Archive for October 2007

D and P turns 40 ; few Catholics in peace march

October 29, 2007

“The world is sick.” The shortest line of any papal encyclical was written by Pope Paul Vl in 1967, 2 years after the end of the great Council. Paul mentioned by name the “principles of individualism” which have been exacerbated over the past decades.He invited Catholics to join the struggle against underdevelopment. Buoyed by the energizing spirit of the Council, the Holy Spirit blew like a gale force through a feudal church and in the world with new demands for inclusion (the end of colonial powers), the demands for peace and civil rights. And Pete Seeger sang “Wasn’t that a Time.”

Paul said “The hour for action has now sounded.” The world can not go the way it has—superdevelopment of the West and underdevelopment of the two-thirds world. Thousands of priests and lay people accepted the challenge and went south to experience the dire poverty and in this experience they were radically changed.

They came back on fire to challenge the egoism of the first world, its blindness to the diminished lives of so many brothers and sisters.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for development and Peace (CCODP) or simply D and P was formed. On Friday night it celebrated 40 years of solidarity activity with thousands of successful projects in the two-thirds world.

It was beautiful to see many people who had been in the struggle for a better world over these last 40 years…in particular the female religious. One bishop was there,a silent presence and he slipped out without giving a passionate endorsement for an organization which has done so much for humanity. Too sad.

In the interim another wind has been blowing, the neocon wind, inside and outside of the Church. There were few priests in attendance. Some parishes give it nominal genuflection but in general tthere is no longer the commitment there should be. The CCCB (Bishops conference) have wasted money on papal side shows, getting young people giddy about the wrong things.

As an example the next day there was a major anti-war march which took place in 23 Canadian cities. While this was happening, the Winnipeg archbishop instead of attending the march in that city was busy banning James Loney the great Canadian peacekeeper from a social justice conference. James is a gay man in a relationship.

At the Toronto rally—no priests (except one retired one), certainly no bishops, no parishes—but lots of the two-thirds world’s people looking for our support.
The banning of Loney made the national news. It is extremely sad that the gospel of the nonviolent Jesus is never promoted or acted upon and the pelvic orthodoxy is put front and centre. The world is close to burning down and the Catholic Church seems not to be involved in doing much about it.

What colour is your disaster?

October 27, 2007

If you were wondering why newspapers are in trouble and why establishment organs like the Globe and Mail are fiddling with deck chairs on their own Titanic—typeface, layout, paper size etc—go no further than the coverage of the “Celebrity fires” of California. Has anybody read about this through the lens of class?

Has anybody asked the Decider Bush who preened on front of the camera if he was still denying global warming and why the hottest summers in history have produced massive conllagrations? All that was missing from “Mission accomplished” Bush was a fireman’s hat.

But the Internet gets it.

The great investigativer journalist Greg Palast wrote a piece called

BURN BABY BURN – The California Celebrity Fires

Palast asks :

What color is your disaster?  It makes a difference.  A life and death difference.

Dig:

    Population of San Diego fire evacuation zone:  500,000
    Population of the New Orleans flood evacuation zone:  500,000

    White folk as a % of evacuees, San Diego: 66%
    Black folk as % of evacuees, New Orleans:  67%

Size counts, too.  Size of your wallet, that is:
    
    Evacuees in San Diego, in poverty:  9%
    Evacuees in New Orleans, in poverty:  27%

The numbers would be even uglier, though more revealing, if I included evacuees of the celebrity fire in Malibu.

In New Orleans the devastation moved poor blacks right out and privatized the inner city schools into “For profit” charter schools.

Palast asks

In New Orleans, God’s covenant with real estate developers has been very profitable. Over 70,000 families remain, two years after the waters receded, in mobile home concentration centers far away from the N.O. re-building boom.  Let’s see how long it takes to get Tom Hanks back on his beach towel.

Mr. Bush never mentioned – and the media would never give away his secret – that 15 hours before the levees broke, the White House and FEMA knew the flood barriers were cracking, yet failed to inform the Governor and state police.  Nor did Mr. Bush mention that his Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA trolls took away evacuation planning from the state and gave it to a crew of crony contractors who, for a million bucks, came up with a plan that came down to, “If a hurricane comes, get in your car and drive like hell.”

