truth is, they all scare the crap out of me. Anyone who lives in the reality-based universe, who knows that the federal government isn't taking part in a secret plot to "take over Texas", should worry, too.

There’s still 1 year, 5 months, and 24 days until the US presidential election.

Update May 27: The video of Sander's official announcement event is on YouTube.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An Arthur by any other name

This morning, as I caught up on news and views, I saw a link to story about a name generator that would tell you what your name would be today, or in previous decades. I don’t always follow such a link, but this time, well, I was curious.

After following that link, then on to the actual source, Time, I found a baby name generator that uses a very simple idea for some fun. Using Social Security Administration data, it determines what the popularity of your name was in the year you were born, then tells you what that same-ranked name was in every decade from 1890 until today.

So, in my case, back in 1959 "Arthur" was the 76th most popular name for a boy, and today the 76th most popular name is "Ian". I’ve put the complete list at the end of this post.

Obviously there are other factors in baby naming than just popularity, including re-using family names, as my parents did for me. Even so, it's interesting to see how the naming of kids compares over the past century plus.

In any event, I’m still the same wonderful person no matter what my name might have been. At least we can all agree on that!

What my name would have been in previous decades:

2000s: Kaleb
1990s: Brent
1980s: Randall
1970s: Brandon
1960s: Bob
1950s: Lonnie
1940s: Elmer
1930s: Leslie
1920s: Tom
1910s: Orville
1900s: Nathan
1890s: Amos

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Draining work

Late this morning I thought I’d have a quick look at Facebook before moving on to my next task, and I noticed that Civil Defence had posted a warning from MetService, NZ’s weather agency:
MetService has issued a Severe Weather Watch for a period of heavy rain expected this evening and overnight in Auckland. Local heavy falls may cause surface flooding in urban areas.
So, I shared it to my personal page, adding: “Hm… maybe I should go out any make sure our drains are clear.” This time of year, that’s always a good thing to do.

Auckland winters are usually rainy, sometimes for days on end. So, it’s a good idea to check the drains (if any) that one has. In our case, we have a drain in the front garden and to the side of the garage, both catch rainwater runoff from paved areas. We also have a slit drain along the entire front of our garage, since we’re on the downward slope of a hill (the drain catches runoff that would otherwise go into the garage, under the overhead door.

Over summer, all sorts of things make it into these drains: Silt from the runoff, leaves and twigs, and all sorts of other “outside” detritus. Most of our drains empty out, but the slit drain fills up with muck over time (and earthworms move in—I’d like to know how they get in there in the first place when there’s nowhere with dirt within worm-squirm distance).

So, today I went and cleared one drain that was covered in leaves from a nearby deciduous tree, then cleaned-up accumulated surface debris near the slit drain. I also opened up the slit drain to scoop out the gunk (my garden trowel fits in the drain perfectly). The photo up top shows the slit drain open with my garden trowel in it. I was sitting on the floor of the garage, where the door sits when it’s down.

I filled a black rubbish sack with all the stuff, and the muck made it pretty heavy, since much of it was basically mud. After letting it stew a bit, I’ll dump it out at the back of the section to benefit the bushy area there—free compost!

As it happens, the storms aren’t predicted to be bad in Auckland, though there could be some local flooding (from blocked drains, I bet!). So, I didn’t clean the drains specifically for this storm; instead, I just used it as a reminder to get the drains ready for the coming winter rains. And, now they are.

Whenever I have to do things like this—and a house and its gardens need constant maintenance—I’m reminded of the benefits of apartment living. Well, that or being rich enough to have staff to take care of such things. Then I tell myself that such chores are just part of my exercise programme. It doesn’t really help, to be honest, and I’m physically tired now.

In fact, you could say I found today’s chores really draining.

I looked up and noticed that Bella was helping me. She was keeping leaves from blowing toward me.

Miles to go

In this video, employees of Google Ireland make statements in support of marriage equality, as other employees have done. However, it was made with a clear eye on the upcoming referendum in the Republic of Ireland, and Google supports a YES vote. While I wish the video was explicit in endorsing a YES vote. I do think the message is implicit.

