November 2011

Were You Really Appalled Mrs. Gingrich?

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were recently booed at the season ending NASCAR race in Homestead, Florida. I thought it interesting that patrons of that Cracker Nation USA event would single out to boo the wives of liberal politicians they disapprove. Perhaps the First Lady’s attempts at slimming down America—but, then Cheetos and Tater Tots are Cracker Nation food groups don’t-cha see—that her promoting exercise and nutrition just might warrant a crowd boo or two.

But I’ve been thinking of late about the current Anybody-But-Mitt Republican Presidential flavor of the month, Newt Gingrich and his current wife, Callista Bisek Gingrich. It’s Mrs. Gingrich, as a potential First Lady, who most intrigues me.

Ah, Newt. At age 16 or so he announced he was going to marry his then high school math teacher. He carried on a hot, torrid teacher-passion-thing for Jackie Battley, actually marrying her June 19, 1962. But things eventually didn’t add-up—Haha, yuck, yuck—and he divorces her in February, 1981 (recall infamous hospital scene with cancerous wife).

Seven months later The Newtster married Marriane Ginther. In 1993, The Newster began an affair with Callista Bisek, age 27. Bisek was an assistant to the House Agricultural Committee. Ol’randy Newtster was 50 years old.

Okay, now it gets interesting. During this period, The Newtster became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also there was the Starr investigation of President Clinton. Recall that it took a special prosecutor six years and $40 million dollars to determine that a President will lie about having illicit oral sex in the White House. Yes, folks, presidents will, from time to time, forget, overlook, ignore, neglect to mention, disregard, muddy, misdirect, obfuscate, disguise, conceal, confuse and lie. They will do it about war, public policy intentions and even illicit oral sex. Among other things.

Understand that The Newtster was constantly ripping into President Clinton for his immoral, reprehensible behavior. The House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings against the President on December 19, 1998. The Newtster said of Clinton’s conduct that it depicted, “a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American.” Appall every American?! Was Callista appalled? By illicit sex? Really?

That is what intrigues me. Was Callista appalled? Newt Gingrich is running for President of the United States. Should he win Callista will be First Lady. Was Callista appalled that Her Newtster was casting stones at Bill Clinton for illicit, adulterous sex when she was then herself concurrently starring in, ironically enough, the equivalent Republican role of Monica Lewinsky?

All the while President Clinton is being excoriated in the press The Newtster and Callista are chauffeured around Washington in tinted-windowed limousines, drinking champagne, laughing and giggling in the backseat as his zipper and her inhibitions are lowered. Did they ever break out in guffaws and bend over in laughter with tears streaming down their cheeks over how The Newtster was sticking it, yet again, to the President, how Bill’s behavior “should appall every American?”

Did Callista not see or understand the profound hypocrisy in her position let alone The Newster’s “APPALLING” double standard?

Our Lovable Newtster divorced wife number two in 1999 and in May, 2002 he asked the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta to annul his 18 year marriage to Marriane Ginther (Ol’#2).

Yes, it seems Callista is a devout Catholic and desires a moral life (marriage).

You cannot make this stuff up.

“Beam Me up, Scotty!”

I understand that Earth’s population, in all probability, will reach 9 billion (from our current 7 billion) inhabitants by the year 2050. 40 years in the future. By 2050 most of the world’s Christians will be living in sub-Sahara Africa. The center of Islam will have shifted there, too. More Muslims will be living in sub-Sahara Africa than in Asia and far more than live in the Middle East. Sub-Sahara Africa’s population will grow from 800 million to 1.7 billion.

During this period America’s population will grow nearly 50% to 440 million people. These sorts of projections for America, for the planet give me the willies. I feel sorrowful, particularly for the environment, for the inevitable loss of specie diversity and for humanity. I do not see the over all quality of life for/of humanity measurably improving. How can it when so many more of us will be saddling up to the bar wanting exactly what we have. I do not intellectually understand (at any level of comprehension) those who oppose birth control as population control.

NPR recently offered an interesting, fascinating figure. If the earth’s population were concentrated at density levels comparable to New York City’s, the entire population of the planet would fit in Texas. Imagine that. Maybe one future scenario has the powers-that-be doing just that. Move the masses and the rest of planet becomes a vast garden enclave (playground) for the elite. Why not? Arguably it would be “healthier” for the planet.

I fluctuate between despair for our species (and the planet) and unbridled hope (optimism). Regardless if we were able to intelligently change course today, so much of the diversity that makes Mother Earth so bountiful and beautiful will inevitably die because of mankind. Probably all the coral in the world’s oceans will die, maybe during my lifetime. The Amazon forests will be lumbered (and the life contained therein lost). We are the first generation of human beings to so clearly and unequivocally understand how lethal we are to the health of our planet.

That is one side of the coin. Regardless of our ability to alter the human ecological footprint on Mother Earth, going forward (for the foreseeable future), our planet is going to be a less beautiful, less hospitable environment for humanity. The other side of the coin is that we will survive as a species and I believe we will someday be living on other planets, perhaps, crossing over, even, to other dimensions. Star Trek is in our cards.

The human mind, our creativity is the only way out of our problems. Science, rational thinking, problem solving will get us there, given enough time.

I have a wonderful book to recommend that will absolutely buoy your spirits. It will give you hope that humans are more than, to use my sister’s analogy, “nasty little monkeys.”

The title is The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch (professor of physics at Oxford University). He explains, among other things, why flowers and faces are beautiful. He persuasively makes the case that we (as a species) are just getting started. Our problems are the catalysts for change. And that if we have no idea today what the solutions will be, well, that is to be expected. But, let’s git’er done! Done? It’s never done. Never. No! Let’s keep-on, keepin’-on!

