Archive for November 2013

The covetous heart: Pope Francis

November 28, 2013



The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. 

So begins the present pope’s welcome encyclical.

It has been a constant theme of mine that turbocapitalism, a capitalism run amok, one which has been overwhelmed by manipulation, advertising and the power of money, one which does not allow markets to work has almost permanently crippled the evangelical life.

It is  for this reason we hold to the wisdom of the gospels. The world of 2000 years ago was certainly radically different than ours but the human heart and the power of wealth have not changed. One of six of Jesus’s words as written in the synoptics (the first 3 gospels) are warning against what wealth will do to you.

Luke probably phrases it the best.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 16:13

Many prescient commentators, religious and secular, have pointed out the corrosion of values under this turbocapitalism. It simply breaks our solidarity with the poor, deflects our moral passion and we end up in Augustine’s words curvatus in se (bent in on ourselves)

It is an object of wonderment to me how those who most espouse the free market are blind to the depredations of consumer religion. Those in advanced capitalist countries who embrace Christianity and adore the market do not seem to understand that the Friedmanite principles they so vigorously champion in the end serve the purpose of “deregulating” the faith they say they love. In a commodified world where the advertising budgets advance seven times as fast the economy, the great hallowing out is occurring. Everything can be exchanged and consumed-even religion.

In the US the amount corporations spent marketing to children under twelve increased by five times between 1980 and 1990 and ten times more during the 1990s. In 2004 around $15 billion was being spent marketing to children. Conferences on the best ways to market to children are held all over the world. There are also awards for the best advertisements and marketing campaigns with hundreds of entries.The consumer virus is injected early and deep.

The economic juggernaut of the post war years (“The last man standing”) witnessed an explosion of consumption. 6% of the world consumes 30% of its resources. This stunning material advance however had its dark side. It turned a biblical faith into a “bland common civil religion.” With little prophetic power to analyze its own weakness or arrogance, the United States  ground zero of consumerism gradually emerged as an empire with a dis-graced culture, subverting foreign governments while ignoring the poor at home. Dogs had better diets than one quarter of the world’s poor. While critical education floundered, the majority were pacified by mass entertainment. Organized religion of all stripes  followed the people to a suburban captivity where the tribal flag had pride of place on the altar.

Catholics were not immune here. Post war abundance saw Catholics leave their immigrant status and join the economically privileged. Our  votes mirrored our location in the economic steeplechase. US Catholics  ended up voting for Reagan, the president who continuously robbed the poor and advanced the rich for whom he was a great spokesperson. Almost half the Catholic populace voted for another defender of wealth and privilege,George W Bush. And so it has gone.

The pope is on the right track here.Neoliberal RCs are about to pounce.

The Joy of the Gospel

November 27, 2013



Today November 26 Pope Francis  issued his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

It will certainly prove stimulating not only to Catholics but to all people of  good will.

Although he said it before Francis once again rails against “an economy of exclusion”(section 43). True to his  master, the pope goes to the margins and  and  judges  economies on how the poorest are treated.

This is not good new for the rabid free marketers who have driven the global economy into the toilet.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Francis then rejects the trickle down economies which it was claimed would have “raised all the boats’. In reality they succeeded in simply lifting the yachts higher. Everywhere the gap between the poor and the rich has advanced.

Francis continues:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.



Capitalism guts the gospel

November 24, 2013


Catholicism’s insistence on those twin pillars of our social ethics, the dignity of the human person and the common good take a real beating in the most “religious country” of all, the United States of Amnesia.

In advanced capitalist countries and in particular in the US where a virulent turbocapitalism sets the public agenda, we see our ethics trampled on a daily basis. Nowhere more obvious in the shameless gutting of health care for all and the single payer system our Prime Minister Harper is attempting to gut by stealth.

We shake our heads in disgust at the botched implementation of Obamacare. This failed program does nothing but put a patch on a broken system which keeps resisting single payer. We  sadly observe faulty websites and literally millions of cancelled health plans. The wealthiest country in the world privileges profit not the care of humans. The sick get excluded in the name of investor dividends. So many individual companies each with this end in view are bound to fail. The lobbyists (5 to every Congressman) prevented the single payer option.

