Author Archives: gregory

Getting Elemental

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June 15, 2012

When things get a little out of hand in my life, as I’m sure things do in yours, I have a tendency to “Get Elemental”, as I call it. Another way of putting it is in a concept a wise young friend of mine said to me in my youth. “When you shake a tree vigorously, some of the leaves will fall off. The ones that remain are the ones that really matter to the tree”. While watching the Republican Party absolutely and positively lose their frigging minds like they are right now, I have a tendency to want to get elemental about what a Republican is,,, or more like, what a Republican SHOULD be.

A definition, if you will, to try and figure out what has gone all cattywampus. (I’ll give you a moment to look that up.)

Republicans are conservative. Let’s examine that term for a moment. Dictionary.Com defines the word thus:

“Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change”. The World English Dictionary says: “Favoring the preservation of existing customs, values etc., and opposing innovation”.

I don’t find any of those things threatening. I think “Opposing Innovation” to be a bit sluggish if you have a vision of something better, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the viewpoint. That doesn’t mean that Republicans favor standing still for all eternity. It means that they favor change in slow incremental steps that preserve what we have, while gently and carefully reaching for what we imagine we could have. A sense of building on what exists as a foundation, to make the big picture more, or better. I find no fault with that reasoning.

But that’s not what Conservatism is today. Here’s a few quotes from a few famous Republicans from decades ago:

“We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy. Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver, or less?” — President Ronald Reagan, June 1985

When I first read that quote it was in an article in Rolling Stone Magazine that was brought to my attention earlier this year by a co-worker who was surfing the net. I was truly shocked when I got to the part where the person quoted was identified. I thought it was a democrat or a progressive, like President Obama or Senator Bernie Sanders or something. A few years ago I read another quote that shocked me as well. Here’s what I read and I had the same reaction when learning who said it:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.“ — President Dwight Eisenhower, 1961

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. — President Abraham Lincoln

In all fairness, Lincoln, though a Republican, was considered a liberal. In his day, the attitudes of the two political Parties were reversed. Democrats were thought of as the stodgy business oriented folks and Republicans were the wild radical bleeding hearts on the political landscape of the United States.

My point here is to draw a comparison between the Conservatism of the first half of the last century and what a frightening and deranged thing Republican Ideology  have morphed into, today. The Republican Conservative mindset used to have some sort of integrity, some deep thought and introspection about what could make the United States a stronger, more powerful force in the world that carried with it a sense of moral character.

Contrast those quotes with what passes for Conservatism today:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term President.”– Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

“This president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture….I\’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist. — Radio and Television Spokes-model Glen Beck

“Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans; The House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.“ — Republican Political Operative Grover Norquist 2102

Of course, these aren’t the deepest thoughts or loftiest ideals that Conservative Republicans hold today and you and I both know it. But, they ARE indicative of what the Republican Party has been reduced to by money and radical fear of change. In the 2012 election, they have chosen as their champion, a compulsive liar with a demonstrated lack of moral compass. Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney has been accurately described as a “Well Oiled Weather Vane” by members of his own Party.

Republicans appear to have given up all hope of developing an attractive message or any sense of moral character that might attract voters to a vision of the future. They have instead become angry bullies bent on destroying anything that isn’t Republican, including the very country they claim to love.

2 years ago they created a fiscal crisis by refusing to allow the debt ceiling to be raised as it has traditionally been done, for as long as we can remember, in order to stimulate the economy into some meaningful form of recovery from the worst financial disaster in our lifetimes. As a direct result, for the first time in our history, the world’s faith in our ability to govern ourselves appropriately was called into question and our nation’s credit rating was damaged. That is not principled behavior. That’s juvenile schoolyard bullying!

I believe that Conservatism and what used to be the Republican Party is a much needed “Check and Balance” of the more esoteric excesses of liberalism. But, at present, that balance is dysfunctional as the Republican Party races radically and irresponsibly further and further to the right, causing the political landscape to change so rapidly and so dramatically that these quotes from Republicans as recently as 1985 (the Reagan Quote) now sound like the radical socialism they are accusing Democrats of.

We are in trouble in the United States as I write this and I am clear that blame and accountability can be assigned for it. It is only our fear that prevents us from recognizing that the Republican Party has most certainly lost their frigging minds and are terrorizing the citizenry of the United States and damaging our good name across the globe. Blame can also be assigned to the media for not calling a lie a lie, and for not exercising a sense of duty to the American People, to tell the truth, because of their fear of retribution from their employers; Conservative Republicans, nearly to a person. They have slowly and carefully orchestrated the infiltration of conservative political action into the Supreme Court of the United States to the point where over 100 years of Constitutional Law has recently been ignored in order to allow elections to be sold to the highest bidders; also Conservative Republicans nearly to a person!

Though to a lesser degree, the Democratic Party is not blameless either. Beholden to the same financial interests for their very electoral survival, they have, in a large part, abdicated their own integrity and responsibility to the American People to stand for the truth they know. This is not principled behavior either. It is cowardice.

The good people of the United States ARE better than this and we deserve better from our leaders. It is clearly up to us, you and I, to restore the principled behavior, that guides our own lives, back upward into the political landscape of our country because it will certainly not come trickling down from above!

Much Love,

Gregory

What’s Old is New Again

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May 23, 2012 – by Gregory Franklyn

I’m thinking about the assassination of President John Fitzjerald Kennedy tonight for a couple of reasons. One is probably due to recently watching Oliver Stone’s JFK in which Lead actor Kevin Costner, as Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison, tries to prove that the Kennedy Assassination was a conspiracy by the Mafia, the CIA, The FBI and some high ranking military officials. I was 11, well, closer to 12, when the Assassination took place. I was in Grade School in a one room rural school house near Memphis Michigan when we got the news.