Palast makes the obvious connections you will never see in mainline papers owned by huge corporations:

Besides the flames, there’s a class war raging in America.  Or, should I say, Class Massacre.  Because only one side is taking all the bullets.  Malibu, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica are “incorporated communities” – islands of privilege politically fenced off from the riff-raff sea of Los Angeles.  These self-incorporated Bantustans of the wealthy have their own fire departments and schools.  The money islands are relieved of having to pay for the schools and hospitals of the city where their gardeners live. 

The lens which is always clouded—class. America can never admit it is a two-tiered society.

The California class fires

October 27, 2007

If you were wondering why newspapers are in trouble and why establishment organs like the Globe and Mail are fiddling with deck chairs on their own Titanic—typeface, layout, paper size etc—go no further than the coverage of the “Celebrity fires” of California. Has anybody read about this through the lens of class?

Has anybody asked the Decider G. W. Bush who preened on front of the camera if he was still denying global warming and why the hottest summers in history have produced massive conflagrations? All that was missing from “Mission accomplished” Bush was a fireman’s hat.

But the Internet gets it.

The great investigativer journalist Greg Palast wrote a piece called

BURN BABY BURN – The California Celebrity Fires

Palast asks :

What color is your disaster?  It makes a difference.  A life and death difference.

Dig:

    Population of San Diego fire evacuation zone:  500,000
    Population of the New Orleans flood evacuation zone:  500,000

    White folk as a % of evacuees, San Diego: 66%
    Black folk as % of evacuees, New Orleans:  67%

Size counts, too.  Size of your wallet, that is:
    
    Evacuees in San Diego, in poverty:  9%
    Evacuees in New Orleans, in poverty:  27%

The numbers would be even uglier, though more revealing, if I included evacuees of the celebrity fire in Malibu.

In New Orleans the devastation moved poor blacks right out and privatized the inner city schools into “For profit” charter schools.

Palast asks:

In New Orleans, God’s covenant with real estate developers has been very profitable. Over 70,000 families remain, two years after the waters receded, in mobile home concentration centers far away from the N.O. re-building boom.  Let’s see how long it takes to get Tom Hanks back on his beach towel.

Mr. Bush never mentioned – and the media would never give away his secret – that 15 hours before the levees broke, the White House and FEMA knew the flood barriers were cracking, yet failed to inform the Governor and state police.  Nor did Mr. Bush mention that his Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA trolls took away evacuation planning from the state and gave it to a crew of crony contractors who, for a million bucks, came up with a plan that came down to, “If a hurricane comes, get in your car and drive like hell.”

Palast makes the obvious connections you will never see in mainline papers owned by huge corporations:

Besides the flames, there’s a class war raging in America.  Or, should I say, Class Massacre.  Because only one side is taking all the bullets.  Malibu, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica are “incorporated communities” – islands of privilege politically fenced off from the riff-raff sea of Los Angeles.  These self-incorporated Bantustans of the wealthy have their own fire departments and schools.  The money islands are relieved of having to pay for the schools and hospitals of the city where their gardeners live. 

Holly Sklar veteran truth teller

October 24, 2007

Holly Sklar has a distinguished history in putting a burr in the ass of corporate America. Her latest stats:

We have a record 482 billionaires — and record foreclosures.

We have a record 482 billionaires — and a record 47 million people without any health insurance.

Since 2000, we have added 184 billionaires — and 5 million more people living below the poverty line.

The official poverty threshold for one person was a ridiculously low $10,294 in 2006. That won’t get you two pounds of caviar ($9,800) and 25 cigars ($730) on the Forbes Cost of Living Extremely Well Index. The $20,614 family-of-four poverty threshold is lower than the cost of three months of home flower arrangements ($24,525).

Wealth is being redistributed from poorer to richer.In 1982, when the Forbes 400 had just 13 billionaires, the highest paid CEO made $108 million and the average full-time worker made $34,199, adjusted for inflation in $2006. Last year, the highest paid hedge fund manager hauled in $1.7 billion, the highest paid CEO made $647 million, and the average worker made $34,861, with vanishing health

And the rich, notes Fortune magazine, “give away a smaller share of their income than the rest of us.”

Thanks to mega-tax cuts, the rich can afford more mega-yachts, accessorized with helicopters and mini-submarines. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of bridges, levees, mass transit, parks and other public assets inherited from earlier generations of taxpayers crumbles from neglect, and the holes in the safety net are growing.

