For some reason WordPress has not been allowing me to download videos lately; it is one of the many quirks I have encountered. So I am pleased today to be able to offer my once-usual sacred music for Sunday:
Icon by Holy Trinity Icon Studio
For some reason WordPress has not been allowing me to download videos lately; it is one of the many quirks I have encountered. So I am pleased today to be able to offer my once-usual sacred music for Sunday:
Icon by Holy Trinity Icon Studio
There was a time, not so long ago, when I felt great affinity with a certain type of conservatism, the Burkean, Kirkean, variety that valued family and community, that favored a human- and humane- scale to things, that viewed bigness, whether corporate or governmental, with suspicion.
That kind of conservatism, though it endures in certain hideouts like The American Conservative magazine, is invisible in power politics. It has been replaced by the politics of predatory capitalism, by the Randian world of “makers and takers”, by the sort of heartless policies that would break up families to deport undocumented workers and slash social programs while giving tax breaks to millionaires. The prophets of profit have taken over.
Some would say that Ron Paul represents this more decent sort of conservatism, but that is inaccurate. While Dr Paul has the folksy charm and the ill-fitting suits of traditionalist conservatism, this is wed with a vicious economic ideology that offers no protection to the poor and workers from the effects of unregulated capital. He may have the style in spades, but he lacks the substance.
The newer and meaner conservatism has found, in many ways, the perfect candidate in Willard “Mitt” Romney. Born to wealth, he then “earned” a bigger fortune not by creating goods or services but by manipulating money with no goal but profit. He seems intent on acting like a caricature of the Clueless Rich Guy, the one who views the peasants with disdain. And the peasants are reacting as they should.
It is too early to pronounce a winner; the debates are yet to be aired, and any number of things can still sway those relatively few voters who can still be swayed. But if things continue as they are Romney is going to lose. You can sense the desperation on the Right, in the fevered pronouncements of the talk show pundits: they know they are in trouble. Rush Limbaugh predicts the “end of the Republican Party” if Obama is reelected; in his view it will split, with a third, more conservative party emerging.
But other, more thoughtful types are rethinking the direction the conservative movement has taken. I linked to Michael Gerson’s remarkable editorial a few days ago. And now David Brooks has weighed in, saying “Some people blame bad campaign managers for Romney’s underperforming campaign, but the problem is deeper. Conservatism has lost the balance between economic and traditional conservatism. The GOP has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition. It appeals to people as potential business owners, but not as parents, neighbors and citizens.” Read the whole column here: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_21628164/david-brooks-conservative-mind
A caveat: both of these writers refer to Catholic social teaching as something the Right needs to return to. While it may occasionally overlap with it, I don’t recall that tradition as ever having been particularly influential on conservative thought.
Personally I would welcome the parting of ways on the Right; let the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Levins form their own squadron in the fever swamps. And I would welcome the renewal of traditionalist conservatism. Not that I would be tempted to join them, but at least I would feel like we inhabit the same moral planet. The GOP today is the party, not of Kirk’s “permanent things”, but of war and capitalism.
It seems like nothing if not the enemy of humanity.
Bob Waldrop is a Catholic Worker from Oklahoma City. He has years of hands-on experience working with the poor. And he has written a remarkable open letter to Paul Ryan. I am posting the whole thing instead of just linking to it, as it is that rare thing, a spiritual and political challenge born, not from abstraction, but from lived experience:
Dear Congressman Ryan,
Much has been made of your devotion — or your confusion — about the social teachings of the Catholic Church in the present campaign for president.
Your bishop has vouched for your social teaching credentials, but my observation is that many Catholics form their social opinions in accordance with their political opinions and I think this is generally true of most of our bishops too. It’s not a unique problem for conservatives. Liberals do the same thing, as we have seen in the present campaign. Conservatives and liberals are well practiced at ignoring the aspects of Catholic social teachings that are inconvenient for their political beliefs.
So while no doubt Bishop Morlino can quote chapter and verse of the social teaching magisterium, when it comes time to apply them, I wonder how much of his judgement is Catholic, and how much comes from more worldly sources. The viewpoint called for by the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, which is neither optional nor a matter of prudential judgment, is the preferential option for the poor. That’s not something that strikes me as a major aspect of your political thought.