I wasn’t old enough to understand the intricacies of a conspiracy but I was old enough to know who the President was and that he was generally well liked everywhere in my, admittedly small, world at the time. I remember seeing Walter Kronkite on TV announcing that the President was dead and seeing footage of what was happening in Dallas. The entire nation was glued to these primitive boxes for the next 4 days through the swearing in of Vice President Lyndon Johnson standing next to a weeping Jacqueline Kennedy, still wearing the blood stained dress from tragic assassination earlier that day, to the funeral procession with the finicky rider-less horse and John Jr., then about 3 or 4 years old, stepping forward saluting the passing casket.

I was also old enough to understand how no one seemed to believe the lone gunman and the magic bullet stories we were being told. Even on November 22, 1963 reporters were commenting on things that didn’t make sense. Things that seemed odd. Something was clearly going wrong and our thirst for information was being frustrated by what seemed like clashes between law enforcement agencies trying to take control of the investigation and messing up the crime scene to the degree that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who might have been responsible for the killing of President John F Kennedy. So much so that 50 years later, we are still asking questions because what we do know still doesn ‘t make sense.

A few days later we watched as Lee Harvey Oswald was led through the underground garage at the Dallas Police department and was suddenly shot dead right there on TV by Jack Ruby, a local strip club owner and a man well know to the police. It was then that we learned that Oswald had been interrogated for several hours there at the Dallas Police Department by competing agencies and not one of them emerged from these interrogations with so much as a single sentence written down about what was said. Reports of the interrogation were later filed, but at the time, the whole thing looked kind of fishy. There were even more questions about normal procedures not being followed and the resulting mess being confusing enough that nothing could ever be conclusively proven.

This was 1963 and the 60s were just getting started. The decade had LOTS more in store to think about for a young teenager like me. Not quite 2 years later Malcolm X was murdered in a theater in Manhattan while fulfilling a speaking engagement. Again, standard crime scene procedures were not followed, confusion reigned in the hours and minutes after the shooting and police allowed the crime scene to be compromised enough that nothing could ever be proven about who was responsible. Three men were eventually convicted of the murder, but all three, now out of prison, continue to maintain their innocence.

There was more to come in the radically turbulent 60s. Later that year, the Watts riots erupted in Los Angeles bringing long simmering tensions between police and African-Americans to a head ignited by a single traffic stop of a man suspected of driving while under the influence. The next year a similar riot erupted in Detroit, again a long simmering race-centered tension had existed for decades between police and African-Americans. This time, it was ignited by police raiding a nightclub in the inner-city.

Which brings us to 1968. The pace of violence was accelerating and the preceding decade’s frustrations were coming to a head. Dr Martin Luther King was killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis Tennessee while fulfilling speaking engagements in favor of a sanitation worker’s strike for safety and wage issues. For the third time in the decade, police allowed the crime scene to be compromised to the point that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who was responsible for the murder. In this instance, there were fewer irregularities than in the previous two assassinations. There were questions, but if there was a conspiracy, the conspirators were getting better at covering it up. Again, the story was a lone gunman, this time James Earl Ray, a fugitive.

Shortly thereafter, Robert Kennedy, brother of slain President John F Kennedy, was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while running for President. Once again, police allowed the crime scene to become so compromised that nothing could ever be conclusively proven about who was responsible for the shooting. And, once again the official story focused on a single lone gunman, in this case a young Palestinian named Sirhan Sirhan. Several witnesses in the room where the shooting took place reported hearing a series of gunshots, one describing it as “A hail of gunfire”. Again, the sanity of anyone who disagreed with the lone gunman theory was called into question by authorities and the media.

A few months after that, Riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago erupted as Chicago Police began brutalizing thousands of protesters from all over the country who had gathered to voice their opposition to the war in Viet Nam. Senator Hubert Humphrey was nominated and favored Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war, which the nation had grown generally weary of.

Another reason why I ‘m thinking about these events tonight is because of the Occupy Movement we are witnessing today and the fact that we are still fighting about the same things we were frustrated about 50 years ago. War, both at home and abroad, and equality!

There are a number of things that these 4 men had in common. Not the least of which was opposition to war. Remember that it was not quite 2 years before all of this violence began that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his “Military Industrial Complex” speech as he was leaving office. I think these things are all closely tied together, one following the other in a manner that doesn’t feel organic to me. It is also why I continue to believe that a Coup de Etate of the United States took place during that decade. A prominent theme in the Oliver Stone movie that got me thinking about all this.

All 4 of these men where hugely influential, hugely powerful and had the attention of most of the nation. They were all simultaneously coming to the realization that humanity in general, and the people of the United States in particular, had more in common with one another than we had, things that divided us. They all espoused a kinder gentler nation that cared for it’s more vulnerable members and worked tirelessly for a more equal and balanced playing field that could provide opportunity for everyone, not just the wealthiest and most powerful among us. And, yes, I guess you might call it a little more socialist than the Darwinist ideals held by most Republicans.

They were all, also, deeply hated and feared by the Republican Party of their day because of it. Not so much for who they were, but more because of what they were beginning to accomplish in the hearts and minds of most Americans. It was a threat to the   Survival of the Fittest theology of rugged individualists, admired and imitated by Conservatives.

The parallels between these 4 heroes and President Barack Obama are striking to me tonight as I tie all these things together in my mind. I’ve always liked the President as a person despite my criticism of some of his inaction at critical moments. I trust him despite my frustration with him at times because it’s clear to me that he’s a smart guy with a good heart and a vision that I can appreciate. I appreciate him for the same reasons I appreciated John, Robert, Malcolm and Martin in my teens. Beneath that cool, calm, disciplined, intelligent and poised exterior, beats the heart of a hippy like me!

Republicans clearly HATE and FEAR this man. They hate and fear him even more than they love their own country and it’s because they see him working to awaken a spirit in us that they believed they had nearly extinguished altogether. The spirit of peace and fair-play that I have always believed is integral to what it means to Americans to be an American.

I’ll tell my little microcosmic story about that spirit again. In 1993 we, here in Portland, were threatened by a major flood. The downtown area was in real danger of flooding from the unusual rising of the Willamette River. The last time we were threatened by this perfect storm of precipitation and runoff from snow melting on the mountains around us was 60 years ago and it wiped out an entire town that has since been annexed into the north of Portland.