This is tragic. Drug companies along with insurance companies and medical suppliers worship at the altar of profit not the common good or the dignity of the human.

The US system is a joke. It costs about double what  civilized  countries pay and it still leaves about 50 million uninsured. Obamacare certainly would have cut down the number of the uninsured but now chaos reigns.

Capitalism runs roughshod over the gospel.

What does it mean to be religious in the USA?

Two Jewish boys: Leiber and Stoller

November 22, 2013


Cruising (or coasting) down the  401 I kept breaking into laughter at he lyrics on a disk I cut for “my listening pleasure.”

They were all songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 2 Jewish boys from Baltimore and Long island respectively. They met in LA in 1950 and really never had to work again by 1965. They cranked out hit after hit. Even penned 2 classics by Peggy Lee I’m a Woman and the sardonic Is That All There Is?(1969). Elvis cut Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog by the pair.


It was their hilarious work with the seminal rock group the Robins who became the Coasters which made them famous—and still keep me roaring. Billy Guy, Cornell Gunther and Carl Gardner had the vocal goods to pull off these outrageous songs.

Think Searhcin’, Young Blood (a 2 sided hit) Along Came Jones, Poison Ivy, Charley Brown and many others. They had an incredible ear for black slang and the lifestyle in the black demimonde. And they were certainly criticized for it later when people woke up to the fact that their songs were less than flattering to the black community.

Listen to this Coaster classic  Shoppin’ for Clothes—just covered by the great jazz singer Kurt Elling.It will give you a hint about the wit in their music.


Climate Justice? MIA

November 19, 2013



Poland, the U.N. climate summit, known as COP 19, has entered its second week. Does anybody in Canada know about this? Has the Ford saga taken the oxygen out of our serious world?

Why s it that Democracy Now http://// and 9.5 in Toronto is  the only global daily TV-radio news hour to be broadcasting from the summit for the week. Where is CNN? Oh yeah, interviewing the Ford brothers!

And where are the Canadian  bishops? Organizing a collection  for r the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  All well and good and necessary—but nothing on the causes of climate disasters! Not good enough.

For those wishing to donate

And where is Canada, the do-nothing country with a hapless leader and pathetic environmental minister whom no journalist has access to?

On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched calling for climate justice,, the most serious moral issue confronting the human community.

Speakers from all over the world addressed the crowd, urging world leaders to take action on global warming, including climate activists from the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and organizers of a chartered train that brought more than 700 people from Belgium, Britain and France to join the demonstration. Polish activists also spoke, including residents of the village of Zurawlow, where resistance to fracking is growing despite massive shale gas concessions.

Thank Gd for Greenpeace the conscience of the climate world.It raised a banner to the point  “Who rules the world? The fossil fuel industry or the people?”

Meanwhile the Polish government has convened a conference to greenwash the use of coal!

One of the most moving speeches came from the Philipine rep Gerry Arances:

I speak in behalf of my organization, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, and in behalf of my brothers and sisters who have lost their relatives, their sons, their daughters, and those that will be orphaned and have been orphaned, and for the next generation of Filipinos whose lives will be at stake every year, every month, every day.

Today, now is the time. It’s the most painful time in our history in our country. Lives have been lost, thousands. My friends, their families are still missing. Food is lacking, water, shelter. This is the most painful year for the last 10 years in the Philippines. But this is not the only typhoon or supertyphoon that we have faced. For the past five years, we have been facing every year supertyphoons. Thousands of lives have been lost, and this is the most painful, the most powerful supertyphoon that have hit us.

The problem is, we are suffering, and my brothers and sisters are suffering, not because of their own doing, not because of our own doing. We have very small emissions. My country and the rest of the developing countries, most of us, especially from the—our brothers in Africa, have very small emissions. And yet, those that have caused this climate crisis are still pushing for more dirty and harmful energies all over the globe.

Women abetted

November 18, 2013



In Church history’s main events

–as recorded—

Men acted,

while Women abetted.

Yet, from the Beginning,

Women have been Prime Movers

in the making and shaping of

Tribes, Families, Communities, and

Human Spirituality.

Their prominence and influence

through the ages

have shifted with the seismic social and

economic alterations.

