Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barack Obama and Notre Dame

As a practicing Catholic, Poet and Obama supporter I am vexed by the recent 'outrage' by some right wing Catholics about the invitation of President Obama to speak at Notre Dame.
As a matter of public policy I disagree with Catholic theology being imposed on a nation that is less than 25% Catholic. I think however that the Social Teaching of the Church has real value but it seems that this is not the agenda of right wing Catholics who are outraged by Obama appearing at Notre Dame.
The argument that has been made right wing by right wing Catholics like Michael Novak, Pat Buchanan and George Weigel is that allowing President Obama to speak at the University and giving the sitting president of the United States a honorary degree is akin to approval of his position on Abortion.
It has in fact become such a cause celebre that the Bishop of Fort Wayne in which Notre Dame resides will not be attending the speech.

It has bothered me for a long time how Right Wing Catholics have chosen to augment the outrage about some issues and ignore others. It appears that Abortion is the only social issue that needs to be highlighted but other issues that Catholics also hold important or even central are ignored. I

t appears that in fact only Sexual issues are important while other issues can be easily ignored by these Right Wing Catholics. There are however strongly held positions on many issues for Catholics except that these are ignored because they are politically uncomfortable for these right wingers.

Economics and Justice

On a recent episode of "The World Over" a Right Wing Catholic news program on EWTN TV Raymond Arroyo the host, chose to interview Grover Nordquist- the anti-tax zealot about President Obama's economic plan. Nordquist's positions are in direct opposition to Church teaching on economics and no one who agrees with the Church's social teachings on the economy were interviewed.


Because Catholic social teaching on the economy does not concur with Republican orthodoxy . In fact Catholic Social Teaching starting with Rerum Novarum in the late 19th century is the origin for European Social Democracy including a large welfare state and rights for Labor Unions. Economic justice is central to Catholic Social thought but this is ignored by these Catholic thinkers. But this is ignored by the right wing amid their outrage about Abortion.

George Bush and Richard Nixon were not prohibited from speaking at Notre Dame. Yet the Church condemned their views on many issues. The Church was not endorsing their views for inviting them.

Pope John Paul II has in fact condemned neo-liberal (conservative) economics in the strongest terms but this is glossed over in a rush to the pelvic. These Right Wing Catholics do not care about the Church's social teaching they care about Right Wing Republican power and making points.

Just War and the Death Penalty


For the entire period of the 'war on terror' the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the war in Iraq as unjust and sinful. In fact Michael Novak, who was US Ambassador to the Holy See was dressed down by the Pope himself about this issue.

The Pope condemned as unjust and evil war in Iraq and yet GW Bush was allowed to speak at any number of Catholic Universities.

Why was there no outrage as Bush speaking?

Because they do not care about the Church's social teaching they care about making right wing points.

Also, the Catechism of the Catholic church says that the Death Penalty is almost never just- yet George W Bush acted on the executions of over 200 people and yet he was able to speak at Notre Dame and other Catholic universities.

The Church condemns the Death Penalty and George W Bush's direct actions resulted in, according to the Church, unjust deaths, but he was still allowed to speak.

The fact is that what Right Wing Catholics want is for the Roman Catholic Church to have the same 'moral 'positions as American Evangelicals. This means supporting American 'conservatism' and its formulation on what is moral but that is not what the Church believes or teaches. Catholic social teaching is contrary to BOTH the right and the left in the United States and that is not something that right wing Catholics want to admit. This shows an intellectual inconsistency among Catholics on the right. Many right wing Catholics (EWTN, Michael Novak, Michael Gerson & now Newt Gingrich-he is converting) want the teachings of the Church to be the same as the teachings of Rush Limbaugh but they are not.

So why does Obama's position on Abortion merit more outrage than GW Bush's position on war or economic justice?

With my Church, sexual issues have of late, become very important. It seems that we have forgotten the entirety of the Church's social teachings and it seems that Right wingers want us to forget the entirety of our Church's positions.

