SHORT TAKES

By Paul

Here are a few “short takes” on items large and small that have been in the news of late:

  • CHICK-FIL-A FRACAS – OK, so maybe I’m not really a good one to comment much on this, given the fact that I’m more or less a vegetarian (I do occasionally eat some fish).  However, I think I can categorically say that I wouldn’t be eating any Chick-Fil-A chicken, even if I did crave the bird.  Of course, it’s true that the head of this company has every right to express any opinion he likes.  I am, in fact, a full and total supporter of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.  And no one has the right to tell him that his bigoted statements cannot be openly expressed.  On the other hand, everyone else also has the right to choose NOT to eat chicken that comes from a restaurant owned by a bigot.  So, Mr. Cathy, if you’re going to run your mouth off in public about your hateful attitudes toward LGBT people and their right to get married, you may just have to accept the social, and the economic, consequences of your narrow-minded homophobia.  Sorry, but in case you didn’t know, that’s the way Capitalism works.

 

  •  ROMNEY’S FOOT-IN-MOUTH DISEASE – If the presumptive Republican nominee is going to use the world as his stage by traveling to the UK, Israel, and Poland, I think he’d have done well to better prepare his statements a little in advance.  As it is, it’s looking as though he never quite got over jet lag.  He insulted the Brits first off by telling them that it didn’t look as though they were really prepared for the Olympics.  This is, at very least, what could be called an undiplomatic thing to say.  Some might call it insensitive, or even just downright dumb.  I mean, it’s probably not a good idea to insult your hosts, as they prepare to host you.  And then he seems to have suggested that the Palestinians aren’t doing so well economically because, well, something to do with their “culture”?   No word from Mr. Romney about the devastating effects of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, or on the fact that no economy can really flourish under constant stringent restrictions on the free movement of goods, services and people. No, it all seems to be about “culture,” whatever that may have meant to him.  We might ordinarily have expected that reporters accompanying him could have questioned him further about what he meant, as a matter of fact, except that his handlers weren’t letting those reporters anywhere near him.  No less a figure than Romney’s traveling press secretary told reporters to “Kiss my ass,” when they insisted too much.  Now that, too, might be thought of as undiplomatic.  Just take your pictures, boys, he seemed to be saying, and report on the platitudes our guy is spouting as he makes his way across Europe.  Oh, and don’t forget, Lech Walesa came out for him!  That should mean something in Chicago, shouldn’t it?  At least he hasn’t told any Polish jokes – not yet anyway. 

 

  • WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LIGHTS? – And the electricity to run the trains, or the hospitals, or even the crematoriums?  On the heels of a power outage that affected 370 million people, India has now gotten the prize for the mother-of-all power outages.  This latest one affected people all across northern India, amounting to an astounding 620 million souls.  Now there’s a number to gasp at!  That’s more than twice the population of the United States.  Another way to think of it is, if you combined the populations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, there still would be more than 150 million people left over who were without power.  Of course, there are many reasons that can be given as to why India lost power, having to do with outdated equipment, weak monsoonal rains and continued high heat, routine pilfering of electricity by millions of dispossessed individuals, and outright stealing of the stuff by whole Indian states (all right, “over-drawing” of their allotted amounts, if you prefer).  But is anyone else wondering whether this kind of thing is just the beginning?  Given run-away population growth world-wide and continued oddities (to use perhaps an overly polite word) in weather patterns due to ever-increasing temperatures caused by global warming, ought we not to prepare ourselves for many more such problems in our future, and not just in so-called developing countries?  Here in our house, we’ve got a good old Coleman stove left over from our camping days that we can use to cook on, and lots of water saved up.  We used to think that this was preparation for “the Big One” here in California, that major shift in the San Andreas Fault that everybody know is coming sooner or later.  Now I’m beginning to think that there may well also be lots of other catastrophes we’d better prepare for, and some of them have nothing to do with the shifting of those pesky tectonic plates.