The Blackwater Prince

October 23, 2007

Robert Bateman a historian and U.S. Army infantry officer. served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. He recently wrote an article about the infamous Blackwater the thugs who protect American personnel in Iraq. According to the lightest of all Secretary of States in living memory Condoleeza Rice, Blackwater may have run roughshod over Iraqis but “we have not lost one American whom Backwater protects.”

These gentlemen who are beyond prosecution in Iraq and have asked to leave the country are a private militia (soldiers of fortune) whch has already bilked the US government of over a billion dollars in salary, work which should have been done by the military.

 A helluva payday for Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and according to Bateman ”a Naval Academy dropout who served less time under the colors of the nation, in uniform, than my most recent pair of boots”.

But these creeps who deal in death and destruction by catering to the Pentagon are the worst of what America regurgitates today..

Prince made sure his bread was amply buttered by giving thousands to Bush’s campaign. Now it’s time to get out of Iraq where they mowed down 17 innocent Iraqis and drove around like idiots insulting Iraqis on a daily basis.

The Ugly American lives large in people like Prince making enemies on a daily basis for a country which needs a serious change of direction.

When the devastating history Of W’s failed reign is written it would best be summed up by his dumb line as seen in Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

Addressing a Republican fundraiser, the Decider smirked,”This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have mores.Some call you the elite, I call you my base”

Base would be the operative word for Prince.

Phil Ochs—wasn’t that a time?

October 22, 2007

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
Always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me, is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t a-marchin’ anymore

Phil Ochs: I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore

Ah to hear that anthem again! And we did at the Phil Ochs Tribute Night on Saturday night. All those brilliant antiwar songs brought back to life by a stellar cast of musicians.

Phil Ochs was one of the great troubadors of the 60s, one who held the light up to the great underbelly of US imperialism, only now being revealed to a somnolent country waking up under W Bush. Those great memories of the greatest generation, the 60s the generation which understood the deep structural contradictions of the war system, one which funds corporations but not people’s need. Many of course sold out but the subterranean spirit kept it all alive. And Phil Ochs was such a big part.

Those nights always are alive with both memory and hope. A crowd in their 50s and 60s, folks who fought the good fight and are still at it—like my friend David Depoe , the ultimate hippie resister of the 60s who’s stayed alive, teaching the young about life’s ultimate values. He always pops up at these events…and the event was official because Frank Showler was there—at 85 the veteran Quaker was handing out leaflets for next Saturday’s march against the obscene war in Iraq and Canada’s role in Afghanistan.Imagine at 85, Frank is still doing it. Inspiring.

This is just such an event where you never see the Catholic clergy, the last place a bishop would be. This of course speaks volumes about the utter irrelevance of most of these decent men who serve the Church but miss the outbreaking of the kingdom of peace and justice.

Phil Ochs tragically hung himself in 1976 a victim of depression and unidentified bi-polar.But here was his 70 year old sister Sonny keepin Phil’s spirit before us. For many this Saturday night event was church for them, a sacramental event which inpired folks to plug into the broader story of humanity’s ongoing struggle with the idols of death.

Etan Thomas: a different athlete

October 20, 2007

A student asked me about the overhead which showed an unknown basketball player willing to flog any product for a huge sum of money. He suggested it was Lebron James, the great Cleveland Cavalier forward, the latest in a series of overpaid athletes who show no sign of a social conscience-much like Michael Jordan in his heyday. Jordan for years refused to challenge Nike over their sweatshop practices in the 3rd world.

I told the student there is nothing great about these men. They are just athletes. Periodically, one or two arise willing to put their privileged selves on the line, to risk unpopularity for a higher calling.

The latest is Etan Thomas the smart Washington Wizard basketball player who appears regularly for justice causes and has released a book of poetry. Here’s a selection of his scalding verse:

If he says he’s a Christian doesn’t mean he follows Christ
Because he’s the President doesn’t mean that he’s bright
Just means you need to research what his speech writer writes
But through methods of deception he made yall think that he’s right

You owe us
For every mother who will never see their son again
Every husband whose lives you’ve ruined
Who will never taste the sweet lips of their wife’s kiss
Left with the stale bitterness of death to caress their reality
You’ve created whirlwinds of a widowed future
Causing pain and suffering to give birth to normality
Their blood is on your hands
I hope their pain haunts you while your sleeping
Wakes you up at night with the cries of the lives you’ve destroyed
Visions of caskets should dance in your head
I hope your conscious shouts in your ears that our heroes deserved better
Rest in peace to the abundance of lives you’ve ceased
Mr. Commander and Chief
You owe them more
They put their trust in you
Riding in a ship that we all new would sink
A medal of honor to put in their grave is a slap in the face
Human life is precious no matter what you think

And even after all that…
You’re still committed to continuing a winning less battle
You don’t know when to say when
You can’t even admit that you made a mistake
So how can the healing possibly begin?