Bishops and other Catholics defending the Republican conservative political platform say that some things in Catholic teaching are required and some are “prudential.” That statement by itself is so incomplete as to qualify at most as a half truth. While the application of some Church teachings may be subject to prudential judgement, the nature of the authority of the Church’s social teachings is not a matter of prudential judgment. The social teachings were taught by Popes in encyclicals, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, and published in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They derive from apostolic origins and the Bible. The lives of saints and martyrs witness their truth and their continued relevance. The Church’s social teachings are clearly and without any ambiguity infallible and authentic teachings of Church’s magisterium throughout history. It is our common Catholic duty to assent to these teachings — without exception — and to practice them. Indeed, it is the particular competence — and duty — of the laity to put the Church’s social teachings into practice.
All prudential judgements about the social teachings are not created equal.
Some may be evil at work. For those of us who believe the teachings of the Catholic Church, and attempt to live them in our lives, this emphasis on “prudential judgements” sounds suspiciously like a “Get out of social justice” fig leaf being handed out by bishops to their favored candidates who may be naked before the world when it comes to social justice for the poor. The unstated implication — wink wink, nod nod — which is the particularly popular AmChurch heresy of the moment, is that these social teachings are somehow optional.
You should study the encyclicals of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the Catechism, and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. You will not find that anything anywhere in these documents that gives these United States an exemption from our duty of obedience to any of the infallible social teachings of the Catholic Church.
The general arguments around Catholic social teaching are usually pitched in the form of “we need major social programs” versus “we need to cut the budget so we can cut taxes and this will create more prosperity which will lead to less need for social programs.”
To listen to some people talk, these are the only choices, but that is, as they say, a “damnable lie of the devil.”
I am responsible for ensuring food deliveries to about 500 households in Oklahoma City every month and have done this since 1999. These are people who don’t have transportation so they can’t get to other food banks. Over the years, I have come to know many of these people as my friends. I am a Catholic Worker, which means I am a personalist, which means I believe in taking personal responsibility for helping the poor.
I am not particularly a big fan of government social programs. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, founders of the Catholic Worker movement, were opposed to the initiation of the Social Security system. They knew that it had its roots in Bismarck’s Prussia, and its purpose was to destroy bonds of family and kinship, to break up transgenerational extended families, and thus make more obedient worker-soldiers available for the greater glory of the Prussian state.
Dorothy and Peter’s solution to all of the problems of poverty were the preferential option for the poor, solidarity and participation.
The preferential option for the poor doesn’t mean that God and the Church love some people more than others because of their economic status, but rather is a statement that if people are poor, they need special protection from the depredations of those who aren’t poor. The fact that the rich oppress the poor cannot be doubted. The evidence of history on that subject is overwhelming and the United States, all propaganda to the contrary, is not an exception to this.
Solidarity is a matter of seeing the poor as if they were actually blood kin to us and act towards them accordingly. The Catechism says, at §1939:
…”The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of ‘friendship”’ or ‘social charity,’ is a direct demand of human & Christian brotherhood. ‘An error, today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity & charity, dictated & imposed both by our common origin & by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.’ (Pope Pius XII)”
Participation is the teaching that people have a right and a duty to participate in their own life, in their own rescue if need be. Government commits grave evil when it prevents people from participating in their own life.
So let us count the ways that the governments of these United States — federal, state, and local — oppress the poor by making it illegal for them to participate in their own lives:
Now let’s consider how government makes the lives of poor people more hard and miserable and prevents people from helping them.
The negative cumulative impacts of these prohibitions and persecutions is to –
As is often the case, violations of social justice promote violations of life and social injustice is a known driver of abortion.
These issues are not only a problem for poor people, but also for the working and middle classes.
Since economic persecution is a reality in these United States, we have to have programs like food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and housing assistance. If we didn’t have them, probably 10% of the population would be dead of starvation and exposure within the first year. Sure, some would endeavor to help, as they do now. But there’s never enough private charity to go around. CHARITY CANNOT DO THE WORK OF JUSTICE. As long as our system of economic injustice prevails, people will be driven into poverty much faster and kept there longer than private and religious charities are able to cope with.
There are not enough private and religious charitable resources to go around as things stand right now. Help doesn’t get to everyone. We live in a culture of death, and without the government’s social safety net, as problematic as it is, mass death would be the result.
So I hope you can see my problem with the claims about your alleged knowledge of and obedience to Catholic social teaching. I don’t hear anything about these poverty and justice realities from you.
