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Political Reflections

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: HOBBY LOBBY-- THE CORPORATION AS PROPHET

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan • for East County Magazine, www.eastcountymagazine.org

April 2, 2014 (Washington D.C.)--The U.S. Supreme Court sure picked a weird way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act this year. On March 24, they heard arguments in a case called Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, in which a chain of art supply stores claimed that the mandate under the Affordable Care Act (so-called “Obamacare”) that employer-provided health insurance cover birth control is an infringement on their freedom of religion. Stated that boldly, Hobby Lobby’s claim that its for-profit business has the capability of worshiping God in its own way and the government can’t dictate the terms under which it can provide employees health insurance because that would violate its freedom of religion is preposterous.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: THE BIONIC MAYOR

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan • for East County Magazine, www.eastcountymagazine.org

February 19, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - There’s an old saying, variously attributed to the Greek fabulist Aesop and the Roman poet Horace, that “the mountain labored and brought forth a mouse.” Last February 11, after a six-month campaign, the special election for Mayor of San Diego labored and brought forth Kevin Faulconer. Actually, it wasn’t the proverbial mountain; it was the Republican Party and the “independent” Lincoln Club of San Diego County, who essentially took the raw material of Kevin Faulconer and used him as a chassis on which to build a bionically perfect mayoral candidate for the San Diego electorate c. 2014: modishly liberal on the “social issues” and business-friendly, pro-developer and anti-labor without being as obstreperously obnoxious about it as the last Republican Mayoral candidate, Carl DeMaio.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: THE MAKING OF THE RIGHT- -50 YEARS LATER

 

Why Goldwater Didn’t Become President: He Was Ahead of, Not Behind, the Times

By Mark Gabrish Conlan • for East County Magazine, www.eastcountymagazine.org

February 1, 2014 (San Diego)--Not long ago, I was at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park on a Sunday afternoon to hear San Diego’s civic organist, Carol Williams, play her weekly concert. After she was finished I walked over to one of the donation tables to renew my Spreckels Organ Society membership. The woman who helped me saw the book I was reading — a well-worn paperback of Theodore H. White’s book The Making of the President 1964 — and asked, “Is that about the Goldwater campaign?” I said yes, though the book is as much about Lyndon Johnson’s takeover of the presidency after the John F. Kennedy assassination and his campaign to keep the job. The woman then startled me by saying, “We need someone like Goldwater today — a progressive Republican.”

COLUMN: POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: 2013 - THE YEAR OF CRASH AND BURN

 
By Mark Gabrish Conlan 
 
January 5, 2014 (San Diego) -- If nothing else, 2013 will go down in history as a year that showed up just how silly the whole notion of punditry is. People read columns like this in hopes that the people writing them have some special wisdom that will not only explain to them what’s happening in politics now but what’s likely to happen in the future. Often we’re as clueless as anyone else. As Doyle McManus recently admitted in the Los Angeles Times, at this time last year he was expecting President Obama to be able to take full advantage of his resounding re-election victory and the Republicans in Congress to moderate their opposition and maybe even work with him to get things done.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN-- TRIUMPH OF THE RAND

by Mark Gabrish Conlan  for East County Magazine, www.eastcountymagazine.org

I will not live my life for any other man, nor ask any other man to live his life for mine. — Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

October 10, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- As I’m writing this, it’s the eighth day of the shutdown of the federal government, and there’s no end in sight. What’s more, unless Congress acts to expand the so-called “debt ceiling” — the total amount of money the federal government can borrow to fund its current obligations ­— by October 17, the U.S. could default on its loans for the first time in its history.

Economists and businesspeople are warning that this could be catastrophic for the future not only of the U.S. but the entire world’s economy. As Douglas Cote, chief market strategist for IMG Investment Management U.S. in New York — not exactly your most flaming liberal or Leftist source — was quoted in the October 3 Los Angeles Times, the politicians who have brought about the government shutdown and are threatening to force the U.S.’s first-ever default are playing “a form of Russian roulette with a loaded gun.”

