Archive for July 2008

Galbraith knew it: The Dream pt.4

July 30, 2008

JK Galbraith 1940s

 

Richard Gwyn another columnist who supported the Iraq invasion, did have a good commentary recently in the Star on the breaking apart of the American Dream. He focused on the unwarranted and deleterious reputation of Alan Greenspan the retired head of the Federal Reserve . For 20 years Greenspan a rabid disciple of Ayn Rand unleashed his economic policy of untrammeled greed.

Greenspan’s mantra was Go Market Go—let the entrepreneurs have their way. The Market will solve all. What a disaster. Now the Feds have had to bail out the two giant mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. They basically gave a mortgage to anyone who breathed. Who was protecting the people?

For anyone with a memory, Greenspan and Bush 1 presided over the catastrophic Savings and Loans scandal of the early 90s.

Go Market go! Deregulation everywhere.

Congress the putative watchdog was mesmerized by an Ayn Rand lover. Members (Wall St and the rented Congress) were cut in on the scheme particularly Phil Gramm and the Bush Jr and his pal Kenny Boy Lay who presided over Enron. There was nobody looking after the people. As scripture says they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Greenspan’s Nobel Prize was a joke. He was a midget next to JK Galbraith who though a secularist, always asked the Catholic question: what about the common good?

As Pope JP ll stated in Centissimus Annus (1991) there are some things that are simply too precious to be left to the Market, namely people and the environment.

The neocon cheerleaders for this greed clothed themselves in morality. Galbraith had them figured out 40 years ago: The modern conservative he said  is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. 

American Dream pt. 3

July 28, 2008

Ronald Reagan, the Gipper, an American hero.

One of the worst presidents ever. Thankfully after GW Bush leaves office people will forget just how bad the Gipper was.

On October 15, the Gipper signed the Garn-St.Germain Act thereby deregulating the thrift industry.

“I think we hit hit the jackpot” he was quoted at the time.

Until the 80s the Savings and Loans banks dealt primarily with mortgages, their traditional customers locals who relied on a banker who knew them. When the Gipper deregulated the industry, the pirates and fraudsters came out from under the rocks and began investing this federally insured money in wild schemes. Hard earned local money went fishing for high risk fast dollars.

Chief among these was a professional Catholic named Charles Keating, a swindler first class who was about to be named Ambassador to the Bahamas by the Gipper. The press resurrected a scandal where Chas had made millions on improper loans. In time Keating who gave Mother Theresa a gift of 1.4 million did heavy time for his swindling activities. Not for nothing was he termed “the greediest man in America” by  the Chicago Tribune—vacation homes everywhere, gold plated fixtures. You name it, Chas had it. In the end Keating did heavy time for rackateering and fraud,

Meanwhile US citizens ponied up $160 billion. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

One of Keating’s  biggest backers-John McCain. Though he was not convicted of anything, McCain intervened on behalf of his pal after Keating gave McCain at least $112,00 in contributions. In the mid-1980s, McCain made at least 9 trips on Keating’s airplanes, and 3 of those were to Keating’s luxurious retreat in the Bahamas.

 

Two good old boys who followed the American Dream of the Deregulator, Ronny Reagan.

 

The people’s bishop

July 25, 2008

 

Ken Caveney became The Bishop of Cabbagetown, anointed by the marginalized of Toronto’s east end. He was  born August 14, 1939 in Toronto and  died on June 19, 2008 of kidney failure. He was 68.

Ken was orphaned by the time he was 15 and by his late teens was in trouble with the law usually for petty crimes. His name in those days was Dukey, a Cabbagetown moniker he had picked up from his days in the boxing ring in Toronto’s hardscrabble east end.

Tossed into the Don Jail for brawling, Ken met the Anglican chaplain “Pop” West, a no nonsense prelate with a big heart but who also took no guff from the inmates. Kenny made the mistake of swearing in his presence and Pop gave him dose of tough love. That got Ken’s attention and his conversion began. Ken soon began evangelizing inner city kids, prostitutes and addicts. By 1968, calling himself a “Jesus freak” the former gang member had earned a new name:”The Bishop of Cabbagetown.’

That year a Globe and Mail story related Ken’s Damascus experience and he came into my high school religion class at  Neil McNeil Catholic school. For the next 40 years he was a constant presence there and in our family’s  life, Usually fulminating at societal injustice, Kenny had a very short fuse and  soon came to realize that he needed some more education. Through the ministration of Fr. Mike Doyle the former principal of Neil McNeil, now the Dean of Students at Centennial College Kenny got into the  Social Work programme as a mature student. A quick study, he could master the course work but not his anger and Doyle had to bail him out of some frequent altercations with his professors.

Over the years Kenny had a number of jobs with social service agencies as a youth worker. He was a natural with troubled kids. After all he had been there. Ken loved the work which usually ended a few years later as his temper seem to get the better of him and he often found himself looking for another job. His religious conversion however was authentic and his work was always more than his job. He  became well known in the after hours haunts of Toronto’s demimonde, a constant friend with a sensitive ear for those on the margins. The Bishop was always rapping about Jesus.