This book is “Thanksgiving” enough. Enjoy. Your meal, too!

Stop The Looting of America.

Hell No! We Won’t Go! It would be hard not to understand what protestors (men in this case or the women who loved them) wanted when they marched against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. There was no confusion as to the public message. I’ve watched with interest the Occupy Wall Street movement and have listened to the criticism by some that the people involved are unwashed, unruly and unsavory. Who says history doesn’t repeat itself? But mostly I’ve listened for the message. What specifically do “they” want? For themselves, for America?

The following is an attempt at capturing what I believe the protest is about, what is at stake and what needs to be done first.

Another criticism of OWS is that its message is unclear. That it is a nebulous criticism of capitalism run amuck, about economic injustice.

I unequivocally believe special interests have their finger on the scale and their hand in the till. That we’re being slipped a very real shiv in our backs by “smiling faces.” That America is being betrayed—tragically—while betraying itself.

Let me explain that last sentence. I write this at 3:24 AM on November 15th. My stomach is upset from cancer treatments and my sleeping is fitful. I’ll be fine long term but I use my specific life as an example of who is participating in the betrayal of America. People exactly like me. People who are busy. Who have “things” on their plate. Other things to do, life to enjoy. People who are living the good life—the educated, advantaged, the relatively well off—people who know better while “Rome” burns.

America is being looted not by invading Huns (or Al Qaeda) but by our fellow Americans. We witness it everyday. We read about it in our newspapers. We have it shoved in our faces on TV’s 60 Minutes (see 11/13/11 show on Congressional insider-trading – just another congressional perk). We witness it in our closing factories and in our unemployed and laid off.

We witness it in our rising poverty numbers and our shrinking middle class. We see it as our progressive tax code become less so. We see it when banks and Wall Street are beneficiaries of socialism yet people are reduced by the harsh realities of unfettered capitalism. We see it when corporations have the same rights as people.

We see it when we privatize our government, roads, and prisons. Prisons full of black men. We experience it when we forsake our environment by deregulating our air/water standards. We do that for whom exactly?

We witness it when our elected officials are outed doing sweetheart deals (legislation/regulation) for their donors/lobbyists. Or, when they personally benefit from their “public” service. (See Wekiva Parkway leg of Orlando Expressway.) We see it when 1% of the population owns 40% (and growing) of the pie.

We see it when our age is justly compared to the Gilded Age of Robber Barons. We see it when we elect crooks to office. We see it when unions and collective bargaining are characterized as un-American. We see it in our decaying infrastructure. Such a metaphor for America.

We are culpable when we blame everyone but ourselves. If America were a woman, she’s being relentlessly, repeatedly raped. We hear her screams. “Can you hear me now?”

We continue to turn our backs at our own peril.

Hot Women With History

My regular lunch buddy (now deceased) was an older man when I first met him. Every Thursday—week in/week out—for 17 years I’d convene with John Fisher at that toniest of Winter Park eateries, Andros Restaurant, to break bread, discuss and laugh over the human condition. Once or twice a year we’d fantasize over whom we’d invite for that dream dinner of eight. Twain, Jefferson, Voltaire and Montaigne were a few of my regulars. Oh, and, of course, Ava Gardner.

I’ve been thinking of late about the nature of beauty, women, intelligence and what makes “a” woman particularly attractive/desirable. As a history aficionado I’ve been intrigued for sometime over the idea of how much further advanced we’d be as a species if mankind had universally treated womankind with respect, dignity and equality. Males for thousands of years have treated women as inferior. That this injustice is well documented historically is undeniable, that it was/is a setback developmentally for our species, a travesty.

Aside: The Islamic world will never amount to much until it accepts/promotes “its” women as equal to men.

It begs a question that I’ve asked over the years from any number of my students. Where did such male discrimination originate? Is it an innate bias that men have to be culturally “taught” not to practice? Organized religion is an incredibly complicit factor. Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. I Timothy 2:11-14. What Biblical gibberish. What injustice. And what a setback for humanity. Regardless of its origins, male sexism has not served our species well and has been unequivocally wretched for women.

Interesting to read of the isolated instances in history where a civilization treated its females with greater equality. Ancient Egypt for example was surprisingly accepting of females and by the standards of contemporary cultures then, almost enlightened. The Etruscans of 7th century BC Italy were quite liberated and scandalized the Ancient Greek world. “Why, Etruscan women actually speak in public meetings! Damned if they don’t!”

But such historical examples number, arguably, fewer than the fingers on one hand. Mostly women experienced (literally/figuratively) the oppressive male boot on the back of their neck. But examples do exist, of exceptional women achieving greatness in a man’s world.

I propose a dinner table of beauty and brains, of talent, verve, intellect and saucy, sexy repartee. Hot women with history! Cleopatra of course. Not the Liz Taylor caricature. But the wily Cleopatra of charm and intelligence. Pericles’ mistress, Aspasia, an unquestioned beauty with brains. Socrates sought her out for conversation. Mistresses had infinitely more freedom than Greek wives. The last administrator of the Library of Alexandria, the pagan, Hypatia. Brilliant, strong, an incredible intellect. Rioting Christians in 415 AD dragged her from her carriage, stripped her naked and scrapped the skin from her entire body with pottery shards. They then burned the library. Eleanor of Aquitaine. Whatta woman! Unbelievable for any age. And Mary Wollstonecraft, 18th century Brit, author of the Vindication of the Rights of Women.

I’d add Emily Dickinson (cuz I love her poetry so!) and on my immediate left, the inestimable Dorothy Parker forever pouring forth both champagne and quips.

And, Ava Gardner on my right. Of course.

All wonderfully female.