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: FILNER - MAYOR BEHAVING BADLY

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

July 19, 2013 (San Diego) – Just when you thought the current sex scandal involving San Diego Mayor Bob Filner couldn’t get any weirder, it did. On July 17 KGTV Channel 10 broke the news that Filner had been booked to be the keynote speaker at the National Military Women Veterans’ Association of America’s gala event in San Diego August 30-31. They had originally planned to give him a “Lifetime of Leadership” award honoring his work on behalf of veterans in general and military veterans in particular. But with allegations that Filner routinely harassed women, including his staff members, in the workplace and at community events, the group decided to rescind the award but keep him on as a speaker. “He is now the keynote speaker for these injustices,” said the group’s official statement.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: HIGH COURT ON RIGHTS: 1 WIN, 1 LOSS, 2 DRAWS

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

Columnist's elation over marriage equality rulings is tempered by dismay over high court's ruling on Voting Rights Act

June 26, 2013 (San Diego)--The sun is shining this Wednesday, June 26 and it’s a beautiful, if rather hot, day in San Diego. I sent my husband Charles off to work this morning after we both got up early to watch MS-NBC broadcast news of the United States Supreme Court’s rulings on two cases involving the rights of same-sex couples to marry each other. It was a personal story to us because Charles and I are legally married.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: THE INTERBLOB

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

April 14, 2013 (San Diego) -- I recently started a new job in downtown San Diego, and that means for the last three weeks I’ve been witnessing the slow death of an old friend. No, I don’t mean a human being. I’m referring to the huge building in front of Horton Plaza that used to house San Diego’s outlet of the long-defunct Planet Hollywood restaurant chain and, more importantly to my point of view, the Sam Goody’s record, video, electronics and entertainment store. It’s being torn down to make way for a so-called “expansion” of Horton Plaza Park that, judging from the artists’ renderings of what it’s supposed to look like, is a typical San Diego public project: spectacularly ugly, offering no continuity with the original park and looking more like an industrial park’s patio than a community gathering center. But that’s another story.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: MARRYING YOUR GAY FIRST COUSIN?

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

April 7, 2013 (San Diego)--On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two major cases over whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

On March 26 they heard arguments on whether Proposition 8, which California voters passed in November 2008 to short-circuit the ruling of the California Supreme Court that the state’s constitution did not allow it to deny marriage to same-sex couples, is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The next day they heard the case of Edith Windsor, who legally married her long-term partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007, then got socked with a federal estate tax bill of $367,000 because the federal government didn’t recognize her marriage under the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DoMA) passed by Congress in 1996.

The two cases rest on somewhat different legal issues, and it’s quite possible the court could throw out Proposition 8 and uphold DoMA — or vice versa — but the underlying issues are the same.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: THE PEOPLE'S POPE?

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

April 11, 2013 (San Diego) – I can remember the first time I experienced a Papal conclave. No, it wasn’t a real one; it was the one depicted in the 1969 film The Shoes of the Fisherman. It’s about a Ukrainian archbishop, Kiril (Anthony Quinn), who was tortured in the Gulag, gets summoned to Rome, is made a cardinal and suddenly finds himself in the middle of a conclave when the Pope who appointed him dies. The conclave deadlocks and Kiril is elected Pope as a compromise candidate, then uses his new-found powers to mediate an end to the Cold War and ward off a military threat to the West from China. It was based on a novel by Morris L. West, a potboiler author of religious books, and though it wasn’t much as a movie I found the depiction of the rituals of the conclave absolutely stunning — particularly the repeated puffs of black smoke signaling that the cardinals hadn’t yet reached the two-thirds majority for picking a Pope.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS COLUMN: THE PREGNANCY POLICE

 

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

March 11, 2013 ( San Diego)--The 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion, passed last January 15 with a lot of crowing — from the anti-choice side. Time magazine ran a cover story that announced that advocates for women’s right to reproductive choice won a big victory with Roe v. Wade — “and they’ve been losing ever since.” Over those 40 years, the Supreme Court has moved farther and farther Right and given states leeway to create more and more so-called “reasonable restrictions” on women’s right to choose. A continued campaign of terrorism — there’s no other word for it — against abortion providers has intimidated doctors, nurses and clinic staff and forced women who want abortions to get them in conditions which resemble maximum-security prisons.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: NO MORE RECESS APPOINTMENTS