One of Ken’s great friends was the late Anglican Primate Ted Scott whose death a few years ago devastated him, Ted was not the only famous religious figure who embraced Ken. The week he died the founder of L”Arche, Jean Vanier called him to express his concern for “my little brother in Christ.” Vanier like Scott had penned an intro to a book of Ken’s “street poems.”

Kenny could turn the air blue with his colourful language yet many of his good friends were in the area of religion. We all recognized Ken’s extraordinary reservoir of goodness, his compassion for those on the margin. The four letter words we tolerated for one overshadowed all  the others: love.

Twenty five years ago Mother Theresa came to Toronto and Fr. Tom McKillop introduced Kenny to her. He phoned me that night all excited. He told me he could hardly speak, only to blurt out, “Mother, you’re the most beautiful broad I ever met.” Mother T simply bowed and said “Tank, tank you.” Even the saint of Calcutta’s slums  intuited what those of us who were privileged to know Kenny understood.

Frustrating, cantankerous, short tempered all fit Bishop Kenny to a T. In the end however, his was a life consumed not by anger but by compassion.

Karadzic- Another delusional nationalist

July 23, 2008

There he was on the CBC News kissing the ikon saying he was defending Christianity! Yes indeed the megalomaniac Radovan Karadzic the Bosnian Butcher.

A totally delusional person one who defaulted first on his humanity, then his supposed Christianity and certainly on his Hippocratic oath as a doctor.

Was there Kool Aid in the water which created this monster? No there was a cultural meme, a blindfold if you will, which occluded not only his sight but that of the greater Butcher of Belgrade, Milosevic. Who can ever forget this sad man who caused such grief pulling out that ugly nationalist card as the Balkans erupted in flames and scorched too many innocents. A powerful aphrodisiac nationalism, one to be almost always criticized as the first refuge of scoundrels. Canadians innately distrust it as they watch Americans regularly immolate themselves with God Bless America, the Stars and stripes and the Pledge of Allegiance. True religion of course should be a powerful antidote to this manipulative nonsense  but too often it marches in lock step. When you see a flag on the altar of any church, walk out.

Karadzic will never taste freedom again but as several commentators have pointed out George W Bush still waits his turn in the docket, an equally delusional Christian whom God told to invade Iraq!

Incomparable Jo Stafford

July 22, 2008

I live in the real world and while I am appalled at the seemingly endless “wars and rumours of wars” and the hubris of small men like GW Bush. I  always loved Camus’ line about life having two fundamental categories we must be faithful to and they are beauty and the humiliated.The humiliated  are more in evidence today because of the depredations of laissez faire capitalism and the bandits who have stoked it, promoted it and made it easier for the conscienceless pirates to do their dirty work. Among these men was Ronald Reagan the king of the deregulators. I need a break from thinking about the carnage that he and Milton Friedman have let loose on the world.

So beauty reigns today.

When Jo Stafford died on Saturday I had to speak to my friend and former teacher the ever humble Fr. Owen Lee.The most famous opera buff in Canada and star of Opera at the Met, Owen also has an encyclopedic knowledge of singers, movies and musicals. A while back we both settled on the most brilliant pop singer of the last 50 years—the one and only Miss Stafford—pitch, tone, diction, she had it all and even the Voice learned from her in the Dorsey band….that amazing breathing technique. 

Owen however was one up on me.He wrote Jo a fan letter 50 years ago and the lady  even answered.

Devoid of ego, she happily shuffled off the music scene many years ago content to leave her stellar music with us including her hilarious send ups when she appeared as Darlene Edwards, a terrible off key singer.

It was so nice to pick up the phone and talk about Jo Stafford with one who loves her music as much as I do

AMERICAN DREAM PT.2 REAGAN NIGHTMARE

July 18, 2008

 

Americans want to put Ronald Reagan on Mount Rushmore. Again and again he ranks high in their  popular memory. Jimmy Carter however correctly called him one of the worst presidents in US history, leaving behind a federal debt equal to all his predecessors combined. His legacy as well was was the Pax Americana’s last gasp—US bullying particularly in Latin America. His thuggery in Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Salvador and Guatemala made Americans feel good after the trauma of Vietnam.

But his real success was in foisting deregulation on a pliant Congress, removing all checks and balances on am already privileged people living well beyond their means. In 1986 Reagan had a chance to solve the oil crisis we face now by instituting modest regulations on oil addiction. He went the other way fulfilling the wishes of his huge backers the oil companies, Cars got bigger and bigger. Small minds like Lee Iacocca were feted. Corporate pirates were lionized. the Japanese began to develop fuel efficient cars. Wind and solar power were ignored.

During this time the poor were scapegoated. Welfare queens (read blacks) were excoriated. Unions were broken while government handouts to the wealthy continued. Tax cuts for the rich and tax breaks for corporations was the sacred creed. The Reagan Revolution of deregulation was in full swing. Environmental safeguards were gutted in the US and around the world. The Market became a religion.