Notice that in talking about these issues, I have not once called for any new big government program that would spend a large pile of money. I am saying that if we want to help the poor, then among other things that need to be done, the government should stop actively persecuting the poor.
The huge amount of drug business in low income areas indicates that there is an entrepreneurial streak a hundred miles wide among poor people. Ironically, it is easier and more profitable for poor people to go into the recreational drug business, than it would be for (e.g.) three young people to set up a hot dog stand at a rest stop on a freeway. That would certainly result in a major police and food regulatory bureaucracy response the first day they open for business. These hot dog entrepreneurs would be safer selling crack cocaine on the streets of a low income neighborhood than they would be selling hot dogs at a turnpike rest stop. That’s a pretty sad commentary on the morality of our present system of laws, but it isn’t something that you or any other Republican politicians, who supposedly are devoted to the free market, have much to say about.
Red state Oklahoma is ruled by Republicans. We have a Republican governor and both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Republican Party. Could we perhaps have a little economic freedom for our state? Maybe open all of the rest stops on our freeways and toll roads and the public right of ways on our highways to small scale enterprise and street vending? Let the food trucks set up, bring in the peddlers. Open a free market flea market from one end of I-35 to the other and do the same with I-40. It would give people coming through the state another way to spend their money besides the Indian casinos and people who live here another way to earn an honest income by inventing their own micro-jobs that could perhaps grow into full time entrepreneurial self-employment.
Did anyone think about this at the state legislature? Of course not. When Republican politicians talk about the free market, BY THEIR ACTIONS THEY PROVE THAT THEY DON’T REALLY MEAN AN ACTUAL FAIR AND FREE MARKET.
They want rigged, politicized markets that reward their friends and punish their enemies.
They want all of the restrictions and subsidies that benefit their campaign contributors to stay in place.
They want the laws that oppress the poor and grind their faces into the dust to do their job to suppress wages, increase rents, promote political and economic dependency, and discourage personal and family and communal responsibility.
I hear the protests — “this isn’t what we want” — but in politics, you get what you vote for. This is what our Republican (and Democratic) politicians have consistently voted for over the past fifty years. It seems at best disingenuous to disclaim responsibility for these consequences. And not all of these consequences are unintended. Most of them are deliberate attacks on the poor and are working exactly as they are designed to work. If you don’t believe this, go to your City Council and propose amendments that would allow manufactured housing and trailer houses anywhere in the city. Follow this with a demand to allow micro-apartments (granny, attic, basement, backyard) in any neighborhood and to eliminate minimum house and lot sizes. The howls of outrage and screams of protest will come quickly and your council will dismiss you as a fool (at best) or maybe (at worst) a dangerous agitator. It’s much the same reaction that prevailed 50 years ago, when it was proposed that people of African descent be allowed to live anywhere they choose.
So if it’s true that you want to help the poor in accordance with the infallible and authentic social teachings of the Catholic Church, then why don’t you come to the assistance of the poor — not by proposing big new government programs, but by demanding that the government stop persecuting the poor? Why not harness the entrepreneurial aspirations of low income people so they can create their own jobs?
Until you defend the economic rights of poor people, by your words and deeds, you proclaim to the world that you are just another Cafeteria Catholic, willing to grind the face of the poor into the dust for political advantage.
The Bible says – “Sow not in furrows of injustice lest you reap a seven fold harvest.”
That seven-fold harvest is falling upon us even as we speak. Things are going from bad to worse, and while your campaign is trying to make it appear as if it is “all the fault of those danged Democrats,” a more likely explanation is that we are reaping the bitter fruits of the seeds of economic and social injustice and exploitation that we have sown for so many years.
It’s a slow moving catastrophe, but the end result for our nation — the ash heap of history — is not in doubt.
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
PS. A subsequent open letter will be published that is directed at VP Biden. I am writing the VP candidates, because you are both Catholic and thus we share a common faith that has implications for how you should govern as politicians.
Several years ago EWTN host Al Kresta interviewed an Iraqi archbishop. Kresta, who supported the American invasion of Iraq, was clearly expecting gratitude from the prelate, clearly expecting him to thank America for toppling Saddam Hussein and bringing democracy to the region.
Instead, he heard a bitter denunciation of the invasion. The archbishop complained of the many innocent victims of the bombing campaign that preceeded the occupation, and he said that the war had wreaked havoc on Iraqi society and especially made the plight of Iraq’s Christians much worse.
