THE VALUE OF VALUES: WHY I’M RIGHT AND YOU’RE WRONG (OR YOU’RE RIGHT AND I’M WRONG!)

By Paul

The word “values” is a term that you hear thrown around a lot these days.  When it’s used in the singular we seem mostly to be referencing its more or less literal meaning, having to do with the worth of something, as in the expression, “the value of a dollar,” or something (some thing) being of great (or of little) value.    But what I’m more interested in is the symbolic or metaphorical meaning of the term.  That may at first sound a little abstract, but the application of our values generally in life, and in the political sphere particularly, and the ultimate concrete results of that application in the real world, is anything but abstract.

Let’s begin by agreeing that everybody has values.  You cannot live in human society and not have values.  I don’t care who you are, even the worst, the most hardened, criminal has values.  His (or her) values may not be your values, or my values, but they are values all the same.  So what exactly are we talking about when we use the term values? They are an internalized system often unconsciously, if tenaciously, held, whereby each individual makes judgments about the world, how it works, or how it ought to work, and about people or things in the world.  Most of the time, our values are automatic, that is, we don’t stop and think about them.  We don’t have to.  We know them; we recognize them immediately. They are powerful and they are visceral, as if somehow coming from the profundity of our inner selves.  They are a system, essentially a kind of internalized ruler against which we measure things.  In so doing, we make important decisions about whether an action, a thing, or a person is good or bad, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, proper or improper, acceptable or unacceptable, advisable or inadvisable, some may even say sinful or virtuous.  They constitute one of the most important aspects of our lives, because it is essentially by and in accordance with our value system that we make decisions about how to lead our lives.   

Let’s take a simple, if admittedly mundane, example to begin with.  The other day, I was driving to the gym, when a guy cut me off on the freeway, weaving in front of me without so much as a flicker of a directional signal, so much so that I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid him.  When, a few minutes later, traffic slowed enough that it allowed me to pull up beside him, I saw that he was texting something on his cell phone.  I was furious, and wanted to scream out the window at the guy, telling him what a jerk he was.  I didn’t have to stop and think, “Well, what are my values in this instance?  Am I in favor of following the law when it comes to driving, or do I feel as though it’s OK to ‘multitask’ by driving (more or less), while texting your boss, or you girlfriend, or your damn lawyer, for that matter?”  I knew immediately that he was wrong.  And, aha, as soon as you hear yourself use that word “wrong” (or of course its counterpart, “right”), you know instantly that you have entered into the majestic and hallowed halls of your own value system.  Even in such an innocuous example as this we see two important things about values.  One is that we recognize in an instant what they are and how we feel about them, and two, we often react with emotion.  I knew right away, without thinking, that this guy was wrong; and he really pissed me off!  So, there you have it: immediacy and emotion.  My values are such that I think it’s right, it is proper, it is appropriate for everybody’s safety to follow traffic laws while you’re driving around at 65 miles an hour, and his (apparently) were that it is perfectly proper, appropriate, and acceptable to send an “important message” as soon as the thought strikes, no matter where you are. 

Now, if such a small thing as being cut off on the freeway (it happens all the time, right?) causes such a reaction, what about the bigger issues?  Without getting into where our values come from (a topic of its own for another essay, or a book, or a whole library of books), what values do we hold related to the enormous questions that are facing our country right now?  It seems to me that the political conventions we have seen of late are very good indicators of the things that are valued by each of the parties.  Mitt Romney, for example, mocked the very idea of climate change.  He also spoke of letting people alone and allowing them to exercise their own creativity and make their own way in the world.  Americans act best when they act alone, and we don’t need any help from big government.  At most, we might accept some level of assistance from family, or from church, but government is almost always and everywhere a bad thing.  It was the classic “bootstrap” speech in modern guise.  As Mark Shields cogently remarked on the PBS coverage of the convention, using a baseball metaphor, “Mitt was born on third base, and thought he hit a triple!”  Michelle Obama, on the other hand, in her brilliant and human and very humane speech, and the President, himself, in his, espoused what I thought of as what is best about American society.  They both came out loud and clear for helping those in need (especially when those people don’t have a millionaire daddy, or if they don’t belong to a church that requires everyone to tithe 10% of their income).  They were for justice, for compassion, for service, for mutual assistance, and for inclusion.  In a word (and according to my value system anyway), the Obamas were absolutely right on, and Mitt Romney was dead wrong.  The President even went so far as to mention global warming, and said that climate change was not a hoax.  Most of  the speeches at the DNC may have been about jobs and the economy first of all, and then the so-called social issues secondarily, mainly women’s rights generally, reproductive rights specifically, and allowing (or not allowing) people to marry whomever they may love.  Still, any mention of human-induced changes to the environment has to be a very welcome (and very politically risky) thing.    

