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« January 2012 | Main | March 2012 »

Front Page » Monthly Archives » February 2012

By Angelo Lopez on February 29, 2012

Eric Wilks has been one of my best friends since we met in 7th grade. One of the most politically astute individuals that I know, Eric worked for several years in GLAAD, an organization that works to advance LGBT rights in the local community and acts as a watchdog against homophobia in the news, entertainment and social media. I always enjoy our many discussion of politics over the years, and even when we disagree, he's pointed out weaknesses in my own arguments and has offered different perspectives on the political issues. A longtime political activist, Eric has participated in several protests and has used his facebook page as a forum for political discussion.

You've always been interested in politics, at least since I first met you. How would you describe your politics when you were younger? And how has it evolved over the years?

My political views were initially shaped by those of my father. I don’t recall politics being part of dinner conversation, but my father encouraged my sister and I to read the newspaper when we were young. I generally didn’t do much more than read the headlines and the first few paragraphs of news stories that interested me, but that was enough to spur my curiosity in current events and politics. My father didn’t align with either the Democratic or Republican party. He held moderate-to-liberal views on many social issues but also was a strong believer of a citizen’s right to bear arms. He was uncomfortable with government intruding in our lives, including registering his weapons. That said, he owned only a couple of firearms intended for protection. He mostly owned shotguns and rifles for duck and deer hunting. So, he identified his politics as those closest to Libertarian. He appreciated the fiscal conservatism of the Republican Party of the mid- to late-70s, but less so its stand on social issues.

As a child and young adult, my political views were more black-and-white. Though I could understand how neither the Republicans nor Democrats satisfied every voter, I felt a vote for a third party was essentially a “throw away” vote, given the way our political system functions.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 28, 2012

Starting this March, the Christian LGBT rights group Soulforce will be launching its fifth annual Equality Rides. The Equality Rides is based on the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s and they will consist of Christians who are either gay or are supporters of gay rights who will travel by bus around the country to visit hundreds of Christian schools in the United States that openly discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer individuals and their Allies (LGBTQA) through their policies and practices. They write on the Soulforce webpage their goals for the Equality Rides:

Since its inception, the Equality Ride has catalyzed conversations and dialogue at these otherwise silent institutions. We have witnessed real change in practices and policies. Riders have worked to establish and strengthen Queer/Straight alliances all across the country. People have been provided with safe spaces in which to address the suffering they often feel at the hands of their schools and/or faith communities. We strive to begin conversations at the institutions we visit. We go into these communities at the request and in collaboration with the very folks who are suffering in silence. We approach these communities with a relentless form of non-violent resistance.

Each year we bring in new riders who are given the best training in the non-violence method as well as training on how to organize to end the political and spiritual oppression felt by those in the LGBTQA community. In addition to this training – riders are taught to approach oppression from an intersectional lens – learning to fight racism, ableism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, and other oppressive systems.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 27, 2012

I've known Greg Beda and his cartoons since we took college classes together many years ago at San Jose State. For years now I've been a fan of Greg's series Zeke and Goulash and his comic book Postmodern AnXst. His comics often explore with insight the ups and downs of relationships. His latest work has incorporated a spiritual dimension, influenced by many spiritual teachers, most prominently Ken Wilber, an American author who has written about mysticism, philosophy, ecology, and developmental psychology. I admire Greg’s cartoons because he maintains a strong personal point of view that is unique in the comics world.

Over the years, Greg has built a steady readership from the many comic book conventions he has attended to exhibit his comics. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Zeke and Goulash; to see examples please visit the Zeke and Goulash Facebook page

Thanks Greg for this interview. So tell us a little on how you started cartooning.

I loved cartoons as a child and made a decision to become a cartoonist at age five. My first influences were “The Flintstones,” “Underdog,” and the various animated cartoons on television. I started out drawing my favorite TV characters, as many children do. I created magnets and gave them to my Mom. I also created homemade trading cards of my favorite Hanna-Barbera characters and had them laminated at my bank.

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By Bob Hooper on February 25, 2012

Full disclosure. It's been a long time since I was pregnant. In fact, I can't remember when. But I was bedside at my oldest daughter's arrival at Doc Limes' home-town maternity clinic.