 

  • BLESS ME, FATHER, FOR I HAVE USED A CONDOM – The latest installment in the Los Angeles Times series on the population explosion, which I wrote at some length about in a posting on this site last week, has to do this time with the Philippines.  No doubt, it goes without saying that this is an overwhelmingly Catholic country.  Some 80% of the current population of 96 million people not only profess to be Catholic, but are serious about it.  They are what we used to call “practicing Catholics (I maybe ought to have capitalized the “P”).”  The Church’s absolutely intransigent stance there, and elsewhere, not just on abortion, but on any and all use of contraception has led to an out-of-control birthrate in a country that can ill afford it.  Rationalizations on the part of the Church are rife as to why the birthrate ought to remain high.  Signs and billboards are plastered all over the country, paid for by the Church, which declaim “NO to the Reproductive Health Bill – YES to the Gospel of Life.”  The Reproductive Health (RH) Bill referred to is a piece of legislation which has languished now for more than 14 years in the federal legislature, but which is coming up for another vote soon.  It would provide contraception for masses of poor people who otherwise cannot afford to buy it themselves.  As things stand right now, and if the population rate continues to soar as it currently is, the population of the Philippines is set to reach an astounding 155 million by the year 2050.  That makes it one of the fastest-growing populations in all of Asia, and metro Manila is already among the most densely populated places on the globe.  Dangerous back alley abortions – one of the few avenues currently open to many poor women attempting to control whether, or how often, they have children – are on the rise.  It is well established world-wild, in fact, that abortions  rise in countries where women have little access to reliable contraception.  And yet, here is a recent quote from Bishop Leo Murphy Drona of San Pablo in the Philippines, claiming that the country’s president was “misleading the Filipino nation into believing that killing children and the unborn through aggressive population reduction, through the RH law, will be better for the country.”  In what way, I would like to know, would population reduction NOT be better for the country?  As is so often the case in the Philippines and elsewhere, the Catholic Church is on the right side of rigidity, dogma, and convention, but sadly on the wrong side of history. 

 

CONTRA CONTRA-CONTRACEPTION

By Paul

OK, so maybe the above title is a little much.  What I’m referring to, though, is the recent debate between the Obama Administration and Republicans regarding birth control. 

 First of all, who knew that birth control was even an issue in the 21st century?  Yes, the Catholic Church has always been against it, for reasons which baffle me, but the vast majority of Catholic women, some 98%, have used one form or another of birth control.  And then there was the kerfuffle a few weeks back about the requirement that Catholic-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and schools should have to follow the law and provide contraception to those who work for them as part of their medical benefits package. 

Now as an aside, and maybe before I go any further, in terms of full disclosure it might be best if I’m upfront about a couple of things:  first, I’m writing as what is sometimes called an ex-Catholic, and second, I’m also writing as an ex-monk (more about that another time). 

But getting back to the insurance fuss, the argument the church made was that religiously affiliated institutions should be given a pass when it comes to obeying the law, because providing contraceptive aids as part of their medical coverage for employees goes against the teaching of the church and its sense of morality.  I hope that’s fairly put.  I am trying to be balanced here.  And I suppose that the way these institutions might have framed it to the people who work for them would go something like this: if you don’t like our rules, fine, go find another job!  And we all know how easy that is these days!

In the ensuing days and weeks, the Obama Administration made what I thought was a very reasonable compromise, namely, to exempt these affiliated institutions from paying for contraception as part of a healthcare package, and instead have the insurers themselves pay.  Sounds eminently reasonable to me!  I’ll pass over the fact (as Cicero used to say in his Orations) that my personal take on it was to say that Catholic-affiliated institutions are not the Catholic Church, and as such should not have been given an exemption from the law.  They are hospitals, or schools, or social service organizations, not churches.  But, OK, I try to be a reasonable person, and I am willing to engage in a little give and take.  So, with this compromise solution, I figured everybody would be happy, right?  But, no, that’s not the case!

Amazingly, the Catholic bishops are still highly disturbed, as are Republicans generally. The Republican presidential aspirants in particular, too, have all jumped on this same rickety bandwagon, and some Congressional Republicans are even making noises about how contraception itself ought to be outlawed.  Really?  I thought we fought that battle decades ago!

Now, I hope that there are lots of women out there who take this very personally.  Even I take it personally, as much as maybe I shouldn’t.  But for me, the whole scenario harkens back to a conversation I had way back in 1967 when I was twenty-two years old.  I had just left the monastery, and my sainted and now sadly departed mother and I had a deeply personal talk.  She told me that for years our local parish priest had refused her absolution in the confessional, because she and my father had decided to use contraceptives.  The background here is that, when I was growing up, we were poor, pretty much by about anybody’s standards, and my parents had decided that they could not afford more than three children.  They couldn’t even afford the three of us, from what I could see!  But the priest told my mother that she would “burn in the fires of everlasting hell,” if she continued on with this practice, and that if she did not wish to have more children, there was one good way to do so: she and her husband could stop “having relations.” 

