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Archive for December, 2009

As you might have heard (or lived through) DC got a bit of snow on the weekend. A record-setting amount of snow actually, an amazing 20 inches in 24 hours, near shutting the city down. Lots of funny and strange things seem to happen at times like this, and perhaps the strangest story to come out of what was dubbed snowpocalypse09 was a huge public snowball fight on the corner of 14th and Ust NW, in the heard of the U St shopping and dining district, at 2pm on Saturday.

At some point during the ruckus, which had about 200 participants, some snowball enthusiasts decided to target passing cars, and in particular a massive Hummer. I can understand their desire, there’s no car that more makes me want to participate in acts of civil disobedience than the Hummer, a converted troop carrier for god’s sake. Anyway this particular Hummer contained an undercover police office, who got out of his vehicle brandishing his gun. At people bearing snowballs. Madness. It was all captured on camera thankfully and the detective is now “confined to desk duties” while the incident is being investigated.

This was all odd enough, but what’s really revealing is what happened next. Here’s how the local news reported it:

A lively snowball fight on D.C. streets took a dark turn Saturday when anti-war protesters dressed in anarchist garb showed up, and a D.C. police officer pulled his weapon out of his holster.

But things started to turn for the worse when the crowd — some carrying anti-war signs and dressed all in black with masks — began to pelt passing cars. A plain clothes D.C. police detective emerged from a Hummer — it’s unclear whether it was his personal vehicle or an unmarked police vehicle — after it was struck. The detective began yelling at the gathered crowd. At one point, he pulled back his jacket, exposing his service weapon — it’s unclear if he did this intentionally. That’s when things took a darker turn.

So they blamed a group “dressed like anarchists” for causing the problems, and indicated that the undercover detective only showed his weapon rather than brandished it, and that the only gun drawn was by a policeman who arrived later. Okay, a couple of things here. Firstly, the “dressed like anarchists” bit. By this we can only assume they’re referring to people wearing balaclava’s and scarfs around their faces. But aside from the seemingly omni-present anarchists (and bank robbers) who wears this sort of get-up? You got it – people in cold places! Like places where it’s snowing like crazy. Like DC on Saturday.

Secondly, re the gun, see the video above. There’s enough evidence online that there’s no excuse for a professional news operation, reporting hours after the event, to get this wrong.

So besides being an example of a police officer completely overstepping the bounds of their authority it’s also an example of the media completely overstepping their bounds of reporting, adding their own spin while blatantly mis-representing the facts, and doing so on the side of authority. This happens all the time of course, and this particular incident may not be the most important example in the world, but it is illustrating nonetheless. Protests in particular always get this treatment by a new media which is part of the status quo being protested. Not that this was even a protest, but the media were all too keen to fit it into their knee-jerk protest narrative of rowdy kids and put-upon police.

On a more personal note I had a productive snow weekend. Firstly K and I made a film with our flatmate D entitled Kiev: City of Love. It’s a beauty I think you’ll agree, we’re very proud of it (My second film ever!).

What do you think, time to get a pilot to the networks?

Then our visiting mate Scott and I made this snow Loch Ness Monster which is honestly the best snow sculpture I’ve seen since the dump. A weekend well-spent!

Snow loch ness monster

Snow loch ness monster

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I put this up on Slideshare about a month ago but forgot to post it here, so here it is: the deck from the presentation I gave at the Powershift Virginia conference on using social media to affect social change. Hope you like it!

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Having recently moved into a share house for the first time since leaving Australia K and I are really enjoying having flatmates again, especially because we’ve got such good ones. One thing I like about share houses when they work is the sense of family which develops, a looking out for each other which goes beyond simple friendship. Part of this is the vicarious pride at their accomplishments you feel, or I do anyway.

Recently I’ve been especially impressed with my flatmates media profiles, thought-leaders that they are.

First S was quoted in a Washington Post article on tattoo’s in the workplace:

D.C. is culturally one of the most conservative cities I’ve ever lived in. I just see fewer people displaying body art in the workplace here.

Then D spoke to New York-based Chinese television network NTDT whilst attending a vigil at the Arc Avaaz have built on the Mall in DC, expressing the hope so many of us share that America might take the lead on addressing catastrophic climate change before it’s too late and we all start building arcs for real (try not to be overwhelmed by the charisma of the New Zealand news reader):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Environmentalists Build Ark in Washin…“, posted with vodpod

Well done guys! K and I are going to have to step it up, clearly.

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As part of our Oasis 47 camp at Burning Man a group of our friends from San Francisco who go by the name Deadly Muppets built the Caveman Caraoke, a caveman-themed, dragon-pulled, karaoke-focused mutant vehicle.

A member of the gang just compiled all the statistics and in the interests of future research into the karaoke preferences of Burning Man attendees vis-a-vis the population at large, and what this says about our culture and community (tell me there’s not a PhD in that!) I am posting it here.

