Archive for May 2009

CPP and the synoptics

May 31, 2009

imagesThe synoptic gospels are replete with warnings about greed, about one in seven lines reflect the Jesus wisdom here.All of us could quote endless lines about this time honoured warning.

The 80s of course, the decade of Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney had their own immortal line—in Oliver Stone’s great character played by Michael Douglas in the film Wall Street.

“Greed is good” said Gordon Gecko.

Now we see the results in the MAdoff-Greenspan era.

We can be proud that Canada has not been left behind.Witness the following.

According to a report released at the end of May,the heads of the Canada Pension Plan are slated to take home millions in bonus payouts this year, even as the fund struggles and the economy slips deeper into recession.

NDP Leader Jack Layton expressed outrage over the figures on May 28 during question period in the House of Commons.

“The CPP Board is supposed to protect the savings of Canadians. This is money earned through hard work and they were counting on it for their retirement,” Layton said.

“We have the prime minister essentially endorsing $17 million of Canadians’ money going into the pockets of executives who just lost $24 billion. How can that make any sense whatsoever?”


Prime Minister Stephen Harper washed his hands over the issue.

A market man all the way, Steve did not want to get involved here.

Apparently he and the CPP board see nothing wrong with compensating these people in such a ludicrous fashion.

Gospel wisdom still holds up.



The myth continues

May 25, 2009


“The scene is burned into my mind to this very day. At the foot of the casket of my twenty-year-old cousin, an only child, killed in Vietnam just weeks before his military discharge, my gentle uncle recited again and again for all to hear his one consolation: his good boy, he said, “had at least died a hero.” I thought of the burning villages and displaced children and raped girls and defenseless dead farmers left behind in other graves in another place that day and, with nothing heroic in sight, went silent and looked away. I knew that young soldiers were victims too. “


So writes Joan Chittister reflecting on Memorial Day in the  USA


The prophetic nun might have served as a coubnterfoil to the treacle emanating fom Washington on Memorial Day “celebrations” yesterday in Washington. Broadcast live on PBS, it showed that the USA has apparently learned little from its latest adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Staged outside the Lincoln Memorial on a beautiful night, its centerepiece was a pathetic story of two heroic women who were attending to their son/brother’s awful plight. Basically in a vegetative state with part of his head missing, he became the symbol of the US “victims of war.”


Three years of horrendous surgeries, constant heroic attention from his family (No father in sight), there was no sense of why this 21 year old signed up as a volunteer for such an immoral war. The millions of victims of US arrogance were never mentioned. Gone missing from this drama were the million dead Iraqis and the 2 milion refugees, the  hundreds of  dead civilians in Afghanistan. Over all it is estimated that 251 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than those who perished in   the attacks of September 11, 2001.


The topper was this poor kid’s family was living pay check to paycheck— “just another poor boy in a rich man’s war” as Steve Earle sings while  war shirkers like Five Deferrals Dick Cheney  and Rush Limbaugh were cheering on this evil debacle.


It was time to turn the channel when Colin Powell, a man who was involved in the My Lai coverup and who lied for the Bush admin in Iraq actually quoted from Isaiah and Jesus!


Also no sign of the “actors of conscience” like Martin Sheen, John Cusack, Mike Moore,Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon who were never afraid to challenge the Bush admin’s lies over this war. Instead we get Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Gary Sinise.


And that ‘s why they call it the United States of AMNESIA.


The sullying of the presidency

May 21, 2009

imagesFormer US presidents Bill Clinton  and George W Bush will be appearing at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 29 for a moderated “conversation” that is expected to last about two hours.


This hurts.


Previously I had chided Calgary for hosting Bush in that most American of cities, Calgary aka “Dallas North.”


Who in their right mind would attend such a boring snorefest, Bush’s apologia for his his disastrous presidency. Never underestimate the sweet seductiveness of celebrity in the lives of people who have little confidence in their own worth and inegrity.


There were reports  that Bush received as much as US $162,000 for his March appearance in Calgary, and Bill Clinton earned US $31 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2005, a figure  disclosed in the Senate ethics reports of his wife, now-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In an appearance on the Charlie Rose show former RFK speech writer Richard Goodwin summed up a growing consensus of Clinton’s presidency: A time squandered by a narcissist with abundant intellectual gifts.

The Romans had a great expression which seems to fit Clinton:”Corruptio optimi pessima est.” The Corruptiopn of the best is the worst.

And now he joins the hapless Bush in their continual sullying of the office of the presidency.

And in Toronto, no less.


O tempora, o mores! 

Naomi Klein riffs JP ll

May 15, 2009


The Nation‘s Naomi Klein and William Greider rappeared on  Charlie Rose on Monday, May 11th. The award winning journalists discussed the financial crisis and economic bailout. On the bailout, Greider remarks in the interview, “The moral question is, do we try to fill the balance sheets of those institutions that led this public debacle with public money, and my answer is no.” Klein adds, “The choice is not between doing nothing and this model, the choice is what are the range of options and we should still be debating because all of the money hasn’t been handed out yet.” Greider, The Nation‘s National Affairs Correspondent is author of Come Home, America. Long time Nation columnist Klein is author of The Shock Doctrine.

Klein gave an impassioned defense of the common good stating that there are some things that are just too important to be left to the god, Market viz Health care and the environment.

Here she sounded like John Paul ll in his encyclical Centissimus Annus

It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.

Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold. Certainly the mechanism

Good for Klein. Of course nowhere was she identified  as a Canadian. That would have sunk her in the US culture

Father Oprah falls

May 13, 2009


Rev. Alberto Cutie (”Father Oprah”) was caught in flagrante delicto on a Miami Beach—not the firs priest to “stray”.The media loves stories like this.However they always miss the bigger one below the headlines.

Cutie’s theology is for the birds. Fodder for Cuban-Americans of which Cutie is one.

The pap he was spreading was so trite that he was carried by Mother Angelica’s network (EWTN).

Can you imagine any priest who was really challenging Miami Cubans would have a radio show and a spot on Mother’s Network? Wouldn’t happen. Alberto is more Roman than the pope.

The guy has had a girl friend for 2 years but he “believes celibacy is good”. Apparently not for him—or for many if history is any judge.

And now Cuie goes on CBC Morning show to spill his guts. Fabulous. Go Alberto go.

Listen to this nonsense:

“I believe that I’ve fallen in love and I believe that I’ve struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service.”

Falling in love should never be set against service.

Now the celibacy debate is open—fair enough but it’s sad a lightweight like Fr. Oprah is reopening it.




Don Cherry:the corrosion of culture

May 9, 2009


My friend Bob an American ex-pat living in Cnada since 1965 simply can not get over the gradual hijacking of Canadian culture.

Particularly disturbing is the so called Highway of Heroes a slice of the 401 highway now dedicated to the dead of Candian military in Afghanistan.Little discussion  even when we entered this trouble spot as a sop to the Americans and turned our culture from peace-keeping to war making.And these Canadian kids from small towns became cannon fodder in a country they knew nothing about, a country with hundreds of years of experience expelling invaders.

With the best of intentions, carrying a rifle and a hammer, we began to see the dead stacked up. The country bought the blarney of a general Rick Hillier who single handedly trashed our long history of peacekeeping.The Taliban only saw the rifle and the arms. They missed the good will of those kids who really wanted to help.

And then Don Cherry! It’s hard to believe the immaturity of a culture which gave this  clown a microphone to take over hockey broadcasts and promote his pathetic brand of war culture. Why did the CBC allow this cultural cave man to spew his racist nonsense about European hockey players and this rah-rah warmaking? Simply, he attracted the childish among us, males from 21-35 who belong to Leaf Nation and cars and Beer nation to set the national agenda. Cherry brought in  the advertising dough.

And now as my friend  Bob says we are becoming America-lite, a pale image of what we used to be, an alternative to the Wild West show below us.

And Don Cherry still has his bully pulpit and kids are still dying.

De mortuis nisi bonum

May 6, 2009

images1Was there ever a public figure wrong about almost everything.

The simple answer is YES.

William F Buckley

I was reminded of this in Bob Herbert’s NY Times column today.

Whites, being superior, were well within their rights to discriminate against blacks, according to Buckley. “The White community is so entitled,” he wrote, “because, for the time being, it is the advanced race ..”  Mmmm. Just  one of Buckley’s many boneheaded plays.

We remember with affection his anti-gay rants at Gore Vidal.

His reactionary theology, support of Joe McCarthy, the Vietnam War, Franco, the Death squads in Central America, And on he went.

Born into huge wealth, an elitist his saving grace was his capacity for friendship with many.

That’ll be enough to get Bill into Conservative heaven.

But thanks to Bob Herbert for reminding us of his truly odious public stands.

Progress—the new superstition

May 4, 2009



“A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.” so writes literary critic, Britain’s Terry Eagleton in his latest book, Reason, Faith and Revolution. A pretty good description of our contemporary society. 

This by itself is not knew. Many brilliant secularists who never ‘touched’ religion have described the contemporary world under advanced capitalism in similar words. Off the top there was Aldous Huxley in his brilliant Brave New World (1946), the Marxist Erich Fromm in book after book did the same as did Herbert Marcuse when he had his moment in the 60s. In a less ideological way, the witty John Kenneth Galbraith lampooned capitalism in similar terms. Brilliant theologians, schooled in Marxist analysis also had trenchant critiques of the overdeveloped West.Here one could mention Juan Luis Segundo, Rubem Alves and Gustavo Guttierez in Latin America and Johann Baptist Metz in Europe and our own Gregory Baum in Canada.

According to Stanley Fish in the NY Times,Eagleton, not known as as a theologian but one of Britain’s great literary critics,wades in these waters in his new book.

“The coming kingdom of God, a condition of justice, fellowship, and self-fulfillment far beyond anything that might normally be considered possible or even desirable in the more well-heeled quarters of Oxford and Washington.” Such a condition writes Fish, would not be desirable in Oxford and Washington because, according to Eagleton, the inhabitants of those places are complacently in bondage to the false idols of wealth, power and progress. That is, they feel little of the tragedy and pain of the human condition, but instead “adopt some bright-eyed superstition such as the dream of untrammeled human progress” and put their baseless “trust in the efficacy of a spot of social engineering here and a dose of liberal enlightenment there.”

Then as he has in the past, Eaglteon goes on to skewer the shockingly superficial work of Ditchkins—Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins- and their sophomoric takes on religion. It is their embrace of “progress” which really gets to Eagleton. Progress to the author is simply another superstition. He says:

“The language of enlightenment has been hijacked in the name of corporate greed, the police state, a politically compromised science, and a permanent war economy,” all in the service, Eagleton contends, of an empty suburbanism that produces ever more things without any care as to whether or not the things produced have true value.

 Not bad!