Let me remind you that this conversation took place forty-five years ago now, but things don’t seem to have changed much with the Catholic Church of today.  They’re still telling people how to conduct their sex lives, and they’re still telling folks that, if they don’t want kids, they should just damn well stop having sexual relations.  Because that, in effect, is what their argument comes down to.  Can’t afford kids? Fine, I’ve got just the thing for you: don’t have sex!  Young and not married yet, but horny all the time?  Fine, I’ve got just the thing for you: don’t have sex!  Can’t stop being gay? Fine, I’ve got just the thing for you: don’t have sex!  

Now, again, I want to be fair about things, and emphasize that I am talking here about the “official Catholic Church,” specifically as represented by its bishops and archbishops.  And I should add that I understand that many rank and file Catholics do not necessarily agree with, or follow, the dictates of the bishops.  Still, the fact remains that it is the position of “The Church,” and that’s what I’m making reference to. 

It seems to me that what the question really boils down to is, how do we understand it when we read that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  I don’t have to say that this is a direct quote from the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.  Of course, reasonable people can and do disagree on how to interpret this, and they have disagreed ever since the Bill of Rights was first promulgated.  Maybe this issue will someday come before the Supreme Court for resolution.  But for now, pretty much all we’ve got to go on is, what do you think, and what do I think?  The official Catholic Church continues to preach against sex, as do many other churches, except as they narrowly define it.  And that surely is their First Amendment right, which I uphold absolutely.  But it does not mean that institutions, which are NOT churches, ought to be exempt from following the law, just as that law applies to all other similar, but non-religious institutions.  Everyone in fact has to obey the law, including church affiliated businesses, a thing which, in my view, can in no way be construed as prohibiting the free exercise of religion.          

There are many who say that the Republicans have already achieved victory with the Administration’s compromise on the issue, so why go on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?  But no less a figure than Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has written recently in an Op-Ed piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader (and quoted in the LA Times in an article by Lisa Mascaro): “Government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing.  It doesn’t matter whether the president thinks your beliefs are antiquated; your right to practice them is protected.” 

What I want to know is how does Mr. McConnell get there from the compromise that was offered?  But that’s what the Catholic bishops believe, too. And that is where we seem to be for the moment.  Republicans are hell-bent on passing a law that does away with the provision that insurers must provide free birth control for their members, and the priest who heard my mother’s confession would surely be delighted.  So much for the progress women have made in regard to when and how often they – and their partners – decide to have children. I’ve heard it said that this issue of requiring Catholic-affiliated institutions to provide contraceptives as part of their health insurance package is one thing that unites both conservative and liberal Catholics.  I have to say I really hope that is not the case.  I hope that liberal Catholics – and, well, conservative ones too, for that matter – can see how important it is to treat all people fairly, even those who may have jobs at church affiliated hospitals or schools or social agencies.  I don’t see how that can impinge on the free exercise of religion, but I can see how it keeps Congress from making laws respecting the establishment thereof.

 

DARWIN’S DILEMMA, OR HOW DID THERE GET TO BE SO MANY OF US?

Darwin’s theory of evolution posits that natural variation occurs within groups, and that those individuals who turn out in some important manner to be better suited to their environment, that is, more fit in one way or another, are also better able to reproduce, thus ensuring that their genes (and the traits attached) get passed on to future generations. Over the decades, the theory has certainly proven itself in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of populations, including humans. In this manner, for example, homo sapiens won out over several other groups of hominoids, including homo neanderthalensis, an otherwise perfectly well adapted branch of the human tree, at least until their overbearing cousins arrived on the scene. But what of homo sapiens today? Are we still evolving? The answer can only be “yes,” but I wonder if the ways in which we are evolving are ultimately of benefit to us or to the planet on which we live.

