Mark Gabrish Conlan


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



By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


One More Way the Republican Minority Continues to Run the Country

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


Upate: has coverage of a Lemon Grove Council candidate debate:

Six candidates vie for seats

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

October 14, 2012 (Lemon Grove)--When the Republican Party swept the 2010 elections nationwide, their triumph stretched as far down as the small city of Lemon Grove in east San Diego County. The Lemon Grove City Council switched from a Democratic to a Republican majority, and in looking for items to cut from their budget they zeroed in on the city’s recreation department.

The vote wasn’t totally party-line. Democratic Mayor Mary Sessom joined Republican Councilmembers Mary England and Howard Cook in eliminating the recreation department and its annual budget of up to $260,000 per year, while Republican Councilmember Jerry Jones joined Democrat George Gastil in voting to keep it.

But the debate over community services versus fiscal responsibility, and the lingering bitterness of some Lemon Grove residents and civic activists over the Council targeting recreation to balance the city’s budget, has become the main theme of the 2012 Lemon Grove City Council race.


Former Chief Runs Against One of the Board Members Who Fired Him

By Mark Gabrish Conlan

October 8, 2012 (Lakeside) – The Lakeside Fire Protection District contains 55 square miles of land, 65,000 people, and according to its website,, “is primarily suburban residential but also has several core commercial zones, some light industry, and many rural/agricultural properties.” It has a significant wildland/urban interface — firefighter-speak for places where homebuilders have butted developments up against forests and other wild areas. In the last decade, that has proven a recipe for brewing out-of-control fires that have threatened properties and claimed lives—particularly here in Lakeside, which has been devastated by several of the worst wildfires in county history.


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

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