Then Mayor Vera Katz went on TV at about 8:00AM to ask for people to come downtown and help fill sandbags to guard against large scale flooding of the downtown area that was expected. About 5 hours later she was back on TV asking the good people of Portland to stay home because city workers were overwhelmed with well meaning volunteers who had responded to her call for help.

That, dear reader, is what Americans feel about what it means to be an American. We have been given a LOT as a nation and we have never been shy about the realization that much is expected of us. We have an inherited drive to be of help because we know that when we come together in a spirit of love and fair-play, we ALL benefit from it. It is a concept of governance that I don ‘t believe Republicans understand.

It feels like the 60s to me today as I watch Occupiers all over the world stand up for justice, for truth and for a common future that includes everyone and benefits everyone. My own spirit is lifted when I see these brave men and women occupying their cities and countries all over the world in the face of the brutality they face from the power structure that intends to maintain a Status Quo that favors and respects wealth and power over people. I am in hopes that that fire, that spirit, that drive, doesn’t get squashed again like it did when we took a good run at it last time. Go forward proudly my brothers and sisters. You are on the right side of history!

Much Love,

Gregory

If it Matters to Oregonians

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September 29, 2011 – by Gregory Franklyn

Am I the only one who is noticing how fossil fuel company advertising on TV has changed? In the past most advertising for fossil fuel producers focused on how their product is better for your car, or costs less, or has additives that the other guy’s fuel doesn’t. You still see such ads, but a lot fewer of them. Now what you’re seeing most is commercials trying to convince you that the product is safe for the environment and has so many wonderful benefits for the quality of your life as well as the economy. To hear them talk about it you’d think fossil fuels are the best possible energy option for the future.

EnergyTomorrow.org is one you see several times a day if you watch more than an hour of TV. The beautiful woman with the soothing voice is reminding you that if you have a 401K retirement account, you own interest in oil companies. She also presents modern technology for offshore drilling as both safe and environmentally sound. Plus, since they can now drill in several locations from a single off-shore platform, fossil fuel drilling is now even more appealing to the eye.

She welcomes you to visit the propaganda site paid for by fossil fuel producers for more information about how responsible producers have become over the years. Except, of course, the Gulf Oil Disaster last summer and the oil tanker spill in Sweden a few months ago, and the other one in San Francisco about the same time, to name a few. You won’t be reading about those at Energytomorrow.org.

Exxon-Mobile’s fracking commercials are another. Fraking, for those of you who may still be unfamiliar with the term, is not deviant sexual practice as much as it may sound like one, but a method of extracting natural gas from rock formations underground. The kind of procedure that has been known to cause the water coming out of nearby kitchen faucets to literally burst into flames!

The other type of advertizing you’re seeing a lot more of these days is financial services and insurance ads. Sam Waterston, Jack McCoy from Law & Order, is telling you how TD Ameritrade can help you retire like a king. That cute and snarky little talking baby makes investing with E*Trade seem like child’s play. And, of course, Fidelity’s flashing arrow on that magical green line directing you to your wildest dreams makes the idea of a secure future seem inevitable. All that advertising costs money,,, LOTS of it!

The reason why I mention this is because all of this affects what you see on the evening news, read in a newspaper or magazine and hear on your car radio.

WHAT? What on earth does any of those advertisements have to do with the content of the evening news?

I’m glad you asked. Years ago here in Portland, there was a scandal about the corporation that owns Fred Meyer stores. They’re a big deal here in Portland. Probably the biggest retailer in the region. In other parts of the country you would know these stores as Kroger Foods. Well, it turns out that Fred Meyer is the biggest advertiser in our local newspaper called “The Oregonian”. The Oregonian didn’t report on the scandal, but it broke anyway,,, In the Washington Post! The advertising slogan for The Oregonian was, and still is, “If it matters to Oregon, you’ll find it in The Oregonian”. I began seeing bumper-stickers on cars here in Portland that read, “If it matters to Oregon, You’ll find it in the Washington Post!” Cute joke, but it isn’t really very funny when you think about it.

The point is that advertisers are what drives the news. No advertisers = No News. If the news is an embarrassment or potential business hazard to advertisers, news gets altered or under reported. If it’s good for business, it gets high profile features or over reporting.

A good example is your morning news shows. They’re usually 1 and a half to 3 hours long and along with weather, top stories and traffic reports you will have at least one person whose entire job it is to broadcast live segments from local businesses trying to make the most mundane little boutique sound interesting.

These segments are what are called “loss leaders” and they are done to try and show businesses of all types how much their bottom line can benefit from advertizing on that particular TV Station. The exposure gets them noticed, gets them more business and likely inspires them to do more of it. The first one’s free! The bigger the advertiser, the less likely there will be anything on the news that may adversely affect whatever business they may be involved in.

TV stations live and operate in the same economic world that you do. Things are tight for them too! That’s why many of their staff are actually interns who work for that station for free for an entire year and what they get for it is experience and an item on their resume that they hope will one day turn into an actual paying job in television. It rarely does, but hope springs eternal. I did it for a radio station in Arizona right after I graduated from Broadcasting school. It didn’t take me a year to figure out what was going on, though. It took about a month.

Producing a half hour of television is a lot of work even at the local level. Staffing, even with interns is pretty thin. TV stations rely on pre-packaged video segments that companies and the government send them for free to help fill up all that time they have set aside to sell advertising for. They welcome those free segments with open arms because they take up air time, are usually somewhat interesting, and cost them nothing! You can identify those segments by noticing that there are none of the local reporters or personalities you know who appear in them. They may provide a voice over here and there at most, but that’s it.

The point is that local stations don’t have the time, staff, or money to produce enough segments on their own to fill 3 hours of airtime every morning. It gets even worse when they’re in a “Helicopter War” with a competing station. Helicopters are EXPENSIVE and that money has to come from somewhere. It comes from cutbacks to staff.