Kresta was perplexed; it was pretty funny to hear him fumble, confused, with the interview. Unfortunately, even this did not inspire him to rethink his opinions on the war.
Which brings me to this, from Catholic News Service:
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — Western nations need to respect the people of the Middle East and trust them to solve their own problems, said an Iraqi diplomat, an Iraqi archbishop and a Syrian-born representative of the Melkite Catholic Church.
The two religious leaders also called for an end to foreign military intervention and other interference in the region that they said only foment strife and hinder their citizens’ desire for peace.
Their comments came during an event sponsored by the Iraqi Embassy to the Vatican Sept. 24. Ali Nashmi, a Muslim professor and historian spoke on the contribution by Iraqi Christians throughout history to the preservation of both eastern and western cultures.
In his opening remarks, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Sadr, urged Arab nations to support Christians within their own borders and abroad, noting the contributions of Christians to national cultures and to providing social services, including schools and medical facilities.
“It’s also up to the Christian west to change its mistaken beliefs about Islam,” and recognize that “real Islamic values do not clash with other religious values,” he said, arguing that acts of violence committed in the name of Islam are the work of unrepresentative “degenerate groups.”
The ambassador called on western nations to “treat important Arab and Islamic issues objectively and with balance,” steering away from double standards and focusing on shared interests.
By sharing its cultural, economic and social assets for the promotion of peace worldwide, the west can join forces with the east in facing the world’s challenges — particularly religious fanaticism, intolerance and “abuse” of other religions “in the name of freedom of opinion,” he said.
Sadr said the recent video mocking the prophet Mohammed was an example of such abuse, and was a setback in the common cause for peace.
Iraqi Archbishop Jules Mikhael Jamil, the Syrian Catholic Church’s representative to the Vatican, said he felt the west had little regard for Middle Eastern Christians.
“In broad terms, we in the east feel that the western policies generally don’t think about eastern Christians,” he told Catholic News Service after the event.
“Western policies would prefer that eastern Christians not be there” because in some way their presence is hindering any foreign attempt to control the region’s natural resources, he said.
Melkite Catholic Msgr. Mtanios Haddad, the Melkite Catholic Church’s representative to the Vatican, addressed the audience and received loud applause when he said: “We don’t want protection from Europe or America; mind your own business.”
He said people in the Middle East don’t want to be treated as “ignorant (people) who need saving.”
The Syrian-born priest said the region can use help in negotiations and dialogue between conflicting parties, but that foreign help must be “without arms, without money, without terrorists. We want nothing but peace.”
About the worst charge that the Right in this country can hurl at anyone is that they are in favor of “redistribution”. It’s a dirty word, and even Catholic conservatives join in the derision. But in truth, redistribution is an essential component of economic justice. Here is Benedict XVI, from his encyclical Veritas in Caritate:
32. Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country’s international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development. Moreover, the human consequences of current tendencies towards a short-term economy — sometimes very short-term — need to be carefully evaluated. This requires further and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals,as well as a profound and far-sighted revision of the current model of development, so as to correct its dysfunctions and deviations.
36. Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.
37. Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts, in order to regulate relations of exchange between goods of equivalent value. But it also needs just laws and forms of redistribution governed by politics, and what is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift. The economy in the global era seems to privilege the former logic, that of contractual exchange, but directly or indirectly it also demonstrates its need for the other two: political logic, and the logic of the unconditional gift.
39. Paul VI in Populorum Progressio called for the creation of a model of market economy capable of including within its range all peoples and not just the better off. He called for efforts to build a more human world for all, a world in which “all will be able to give and receive, without one group making progress at the expense of the other.” In this way he was applying on a global scale the insights and aspirations contained in Rerum Novarum, written when, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the idea was first proposed — somewhat ahead of its time — that the civil order, for its self-regulation, also needed intervention from the State for purposes of redistribution.