I claim only to have been an amazed (and nervous) spectator, but I think I began to appreciate more the courage, strength, and miracle of women. Whatever men say, the best of us haven't a clue beyond that. Bill Cosby once asked Carol Burnett what birth pains were like.

"'Grab your lower lip," she said. "Now pull it over your head." Men know little about pregnancy or childbirth beyond the mechanics instigating the fact (and I've heard they're often klutzes there, too.).

Despite that, a gritty bunch of self-assured males in priestly vestment are confident artificial birth control is a sin. Whether they think it's a mortal or a venial sin is hard to pin down. However, their missionary position is this: sex for fun is agin' God's rules. It grates on God's nerves. Good women should wrestle in the hay strictly to procreate and bear children to fill pews today, coffers tomorrow. Otherwise, as Hamlet would advise, "Get thee to a nunnery."

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By Angelo Lopez on February 25, 2012

I learned a lot about the poet activist from reading the blogs of Melissa Tuckey, a blogger at Everyday Citizen. Melissa is a poet who strongly believes in the power of poetry to act as agents of change, to engage readers in many of the important issues of society. This philosophy led Tuckey to serve as the events coordinator for DC Poets Against the War and to serve as a founding co-director of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, while she was living in Washington, DC. She has written a chapbook, "Rope As Witness" for Pudding House Press. Her poems have appeared in the Southeast Review, Poet Lore, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Terrain: A Journal of Built and Natural Environments, and others. Melissa currently lives in Ithaca, New York.

How did you become interested in poetry? Was it something that you first loved when you were in school?

I first encountered poetry at about age 14. I had a teacher who was a poet and he introduced us to Whitman and Dickinson. I fell in love with Emily Dickinson. Her sense of isolation matched mine, and the mystery of her writing was intimate. I slept with her book. My teacher Robert West, was very supportive, he read every poem I wrote and would meet with me during office hours to discuss books.

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By Angelo Lopez on February 25, 2012

I've always been inspired by heroes. From family members, to close friends, to major figures in books that I've read, these heroes have helped shaped my values, my politics, and the way I want to live my life. As I've grown older, my parents have become real heroes to me. As a young man, I admired several sports stars, especially Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, for their work ethic and their ability to make their teammates play to their highest level. With this in mind, I thought I'd write a list of my heroes who are either politicians or political activists, people who inspire me and who have shaped my political views.

I've met many people who do not believe in heroes. They see flaws in any hero and believe that it's dangerous to have so much faith in a flawed human being to fight for good causes. It's never bothered me to know that my heroes have flaws. What makes a hero special to me is that they have the courage to transcend their human weaknesses to do great things that benefit humanity.

So here is my list of my favorite political and activist heroes. Some are radicals. Some are reformers. They have all inspired me. Perhaps a few of them will inspire you. Please feel free to mention your own list of political and activist heroes.

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By Ken Poland on February 21, 2012

Who's Financing the 'Super PACs'

When I ran a quick tally on these statistics, I find some interesting numbers. We have started hearing a big to do about Pres. Obama and his super pac.

As I tallied the figures: Republican Pres. Candidates 77+ million dollars between the lot of them. The only listed Super Pac dedicated to Pres. Obama 4.5 million dollars. These figures don't include the money that the candidates, themselves, are spending.

A little hard to hammer on Obama and his super pac that is dedicated for his re-election, when the bulk of the Republican candidates agenda has been criticism of Pres. Obama. They bite one another occassionaly, but their main target has been Obama and trying to convince the Republican voters that they are the most conservative and the most opposed to Obama's liberal programs. And, they consistently tie all the liberal political agenda to Obama, personally.

Total of all Super Pacs show the Republican leaning pacs have collected 84.6 million while the Democrat leaning pacs have collected about 13.7 million.

If the Republicans succeed in beating Obama and gain control of the legislature, it will be a little hard not to believe that MONEY bought the presidency and the legislature.

By Ken Poland on February 20, 2012

Peter Herbert, I like your last post. I started to post this in the comment section, but, perhaps it’s a little too long and distracts somewhat from your central theme.