So I hail the Democrats for their values.  I also understand that you get elected mostly because you’ve talked believably about the things that people want you to talk about (i.e., what people value).  And I may think that climate change ought to have been front and center in the president’s speech, not merely mentioned.  Still, I get it that no parent is going to spend much time worrying about the future of the world’s climate, if tonight what is most pressing is whether or not there will be enough food on the table for the kids to eat.  I understand that this is a huge problem, and a very human one, and that there are lots of other enormous problems facing this country right now.  Maybe there always have been, but they somehow seem even more numerous and more ominous these days.  Everything from jobs for the millions of the unemployed, to healthcare for those without it, to a staggeringly burdensome public debt that will sooner or later weigh down the entire economy and grind it to a halt, to overpopulation of the globe, to – finally, once again – the warming of the planet to such an extent that it may someday extinguish life in its entirety. 

It’s all so huge, in fact, that it may sound like a job for God, or at least for some kind of superhero, but for the moment I’m afraid all we have to deal with these problems are fallible human beings, and their attendant values.  As such, I for one am in favor of people taking a close look at those values because, believe it or not, it is possible to change them.  You shouldn’t do so without a great deal of self-scrutiny, and some very serious introspection, but it can be done.  I’ve known people who have done so, as no doubt we all do. 

I only hope that whatever changes people make will be for the good. After all, I know that my values are proper and advisable and appropriate, and that those who disagree with me for the most part have values that are improper and inadvisable and completely inappropriate.  I know this because I know it.  I feel it deep inside.  And don’t tell me that I’m wrong either, because, damn it, I know that I’m right!  But then, so do you.  And that’s the problem with values.

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO MAD

by Kevin

Money Screws Up Everything!

Sometimes I just hate money. It screws up everything. Any first grader can see that I was born to be an artist. So, of course, I’ve spent the last 22 years as a business consultant to Fortune 500 companies. It was my own fault that I didn’t make any art during most of those years, but I forgive myself. I’m not the only one who would say that if it were not for having to make money, they would be doing something else. People should do what they were born to do, shouldn’t they? Yes… but money screws up everything. For decades some of my more idealistic friends have been urging, “Give up that job! Follow your dream! You are an artist!” Well… I AM an artist, and I AM following my dream, but I don’t want to starve in the gutter. So I have worked full time at my job and then performed a second full time vocation “following my dream” as an artist.

Even pleasure is evaluated according to how much money you pay for the experience. If you go on an expensive cruise or spend time at a fancy resort, everyone assumes you had a wonderful time. If you stay at home and sit in your backyard garden, the same people feel sorry for you. Frankly, I’ve had some truly lousy times on cruises and at fancy resorts, and some of my best times in my own garden, so the price tag on a vacation is a false indicator of its value. Money does not equal fun.

Money madness takes on much more serious forms as well. To get a lot of money, or only what they perceive to be a lot of money, some people are willing to steal, murder, betray loved ones, enslave each other, demean and prostitute themselves and others, and do all manner of illegal, immoral, cruel, awful things. Money basically brings the worst out in people. Why does everyone love it so?