This brings up a closely related question, one that I think is of supreme importance these days, namely, are we as a race reproducing ourselves out of existence? A case could be made that many, if not most, of the major problems we are facing today on a global scale can trace their source to one basic issue: there are too many of us on the planet. We are now at seven billion, and counting. What if each of these people reproduced at a simple ration of one to two? That is, suppose each couple, each pair of two people, were to produce four offspring. Although I am not a specialist in demography, or statistics for that matter, the simple math involved predicts that it will not be long, certainly in geological terms, before our population doubles. Can any of us really imagine a world in which there are fourteen billion people? And yet, it could happen, all the more so as humans find better ways of fighting germs and disease, in times past the killer of large swaths of the population.

Now, in case you may be wondering, I am not advocating for reduced food or medicine for anybody. Indeed, all those who “here,” that is, those of us already born deserve every benefit that human technology and medicine can possibly provide in order to give each person the opportunity for a healthy and productive life. That is because, at their core, no person is intrinsically better than any other person. However, what I AM advocating for is a little bit of common sense when it comes to procreation. There’s no mystery about it. At this time in history we know how NOT to have children. And those who elect to have no children at all, or only one, or at most the strict replacement value of two, are probably doing the world the greatest service. On the other hand, those who preach the value of more and more children are ensuring the depletion of necessary resources, the further degradation of the planet, and the probable future decline of humanity itself. Churches in particular that say that the only legitimate purpose of sex is for procreative purposes are therefore doing us, and the planet on which we live, a tremendous disservice.

So, in one sense, we have to wonder whether Darwin had it right or not, at least when it comes to us humans. There is, of course, no way he could have predicted, even as recently as the mid-nineteenth century, that human reproduction would run so drastically and so dangerously amuck. But let us remember that human beings are not the same as creatures that reproduce with no ability to think about or predict the consequences of their actions. In theory at least, we can and should plan, and calculate, and make reasonable and responsible choices.

Maybe it could even be said that this ability to reason and understand where the results of our actions will take us might in fact be the selected trait among humans that could in the end save us, along with the planet. If that’s the case, it could be that Darwin was right about us after all. Reason and logic, even pity for the planet, could save us by helping us choose not to reproduce, or to limit ourselves to only one or two children, or better still to adopt already born but unwanted children. Wouldn’t this in fact be one of the best possible uses of our human reason? And wouldn’t it make Darwin proud to know that we – his offspring – selected, in this case consciously, not just what is best for ourselves and our children, but ultimately what in the end is needed for our very survival, as well as for that of the earth itself?

Paul

G.O.P. Panic!

REPUBLICANS PANIC OVER THE 2012 GENERAL ELECTION

Backed into deep, dangerous right wing waters by the Tea Party coup, and weighed down with four unelectable candidates left swimming in their presidential primaries, the G.O.P. is descending into an ever more intense state of panic over the 2012 general elections.

The Deep, Dangerous Waters of Extreme Right Wing Positions and Policies:

  1. Foreign Policies and Wars – The G.O.P. exhibits a strange bipolar split between isolationism / withdrawal from the world, and constant threats of military build-up, escalation of hostilities and threats of war. They make fun of their own candidates who are so recklessly international in their interests to learn and speak French (Romney) or Mandarin Chinese (Huntsman.) They threaten to bomb Iran and the current G.O.P. presidential crop makes G. W. Bush look like a global darling.
  2. Birth Control and Women’s Rights – Today’s G.O.P. appears to stand to the extreme right of mainstream Americans with its position against birth control and a woman’s right to choice and control over her own body, health, and reproductive processes. There are even strong indications of Republican opposition to other basic human rights for women in their homes and in society at large. Women vote… right?
  3. Taxing the Poor and Giving the Rich a Big Break – Tea Party manipulated Republicans have clearly demonstrated that they really want to deny tax cuts and a minimum wage to the 99% of us who live in the middle and lower classes and pay 25% to 35% income tax. But they stridently demand tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans who make over $1 million per year and now pay only 13% to 16% tax. Is this a good strategy for winning votes from financially struggling Americans?
  4. Subsidies for Rich Corporations – Republicans monolithically support subsidies for hedge fund managers and for the richest corporations in human history – oil companies that exacerbate climate change, rape the environment, and gouge consumers and our economy. Meanwhile our infrastructure is disintegrating.
  5. Working against Economic Recovery – Doesn’t it seem crystal clear that Republicans do not want the economy to recover, because they’d rather have a failed economy to use as a bludgeon against President Obama? They have worked against all of his efforts and expressed unified condemnation of all the successful policies started under G. W. Bush and continued in the present administration, to save the U.S. and the world from deep global depression. They demand a return to ruinous deregulatory policies that produce smoke-and-mirrors financial products like the credit default swaps and poisoned derivatives that very nearly brought this nation down and the rest of the world with us. Their four remaining presidential candidates are even unanimous in condemning the completely successful auto industry recovery strategy that saved Michigan and the U.S. economy.
  6. Anti-Labor Efforts – Since their midterm election success (and long before that, of course) the G.O.P. has waged an all-out war on labor unions, collective bargaining rights, fair wages, and pensions, for salt-of-the-earth public servants, like firefighters, police, teachers and other public service workers who are the core of the middle class work force, many of them Republicans. Is this any way to win friends, influence people and get votes? Watch what happens to Gov. Walker in Wisconsin to gauge the wages of this sin. He will be recalled and the workers will win their rights.
  7. Head-in-the-Oil-Sands, All-Out, Suicidal Denial of Global Climate Change – Virtually 100% of the world’s climatologists and other scientists urgently warn us of extremely dire consequences if we do not immediately take major steps to stop and reverse Global Climate Change. But most Republicans spend their time denying that it exists at all, as if they had more data and expertise than climatologists. They instead support a suicidal policy of rapid development and consumption of fossil fuels, while working against investment in alternative clean energy sources and ridiculing hybrid and electric cars. They are unanimous in supporting the Keystone Oil Sands Pipeline – a powerfully destructive endgame plan for Earth’s environment.
  8. Racist Immigration Positions – Tea Party members, Republicans, and extreme right wing conservatives exhibit jingoistic, racist fears and reactionary responses to “the browning of America.” They want to stop and harass people of color, deport them, and prevent them from voting. They refuse to recognize the ways in which immigrants have built our country and serve as a pillar of labor in our economy.
  9. Making Education a Privilege Only the Rich Can Afford – Republicans have long advocated closing down the Department of Education. Now they want to remove all Federal and state money from public education, effectively ending the right of the masses to educate ourselves and climb the ladder to better conditions. Republicans prefer the idea of an America in which education is a privilege that only the rich can afford. They want to deny education to our increasingly brown populace, because they don’t want more people of color like President Obama aspiring to power. Accordingly, they are slashing and burning education budgets.
  10. Gay Civil Rights – The most conservative and right wing elements now in control of the Republican Party oppose gay marriage, GLBT civil rights in general, and the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But Rick Santorum, the current leader of the pack among their presidential contenders, has pushed the G.O.P. even farther to the right on gay issues, about which he seems to be unnaturally obsessed. Years ago he famously compared gay orientation to incest, bestiality and polygamy. His extreme homophobia is bringing out the worst in Republicans as he urges them toward questioning the goodness and morality of gay citizens who may represent about 10% of the American electorate. Will any GLBT people vote Republican in 2012?
  11. Religion, Dogma and Bigotry – Republicans no longer seem to believe in our Constitutional separation of church and state, as long as it is THEIR Church of Fundamentalist Christian Dogma and Bigotry that controls the state. They clearly believe that Islamic citizens and non-Christian Americans are actually un-American and should not be allowed to vote or hold office… In fact, they shouldn’t be here.
  12. Obstruction of Government – A large part of this problem is due to growing Tea Party and Republican belief that any government and all government activities are bad for America. They seem to be moving dangerously close to proposing anarchy, but it would be a kind of anarchy in which right wing ideologues would run society. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have achieved a nadir in popularity ratings by opposing anything and everything that the Democrats and the Obama Administration propose, even if the Republicans had originally proposed and supported it themselves… and even if it is supported by their own Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell. They have made government so dysfunctional that Congress would be more effective if it closed its doors and went home: anarchy.
  13. Extreme Right Wing Takeover – Ever since the ascendancy of the Tea Party and its ability to hold the Republican establishment hostage, the extreme right wing of the G.O.P. has hijacked their processes and positions and thwarted  the more mainstream agendas of Republican Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell. It has become almost impossible to find a moderate Republican anymore, as mainstream Republicans are forced to parrot Tea Party positions so outrageously and radically right wing that they cannot possibly prevail in the 2012 general election…. Or, if they do, it will be the end of America as we have known and loved it.The 13 deadly sins above are just the short list. There are a lot more. What do all of these positions and policies have in common? They represent a full-out attack on the people – the 99% of Americans – the vast majority of voters. Is it any wonder that the G.O.P. is in a panic about the 2012 election when they can’t stop themselves from alienating a big majority of the electorate? And people are catching on. Many conservatives are worried about guilt by association with the Tea Party extremists.