Why are you seeing so many advertisements about trading on the stock market, commodities and foreign currencies? The most powerful businesses on earth are investment banking concerns. The idea behind all those ads is to entice more an more people to make the bulk of their income from investing. Which, of course, benefits these firms more than any other businesses.

As manufacturing is more and more being shipped offshore where labor is cheap and environmental regulations are weak or non existent, it makes sense to migrate one’s income to something else. Like investing! Investment banking firms would like nothing more that to have the bulk of the US economy to be an investment economy, providing funding for foreign businesses to make things that will be purchased by the investment class.

The more people who become wealthy investors the lower wages for the remaining working people will become. In an investment economy, as opposed to a manufacturing one, the jobs that will remain in the US are the ones that cannot be migrated to other countries. Businesses like restaurants, lodging, farming, entertainment, grocery stores, retail shops and medicine. With the exception of medicine, all of the jobs in the remaining service industry are traditionally lower paying positions. Basically service jobs satisfying or supporting the needs of the wealthy investor class. Which is why I’m not impressed with statistics about job creation. It would take 3-4 minimum wage jobs to equal one good paying manufacturing job. More jobs don’t mean much to an economy if they do not pay wages that allow disposable income. Service industry jobs generally do not.

Which brings me back to Fossil Fuel Producers who spend BILLIONS of dollars every year  advertising on nearly every one of those 500 channels available to you on your cable system and producing those fill pieces for local stations all over the country. That is a significant chunk of that $4 for every gallon of gas you put in your car to get to work. It also reduces your exposure to news about such things as global warming and the destruction of rainforests in South America. And, because of the video segments they hand out for free, you’re likely to see a lot more stories questioning science principles regarding how bad these things really are. That’s the state of television journalism today. It’s about money and there really isn’t time or resources for anything else!

It also reduces your exposure to things like the occupation of Wall Street that has been going on in New York for nearly two weeks now? Did you know that that protest has sparked similar local protests in well over two dozen cities in America? How about the XL Pipeline protest at the White House a few weeks ago. Did you know there were over a thousand protesters in front of the White House decrying the destructive impact of a “Tar Sands Pipeline” running across the heartland of your country? How much coverage do you think these actions would get if the protesters were “Tea-Baggers” railing against taxing corporate America?

If I were to say, “Benton Harbor Michigan”, to you right now, what would that bring to mind? If I told you that over 17 states so far this year alone, have enacted voting regulations that would make it more difficult, and often impossible, for low income or marginalized populations, like minorities, to cast a vote in an election, would that surprise you?

If it matters to Oregon, I’ll find it on the War and Peace Report at Democracy Now, Indy-Media.org or maybe MSNBC or in The Nation Magazine. I won’t find it on the evening news and I certainly won’t find it on EnergyTomorrow.org or FOX Views!

 

Much Love,

Gregory

 

In Belated Memorium For Billy Preston 1946-2006

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September 5, 2011 – by Gregory Franklyn

I was out looking for things to take pictures of with my new camera yesterday and I was driving up Martin Luther King Boulevard when I spotted a dear friend with whom I had fallen deeply in love about a decade ago. He was hot and sweaty because it was about 90 degrees out and was carrying a rubber trash can over his shoulder, which seemed strangely fitting. You see, my friend suffers from Crack Addiction. One of the most severe cases of the disease I’ve seen so far.

Legend has it, the last time he was well was in High School. He was quite the BMOC at the time and married early. No surprise there, he was a magnificent sight even in the deteriorated condition he was in when I met him. Any young girl, or boy for that matter, would have fallen all over themselves trying to get with him. He ‘s a tall emaciated string of knots now, but in the day I hear he was a mountain of graceful sculpture. He’s intelligent, observant, and makes friends easily with a charm that makes him seem even bigger than he is. He has always lit up any room I was in, at least in part because of the love I feel for him.

He didn’t notice me as I waved so I pulled over to the curb nearly 2 blocks behind him. I was going to speak with him because I missed him and hadn’t seen him in a while. But I stopped myself because as I sat there watching him walk away I realized how sick he is and how miserably I failed to help him out of his unfortunate life a decade ago.

At that moment, sitting there in my car, I felt sad for both of us. Him, for the life he has to live because of the politics of addiction, and me because, try as I might, I was never enough to him to be of any real help. To his credit, and mine I suppose, when we were together he was making some real effort to deal with his disease. But, that was 10 years, of sucking on that glass dick, ago. Among the many things I love about this guy is his work ethic and his integrity. Even in the face of what a crack head has to go through to keep feeding that beast, he was still able to maintain some dignity about himself.

His character as a man has always amazed me and I wish I had known him before he got sick. It’s kind of sad that had he not been sick, we probably never would have met. As I hear it, he was way way up there on the “A List” of the cool kids and I was, clearly, not!

Later that night I was flipping through channels when I came upon a documentary about Billy Preston. Those of you who were born Post-Beatles will probably not remember him, but he has a huge impact on my growth and development with an album he did called “I Wrote a Simple Song”. His claim to fame was his moniker of being the 5th Beatle. He played keyboards on their last two albums and was likely the reason they stayed together long enough to finish them. He also toured with the Rolling Stones as a sideman and was in Ray Charles’ and Little Richards’ bands for years. At 9 years old, he was a guest on Nat King Cole’s TV show and played piano FOR Nat, while Nat sang. NINE YEARS OLD!

The Album I’m referring to, “I Wrote a Simple Song”

I was 20 years old and living in Phoenix Arizona with about 6 others in a little 70s drug commune type of arrangement on Solano Drive. I had just been to the record store and was clutching my prize close to my chest on my way home. I put the record on and dropped a hit of particularly good LSD and laid down on my waterbed to listen.

Somewhere near 9 hours later my room-mates burst into my room and demanded that I change the record. I fell in love with Billy Preston that day. What I felt, and still feel, when I listen to that record is a kind of fun, joy, excitement and not a little bit of stirring down in my nether regions.