42. The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale; if badly directed, however, they can lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even trigger a global crisis. It is necessary to correct the malfunctions, some of them serious, that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples, and also to ensure that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty: a real danger if the present situation were to be badly managed. For a long time it was thought that poor peoples should remain at a fixed stage of development, and should be content to receive assistance from the philanthropy of developed peoples. Paul VI strongly opposed this mentality in Populorum Progressio. Today the material resources available for rescuing these peoples from poverty are potentially greater than before, but they have ended up largely in the hands of people from developed countries, who have benefited more from the liberalization that has occurred in the mobility of capital and labour. The world-wide diffusion of forms of prosperity should not therefore be held up by projects that are self-centred, protectionist or at the service of private interests. Indeed the involvement of emerging or developing countries allows us to manage the crisis better today. The transition inherent in the process of globalization presents great difficulties and dangers that can only be overcome if we are able to appropriate the underlying anthropological and ethical spirit that drives globalization towards the humanizing goal of solidarity. Unfortunately this spirit is often overwhelmed or suppressed by ethical and cultural considerations of an individualistic and utilitarian nature.
49. What is also needed, though, is a worldwide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them. The fate of those countries cannot be left in the hands of whoever is first to claim the spoils, or whoever is able to prevail over the rest.
Millions, billions, trillions. These words buzz around us but few have any idea of just what they really mean; the eyes glaze over. The folks at Demonocracy have done us all a favor by giving us images of just what those numbers are:
SHORT STORY: Pick something of value, make bets on the future value of “something”, add contract & you have a derivative.
Banks make massive profits on derivatives, and when the bubble bursts chances are the tax payer will end up with the bill.
This visualizes the total coverage for derivatives (notional). Similar to insurance company’s total coverage for all cars.
LONG STORY: A derivative is a legal bet (contract) that derives its value from another asset, such as the future or current value of oil, government bonds or anything else. Ex- A derivative buys you the option (but not obligation) to buy oil in 6 months for today’s price/any agreed price, hoping that oil will cost more in future. (I’ll bet you it’ll cost more in 6 months). Derivative can also be used as insurance, betting that a loan will or won’t default before a given date. So its a big betting system, like a Casino, but instead of betting on cards and roulette, you bet on future values and performance of practically anything that holds value. The system is not regulated what-so-ever, and you can buy a derivative on an existing derivative.
Most large banks try to prevent smaller investors from gaining access to the derivative market on the basis of there being too much risk. Deriv. market has blown a galactic bubble, just like the real estate bubble or stock market bubble (that’s going on right now). Since there is literally no economist in the world that knows exactly how the derivative money flows or how the system works, while derivatives are traded in microseconds by computers, we really don’t know what will trigger the crash, or when it will happen, but considering the global financial crisis this system is in for tough times, that will be catastrophic for the world financial system since the 9 largest banks shown below hold a total of $228.72 trillion in Derivatives – Approximately 3 times the entire world economy. No government in world has money for this bailout. Lets take a look at what banks have the biggest Derivative Exposures and what scandals they’ve been lately involved in. Derivative Data Source: ZeroHedge.
One Hundred Dollars
$100 – Most counterfeited money denomination in the world.
Keeps the world moving.
Ten Thousand Dollars
$10,000 – Enough for a great vacation or to buy a used car.
Approximately one year of work for the average human on earth.
100 Million Dollars
$100,000,000 – Plenty to go around for
everyone. Fits nicely on an ISO / Military
standard sized pallet.
$1 Million is the cash square on the floor.
1 Billion Dollars
$1,000,000,000 – This is how a billion dollars looks like.
10 pallets of $100 bills.
1 Trillion Dollars
$1,000,000,000,000 – When they throw around the word “Trillion” like it is nothing, this is the reality of $1 trillion dollars. The square of pallets to the right is $10 billion dollars. 100x that and you have the tower of $1 trillion that is 465 feet tall (142 meters).
$2 Billion on Truck
$100 Million Dollars = 1 year of work for 3500 average Americans
It takes 3500 Americans 1 year of work to make $100 Million dollars. The 155 million Americans who worked with earnings in 2005 on average made $28,567 / year.
In front of the 3500 people is the $100 Million pallet that they all have to work for 1 year to earn.
Look carefully to see a stack of $1 Million and the 35 average Americans required to earn that $1 Million in 1 year.
Bank of New York Mellon
BNY has a derivative exposure of $1.375 Trillion dollars.
Considered a too big to fail (TBTF) bank. It is currently facing (among others) lawsuits fraud and contract breach suits by a Los Angeles pension fund and New York pension funds, where BNY Mellon allegedly overcharged the funds on many millions of dollars and concealed it.
To see what the other Big Banks are “worth“: http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/derivatives/bank_exposure.html