We had 3817 songs available, of which 214 different ones were sung. 58 were sung more than once, for a total record of 274 karaoke performances. That comes to just over 20 hours of singing, or 4 hours per night. Here’s the breakdown of songs which were sung more than once:

7 Janis Joplin- Me & Bobby McGee
6 Grease- Greased Lightning
5 Aerosmith- Walk This Way
5 Journey- Don’t Stop Believing
4 Scissor Sisters- Flithy Gorgeous
4 Eddie Money- Take Me Home Tonght
4 Peter Gabriel- Sledgehammer
4 Davd Bowie- Space Oddity
4 Neil Diamond- America
4 4 Non Blondes- What’s Up
3 Guns ‘n’ Roses- Welcome To The Jungle
3 Abba- Dancing Queen
3 Madonna- Die Another Day
3 Crash Test Dummies- Mmmm
3 The Doors- Touch Me
3 Red Hot Chilli Peppers- Scar Tissue
3 Abba- Gimme Gimme Gimme
3 Aha- Take On Me
3 Madonna- Like A Virgin
3 Joan Jett- I Love Rock N Roll
2 Buddy Holly- Oh Boy
2 The Stray Cats- Rock This Town
2 David Bowie- Life On Mars
2 Carly Simon- You’re So Vain
2 Jet- Are You Gonna Be My Girl
2 Four Seasons- Big Girls Don’t Cry
2 Frank Sinatra- My Way
2 Neil Diamond- Sweet Caroline
2 Elton John- Sad Songs Say So Much
2 Duran Duran- Hungry Like The Wolf
2 Cardigans- Lovefool
2 New Order- Blue Monday
2 The Kinks- Sunday Afternoon
2 U2- One
2 Talking Heads- Road To Nowhere
2 Tears For Fears- Everybody Wants To Rule The World
2 The Lovin’ Spoonful- Daydream (What A Day For A)
2 The Doors- Light My Fire
2 Smashing Pumpkins- Perfect
2 Roy Orbison- Crying
2 The Darkness- I Beleve In A Thing Called Love
2 Marvin Gaye- Sexual Healing
2 Wham- Careless Whisper
2 Dusty Springfield- Son Of A Preacher
2 Carly Simon- You’re So Vain
2 Pat Benatar- Hit With Your Best Shot
2 Depeche Mode- Just Can’t Get Enough
2 Guns ‘n’ Roses- Paradise City
2 Gorillaz- Feel Good Inc.
2 Billy Joel- Big Shot
2 Barry Manilow- Copacabana
2 Jimi Hendrix- Purple Haze
2 Wham- Last Christmas
2 Queen- Killer Queen
2 Def Leppard- Pour Some Sugar On Me
2 Pixies- Monkey Gone To Heaven
2 Donovan- Sunshine Superman
2 Duran Duran- Reflex

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Been meaning to post this for awhile, it’s the second in the Stories of Change series of eBooks I’m developing at Ashoka. This one is made up of interviews with youth leaders involved in Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. I hope you enjoy it!

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Gay marriage is the civil rights issue of our times, the clearest and most blatant example we still have of institutionalised discrimination against a group of peope in our society. In America the battle is primarily being fought state-by-state as progressive chafe at the lack of progress at a Federal level, where the noxious ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ waits to be repealed.

This has been a one-step-forward, two-steps-back week for same-sex marriage, following in a year of mostly set-backs, starting with the passage on November 4 last year of Proposition 8 which rolled back gay marriage in California and then seeing the same happen in Maine last month. Against the strong hopes of many the New York State Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill already passed in the lower house which would have legalized gay marriage. This is a particular blow given the progressive tilt of New York and the $1 million spent by pro same-sex marriage organizations over the past year. Despite the confidence of many it wasn’t even close, going down 38-24.

There was some good news this week though and I’m thrilled to say it was out of Washington DC. Also on Tuesday the DC Council voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. This is the first of three steps towards full legalization. A second vote is needed in two weeks, likely to pass by the same margin, and then there will be 30 days of Congressional review (because DC doesn’t have true democracy) but with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress it would be very unlikely to be blocked.

This vote has come after months of heated debate. Anti-gay marriage groups (led by the Catholic church) are still advertising on buses in the District but have lost their push to subject same-sex marriage to a public referendum. On November 17 the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that the issue could not go for a public vote as it does ‘not present a proper subject of initiative because it would authorize discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act (“HRA”).’

Quite right too, fundamental human rights should not be up for a vote. Discrimination is unconstitutional (not to mention immoral), whatever the majority might feel at this moment in time. This, by the way, is why Australia needs a Human Rights Act.

The next battleground seems to be New Jersey where there is a push for the Democrat-controlled legislature to vote on same-sex marriage within the next few weeks, before the Republican Governor-elect takes office in January.

One step at a time, this issue will go the right way, the arc of history bends towards equality. The bigots are standing against this tide, but they will lose. To see the truth of this you only need to look at this graph:

Moreso even than the normal left-right or red state/blue state divides support for same-sex marriage is determined by age. Even in the most progressive state, Massachusetts, the 65+ age group is less supportive of same-sex marriage than the 18-25 year-olds in the most conservative state, Alabama. It really is only a matter of time. But that’s no cause for complacency. Every day that some people are denied rights afforded to the rest of us due to their sexual orientation is a tragedy and a crime.

If you’re in the US you can get a free I love love sticker (seen at the top of this post) from Credo Action here.

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