I’ll spare you the intimate details, but let’s just say that it’s possible to have an orgasm without touching yourself. To this day I’m grateful that didn’t happen while my house-mates were storming into my room to demand that I play something else for a while. It was one of those records like Brenda Russell’s  “Piano In The Dark” that once I heard it, I couldn’t bear the sound of anything else for WEEKS on end.

What I didn’t know until last evening is that my hero, in addition to being a genius musician who played with the A List of people of his time and whom we now consider legendary geniuses, was also gay! Not many people talk about that and it’s unfortunate. Partly because guys like me, and it turns out Billy Preston himself, had to struggle so deeply with our sexuality and self esteem because no one was talking about it. We had to make it on our own, mostly without help.

Looking back on that experience I can ‘t help but think that Billy Preston reached me so deeply because he was able to communicate through his genius in music that what I was feeling inside was not just OK, but an actual gift that not everyone gets to have. He was a kindred spirit even though I didn’t know it at the time. It’s clear that he didn’t know what he was saying at the time either. I learned from the documentary that he struggled with being gay for his whole life because of his upbringing in the church. Wow, me too!

As you know, God is said to look down on the idea of same gender relationships that include sex. God is SAID to look down on such, by people who don’t understand homosexuality, or are struggling with it themselves. The documentary talked about Billy’s struggle with the same disease my friend from earlier yesterday had, as well! Same one I have, too. With my cigarettes!

However, I am here to testify that somewhere inside of Billy Preston, coming out through his music, was the knowledge of how much of a gift being selected to go through this life as a gay person really is and I will always hold a special place in my soul for his trying to tell me that on his album “I Wrote a Simple Song” way back then. Maybe he was trying to tell himself too, but it changed what I felt about myself on an subconscious level, if not a conscious one. I hope it had the same effect on him.

Looking back, it was around that time in my life when I stopped doing drugs and started looking at my life as if there were a future for me in addition to a past that I’d rather not revisit, and I believe to this day that album had some part in that discovery. I may not have realized it at the time, but another like soul was reaching out to mine. I learned from the documentary that he eventually, if too late, did settle with his sexuality and recovered from his illness with crack shortly before his unfortunate demise in 2006.

I thought it was strange, and maybe a bit of a signal, about what had happened to me earlier that day while sitting in my car thinking about speaking with my friend who was sick, and then seeing this documentary about one of my personal heroes who suffered from the same disease. Here’s what came up for me:

I don ‘t like Crack! It ‘s nothing personal, I just don ‘t like it and I’ve never held bad feelings about people who think they DO like it. I have some friends who have been doing it for years and they’re still my friends and I still love them. I love them from a bit of a distance now because of some of the more unsavory symptoms of the disease but I do love them still.

I also have some friends who have done it and have been able to leave it behind and I cheer for them, inside. I consider it a blessing to have been there to see that happen for them. I just don ‘t want it in my life because you don’t even have to suck that glass dick for it to ruin big swaths of your life. Just being an innocent bystander is enough. If you’re nearby, you’re going to feel the effects of the symptoms of addiction.

BUT, addiction is not a criminal justice issue. It is a MEDICAL one. These people are sick, not criminal. In every case I’ve seen, criminal activity is a symptom of the disease, not a cause. People who are sick commit crimes BECAUSE they are sick, not because they are criminals.

We are fighting a war with crimes we have created by misunderstanding the nature of illness in general and the disease of addiction in particular. I favor legalizing ALL of it even though I have little personal interest in doing drugs anymore (aside from my cigarettes, of course).

We should be putting our money into treatment for a medical disease that is eating my friend alive. Our response to drugs destroys way more families and individual lives than any drug every dreamed of. It’s like our War on Terror. We’ve done most of the destruction to our country ourselves by acting out our fears instead of our vision for peace or healing.

What also came up for me is this: Religion is the single most powerful force of evil in the lives of my fellow GLBT folks, probably everyone else too, but that ‘s a discussion for another day. I can testify, personally, to that truth and I can point to Billy Preston and any number of other heroes right here in my life who live tragic lives of self doubt because someone in the church, that they looked up to for guidance and direction in times of confusion, told them that who they are as a person is wrong in the eyes of God, and they believed it because they thought they were SUPPOSED to! That is the single biggest, most destructive, lie I have ever heard and it is STILL being told by people who SAY they are speaking in the name of a loving creator, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

And lastly, What came up for me is that maybe my judgment was a little off yesterday when I let my friend with the trash can on his shoulder keep walking without stopping him to speak for a while. He’s worth it as a human being and I still love him and miss him so much. Maybe I should have stopped him and tried again. It’s 10 years later, he’s surely been through a lot in that time. Maybe now, after all that, I might be enough to reach his soul like Billy Preston was able to do for me at what turned out to be a critical juncture in my life… Maybe….and while I ‘m thinking of it; (Aside to Billy Preston) Happy Trails my brother, and thank you for everything! Will It Go Round In Circles? I certainly hope so, Billy!

With Much Love From Gregory Leon Franklyn, A kid you helped become a man!

Mother Theresa V God

Published by:

5/6/2009 By Gregory Franklyn

I don’t know if I ‘m alone here or not, but the passing of Mother Theresa last month coupled with the release of some of her letters and other writings brings up a couple of significant points that I HOPE is making people think a little differently about religious teaching in general and (because it ‘s the tradition I ‘m most familiar with) Christianity in particular.

I feel like I need to mention that I am not an Atheist even though a legitimate argument can be made that I often sound like one! I do share a disdain for “Religion” with Atheists and agree wholeheartedly with the lion ‘s share of what they say about the worship of God. It appears, from Mother Theresa ‘s writings, that I ‘m in pretty good company on this Sunday Morning!