Always, no matter how myopic

or willfully blind

Church hierarchs and historians

have been in overlooking them,

Women have been co-makers of the

human epic

and the true keepers and perpetuators of

Jesus’ message




Rob Ford’s Letter of Reference for Mike Duffy

November 15, 2013



To whomever I may be of concern,

The purpose of this letter is to provide a character reference for Mr. Senator Michael “Mike” Duffy. Since our family is in the labeling business I feel uniquely qualified to label people.

I have known Mr. Duffy since 1988 when he went to work for a conservative broadcaster and became a regular television guest in our home. I remember my dad frequently pointing at the TV when it was on and calling him a “straight shooter.” It has since come to my attention that “straight shooter” is also a term of endearment for a common crack pipe but I cannot believe that was my dad’s intent.

I remember Mr. Duffy as an exemplary member of the CTV news team, where he often displayed exceptional leadership skills by not walking face-first into a camera. I know for a fact how challenging this can be.

Ever since he was appointed a Senator from Prince Edward Island, he accordingly has remained as far from Prince Edward Island as possible. I also believe no one has done more than Mr. Duffy for troubled and at-risk Senators. Without his mentorship there’s no telling where Patrick Brazeau would have wound up. Myself, I could see Mr. Brazeau as an assistant coach of the Don Bosco Eagles.

As my brother Doug has said, “You can’t teach loyalty,” and Mike Duffy is a shining example. During his time in the Senate he has remained faithful to bedrock conservative values like “not in my backyard” and “I’ve got mine, Jack.” He has also demonstrated to myself that he has a great work ethic by never being photographed by Giorgio Mammoliti sleeping on the job, and should The Toronto Star ever publish a photograph alleging the contrary you can rest assured it’s just another typical Star smear job.

Mike Duffy has always shown tact and diplomacy and conducted himself in a courteous and polite manner, like when he interviewed Libtard Stephane Dion. I don’t know how he kept from yelling in his idiot face to talk normal. Should Mr. Duffy ever seek a career in this mayor’s office I would consider it an honour to not throw him under my bus.

As regards Nigel Wright, I cannot comment on a $90,000 cheque I have not seen and does not exist. I do know that if Mr. Duffy ever has a problem collecting something that belongs to him my door is always open. I know people.

I believe some people deserve a second chance. A few people — I call them “my kind of people” –deserve many more. Mr. Duffy is my kind of people. We are both salt of the earth types, and if the worst that can be said about us is we overdo the salt from time to time, then so be it. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t hesitate to take a fridge magnet from, if he was holding.

If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I respond to all calls personally within half an hour or your property tax bill is free.

Rob Effing Ford

(AKA Jeff Wells)

Rob Ford, please leave

November 13, 2013



So about 1000 of us took to City Hall today to tell this man, this poor excuse of a mayor,Rob Ford to leave. We’ve had enough shame heaped on us, literally around the world–and nobody to blame but the sleepy and contented who don’t do their civic homework and allow a total incompetent to become chief executive  of a once great city.



It was a lively occasion with not nearly enough people who should feel outraged at Rob Ford’s lies, prevarications, shameless conduct. In France there would be a massive crowd taking to the streets. Apparently the word “citizen” still has some caché in the country where  democracy took a leap forward. But now with all the toys of capitalism at our disposal, our big screens and 500 channel universe, the word citizen has been replaced by “consumer.” The common good, compassion for the poor  among other civic virtues have taken a back seat. Our souls have become deadened. We fall for ridiculous “anti-tax” mantras like Ford’s “Gravt train”(there was none). Democracy is in full retreat. More and more we fall victim to propaganda bought and paid  by corporations who manage to bankroll the Fords and Harpers(and Bushes, Reagans and Obamas of our time).

Living easy is  dangerous the mad Nietzshe reminded us.

We should be so mad.

Holocaust “implications”

November 6, 2013



Every year the Holocaust Remembrance Committee runs a coterminous week with November 11, our Remembrance of the victims of war.  Those weeks are well planned but sadly are stuck in its focus on the events of the Holocaust in the war years 1939-45. Lessons seem not to have been learned about the meaning of this racist madness.

As a longtime Holocaust educator who regularly took his students to November seminars and as one led seminars on Holocaust education I read with interest the musings of Toronto Star columnist Rabbi Dov Marmur (October 28) who wrote about the importance of the week.