Meanwhile, Twitter Ireland employees have been canvassing door-to-door and raising money for Yes Equality, on top of the company's corporate support for marriage equality.

We've come a long way.

However, today we also learned that the long-term dictator of the Gambia promised to "slit the throats" of gay people and to hunt down and catch any man who wants to marry another man and "no one will ever set eyes on you again". He also declared, “no white person can do anything about it,” which is ironic since white evangelicals from the USA are the main driver and funder of the wave of anti-LGBT hatred and government oppression in Africa.

The world has a LONG way to go.

But the forces of good are stronger that the forces of hatred, so I’m ending this post on a positive note, with two videos I originally shared on Facebook. They feature Irish expats, who don’t get to vote in the referendum but who want to make their support for marriage equality clear. The top video is from New York City, the bottom one is from Canada.

The Irish referendum in May 22.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2Political Podcast 105 is available

Episode 105 of the 2Political Podcast is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

Episode 105 was recorded a couple weeks ago, but the editing and posting was delayed by how busy I was. We’re recording a new episode this week.

Pop messages

I love pop music—I’ve said that plenty of times. But sometimes I end up loving a pop song just a little bit more later on. “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy (video above) is a perfect example of that. In this case, it’s because of that video.

I loved “Uma Thurman” from the moment I first heard it, but only accidentally. Back in mid February, we were in a store that sells computer bits and pieces, mostly for gaming, but also lots of Apple stuff (so it’s a bit cooler than "just" a computer store). As I wandered around browsing aimlessly, I heard the unmistakeable sounds of the theme [Listen] to the 1960s TV show, The Munsters, one of my favourites when I was a kid. I couldn’t hear the song itself, but I could hear the sample.

After I got home, I Googled it—probably something like, “song with Munsters theme in it” or whatever—and I found the song. One of the hits was the audio version on YouTube, which was posted back in January.

The actual video, above, was posted last month. It really has nothing to do with the lyrics, though it’s often visually interesting. And then, near the end of the video (around 3:45), there was this:

I had no idea what "Article 1 Section 36.03" was about, so I Googled that, too. It turns out that it’s the section of the Alabama state constitution that outlaws same-gender marriage, the same thing that the religious extremist crackpot “judge” Roy Moore used to defy federal courts that found Alabama’s ban unconstitutional, all of which was in the news awhile back.

In the video, a tank rolls over and destroys a white pick-up truck symbolising Alabama’s anti-gay laws. I very much like that: A tank crushes a symbol of bigotry—that’s awesome.

What surprises me is that no one in the LGBT media seems to have noticed. Okay, so they probably don’t pay that much attention to the details of everything created by straight artists, nor the symbolism contained within their work. After all, I only noticed because I liked the song and watched the newer video and wondered what the writing on the pickup truck referred to. But I know I’m not the only one to notice this, so I wonder why no one, as far as I can tell, in gay media has mentioned it.

Never mind, I noticed. And the fact that I did, or, more accurately, the fact that Fall Out Boy placed such a subtle pro-gay message in their music video, makes me like this song just a little bit more.

And three cheers for tanks named Uma.

Related trivia: In a video of a radio interview posted on YouTube, Fall Out Boy talk about sampling The Munsters theme. The band was originally formed in Wilmette, Illinois, not all that far from where I grew up. That area is also known as “the North Shore”.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three more clowns in the car

Last week, the Republican Clown Car of presidential candidates got a little more crowded with three more clowns clambering to get in. The Republican field promises to be so crowded this year that party’s going to need a Clown Bus.

When Cara Carleton Sneed “Carly” Fiorina entered the race, the shrieks of joy from Republican pundits could practically be heard from low earth orbit. It wasn’t because she can win—she can’t, almost always polling at or near the bottom of any list her fellow clowns among the announced or probable Republican candidates. Instead, Republican pundits and operatives see her as a sort of “anti-Hillary”, as if her candidacy somehow neutralises the Republican Party’s war on women. “I got yer ‘war on women’ right here, buddy!”, they smirked.