One More Way the Republican Minority Continues to Run the Country

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

February 22, 2013 (San Diego) -- Just four days after President Obama was sworn in for his second term, a Right-wing federal appeals judge gave the Republican Senate minority new powers to take over the country and shoot down whole government departments whose missions or policies displease them. Judge David Sentelle, one of the most powerful people you’ve never heard of, and two of his colleagues on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a sweeping ruling on January 25 that effectively ended the ability of a President to make so-called “recess appointments” to government departments that require Senate confirmation.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: BALBOA PARK--THE GOOD GUYS WIN

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

February 19, 2013 (Revised February 20) -- Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs’ plan for an extensive remodel of the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park sailed easily through the San Diego City Council last summer — Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s was the only vote against it — but it hit a snag in San Diego Superior Court February 5.

That’s when Judge Timothy Taylor, ruling in the suit the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) filed against the city to stop the Jacobs plan, found that the city had basically ignored its own rules by insisting that the current configuration of the park, with much of its area used for large, free parking lots, was not a “reasonable beneficial use of the property” under city law.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: REPUBLICANS WIN THE "FISCAL CLIFF" DEBATE

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

The views expressed in this column reflect the views of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.

January 10, 2013 (San Diego) -- The first part of the “fiscal cliff” debate is over — and the Republicans won. That’s not the impression you’ll get from the corporate media, either the “objective” mainstream or the Right-wing media party of talk radio and Fox News. The mainstream media are reporting the swift passage of a bill through both houses of Congress continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans making $400,000 per year ($450,000 per couple) as a triumph for President Obama and at least a partial fulfillment of his pledge in both Presidential campaigns for a (slight) tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. (Ironically, the $400,000 at which the restored tax rates kick in also happens to be the salary of the President.) But the bill is actually a slap-dash scheme thrown together at the last minute to keep taxes from returning to Clinton-era levels for all Americans — and it leaves the Republicans with yet another opportunity to hold the American economy hostage and demand draconian cuts to what’s left of the social safety net when Congress next has to raise the U.S. debt ceiling in two months.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: AFTER THE ELECTION...

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

November 20, 2012 (San Diego) – Is it really over? I’ve lived with the 2012 Presidential campaign for so long that it’s become a fixture of my life, sort of like a piece of ugly furniture you never sit on anymore but you can’t bear to get rid of.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: THE MEDIA DEBATE

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

I’m writing this article — both a review of the latest Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at Hofstra University in New York State October 16 and an overview of how all three of the debates so far have been covered by the media — starting 10 minutes after the October 16 debate ended. It’s important that you know that, and that you know my article about the first Obama/Romney debate 10 days earlier was likewise written just minutes after it was over, because I’ve wanted whatever I had to say about the debates to be uncontaminated. I’ve wanted to write about these events solely from the debates themselves as I watched them on TV and filtered them through my perceptions, unaffected by the media “groupthink” that surrounds these events and, quite frankly, colors how ordinary voters perceive them and use them to guide their decisions.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: MITT ROMNEY IN BOCA RATON: AMEN CHORUS OF THE 1%

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

 

October 5, 2012 (San Diego)--Just about everybody who follows American politics at all has heard by now of the surreptitious video recording made of Mitt Romney and his peers at a $50,000 per person fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida last May 17. In case you need the reminder, it’s the event at which he said, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent on the government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That’s an entitlement. … These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of lower taxes doesn’t connect. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to 10 percent in the center … ”

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: TWO CAGED TIGERS -- THE OBAMA/ROMNEY DEBATE

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

October 6, 2012 (San Diego)—The first general election Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney concluded on October 3, entering into history. It had become one of those events that seemed important because everybody — or at least all the political pundits — were saying it would be important. In an election in which the recent polls had shown Obama gaining slight but significant leads in many of the so-called “swing states,” the nine or so across the country where the balance between Democrats and Republicans is so delicate the election could go either way, the debates have been hailed as Romney’s last chance to turn things around.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: AFTER THE CONVENTIONS