Today’s economic catastrophes symbolizied by Freddie and Fanny-Lack of oversight of mortage lenders, energy brokers, accounting firms, and banks which has resulted in the housing crisis, energy crisis, Enron, Worldcom, Bear Stearns can be laid at the Great Communicator’s feet and tarred legacy.

Ho

The American Dream pt.1

July 17, 2008

George Carlin hit the nail on the head when he said, “They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

An Yanks have been asleep for decades believing it their right as 4% of the globe to consume about 40% of the world’s resources.This is the major American myth which consumes all other myths including the one myth which could counteract it—the biblical myth enshrined in the churches and synagogues.

The sub prime mortgage catastrophe is simply the latest blow to the Myth.

But this is simply part 2—part one was the savings and Loans debacle under George Bush l. Trillions were lost  as ordinary Americans were asked to pony up for the berserk lending habits of the banks which took local monies out of their  communities and speculated in property all over the country.

The main culprit was Ronald Reagan, the puppet spokesman for his corporate friends.

This ugly virus is called deregulation.

Tory government salutes Uncle Sam

July 13, 2008
Once again the will of Canadians is thwarted by a US friendly government.
The most recent  poll indicated that 64% of Ontarians said, “Let him stay.”
Robin Long was arrested in Nelson B.C. last Friday and is threatened with deportation as early as Tuesday, July 15. We must act quickly to ensure the government does not deport him before a federal judge issues a stay order.
 
At what was expected to be a routine detention hearing, it was revealed that a negative decision had been issued on Robin’s Pre-Removal Risk Assessment in early May; but the information was never communicated to either Robin or his counsel. The refusal of the federal government to stop deportations, and actions taken by the Canadian Border Services Agency, make it clear the Canadian government wishes to get rid of the conscientious objectors as soon as possible contrary to the views of a majority of Canadians and the will of Parliament.
SUBJECT LINE: For Robin Long
Robert will ensure Robin receives your message of support and encouragement. 

Please also do the following:
1. Send this email to your lists
2. Call or email Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley,613.996.4974,
and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 613.992.4211, pm@pm.gc.ca
Ask them to stop the deportations and uphold the June 3rd motion in Parliament calling for sanctuary in Canada for all war resisters.

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) and NDP MP Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior) are calling on the Harper government to reexamine their decision to deport Long and allow him to stay in Canada.

“Canada has always been a country that stands up for basic human rights. Conscientious objectors who have fled George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq should be allowed to stay,” said Chow.

“Two war resisters’ cases are currently before the Supreme Court of Canada,” pointed out Atamanenko. “No one should be arrested or deported before the Court has a chance to make a decision.”

 

Embarrassing to be a Harperite Canadian

July 12, 2008

It’s getting harder and harder to hold our heads high on the international stage with “Stevie” Harper as PM.

The G8 Summit  was a good example. All reports indicate Canadian government has embarassed us all by blocking progress on poverty, climate change and chintzy Third World Aid.

As many critics pointed out Canada and US, also opposed mid-term targets for greenhouse gas reductions, a 50% reduction target by 2050, a time when all the current G8 leaders will be long gone and the world will be at a full boil.

Harper has yet to grasp that any talk of “harm to the economy” has to be integrated within “The Great Economy” of Creation which has sustained us for billions of years. There is no economy if the The Great Ecological Economy is shattered and as Black Elk said a long time ago: The scared hoop is broken. Not for Harper—a few short years ago global warming was a “socialist plot.”

And we’ve doubled foreign aid!

Wow—but we give virtually nothing now  and are promising $490 billion to the military in the next 20 years.

It is interesting that the “secular” prophets like David Suzuki and Maude Barlow are screaming like the biblical prophets of old who cared little about liturgy or prayer if the poor (and now the earth) were in bondage.

And then there is the cowardly failure to protest the continued incarceration of Omar Kadr, the boy soldier.Even his military lawyer in Guantanamo blew a gasket at our failure to protect one of our own citizens

 

U.S. navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler flayed Canada over the plight of Toronto-born Khadr, who was 15 when U.S. forces seized him in Afghanistan following a firefight.

 

“You (should) stand up for the rights of a Canadian citizen, you follow the law, you do the right thing, you stop taking your orders from the Bush administration,” Kuebler charged. “You also stop being the last western leader to subsidize a clearly failed policy at Guantanamo Bay.”

 This is poodle stuff unworthy of a Canadian.

As well Harper continues to fan the flames of intolerance in Israel with his blind support of the Occupation and his refusal to hear the cries of the Palestinian people.

 

July 6, 2008

I always liked Tecumseh and somebody in Toronto did too. They named the extension of my street Palmerston after him.Of course it was in the days of our close links with Mother Albion, yet nevertheless  this is my doff of the cap to a Canadian of note as we remember the glorious first of July.

Brother  T  a Shawnee Indian joined the British side against the imperial ambition of the Yankees and was killed near Thamesville Ontario on Oct. 5,1813. He was but 45 but the brother packed a lot of wisdom into those years.

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” 

 

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