I seconded the Rabbi’s words in his October 28 column: ”the primary purpose of Holocaust Education Week is to tell the truth and point to the implications”.

Sadly the “implications” seems to have been lost on many members of the Canadian Jewish establishment here in Canada. Their silence on the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people under occupation in the land of the biblical prophets is indeed lamentable.

All hope however is not lost. Many in Israel see quite clearly what the lessons of the Holocaust are.

The former speaker of the Knesset  Avraham Burg  phrased it well “‘Never again’ includes everything; it will not happen again to anyone, anywhere, anytime… after the Shoah, genetic Judaism must end.”


Holocaust to be sure is not happening in Israel but relentless ongoing dehumanization of Palestinians proceeds apace. Dehumanization was the basis of the Holocaust. This assault on Palestinian dignity is rife in Israel. It is the elephant in the living room which Rabbi Marmur glides over.

Holocaust Remembrance Week needs another interlocutor—Palestinians.

Ford’s supporters owe me an apology

November 4, 2013


The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming

Overheard  in the Beach area of Toronto.

“I don’t care if he is a child molester. He is lowering my taxes. I’d vote for Rob Ford again.”

She and many others are operating out of a deep unexplored well of resentment. This cesspool of unexamined emotions has many layers.

Ford is a right wing populist, himself a failure at everything he has done. He could never complete any higher education, was maybe dyslexic and possibly ADD. The son of a wealthy Tory, he’s had a silver spoon in his mouth all his life, one  of undisciplined excess.  Simply look at his obesity. Not a good sign. This is a man out of control

He gets into politics as a ward healer in the west end of Etobicoke. He makes his reputation by actually responding to constituents,. That’s good. He appears at City Council and is always outvoted by huge margins. Nobody takes him seriously.  He puts on his earphones and ignores the daily proceedings.

But, but he impresses people by taking no salary.

Big deal. He’s a millionaire courtesy of his father.

Most Torontonians do not know his background but he carries the anti-tax mantra with him, the bacillus which has ruined the United States and proceeded north. People can not make the connection between taxes and good services. In an economic downturn people resonate with this absurdity. So Ford runs on this populist screed. He gets elected but finds out that there is no fat at City Hall but the rubes in the burbs buy his nonsense. Their man is in charge now. He’ll show the pointy heads how to run a city.

The educated see through his gross incompetence, his superficial nostrums, his illiteracy. He is absolutely incompetent at presiding over a major Canadian city. His overweening arrogance prevents him from understanding that he is in way over his head. He  loves the attention he gets.

Imagine his opening day—allowing the ultimate buffoon Don Cherry to preside over his inauguration!

Who would vote for this man?

The aggrieved- people hurt in an economic downturn looking for  scapegoats, looking to stop paying any taxes like the idiotic Beacher who would would vote for a pedophile if he kept taxes low, the Anglo poor who sense thy have lost voice in the new multihued Toronto, the economic elite who have enough private wealth and want a rep to squeeze more money from public services on which so many people count on—libraries, rec centres, social agencies etc. Throw in those who have little time to analyze Rob Ford and his fatuous promises. Toss all of these together and in a balkanized city which has lost its centre and its pride courtesy of Mike Harris and you have enough angry people t consider themselves Ford Nation, a huge embarrassment to concerned citizens who cherish the common good.

Ford nation is a repository of smoldering anger. It wants to lash out at “the elites”, whoever they are. Ford to them is everyman. Just like them. Sure he’s made mistakes. but so have I. They vote for somebody like themselves .But the point is you don’t want somebody like yourself as a chief magistrate. You want and need somebody smarter than yourself who understands the complexities of running a megacity.

The sad fact is that world has not seen enough of the Mike Harrises, George Bushes, guys you could have a beer with. We’re in love with mediocrity.

All  over the world people are laughing at Toronto for voting in such a duffus, a sad out of control man who has made us the butt of humour.

It is very difficult to  pay attention to complex issues  when living under advanced capitalism. The carnival never ends. The diversions never stop. We Canadians. more and more like our cousins to the south,  have become the best entertained and the least informed people on the  planet.

As my button says, “If you voted for Rob Ford you owe me an apology.”