The Four Remaining G.O.P. Candidates for the Presidential Nomination

Republicans are in a panic about the 2012 general election partly because they have been painted into an extreme right wing corner by the Tea Party. But their panic is even more compellingly fueled by their disenchantment with the four remaining G.O.P. candidates left standing in their presidential primary process, because all of them look like sure losers against the mighty Obama re-election effort:

  • Rick Santorum is now a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination – a fact that seems so unlikely as to be downright surreal. But he is riding a strong wave of momentum because the G.O.P. is so disenchanted with their other three candidates and they have nowhere else to go. (Tim Pawlenty, you dropped out way too soon. You could have been the frontrunner now.) Senator Santorum may have trouble in Pennsylvania, though, where the voters eventually realized how radically right wing and out of bounds his views are. They voted him out by an 18% margin. However, Nixon proved long ago that anyone can come back from a devastating loss and win the presidency. Nobody thinks Santorum can take the White House, but everyone should be very concerned if he wins the nomination, because such a right wing radical extremist should never be allowed to get that close to the presidency.
  • Mitt Romney seems to have been running for the presidency all his life. He and his family look like they were designed for the White House by central casting in  Hollywood. But the Republican electorate does not like him. “The sins of the father are visited upon the son,” and George Romney was a liberal to moderate Republican – a political animal that does not exist anymore. Mitt’s genuine impulses are a lot like his father’s, and Republicans can smell that. They do not believe his conversion to “severe conservatism.” They don’t like the fact that he is a moderate, but worse than that, he is a super rich Massachusetts elitist intellectual who speaks French!
  • Newt Gingrich is universally hated by the Republican establishment. He rose to the top of the polls briefly and had a second surge a bit later, but recently he has fallen like a stone to the bottom of the pile. To know him is to reject him as a mean, scary little man with megalomaniac aspirations. Republicans do not trust him because he is the ultimate Washington insider. And yet, almost nobody who worked with him will support him. The story of his three marriages does not help him. Moreover his intelligence and sharp, articulate, witty attacks do not serve him well in the long run. Again, American voters do not like intellectuals. Ask Adlai Stevenson and John Kerry.
  • Ron Paul himself publicly admitted that he had no chance of winning the Republican nomination or the presidency. He has a relatively small but ardent cadre of supporters and contributors, but the Republican Party has never taken him seriously. This year they snub him at their peril, because if he were to run as a third party candidate for the presidency, he would surely split off enough conservative votes to insure President Obama’s re-election, just as Ross Perot managed to make the first Bush a one-term president and put Bill Clinton in the White House.

So… What’s going to happen?

There are a number of interesting potential scenarios both emanating from and exacerbating the Republican panic over the 2012 general election:

  • Open, brokered convention – An increasing number of Republicans and political commentators are talking about the possibility of an open, brokered convention. It is hard to see how a return to the proverbial smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear could happen under the Republican Rules, but then, when it comes to elections, Republicans have never been very big on following the rules anyway. Maybe they’ll just change them and say, “Sorry, all you candidates who invested years of your life running for this nomination, and sorry, all of you billionaires and smaller donors who gave lots of money to them, but we are going to throw open this nomination process and draft Jeb Bush as our winning presidential candidate.”
  • Last-minute, Fifth Candidate – Is there any chance of a Johnny-come-lately, last minute candidate entering the race before the Super Tuesday Primaries? Could Tim Pawlenty somehow be resurrected? Mitch Daniels seems to be issuing “non-denial denials” regarding his interest in becoming a late entry, according to Chuck Todd.
  • Dreaded Third Party Candidacy – “Americans Elect” is already mounting a third party challenge for the presidency. They claim that three million people have expressed interest in their website, and they will narrow their list of candidates in May and choose one to run in June. They promise to put that candidate on all 50 ballots. This year anything could happen. We could see a fourth and fifth party, too. Donald Trump could decide that it would be good for his celebrity status and TV show to run on an independent ticket. So could Sarah Palin. Ron Paul might feel badly enough treated at the Republican Convention to spoil their soup and run as an independent. Many of these scenarios would spell re-election for President Obama.
  • Or… Maybe the G.O.P. Will Just Lose – If they continue on their current path, articulating extreme right wing positions and putting forward losing candidates, they may lose more than the presidency in the general election. They might just lose SO BIG that the Democrats would retake control of the House, bolster their position in the Senate, and replace a lot of Republican governors in the states.