We recently watched Walt Disney’s TV presentation of Pollyanna the best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter. Politics, religion, and extreme power of wealth gave way to a little girls optimism. Pollyanna was having limited success with her optimism until she told the Pastor that ‘nobody can own the church’. That little girl had the determination and innocent faith that everybody and everything had something good to be glad about. When she lost her faith and optimism to overcome her tragedy, the community and her wealthy Aunt, came to her rescue. Yes, it’s a fictional story, without any theological absolutes, but it proves the power of a positive attitude over negative forces and passivity. What a change that could make in society today!


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By Ken Poland on February 20, 2012

Peter Herbert, I like your last post. I started to post this in the comment section, but, perhaps it’s a little too long and distracts somewhat from your central theme.

We recently watched Walt Disney’s TV presentation of Pollyanna the best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter. Politics, religion, and extreme power of wealth gave way to a little girls optimism. Pollyanna was having limited success with her optimism until she told the Pastor that ‘nobody can own the church’. That little girl had the determination and innocent faith that everybody and everything had something good to be glad about. When she lost her faith and optimism to overcome her tragedy, the community and her wealthy Aunt, came to her rescue. Yes, it’s a fictional story, without any theological absolutes, but it proves the power of a positive attitude over negative forces and passivity. What a change that could make in society today!

NOBODY CAN OWN THE CHURCH !! ?? Not the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, nor the groups who trace their beginning to the first successful protest and defiance of what they perceived as corruption and false theology of the then ruling religious leaders, nor the evangelical fundamentalists, that branched off from the original main line denominations, nor the modern day religious right, who claim to be the silent majority (silent??), nor any other coalition or consortium of ‘believers’ or ‘non believers’.

There is no ‘patent’ or ‘copyright’ on Christianity! I’ll be a little skeptical if someone comes up with a stone tablet claiming that God chiseled out the message that said they are His official spokesman. I, personally, do not think God issues patents or copyrights. I don’t happen to believe that the present sitting Pope can trace his divine lineage back to the original Pope, purported to be Peter. Too many divisions and fissures in that lineage.Historical records, outside of that ‘Church’, show evidence of some rather scurrilous individuals in the lineage. Besides that, I don’t agree that Jesus vested that authority in Peter. (Banish this old heretic!) Neither God nor our constitution gives me the right to legislate my beliefs or perceptions.

Judge not that ye not be judged. Jesus said something like that. He told the accusers who had no sin to cast the first stone. If Rick Santorum accused President Obama of being a ‘phony’ Christian, would Rick be willing to cast the first stone, with Jesus standing there? If Jesus was standing in the crowd would he shout Hear! Hear! to some of the character assassinations and derogatory references to social outcasts (or wealthy moguls) that we hear from our political candidates and talk show pundits (all sides)?

History tells me that disagreements, character assassination, hate inspiring epithets, and so forth have been a part of our national politics, from day one. Many will disagree with me, when I say President Obama has been bombarded worse than any Presidents, in recent history. When G.W. Bush was president, he got his share of character assassinations and hate messages, but they did not reach the level or intensity that we are seeing against our President, today.

It seems to me that the Republican party heads and especially the active candidates for the presidency are first and foremost, focused on defeating President Obama. They are more focused on blaming every negative aspect of society on him, personally. They rant and rave about all the ‘promises’ he made that he has not fulfilled. I challenge you to name one President who can boast of fulfilling every campaign promise they made. I challenge you to admit that our economy was in a free fall, before the new administration took office. We all have differences of opinion as to what or who caused that shortfall, but it was there. I challenge you to produce evidence of there being more unrest in the world today, than there was in the previous 8 years, before Obama was elected. I challenge you to produce evidence that the tax reforms of the early years of this century produced more jobs. I challenge you to prove it is Obama’s energy programs that are causing the rise in gas prices. Whether he supports ‘drill baby drill’ or not doesn’t account for the fact that new well drilling for gas and oil is exceeding the available rigs and manpower to drill. His dragging his feet on approving the Keystone pipe line shouldn’t be affecting local prices of gasoline. Most of that oil is not destined for local markets. There is considerable debate over the long term job creation from that project. There is ample evidence that those supportive of the project have grossly over calculated the number of jobs and immediate economic benefits. I’m sure those opposing the project have over calculated the negatives of the project. Can President Obama, personally, be held accountable for either side’s misrepresentation?