Only trouble is, Carly is no friend of women. For example, she’s rigidly anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, including being opposed to marriage equality, and backs austere far right economic policies that would hurt everyday American families (to benefit the richest, of course).

Carly has never held elective office, though she badly lost a race for US Senator from California. Nevertheless, her fanboys swoon and declare that she’s “experienced”, which, Republicans declare, former US Senator and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not. Uh huh. Riiiiiight.

Carly’s “experience” so loved by Republican marketing mavens is that she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Do they really want to go there?! Carly’s record was a disaster, so bad, in fact, that she’s often been ranked as among the worst CEOs. In addition to nearly destroying the company, she shipped 30,000 American jobs overseas, and when asked if she had any regrets about destroying the livelihoods of so many American workers and endangering their families, Carly said she only regretted that she didn’t do it faster. That’s some big time compassion, right there!

Related: “Carly Fiorina: Falling Upwards To The White House” and “Carly Fiorina's Most Anti-Gay Comments”.

Later the same day, Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson, Sr. also climbed into the clown car. Apparently, his god acted.

Carson is a retired neurosurgeon, and while I have absolutely no way to evaluate his medical career, he’s always referred to as having been “gifted” or even “brilliant”. If that’s accurate, then it reinforces the old saying about people being good at one thing and utterly useless at another, because Ben is a total moron when it comes to politics and public policy.

Ben has a habit of saying out loud what he really thinks. That makes his teabagger fans wet themselves, but for mainstream Americans, what he says frightens them so much it makes them leak out the other end. Because, Ben has some incredibly ridiculous beliefs.

In the Internet Age, nothing ever goes away, and when a politician (real or wannabe) says stupid things, it’s easy to find, such as, “The Five Wildest Ben Carson Quotes: Prison Sex, Nazi America, Health Care Slavery And More”.

Just this past weekend, Ben couldn’t defend his loopy tax proposals, receiving strong pushback on Fox News, of all places—and everyone thinks that Fox has never met a Republican it won’t drool over! But Ben was undeterred, declaring that it was insulting to suggest that poor people wouldn’t trip all over themselves to give their money to the rich.

Ben is also rabidly anti-gay, having said some of the dumbest, most offensive and more outrageously batshit crazy things of ANY Republican presidential candidate—and he has a LOT of competition (such as the next clown to crawl into the car).

See also: “The reason Ben Carson can't win? Ben Carson.” and “Republican clown car gets a little more crowded as Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina enter the race”.

The final clown in this trio is Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee, who announced in Hope Arkansas, the hometown he ironically shares with former President Bill Clinton.

I have so much contempt for Mike that I usually refer to him as “the Huckster” because of his delight in selling snake oil—and a “weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure” for diabetes. My contempt is not just because Mike is dead wrong on pretty much every political and public policy issue imaginable, but because in a clown car crowded with anti-LGBT politicians, Mike is among the most bigoted.

Mike's public pronouncements against LGBT people have been truly awful, often vile, and have been among the worst because he so often says them with his best butter-wouldn’t-melt smarmy Southern Baptist cooing. Other Republican politicians express their anti-gay animus with barely concealed sneers, but Mike makes his bigotry sound almost nice. Which is what makes him so dangerous.

However, Mike is highly unlikely to last the distance. His 2008 campaign was legendary for being disorganised, and his latest version isn’t off to a great start, either (see “Mike Huckabee kicks off his 2016 bid with a violation of campaign finance law”). Even so, the large segment of the Republican base that cares about “social issues” above all others could keep funnelling enough money into his Super PAC—sorry, I meant campaign—to keep him going for a long time. All the Republican candidates, announced or expected, have pandered to the so-called “social conservative” religious base in their party, and if Mike remains in the race he’ll ensure that the pandering will pick up speed.