I am not arguing here for a change in the Church's position on morality. What I am arguing for is consistency on the part of Catholic pundits and outrage mongers.

This is lacking in Catholic media and in Catholic publications. If one reads left leaning Catholic publications like The National Catholic Reporter there are a host of thinkers like Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Al Smith, Robert Kennedy, Dom Helder Camara, Arch. Oscar Romero, Cesar Chavez and others whose faith and witness are highlighted. There is an integrated struggle with moral issues and what it means to be a Catholic. Catholic social teaching is more than the labels of current American political discourse. In the NCR for example the Church's social teaching in total are taken seriously this is not true in Right Wing Publications.


The Catholic thinkers and issues mentioned above are completely avoided in Right wing publications like the Wanderer, EWTN, Crisis and First Things. The reason for this is because they want to be part of the vast right wing world of evangelical preachers and right wing think tanks.

The true Catholic world-view that was 'conservative' but also Pro Labor, Pro Worker, and Just War Supporting is ignored because it is not convenient and it does not fit into established political labels.

By inviting President Obama to Notre Dame the University is saying that it is a Catholic institution.

Catholic Social Teaching is more than one issue, admittedly an important one. Hypocrisy has it seems become a leading Catholic value among the right wing.

Where was the outrage when Cardinals were protecting pedophiles?

Where was the outrage when unjust war was being waged in Iraq?

This is Fox News Politics not Catholic Social Teaching

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scoundrels I have Worked For

During this AIG outrage week I kept thinking

"what are people so surprised about?"

I have worked in international business for the past 11 years and I have had my share of bosses some have been exceptional and some have been dreadful.

  1. I worked for one manager who worked her way up from Secretary to Director and she never forgot where she came from and always treated all with respect and I was motivated to come in everyday and give my all I remember that time with longing.
  2. I also worked for someone whose only goal was to have affairs with the newest and youngest member of the staff. One of his goals was also to do a little work as possible in that quest.
  3. I have worked for a VP who hired me to develop and event business and then insisted that he knew more about events and when he screwed up the marketing he blamed me for his incompetence and lied to our customers.... that is the kind of VP who gets to be a CEO.
  4. I also worked for an EVP who was a model of moral recititude giving money back to customers to keep the business going long term building a bond with them forever- and who always took time out of his day to listen to his staff. That CEO is the kind that are profiled in 'where are the best places to work' and by the way if you have one of these stay at that company they are few and far between.

On the whole most senior level executives do not live in the same world that the rest of us live in. The gap between a Director level manager and a VP is quite large. Most senior executives can fail and know that they will recieve generious severance and payouts.

Most middle managers will be lucky to get a month severance.

The average CEO in America get 400 times the salary of his normal worker. This means that when the outrage about AIG bonuses comes out they are not equiped to understand the outrage. It has been my experience that the best departments are run by managers 1, and 4, above for that more often than not managers 2, and 3 are the norm.

Our society rewards managers 2, and 3. Those are the people who matter in our society and who never pay for their errors. The only difference between them and Bernie Madoff is that they are less agregious. They are the kind of people who are concerned about themselves only they are not visionaries like a Bill Gates or a Henry Ford- they are small people with power.

During my lifetime the CEO class in America has destroyed every governor on their abuse. Regulations, Unions, Pensions, Severance Laws and corporate loyalty have been destroyed in the name of profits and 'competitiveness'.

What this really means is let me make my huge money and bonuses and don't question me. I am better than you and I am getting mine- now.

So now we have hit the rocks. In Europe there are protests and riots but at least the European workers get generous social benefits and healthcare. In America once the unemployment and savings runs out what will people do?

I do not think that the CEO class in America understand what has happened. They need to understand that their world is over but they won't give up what they have gained without a fight.

Corporations have rewarded the scoundrels and they have abandoned the broad bulk of Americans in the name of 'capitalism'. Those who have played by the rules are now left with nothing. In the 1930's theresulted in Franklin Roosevelt in America, but with Hitler in Germany. Which will we get?

Where will we end up?