This remarkable woman was a GLOBAL Icon of FAITH in God! She won a Nobel Prize for it, for Christ ‘s sake! (Literally!) She personified proper adherence to the “Religious” teachings of Christianity. She followed the Christian playbook so closely that she became the Icon, the living example, of how it should be done. Not even the POPE, ANY Pope, has had the Christian “Street Cred” that Mother Theresa had!

Because of these writings I have a LOT more respect for Mother Theresa now than I ever had while she was alive. I had pretty much written her off as a religious robot. A woman who responded with near perfection to what Christianity teaches right down to the last letter in the playbook. I could recognize it in her because I had spent the bulk of my youth doing the same thing! Not NEARLY as well, mind you, but that was my intent and I was good enough at it to have to spend the rest of my life, so far, recovering from the damage caused by it!

What I never suspected of her was that she was a living breathing THINKING human being underneath all that Christian propaganda. She got screwed by what I call “The Romantic Christian Fantasy”. Every religion has it ‘s own version of it. The trappings of religion, that being, what the proponents of that particular religion created around it to recruit for the religion and advance its worldly cause. You might equate it to the platform of a political party. At its core, that is what a religion IS, after all. A man made political platform for a world view.

I believe her very heart was in what she was reflecting to the world. However, it was all based on a story and a socio-spiritual structure that had been twisted, molded, reconfigured and manipulated over two millennia into a grotesque assault on the core of what the story was really about. I ‘m so delighted that she recognized that before she left! It ‘s had a tremendous impact on me to know that. I feel a little bit less alone this Sunday because I had a sister all these years and didn’t even know it.

Mother Theresa became so totally disillusioned about the Christianity that she was taught by the Church that she decided that she didn’t believe in God at all. Having gone through much of the same training, I agree with her. The way God is portrayed by religions is unbelievable for a very good reason! IT ‘S NOT TRUE! That ‘s why all religions rely on the concept of “Faith” to keep folks in the fold. If they didn’t push the “Faith” button all the time, people would realize that they are being fed a political agenda about a particular world view and likely start looking for truth. Truth is not a very good thing for religions. It challenges their political platform.

God Bless you Mother Theresa, for recognizing that you had been screwed before you left. I think more of you because you trusted yourself, and had enough strength of character to even consider the possibility that the church may have been wrong about God all along. But, my dear sister, you were not screwed by God, you were screwed by an organization that presents itself as representative of God. You were screwed by PEOPLE with a political agenda for a world view.

The fact that Mother Theresa did NOT stop doing what she was doing because of her epiphany about the existence of God, is equally important to me. It brings up an issue that all religions push as part of their agenda. “Without faith in God there would be no reason to do good works and the entire planet would descend into selfish chaos and bloodshed!” All religions teach that if you do not believe in God then you are automatically a homicidal sociopath.

Also not true and Mother Theresa came to my rescue on that point too! There ARE Natural laws at work in the world that CAN be proven. Karma is a law that states that what you create, or bring forth in the world will, at some point return to you. Good will and bad will are both included. Charles Manson is getting his and Mother Theresa is getting hers too!

Mother Theresa put love, care and work into the world and she is now at peace and her memory is loved, appreciated and imitated by uncountable people the world over (today, including me) and Charles Manson suffers the fate of existing in his own twisted mind for the rest of his life followed by a memory of disrespect and abhorrence.

Mother Theresa found a reason OTHER than God to continue a life of service to her fellow inhabitants of earth. Who knows what that reason may have been, but it disproves the teaching of ALL religions that I mentioned. If you do good works, you create a more loving place to exist. That can be proven. If you do bad works you create a more hostile environment in which to exist. That, also, can be proven and the existence or absence of God is not central to its truth.   Let the debate begin!

Much Love,

Gregory

Bah Humbug!

Published by:

December 10, 2008 – by Gregory Franklyn

The top news stories today were certainly juicy and tantalizing. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is burning up airtime like a spring break bonfire for his attempted sale of the US Senate seat formerly occupied by President Elect Barack Obama. He got arrested and jailed yesterday and has the unmitigated gall to show up at work today like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

It turns out nothing out of the ordinary HAD taken place. Politicians in Illinois being escorted into judicial custody is hardly out of the ordinary for Illinois. Nor is slinging blame, there’s plenty for everyone in Chicago politics!

The other big story would have to be the 14 Billion dollars under congressional consideration for US Automakers. Not that that would be news either, we’re having 70s flashbacks about US Automakers getting bailed out of financial ruin. Lee Iacoca must be chuckling under his breath right now. There’s also the unfolding soap opera in New York over Caroline Kennedy and, of all people, Fran Drescher, Seeking the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State, to be, Hillary Clinton.

Amidst this feast of juicy pabulum the story that really captured my imagination is this little aside on “Countdown with Keith Olberman” this evening about Australian astronomer Dave Reneke who has discovered that there is very serious scientific support to question whether December 25th is, or is not, Jesus Christ’s birthday! WHAT???

Ok, we all know that the day we celebrate Christmas was probably NOT the actual date of the birth of Christ. Science has pretty much demonstrated that according to the description of events described in the Bible, the birth of Christ could not have taken place in the winter. Interestingly, this scientist was able to pinpoint the exact date of the event. Ready? June 17, 2 B.C.. Let that twist your mind for a minute.

Jesus was born on June 17th 2 years before the birth of Christ. Those of you who, like former President Bill Clinton, didn’t inhale may be having some difficulty with this concept, but, for the record, I did   Inhale, and I did so repeatedly. It all makes perfect sense to me.

The reason why I mention this story is to illustrate my long held aversion to Christmas. Christmas is a season I’ve never participated in as a matter of choice. I get dragged, kicking and screaming, into it like it was a trip to the medicine cabinet where mom keeps the Castor Oil. If you are a Christian, you, in particular, should be outraged at the desecration of the memory of your lord and savior. What would Jesus do? Think money-changers at the temple. If I m not mistaken, Jesus was a tad bit annoyed at the prospect of Macy’s setting up a little shop on his dad’s porch.