The ironic thing about so many self-proclaimed conservative religious candidates trying to win the Republican nomination by dumping on LGBT Americans is that a recent poll found that Americans are more comfortable with the prospect of a gay presidential candidate than an Evangelical one:
The results revealed that Americans are actually quite open to having a gay presidential candidate. Sixty-one percent said they would be either enthusiastic about or comfortable with a gay or lesbian candidate, while only 37 percent said they would have reservations or be uncomfortable.

By comparison, respondents were a little less comfortable with the prospect of a candidate who is an evangelical Christian. Fifty-two percent said they'd be enthusiastic about or comfortable with an evangelical Christian running for president, while 44 percent expressed some degree of hesitancy about the idea. (Two percent of respondents said they were not sure about a gay or lesbian candidate, while four percent were not sure about an evangelical.)
This is based on hypothetical candidates, and I feel safe in saying that if there was a good, qualified candidate for president who was gay, that candidate wouldn’t win his/her party’s nomination, much less the presidency. What people say and how they act are often very different things, especially when it comes to fully embracing LGBT people as full and equal members of society.

Nevertheless, what’s important about this—as is so often the case with polls—is the trend. It turns out that support for a hypothetical evangelical candidate has remained largely constant since the same survey was conducted in 2006, but back then “only 43 percent of Americans fully accepted the idea of a gay or lesbian presidential candidate, while 53 percent had reservations or were uncomfortable.” Times do change, and attitudes shift.

American voters have moved on, and they’ve progressed on a great many issues over the years, while all the current and expected Republican candidates have gone backward, if anything. That’s not a very hopeful reality for the aspirations of the Republican Party.

But watching Republican the clowns perform their comedy routines is at least entertaining.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A welcome diversion

This week I’ve been flat out working, with little time for much of anything—other than work, of course. That obviously included blogging, apart from a few quick posts. Today was a welcome diversion from all that.

Our friends Dawn and Darren, who are American expats who live in Wellington, were up in Auckland for the weekend. So, we met them for lunch, going to Federal Delicatessen, which is an Kiwi chef’s interpretation of a New York Jewish deli. The name, by the way, is because it’s on Federal Street.

After lunch, we were going to take them to the airport, but we had some extra time and decided to stop by Martha’s Backyard. Nigel took the scenic route (literally, actually) through Mission Bay and Kohimarama.

The photo above is of our latest haul—pretty subdued by our standards (actually, the shelves were rather empty, and I heard a worker telling a customer that a new container was expected soon. Dawn and I were talking about how over the years we’ve been here we’ve found Kiwi substitutes for the things we used to buy in the USA, or started making things from scratch (like, for example, cakes, without using cake mixes).

Here’s a little confession: A lot of the things I used to like—either when I lived in the USA or that I used to seek out at American products stores—are things I don’t like any more. US soft drinks, for example, taste weird to me because they have high fructose corn syrup in them (the ones we have in New Zealand, even Coke and Pepsi, don’t—they have sugar). Other products I now find too salty, or too sweet, or whatever. Apart from Little Debbie Nutty Bars, which still taste exactly as I remember them, thankfully—I don’t know what else I’d get to feel nostalgic about otherwise.

A further example of this change is buying the Ziplock sandwhich bags, but that’s about being a thrifty shopper. Ziplock bags aren’t sold here, but similar ones from Glad are. The Glad sandwich size bags are just under 12 cents each, while the Ziplock bags worked out to less than 7 cents each. Ironically, I don’t actually use them for sandwiches, but for storage. Still, for something that doesn’t spoil, this was a good buy (unlike, say, the cases of those little cans of Vienna Sausages—does anyone actually eat those things?!—or the cases of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or the giant bags of buttermilk pancake mix, or the super-tanker size powdered drink canisters…).

The fact that I was more excited about a bargain in sandwich bags than in junk food probably says a lot about how my food tastes have changed. That, and the fact we bought so little junk food. I guess times really do change.

We dropped Dawn and Darren off at the airport—too soon!—and came home so I could finish up work, which I did. Regular blog service now resumes.