 What’s going to happen?… A lot of rough and roiling water will have to pass under the November Election Bridge, along with a floundering G.O.P. elephant before we will know the answer to that question. But it is clear that the elephant is indeed floundering and in danger of drowning in those deep, dangerous extreme right wing waters. And the poor old pachyderm has fallen prey to a profound state of panic. No swimmer was ever saved from peril by giving in to panic. If the Republicans are going to survive this crisis, they are must analyze the needs of the electorate with a clear head and decide how to serve the vast majority of voters and stop alienating and insulting them. Then they need to nominate a mainstream moderate conservative candidate who can articulate a solid case for genuine service to the nation – in fact, service to the planet, and all its people.

— Kevin

Introducing Kevin…

Kevin will post political cartoons and other art occasionally, along with his comments.

I’m Kevin

We “Two Old Liberals” welcome you to our blog about life, love, politics, the arts, ecology, personal habits, philosophy, humor, labor, ethics, religion, sex, our  planet and the universe, gossip, the economy, human rights, diet and exercise, and anything else that might cross our minds. Paul and I have known each other for nearly 40 years. We were roommates a lifetime ago when he was a grad student and I was an administrative assistant at the University of Michigan. We both lived in L.A. for a long time in the 70s and 80s, and we used to get together for breakfast once a week to sort out the affairs of the world and our own young lives. Since 1997 we’ve lived on opposite coasts and written long email letters to each other almost daily. Just recently we decided to open our communications, cartoons and complaints to the rest of the world.

I’m Kevin – a fat old bald old guy with the glasses, goatee, and comb-over. For 22 years I’ve made a pretty good living prostituting my talents to Fortune 500 corporations as a business consultant, creative ideation facilitator and artist. I still do that, with increasing cognitive dissonance, and it allows me to paint and create any kind of art I want to make in my free time, without requiring it to sell to support me. I photographed the masthead image and drew the “Nude Gingrich” cartoon for this 2OL blog launch. Right now Robert and I (Robert is an artist, too, and my lover of 15 years) have about 60 large paintings and installations in our art gallery downtown, as well as 30 more big paintings in the beautiful, opulent new library, and in a week we will install 18 of our canvases in a fancy restaurant in the center of the city for a two-month exhibit. In 19 months we will both have tandem one-man shows at my alma mater – a small college in the Midwest.

It sounds like Robert and I live in the city, doesn’t it? But, in fact, we live at the dead end of a remote dirt road, deep in the woods where satellite dishes are required to get TV and Internet service. It’s really quiet and beautiful out here. We used to own a big 5-bedroom, 3-bath show home in the suburbs. We poured all our creative energies into it. People came by the hundreds every year to tour our home and gardens. But we sensed that the real estate bubble was about to burst, followed by the entire economy, so we sold it for a great price just weeks before the crash. Selling that house felt like cutting off a leg. But we would have been foreclosure victims, and instead we got out of debt and bought a shabby old trailerhouse in the woods, with a collapsing ancient barn and a half-acre pond and stream on 7 acres. That was 5 years ago. Since then we’ve added four more acres with a hunting cabin that we are expanding into a nice little cottage where we intend to make our last stand together until we cannot stand any longer.

As well as being an incredible and prolific abstract expressionist painter, Robert is a phenomenal woodworker and a handsome 45-year-old postal worker. Before that, he was in the US Marine Corps for eight years. He adores animals and they love him back. We have lots of animals. But Robert isn’t a vegetarian. He’s a regular guy – a hard worker and builder. He can solve any Rubik’s Cube in two minutes flat and install entire plumbing and electrical systems in our new cottage. He knows how to fix and construct anything. And I have personally seen wild baby rabbits and frogs approach my beefy, bearded husband and climb into his hands and arms. Animals just know and trust him.