Reneke’s astounding discovery will come as no surprise to the Vatican. They’ve known about this for quite some time. A couple millennia to be exact. As a matter of fact, it was the Vatican, or whatever it was called at the time, that changed the date of the blessed event to “coincide” with the already strong tradition of the Winter Solstice celebrated by most other religions, and, frankly everyone else in the known world, other than Christians. And, as standard operational procedure dictates, Christians even got the date wrong. The Solstice is actually the 21st not the 25th. But I digress! “Coincide” is way to diplomatic of a term to use for the intent of changing Jesus’ Birthday to the Winter Solstice Celebration. “Obliterate” was more the actual intent.

When you’re decorating your Christmas Tree and roasting your chestnuts on that Yule Log you’ll likely be oblivious to the fact that these two traditions, like most Christmas Traditions, were lifted from those terrible heathen Pagan Winter Solstice Rituals and sanitized for your protection. The intent of the Christian Power Structure at the time was to absorb Pagan traditions, sanitize them and give them a decidedly Christian spin so they would have an easier time convincing the world that Pagans were “So Last Year” and that Christianity was the happening religion of the future.

It’s kind of like Rock and Roll! Since Little Richard and those Muddy Waters era musicians melded a handful of down home musical genres into a virtual revolution of world culture, Rock and Roll continues to eat everything that attempts to compete with it. They must have learned that technique from early Christians who have been applying the very same marketing campaign for centuries. Christianity was the James Dean to the rest of the world’s Pat Boone, at the time. It was the young rebel religion full-throttle, hell bent on eating everything in its path to glory.

So this month we are celebrating the victory of Christianity over everything else in the world on a day that is misrepresented as the day their Christ was born, by celebrating with rituals that were stolen from Pagan Religions and turning the whole nine yards of it over to financial interests who created Santa Claus to be the world s deity for a month so they could sell enough product to earn literally a third of their yearly profits in a single month.

Right here would be a good time to mention that I am NOT an atheist, although a good case can be made that I am, by hearing me rant and rave about Christianity. I believe in God, as I perceive it to be and I love that I do so in my own way. I like to think that God, who, or whatever, that may end up to be, appreciates that I love it so much and am so deeply grateful for the width and breadth of the creation that I experience.

There’s this scene in “A Color Purple” by Alice Walker. It’s near the end of the movie version where Shug Avery and Celie are casually walking together through a field of daisies on a gloriously beautiful spring day. They stop for a moment and Shug picks a little purple flower, shows it to Celie and says, “God made the color purple and, you know, I think he gets pissed off if you don t notice”, Call me weird, but I find that little scene deeply spiritual and I will never forget its truth. That has a LOT more to do with my relationship with God than anything I’ve ever read in any scripture, Bible or otherwise.

I agree with the spirit of giving that we use to excuse our deeper knowledge of the truth of what I m talking about this evening. Giving is a good thing, and lest I be guilty of the same fiction mongering I’m distancing myself from right now, so is receiving! I like that we have a whole season of giving. It starts with Thanksgiving, (my personal favorite because it is about people and love and family and togetherness,,, and food, but alas, also fiction) and ends with Christmas, my least favorite because it pretty much trashes everything Thanksgiving is about.

I say Bah, Humbug because everything about Christmas, as we know it, down to its very roots, is one big jumbled messy misrepresentation (translation = Frigging bold faced LIE!) dressed up with a bow and presented to YOU as something of value. None of it is real, it’s all political, financial, religious power struggling insanity and it always has been. We are a pretty resourceful and creative people. I like to think we can come up with a way to honor the life of this truly remarkable teacher, other than this overwhelmingly grotesque affront to everything he stood for. Surely, we can do better than this!?

Merry Christmas,

Gregory

Sarah Who?

Published by:

8/31/2008 By Gregory Franklyn

The dust hasn’t even settled on a remarkable DNC mini-series in Denver when John McCain set off his media distraction bomb. I was at work when a client came rushing in to announce that John McCain had selected Freshman Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential Running mate. Sarah Who? McCain s bomb worked!

The mainstream media has spent precious little airtime working over what happened this week in Denver because every one of their reporters and commentators are frantically busy trying to figure out who Sarah Palin is and why John McCain might think she could be a good Vice President.

McCain told us, “Once you get to know her, you’re going to love her!” I’m at a loss for how he would know that, given the fact that he had only met her once before signing her up as the person that will be a 72 year old heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States. I’ve already seen a video clip, recorded about a week ago, of this strikingly beautiful woman asking, “Exactly what does a Vice President do?”, and I sincerely hope, with all my heart, that quote was taken out of some specifically relevant context! Otherwise, I think I’m going to need a bit more than a Bourbon and Coke!

My theme today is going to be about prayer! Sarah Palin is a very conservative Republican Freshmen Governor from Alaska. What little credentials she has, politically, include being a sports reporter for a local station, a school board member, the mayor of a small town, and then a little bit shy of 2 years as Governor. Oh Yeah, she came in second in a pretty significant beauty pageant in Alaska!

It appears that Alaska is in love with this woman and she has a reputation as a reformer. She’s an evangelical Christian, a mother of 5, a dramatically anti-abortion crusader, a card-carrying member of the NRA, likes hunting and fishing, wants Christian Creationism taught in science class, and, it would appear, has shown little interest in foreign affairs.

One commentator on FOX News says she has plenty of International Political experience because she is Governor of Alaska, right there just a stone’s throw away from Russia! I m not kidding, he actually said that out loud! While trying to imagine what this striking lapse in judgment on John McCain s part is intended to accomplish, I can only guess that he wants Hillary Clinton’s disaffected voters to come to the Republican Ticket and to soothe the troubled waters of the radical Christian right.

If that’s the case, he’s going to need those prayer groups. I just don’t see died-in-the-wool Clinton feminists flocking to the Republican tent over this particular choice. However, the fundamental Christians will like her because she’s all about each and every one of their hot button issues that have relatively little impact on the problems discussed around the kitchen table every night.