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

September 17, 2012 (San Diego) – Well, now we know. The 2012 Presidential election won’t just be between incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but between two starkly different philosophies not only of politics, or how to revive the economy and preserve the capitalist system, but also of life itself and what it means to be human. It won’t be a serious debate over how much government the American people want, or how they propose to pay for it. Nor will it really be about the budget deficit or the national debt, however much Republicans — especially their vice-presidential candidate, Congressmember Paul Ryan —might claim the moral high ground on that issue even though their giveaway tax cuts to the ultra-rich will actually make the national debt bigger, not smaller.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: TERRORISTS' VETO II - HERE WE GO AGAIN

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

September 21, 2012 (San Diego)--I probably could have gone through my life blissfully unaware of the existence of a scrap of film called Innocence of Muslims — a.k.a. Innocence of Bin Laden, a.k.a. Desert Warriors — if the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other U.S. Embassy staff members hadn’t been killed in an attack allegedly inspired by a YouTube trailer for this movie. It’s a film almost no one has seen — and that includes the attackers in Libya and the mobs who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Egypt — but that hasn’t stopped either the protesters against the film or the mystery people who made it, who appear to be  members of the Copts, an Egyptian Christian sect who lost their protector when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was driven from power and now fear both official discrimination and private retribution.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: RALPH REED'S - AND THE REPUBLICANS' - RESURRECTION

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

September 4, 2012 (San Diego) – Guess which major Republican political leader recently made the following statement in Tampa, Florida, the home of this year’s GOP convention: “There was one candidate who stood in front of Greek columns and vowed to heal the planet and cause the oceans to recede.” If you guessed Mitt Romney, you’re half-right — he did rip off that line in his big speech accepting the Republican nomination for President on August 30 — but the line was actually delivered four days earlier on April 26, the day before the convention was supposed to start, by Ralph Reed.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: "LEGITIMATE RAPE"

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 30, 2012 (San Diego) – Just when you thought the political season couldn’t possibly get any weirder, Missouri Congressmember Todd Akin — the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against Democrat Claire McCaskill — told a sympathetic local TV interviewer that he didn’t think the federal government needed to pay for abortions for victims of rape or incest because he didn’t think victims of rape or incest could get pregnant. “From what I understand from doctors, that’s extremely rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: ORGANIZED LABOR'S LAST-DITCH STAND

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 22, 2012 (San Diego) – Whoever you think won last June’s elections, there can be no doubt that organized labor was one of the biggest losers.

In San Diego, voters overwhelmingly approved the pension “reform” initiative sponsored by City Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio that abolishes guaranteed-benefit pensions completely for newly hired city employees, freezes all city workers’ pay for five years (on top of five years they’ve already gone without a raise) and pushes workers into a 401(k)-style program that will actually cost the city more to administer than the current pension system.

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: PAUL RYAN—MITT DOUBLES DOWN ON THE RIGHT

 
By Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 14, 2012 (San Diego) --
Up until presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Congressmember Paul Ryan as his running mate on August 10, the safe bet seemed to be that Romney was going to base his general-election strategy on “a referendum, not a choice.” For one thing, that’s Politics 101: as pioneering American political scientist V. O. Key said in the 1960’s, Americans vote on issues but “retrospectively and negatively.”

POLITICAL REFLECTIONS: EARTH TO JERRY BROWN: SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

August 11, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when Governor Jerry Brown appeared at the opening of the opening of the Suncrest Powerstation near Alpine July 27 and said “you have to crush the opposition” to giant wind and solar development projects. After all, a year and two days before that the Sacramento Bee reported that Brown had addressed a “renewable energy conference” in Los Angeles and used almost similar language to express his determination to get these mega-projects through no matter what the people who live nearby think of them. “In Oakland, I learned that some kind of opposition you just have to crush,” Brown said in July 2011. “Talk a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy.”

 

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