Money is making a mess of our society right now. The Occupy Movement has famously pointed out that the richest 1% of U.S. people holds more wealth than the other 99%. They are doing their best to hold onto more power than the lower 99% too. In fact they are attempting to destroy the middle class. Scranton, PA is broke and the mayor has announced that they are now going to pay their fire fighters and police force minimum wage! Hard working teachers, civil servants and salt-of-the-earth blue collar union members are under attack. As median household wealth drops, people are afraid that others are getting more than they do, and they resent their friends and neighbors having a retirement plan or health insurance or a decent hourly wage. Money envy yields dangerous results.

Meanwhile, the apparent Republican nominee for the presidency may be worth about a quarter billion dollars. Nobody knows, because a great deal of his wealth is hidden in offshore accounts all over the world. Like all his wealthy friends, Mitt pays less than 15% taxes on his income while you and I pay over 30%. I don’t begrudge him his wealth, unless it was ill-gotten, but I do think he should pay his fair share of taxes – as much as you and I pay. President Obama has generously proposed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income up to $250,000. Even billionaires would get that much of a tax cut, and then the rest of their temporary Bush income tax break would be rolled back to pre-Bush levels. But Romney and the Republicans want the fat cat tax breaks to become permanent. Discrepancies in fairness, like this one, around money and taxes make everyone mad, including me. Money is power, and those who have it often prove capable of stacking the cards in their favor for getting even more.

There’s No Money in Heaven

I certainly hope there is no money in Heaven. One of the things I look forward to enthusiastically about graduating from this mudball and moving on to the next realm is getting rid of money! I cannot imagine money being part of Heaven, can you? Of course not. Money is “the root of all evil.” There couldn’t possibly be any money in Heaven. We won’t need to eat or worry about shelter, since we will be angels, sleeping on clouds or something. We won’t have to buy cars, since we will be able to fly, right? In Paradise we won’t need any possessions other than our harps and white robes, which I assume will be issued at the Pearly Gates. We won’t have to go shopping. We won’t need money! YAY!

It’s kind of amazing, actually, that more people have not tried to come up with alternatives to money here on earth, since it is such a total pain in the ass. Barter is probably the most common effort to get around money, but it isn’t very precise, and someone is always feeling cheated, as in “I think my assistance building your barn was worth more than this one old goat you gave me!” Communes have been an interesting effort to get away from money in my lifetime. Supposedly everyone works as hard as they can for the good of the community without receiving any money to show for it. But then somebody is always slipping into lazy freeloading, and that causes resentment. Besides, most people do want to have a few possessions of their own and a little bit of privacy.

In our society the conservatives loudly proclaim the supremacy of unregulated capitalism – not what I expect to find in Heaven. Even in the material world, capitalism is beginning to look a little shaky. The unfettered economy of extraction, exploitation and abuse of resources, nature and people is ruining societies and our environment. It is increasingly clear that the powerful wealthy elite 1% is succeeding in redistributing wealth from the middle and lower classes to the extremely wealthy. The Republicans are very open about wanting to shred any semblance of a security net, and get rid of all social programs – eventually even Medicare and Social Security – leaving the poor to die in the streets and the remnants of the middle class increasingly desperate and impoverished. So much for our national Christian values of feeding the poor and clothing the naked. They even seem to want to deprive all but the wealthiest families of educational opportunities, to make sure that they keep control of all the money and power. They certainly don’t want another president like Obama, because he believes in fair taxation, equal opportunity in education and work, and fair pay for work done.