Or, perhaps this is a feeble, last ditch “Hail Mary Play” to get the Christian Right vote and the woman vote in one fell swoop! The Republican Party is going to need those Fundamental Christians for more than a vote, come November, they’re going to need some serious prayer group action as well!

If, and I’m going on record as hoping this NEVER happens, John McCain were to win this election and the unthinkable should happen to him while in office, Sarah Palin would become the leader of the free world! Let that sink in for a minute.

Let Us Pray,

Gregory

We Got It Right This Time

Published by:

October 28, 2007 – by Gregory Franklyn

 

I’m feeling a little better about justice in America today while watching the Genarlow Wilson case in Georgia unfold. You’ll remember that Genarlow Wilson was the 17 year old who had consensual oral sex with a 15 year old a few years ago and got sentenced to 10 YEARS in prison for it. It appears that while Genarlow was incarcerated, the law was changed because his case made it clear that 10 years was cruel and unusual punishment for a teenage indiscretion. Well, I guess so!

First of all, the sex was consensual AND no one in the scenario was over 18 and no one is suggesting that either party was forced against their will to participate. In addition, young Wilson isn’t a thug or a criminal type (we don ‘t know who the young woman is and I can understand that). The young man is an Honor Student and Football Hero at his High School. Of course being a Football Player or good student shouldn’t excuse anyone from accountability for criminal activity, but in this case I don ‘t understand what the crime is. Shouldn’t this have been an issue for both sets of parents or maybe a Pastor or two rather than the police, much less the Georgia Supreme Court?

I’m delighted that our legal system recognized how utterly insane this whole thing is and I sincerely hope that young Wilson doesn’t have to live with what goes with having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, for this youthful indiscretion. Since the statute of limitations on my own indiscretions is long since expired I can admit to having sex before I was 18. Can I have a show of hands here?

Not only was I not traumatized by it, I believe I may be a better, more balanced, person for having had the experience. In my case it was consensual too, and it was with another boy who was also not 18 yet. Looking back, if I had to make the same decision under the same circumstances, I would!

But our “Mature Adult” response to this incident is pointing up an issue that we, in the US, steadfastly refuse to have an informed, intelligent and rational discussion about. The idea of young people having sex is a discussion we seem to ONLY have with a knee-jerk emotionally charged sense of fear, loathing and often even shame.

Let me say, for the record, right here that I believe pedophilia is a bad thing! It’s predatory and almost universally results in serious damage on a number of levels for the victims and predators alike. I’m not talking about 30 year old people coercing 12 year olds into sexual situations.

I feel that we disrespect our young people when it comes to the subject of sex and, because of our own fear and shame about sex, refuse to equip them to make informed decisions about sex at a time when they are called upon, by nature, to make them.

If we educate our young people about sex at all it rarely begins before the onset of puberty when it would be of the most use. Most school districts that have any sex education at all start Sex education with 15-17 year olds. That s about 2, and sometimes as many as 3, years after young boys are already having very natural sensations and feelings of a sexual nature.

In those few school districts where sex education IS part of the curriculum, the education is sorely incomplete because of the things teachers are NOT allowed to talk about! A perfect example is “Abstinence Only” sex education models.

You might remember what happened to US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders when she suggested that masturbation should be part of a balanced sex education model and so should the use of condoms. You and I know that the use of condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancy and can prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS!

Right Wing Morality Thugs had a textbook MELTDOWN at the very suggestion. They claim that by teaching them about the use of condoms we encourage teenagers to have sex rather than wait until they’re married.

Jocelyn Elders was humiliated out of a job for suggesting that we equip our young people with what they’ll need for their very survival should they decide to disagree with us and have sex anyway! Teenagers truly aren’t ready to have sex, but not because all young people are too irresponsible at that age to make such a decision, but rather because we are too twisted up and polarized about sex to equip them with what they need at a time when it could make the most difference.

Here’s a little shocker for you in case you didn’t already know. Check my facts with any well-respected biblical scholar about this one. You might want to sit down for a minute! …Ready?

The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the teenager chosen by God Himself, to deliver His only Son was a mere 14 years old when she gave birth to Jesus! God Almighty chose a 14 year-old girl!

Exactly who do we think we are by disrespecting young women’s choices when God Himself felt a 14 year-old girl was ready to be the mother of his only child. She could have said no, but she made the decision to do so and GOD respected her decision!

I m not suggesting that we lower the age of consent to 14 because God thinks it s appropriate, notwithstanding the fact that he clearly does! I’m suggesting that some young people are going to make that decision one way or another whether we like it or not. I just don’t think they should have to die from AIDS for making a choice that you and I wish they wouldn’t.

So far, all studies that I m aware of say that “Abstinence Only” sex education has the opposite effect to what is intended; increased teen pregnancy and increased sexually transmitted diseases including HIV! When we teach our youth that abstinence is the ONLY option, when they make ANY other choice, we have left them hanging out there twisting in the wind. That simply does not make sense and disrespects them as people!

Which brings me back to young Genarlow Wilson. He got his sexual education the hard way because we didn’t give him the proper options to make informed decisions when he was called upon to make one. Whose fault is that?

So, God Bless America, our system of Justice got it right this time. young Genarlow Wilson is not going to spend the next 10 years behind bars because someone in our system of justice did their job with courage, with honesty and WITHOUT political partisanship! And, God Bless young Genarlow Wilson for helping us open a RATIONAL discussion about our responsibilities to the education of our young people. Let’s continue on this roll of getting it right for once. Let’s talk about this and have a little faith in how we have raised our children and respect their choices a little more.

It has always puzzled me that it’s technically a FELONY SEX OFFENSE, carrying a life sentence of registering as a sex offender and all that goes with it, when a person who is 18 years and one minute old has consensual sex with another person who is 17 years, 11 months, thirty days, 23 hours and 59 minutes old! Yet it’s completely legal if they do the very same thing 61 seconds later! Maybe we can start to look at this issue on a case-by-case basis and make decisions in the same way we expect our kids to!

Much Love,

Gregory