I wish all the candidates, party spokesmen, editorial writers, and talk show pundits would cease and desist with their character assassinations and former program criticisms and start talking in realistic manner of their ideas that will improve our nation. They cannot deliver on every idea or promise they make, even if they get a majority in both legislative houses. Utopia is not on the horizon, regardless of who wins or loses.

We are in trouble if any political party or religion gains absolute ownership of our nation. No man or idea can own a democracy and neither can any man or idea own religion.

By Peter Herbert on February 20, 2012

For many years candidates from the American far right have claimed exclusive ownership of Christianity. Rick Santorum, who recently called President Obama’s Christianity “phony,” is only the latest example. Many Christians who are not on the political far right, including me, find this offensive. But from our point of view it’s really far worse than just offensive; it harms Christianity, which is our religion too, both from within and without. It harms it from within by cheapening it, turning it into an instrument of secular power, dividing the Christian community in novel new ways, and teaching millions of Christians to read the Bible through party-colored glasses. It harms it from without because millions of non-Christians accept the far right’s claim to own Christianity, and for that reason they see Christianity as a great enemy of reason and progress; they see Christian leaders as insincere demagogues; and they see ordinary Christians as narrow-minded simpletons.

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By Diane Wahto on February 19, 2012

Wichita, Kansas--The Koch brothers. Wichita's gift to the right-wing 1%. Recently, just before the Feb. 18th Occupy Koch-Town demonstration, Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl did a long, front-page piece on the Kochs and the death threats they had received. These death threats, according to Charles Koch, came from left-wingers in response to their support of Scott Walker's attack on public employee unions and the Kochs' alleged ties to the Keystone Pipeline. Charles Koch had his say in the article, denying any monetary interest in Keystone, and said his support of Walker and other right-wing politicians was minimal.

Wenzl, a reporter who is known for writing in-depth human interest pieces, quoted Koch and Koch employees at length, He included only a few rebuttal comments from the Occupy Koch-Town demonstration leaders. Even though I'm not involved in either of the groups that organized the demonstration, the Sierra Club and Occupy Wichita, I know many of those people and I know their actions are open to the public. Their opposition to right-wing policies may be noisy, but it does not include violence or take the form of death threats. When I saw the picture in the local section of the Eagle, Tom James, a Wichita poet and musician, was pictured playing his guitar and leading the group in a song. It looked more like the peaceful anti-war marches that I'd participated in the '60s than a threatening demonstration.

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By Ken Poland on February 13, 2012

I came across a word we seldom see in non-academic writer’s material. I hesitate to use words like this for fear that my readers won’t know what they mean or that the readers who do know the real meaning of the word will know I didn’t use it correctly.

However here goes: The word is promethean. It comes from Greek Mythology. The front runners of the Republican battle for the top spot on their ticket can’t fit the noun meaning of the word. They are not boldly creative nor are they defiantly original. The word used as an adjective is quite appropriate. They are defiant and they are audacious. But there is nothing creative about parroting the same old worn out claims blaming President Obama for the failure of congressional action or productivity. They don’t seem to have any original ideas either. It would seem they will be content to return to the same failures of the Bush years. They have offered nothing new.

By Angelo Lopez on February 10, 2012

I first discovered the cartoons of Andy Singer after reading Ted Rall's book "Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists". Since that time I've become a real fan of Singer's unique cartoons, with its artwork that is like no other cartoonist that I know. A freelance artist whose work can be seen in publications like Z Magazine, The Funny Times, The Bay Monthly, and the Eugene Weekly, Andy Singer's comic "No Exit" is a surreal cartoon that offers an incisive critique of the values that underlie our present consumer society. He has two cartoon collections: Attitude Featuring: Andy Singer 'No Exit' published in 2004 by Nantier, Beal and Minoustchine; and CARToons, cowritten with Randy Ghent, published in 2001. Andy Singer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Cornell University.