I used to be a vegetarian for 18 years. Now I eat some fish and fowl, but left to my own devices I like to eat piles of green vegetables and whole grains with a bit of cheese or spicy sauce. I’ve been interested in metaphysics and meditation for over 40 years, and in my old age, with our Cairn Terrier Scrappy by my side, I’m actually starting to practice a bit more meditation. Robert calls it “vegetation.” I used to enjoy drinking most evenings, but my old body won’t stand for that anymore, so I’m “vegetating” instead. I am a 63-year-old, totally gay, quasi-vegetarian, meditating, social-democratic liberal, environmentalist, hermit artist, who nevertheless makes a living with occasional forays to serve the corporate world of new product development and market research. How do they put up with me? I have no idea… 

“Bizarro World”

This morning, while Robert was waking up over the morning coffee I always make and serve in bed, I told him that increasingly I feel like we’re living in “Bizarro World.” Do you remember that alternative universe in the Superman comic books in which the whole world had gone cubist and backwards and weird? Well, that’s how our world is looking to me these days. Everything is so distorted and nothing makes sense anymore:

  • In Robert’s work world, the USPS promotes the most incompetent and laziest people into managerial positions where they do not have enough knowledge, expertise or work ethic to do a good job, and excellent workers are abused, enslaved and terribly mistreated. It’s the same everywhere these days… and the Republicans want to deny police, teachers, firefighters and other public servants collective bargaining rights. Indeed they want to kill all the unions and repress middle class workers.
  • Virtually all scientists and climate experts agree that our planet is racing toward the edge of the cliff called Global Climate Change and nobody will acknowledge or discuss the terminal implications of this manmade disaster. There are things we could do to save ourselves, but as a species we choose radical denial instead.
  • The Republican Party is engaged in a truly terrifying circus clown primary contest to select their creepy candidate for the US Presidency. Only in “Bizarro World” could distorted caricatures like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich be serious contenders for that profound honor. I have closely watched all US Presidential contests for over 50 years, and for the first time the list of leading characters who have topped the Republican polls in recent times simply takes my breath away: Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum! It’s a horror movie! What the hell has happened to the Republican Party? Where did all the reasonable conservatives go? Are they hiding? No. Reasonable conservatives are now called mainstream Democrats. President Obama is a right-of-center moderate conservative in my book.
  • In “Bizarro World” everything is upside-down. Billionaires and people like Mitt Romney who make millions every year pay only a 14% or 15% tax on their income, while the middle class is being squeezed and pushed out of existence and paying a 30% or 35% income tax. That’s the reverse of what it should be, isn’t it?! In Bizarro World the top 1% of the populace has more money and power than the other 99%. It’s really unbelievable, but true! They do!
  • We have a Congress that would be more productive if they adjourned and did NOTHING at all, rather than what they are doing now. The Founding Fathers weep.
  • The planet is dangerously overpopulated with 7 billion souls, but the Republican candidates for the US Presidency do not believe in birth control!… Birth control! What year is this?… 1812?!
  • Meanwhile, scores of citizens are being murdered by their own governments while the rest of the world does nothing, but just watches.
  • And, horror of horrors, governors and states are slashing and burning their public education budgets. Forget art and music programs, the Republican governors seem to want to make ALL education a privilege that only the wealthiest can afford. How do they expect the US to remain a superpower if we do not educate our populace? But they are afraid. America is turning brown, and the last thing they want is more educated brown people like President Obama aspiring to leadership and power.

There’s a reason why we live at the dead end of an isolated dirt road deep in the woods. Take a look at the masthead photo, above, of our half-acre pond. Although nature is beginning to show signs of breaking down, it still bears enough resemblance to its former glory that we do not feel like we are living in “Bizarro World” at home here in the woods. There is tremendous comfort in observing what is left of the seasons, the wild animals, and the weather in our 11 woodland acres and on our pond and in the stream that runs through it. We are so deeply fortunate to have a place to get away from “Bizarro World.” I wish everyone could experience the peace and purity of these woods. Nature may yet find a way to speak to us. What will She say?

— Kevin