It’s a battle royale on planet earth right now over money, whether you want to talk about the Arabian oil fields, or the European Union, or extreme Third World poverty, or the increasing polarization of the U.S. classes. So I guess we’ll have to wait for our halos, wings and harps before we can look forward to living without money. Capitalism will catapult us into Heaven more quickly, however.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

Here on earth we are caught in a veritable rat race for money, money, money! My 87-year-old dad points out that back in the 50s, when I was a kid, a good middle class life meant a small modest home with one car in the driveway, a washing machine, and a black and white TV set with three channels… maybe a radio and a stereo, too, if you could afford them. That was a good life. Now we think we are utterly deprived if we can’t have a gigantic house and a big garden shed full of lawn equipment, one car for each family member of driving age, plus some additional recreational vehicles, unlimited high speed Internet access, cable TV with hundreds of channels in almost every room, endless travel and entertainment, huge closets full of clothing, phones in every pocket, college educations for everyone, major retirement savings and more insurance than you can shake a stick at.

 Insurance… now there’s a money pit! I pay for auto insurance for three cars, home and fire insurance for two properties, phone line repair insurance, $500/month for my own health insurance and $1,000/year for professional liability insurance because I’m an independent contractor and an artist with a display room downtown, $2,250/year for disability insurance, lots of life insurance, and I probably have insurance for my insurance! I feel guilty because I don’t have dental insurance and long term care insurance. I know I’m irresponsible for not having those, but I just cannot afford anymore damn insurance! Give me a break! That’s another good thing about going to Heaven… You don’t have to buy insurance in Heaven. You’re already dead!

Money may make the world go ’round, but it makes my head spin! I hate the way people respect you more if you make a lot of money and suspect you of being subversive if you choose not to make as much money as you could, or not to display ostentatiously how much money you make. And if you ever sell your big house, pay off all your debts and radically downsize, you will find out that people resent you for dropping out of the money rat race. “How dare you reject the game! You can’t do that!”

Living With Less

Oh yes we can… we CAN live with less… a whole LOT less. It was a very short time ago that people lived with less than we can now imagine. When my father was a boy, his home had no electricity or running water or indoor plumbing. They weren’t terribly poor. Those things just hadn’t reached many of the rural areas yet. They worked the farm, milked the cows and tilled the fields by the rhythms of the rising and setting sun, the weather and the seasons. They lived close to the land and their animals. Forget the 50s with the one car, TV set, and washing machine. In my father’s youth there was virtually no technology except for a few gasoline engines and 19th Century mechanical devices. At that time he could not have imagined our smart cell phones, iPads and computers facilitating instant and constant communications and business dealings; our global jet travel; our video-game-like drone warfare; and all of our gadgetry, amenities and luxuries. A light bulb and an indoor toilet and plumbing were life-changing luxuries to him.

It is time to live more simply again. Our extraction and pollution economies and technologies are raping the planet and killing it as a livable home for plants, animals and humans. We are starting to see that all around us now. We had no winter this year. Colorado has burnt up. Thousands of heat records were shattered by the end of June. Millions of households had to survive temperatures over 100 degrees with very high humidity without any electricity for air conditioning for a week. What will August be like? We have to reverse Global Climate Change if we want to survive. We have to change how we live and be willing to live with much less. We have to become friends with the Earth and the plants and animals again. Their fate will be ours.

You Can’t Take It With You

Money is not the key. You can’t take it with you. It won’t offer you permanent happiness. Money applied intelligently might be able to improve conditions for all life on earth and for the environment, but so far we are applying it to commit suicide. So it’s not working. Money is not working for us.

But enough of this frivolity. Let’s get serious. I have bad news: We are all going to die. If we are lucky, we will get old first, and then die. I have made a personal study of the aging process. Growing old is about giving up things bit by bit until we finally have nothing and then we let go of the body. At that point we will leave the material world of money, utterly penniless, whether we had billions when we died or nothing at all. Death is the great equalizer. It enforces the ultimate equitable wealth distribution. You may have gotten the impression that s/he who dies with the most money and toys wins. But it ain’t true. Only the intangibles that have fed and defined our souls stay with us. Money, or “mammon,” will mean nothing to us at the moment of our graduation to the next realm.

I’ve never been a Bible thumper, but the words of Christ say it best. There is so much unchristian Christianity going around these days. So, don’t take my word for it… Listen to the source:

Matthew 6:19-33

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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.

 

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