Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yo, Pope Frankie

Is this the face that launched a thousand quips?
Pope Francis, consistent with his breakout name, knows how to push the right buttons in the American culture wars.

Essentially, he said that the Catholic Church is "obsessed" with abortion, gay marriage and contraception to the exclusion of other critical issues including the poor and the marginalized.

Gee, ya think?

He refuses to condemn homosexuals, claiming, who is he to judge them.

He also may not be opposed to priests being married.

Atheists, he said, could make their way to heaven.


And, he's just getting warmed up.

The new pope chastised capitalism for its "idol called money."

Of course, this brought the wrath of Rush Limbaugh who called the pope a Marxist.

Showing his wit, the pontiff responded that while he was no Marxist nor care for its ideology, he did say, "I have known many Marxists who are good people."

So far, the Pontiff Frank, if I can be so bold, is a breath of fresh air.

No wonder Time magazine named him the Person of the Year.

 He is down to earth in a most refreshing way.

So far, he gets it.

What he gets is that the Catholic Church's membership is declining, particularly in the Catholic strongholds of Central and South America.

If the Catholic Church is fading there, it must be fading everywhere.

In the developed worlds of Europe and North America, the Catholic Church no longer holds the center of modern life.

It's hard to attract new members or retain current Catholics when the church practices a policy of exclusion rather than inclusion.

Pope Frankie understands simple math.

One of the claims of modern Catholicism is that it never changes. The times change to meet with it.

Well, that is completely bogus.

It's changed plenty over the past 2,000 years.

Which brings us to the modern conundrums that the pope referenced.

Instead of focusing on American political wedge issues, the pope is reaffirming the church's position on human rights, both male and female.

When the Catholic Church helps those who are disenfranchised within their own countries, no matter where, then the church comes closer to fulfilling its true mission.

As God (and Jesus) intended.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This is no golden age for journalism

It seems odd for an editor of the local daily newspaper to ruminate about the golden age of "muckraking" journalism from 100 years ago and then demonstrate, in a single column, how far newspapers have fallen from those progressive days.

But, that's we got Sunday as the editor grumbled about public sector unions and their ties to the Democratic Party.

Nevermind that about 11 percent of the American workforce is unionized today. Or, that unions, at their height of "power" in the mid-1950s, represented just 36 percent of the workforce.

Obviously, by sheer percentage numbers alone, unions never had monopolistic powers attributed to them and whatever clout they had is diminishing year by year.

And yet, this editor claims that unions are solely responsible for the desolation that is Detroit today.

And that this devastation will spread across the country because of unions and Democrats.


For more enlightenment on Detroit's demise, check out this concise piece in the National Journal.

The upper midwest is called the "rust belt" for a reason. The world has passed it by.

The same could be said for today's media.

What gave rise to the muckraking journalists was the desire to expose corrupt government machine politics such as Tammany Hall, and reveal the devastating effect that corporate monopolies were having on the economy.

Ida Tarbell, through her investigative pieces in McClure's Magazine, took on the greatest capitalist of all time in this country. As one writer described it, Tarbell "brought down the world's greatest tycoon and broke up the Standard Oil monopoly."

For a defense of unions, read up on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. The owners of the factory were not convicted of any wrongdoing in the deaths of 146 garment workers because there were no laws protecting these workers.

Flash forward to 2013 and the horrific collapse of garment factory building in Bangladesh where more than 1,000 perished. Corporations went to Bangladesh for cheaper labor and because there is little government oversight in such things as building safety. Was it good that these workers had no union to look out for their interests?

Of course, few Americans care about anything outside our borders.

So back to our problems.

As income disparity reaches levels experienced 100 years ago, the rich are engaging in "class warfare," pitting the lower and middle classes against each other.

The greatest achievement of corporations, and their supplicants in the press, is to convince millions of Americans that their diminishing incomes can be attributed to the middle class union worker next door and not to the millionaire executives taking an ever-expanding slice of the economic pie.

Here's a crucial section of that short article: 

"In May 2012, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) took a stab at calculating the overall CEO-to-worker compensation ratio with the information already available. Here’s what they found: In 2011, the average CEO’s compensation was equal to 209.4 times that of the average worker, at least when stock options were included in compensation. That was up substantially from the 18.3-to-1 ratio found in 1965, but barely half of the 411.3-to-1 found in 2000.

Nonetheless, the institute found that CEO pay had grown 725% between 1978 and 2011, while worker compensation had only increased by 5.7%. That stratospheric growth in CEO pay has correlated with an overall explosion in income inequality; whereas the top 10% of income earners in the United States controlled only about one-third of all income throughout the 1970s, they now lay claim to over half, according to a report from economist Emmanuel Saez."

Or, check out this link about how many months a typical employee must work to earn what the CEO of  his or her corporation makes in a single hour.

President Obama and Pope Francis have drawn attention to this financial imbalance that threatens the future of billions on this planet.

Unions are hardly the reason for this worldwide problem.

Republicans, except for Teddy Roosevelt, have long sided with corporations as they illegally crush competition, evade most taxes and send American jobs overseas. For decades, Republicans have extended the middle finger to the working class in this country. Bend's daily newspaper editor merely flipped off a good chunk of his readership with both hands.

By the way, I've never belonged to a union or worked in the public sector.

Friday, December 6, 2013

In praise of Nelson Mandela

He fought the power and won
As a white-bred American, I knew little of the world and the problems that existed outside our borders or even within our borders.

But then, after a bit or reading and watching the news, I picked up a few things.

I remember the time in the 1980s when the economic boycott against South Africa was the topic of the day.

I supported whatever boycotts the world deemed appropriate against the racist government of South Africa.

Naturally, many white Americans, including President Reagan and the editor of the local daily newspaper, railed against these sanctions as counter-productive.

But, guess what? The boycotts were so effective that they ushered in the end of apartheid in South Africa.

So much for the thinking of old white men in America.

They were totally wrong. And, I'm being kind here.

The hero of all this was Nelson Mandela.

Reagan and his acolytes dismissed Mandela as a terrorist because he fought for freedom for black South Africans.

Well, Reagan was a racist as were all those who opposed the economic boycott of the racist South African government.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first real president after serving 27 years in prison, had more credibility, heart and soul, than any of his predecessors or any pro-apartheid American, including Reagan.

Mandela was one of the great figures the world has ever known.

He was for reconciliation before anyone knew what the process meant.

Mandela, the founding father of the modern South Africa, proved to be an inspiration to not only South Africans, but also to freedom-loving people everywhere.

He was one of the greatest men who ever lived.

He is missed already.