Andy, you have one of the most unique cartoons styles of any cartoonist that I know. What were your big influences? Did your art school days in Cornell influence your cartoons in any way?

Not really. I was a painting major and made these kind of doodle-like abstract paintings. I drew a few cartoons for the school paper and a few illustrations for the city weekly ("The Ithaca Times"). My interest in so-called "fine" art and painting probably influences my tendency towards single panel cartoons and trying to tell stories with a single image. I also started working in copy shops at the end of and immediately after college. Kodak had just come out with the first copiers that were capable of doing nice, solid blacks and generally high-quality printing. Before the mid 1980s copies looked washed out, grey and cheap. Kodak (and later the Xerox 5090s) changed that. So I started drawing in pen and ink because you could photocopy drawings and share them with other people or send them to newspapers.

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By Ken Poland on February 8, 2012

I subscribe to ‘Positive Quote of the Day’ on the internet. This quote really struck me. I hope that those driving through ‘skull orchard’ and reading the date of my arrival and departure in this world, will know that I did matter and that I did make a difference. Some will remember it negatively and some positively. I hope the positive memories out number the negatives.

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be
honorable, to be compassionate.  It is, after all, to matter: to
count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you
lived at all. -- Leo C. Rosten (1908-1977) American Writer

What happened in the dash between the date of our arrival and departure, as recorded on our tombstone will be far more important than those two dates.

By Angelo Lopez on February 8, 2012

Robert Balmanno is one of the most interesting people I know. The author of the science fiction novels September Snow and Runes of Iona, Balmanno uses his books to comment on the issues of class and environmental degradation. His use of science fiction as a vehicle for social commentary is in the tradition of H.G. Wells and Kurt Vonnegut.

Bob Balmanno and I have been coworkers for over 17 years. During the late 1990s, I was the secretary of the local SEIU part-timers union and witnessed the hard work that Bob did in defending the part-time workers' rights. Balmanno earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara and did his post graduate work at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, and the University of London. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.

Bob, you have deep connections in Santa Clara Valley. You watched as this valley transformed from a center of agriculture to the hub of high technology. How has this affected your perspective on things?

I was born in San Jose, California, in 1951, and I grew up in Sunnyvale, California. During some of my teenage years, during the summer, I picked fruit- cherries and apricots, and worked in one of the largest fruit canneries in the area. My life has been lived sort of counter-intuitively to the thrust of the evolution of "Silicon Valley". The high technology is- so to speak- in the air we breathe and in the water drink. But I have kept myself largely separate from it. Many of my friends call me a "semi-Luddite" because I often do not embrace the newest changes in technology, and that's putting it mildly. I write on a computer but I use it only for word processing. I have never owned a cell phone and I avoid e-mail. I walk 6 to 9 miles daily, avoiding driving whenever I can walk. Much of technology has made our lives easier, some of it has enhanced the freedom of the individual, but some of it has resulted in the curtailment of freedom. Some technology in the hands of corporations has limited our sense of privacy and has shrunk the space of the public domain.

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By Ken Poland on February 6, 2012

Mitt Romney says he's not concerned about the poor? Who would have thought that? What has he ever done to make you think he did? Neither is he worried about the wealthy. That's not surprising, either. The modern Republican's programs have always been more favorable to the perpetuation of wealth and its power.

Both major political parties receive a major portion of their campaign finances from the wealthy. But, statistical analysis show the Democrats have a higher percentage of contributions from grass roots supporters. Both parties have some very wealthy members. Both parties have some scoundrels and both parties have some very good leaders. Bottom line — — Vote for the individual. But, if you're not sure about individuals, my opinion is to take a chance on the Democrat. I'm a conservative liberal Democrat. Now you figure out what that means.

Please log into Kansas Free Press for the rest of this article. While there, if you are not familiar with Kansas Free Press, take the time to browse through the other writers articles. We welcome comments and would invite you to check in to becoming a contributing writer to both KFP and Everyday Citizen.

By Angelo Lopez on February 1, 2012

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