If people think that populist anger is strong now just wait until the whole recession plays out. The tens of millions of 'information workers' and 'creative class' members are not going to be the ones working on infrastructure projects and they are the class that is being destroyed.

just wait....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Going John Galt to Oppose Pres. Obama

Flipping around the TV the other day I heard Right Wingnut Michelle Malkin advocating that the 'productive' in our society should 'go John Galt' and not contribute to punish President Obama for his 'socialist' ideas.

As many of you know I began my life as a Conservative. I read all the great 'thinkers' of the movement, Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, Fredrick Von Hayek, and the rest as an undergraduate. I believed in all their ideas for the most part until I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Rand is a favorite of many on the right in the US. She has devoted fans in such luminaries as Alan Greenspan, Ronald Reagan and it appears Michelle Malkin (The Asian American woman who argued that interning Asian Americans during World War 2 was justified.) Rand's book Atlas Shrugged argues that if we as the 'productive' would just stop doing and producing society would stop and the collectivists would be defeated. According to Malkin and her friends this is what will stop the evil Obama from turning America into France (Do we get the Cheese, Style Sense and Bullet trains too?).

My reading of Rand began my migration away from Right wing ideals. It took a long time but it was the seemingly strange pairing of a love for Ayn Rand and the Right's love of Christianity that made their positions so ridiculous to me.

Below are two quotes that bear reflection;

The first by Ayn Rand

It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.

The Second is From Mark's Gospel

Mark 9:33-50

Who is Greatest?

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

So my question is would Jesus "Go John Galt"? It does not appear that he would. The problem with post-modern Neo-Liberalism (American Conservatism) is that it is based in the kind of Selfishness embodied by Ayn Rand. What they have done is dress it up with a robe of "Christianity" to make it palatable to the masses who are not in the 'productive' group and whose votes they have needed.

This big lie has resulted in the Christian masses getting a steady diet of fear mongering- while the real agenda of the Right wing was put in place- to make Selfishness the center of everything government does.

This is why when President Obama says things like "i want to spread the wealth around" the Right howls that he is a Socialist. Or they howl and accuse him of trying to turn America into Europe.

I even heard one Right Wing Talker asserting that the reason we have unemployment is because our Unemployment Insurance System is too generous and that companies owe nothing to their workers or the society in which they operate.

The fact is that President Obama is trying to change a mentality that was imposed on America by the Right. For most of our history we progressed towards a society where people could live without fear. It was however the Right that decided to gain and keep power they would make fear central. Fear of Blacks, Gays, Women, the Poor, anyone not like them. What they fear now is that President Obama will end fear and by giving Americans more security and thus end their cash machine.

People on the Right like Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh talk about "Capitalism" and how great it is because they already have money and they benefit from selling fear. What Barack Obama is talking about is a society in which everyone has a chance and that threatens those who deal in fear and believe with Ayn Rand that Sacrifice is Slavery.

I for one will go with Jesus who sounds more like Barack Obama don't you think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Malefactors of Great Wealth: Is it Not Time that Wall Streeters Spend some Time in Jail?


" Almost a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt railed at ''the malefactors of great wealth'' who controlled the trusts; in 1933, F.D.R. lashed out at the ''unscrupulous money-changers'' who had manipulated the market. "



  • Today the Stock Market dropped 300 points because they do not like the direction that our elected president has chosen for our nation. Why are we allowing them to do this?
  • Why is it that the people who caused this meltdown are not being called to account?
  • When there have been in the past government actions that resulted in disaster like Pearl Harbor there have been investigations and indictments. Why is this not happening now?
  • Why isn't Phil Gramm being asked to account for being a major cause of this meltdown?
  • Why is Bernie Madoff still living in his penthouse?
  • Why are we bailing out AIG again but no one from AIG is in Jail?
  • Why are we allowing the 'freemarketeers' whose philosophy lead us to try to drive the debate?
  • Why aren't we re inacting Glass Seagall and separating Banking and Investment Companies?
  • Finally why isn't someone who wants our President to Fail called a Traitor?
  • Someone Tell Me Why?