Quote of the month

October 17, 2007

Scholars know very little about this Galilean rabbi (nothing, for example, about his attitude toward homosexuality), but there are two things that can be said with certainty. Jesus lived and died in resistance to the Roman empire. And Jesus rejected violence. If there are two notes of identity that go to the heart of what America has become, they are violence and empire. A Christianity that makes its peace with those, as has so often happened, is an apostate religion. John McCain, and the objects of his appeal, betray the nation – and the faith.

James Carroll in the Boston Globe

Jesuit president reverses bonehead decision

October 15, 2007

Why was it that a progressive Jewish organization Jewish Voice for Peace had to call out the dumb banning of Nobel laureate from the Catholic university, St Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota? Jesuit Fr Dennis Dease finally came to his senses when hundreds of protestors alerted by Jewish Voice for Peace inundated his office with howls of justified righteous indignation. Fr. Dease might have saved himself the resultant embarrassment had he been attuned to both Tutu’s exemplary life and courage in criticizing the modern Jewish state.

How did this monumental gaffe occur?

The usual claque of narrow minded Israel supporters who can not abide any criticism of Israel’s punishing Occupation spread the libel that Tutu compared Israel to Hitler.Fr. Dease the appeared to become the second Catholic president to cave in the wake of criticism of Israel. The first was the Vincentian president of De Paul University (Chicago) FR. Dennis Holtschneider who refused tenure to Norman Finkelstein because of his scrupulously documented criticism of Israel. Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors is among the many Jewish scholars who simply can not abide the aprtheid-like policies of Israel which President Jimmy Carter laid out in his book Peace not Apartheid,

This caused an uproar on the De Paul faculty prompting tenured philosophy professor Bill Martin to state:”For now, a great victory has been handed to people who are essentially fascists. Why is it a great victory? Because, as with Germany in 1933, a decisive role was played by people who are liberals and even progressives. Even more, because a university that should have been one of the last places where something like this could happen is instead one of the first.”

A sad commentary on “Vincentian values” and the Catholic concern for social justice.

A pat on the back to Dease for acknowledging his bonehead move. Three cheers for Desmond Tutu who has always extended a double solidarity to the state of Israel and to the oppressed Palestinians.His prophetic words follow:

”“My heart aches. I say, why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

“Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured.

“Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or – and I hope this will be the road taken – to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.

“We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. South Africa is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land.”

John Tory commits hara-kiri

October 12, 2007

In an unprecedented flame out, Ontario’s Tories snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in yesterday’s Ontario election.

The likable John Tory attempting to rebrand the Conservative Party in the mode of his former employer William Davis, inexplicably tossed into the hopper the divisive issue of faith based schools. The more cynical commentators maintained that Tory knew exactly what he was doing, hoping that this wedge issue would catapult him into the Premiership. Others simply thought Tory thought he was doing the right thing.The Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty was eminently beatable.Until Tory unleashed his stunning proposal.

What John Tory never understood is how after 9/11 further extension of faith-based schools is an explosive issue. The Right wing Harrisites, the troglodytes who followed Mike Harris, were terrified of Muslim schools convinced that they are hatching mini bombers; many sophisticated liberals were nervous about any further balkanization of the excellent public system still recovering from the Harris muggings. Further support of these schools leach more money from the public system and open the way to Scientology schools and heaven knows what else.

As well Tory has not understood that societies are becoming more secular and wish to avoid any religious entanglements.

Caught in the middle is Ontario’s public Catholic system sheepish in an ecumenical age and a diverse province over the fact that they are the only faith group fully funded though protected by the Constitution, Catholics understand that the status quo is untenable.The next 20 years will undoubtedly produce much needed discussion on the whole issue but as Kim Campbell once wisely said,”Elections are no time to discuss serious issues”!

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