When Did the Democrats Stop Being the Party of Working People?

Shanghai, built by exporting American jobs. Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Christian Mange https://www.flickr.com/photos/23149310@N06/

Shanghai, how many American jobs did it take to build this? Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Christian Mange https://www.flickr.com/photos/23149310@N06/

Does anybody remember President Obama’s State of the Union address?

I promised I would talk about the politics of the thing, and I’ve been remiss in that promise. In truth, there was a lot of politics in it, too much to handle in a single post. I will limit my discussion today to one area that galls me more than most: The Democratic Party’s abandonment of working people for elitist claptrap such as gay marriage and abortion.

There was a time when working people knew they had a champion in the Democratic Party. That was back in the day before American politics went nuts and devolved into two warring camps, pushing for power and more power, the people be damned.

Back then, there was a real difference in the way the two parties governed. The Rs were actual conservatives and the Ds were actual liberals. Actual liberals gave us such things as social security, Medicare, victory in World War II, the Marshall Plan, and a steady-on determined fight in the cold war. I consider myself an actual liberal.

Actual liberals were allies of organized labor. Organized labor gave the American people a living wage so that it was possible to hold one job and support a family, the 8 hour work day, a 40-hour work week, paid vacations, paid sick leave, retirements, and job security.

President Obama made a passing reference to supporting organized labor in his State of the Union address, but I don’t think he meant it. We have not had a Democratic president who was truly supportive of working people in a long time; not since the Marxists in the 1960s’ anti-war movement succeeded in destroying liberalism. What we have now is faux support of working people from Democrats who are basically bargain-basement corporatists.

The Democratic Party is not the wholly-owned subsidiary of multi-national corporations the way the Republican Party is. The difference — and I have witnessed this in person — is that the corporatists tell the Rs what to do and they do it. It’s not even all that nicely done. In fact, any R who dares to think for themselves gets the whole hammer of the party apparatus and a mountain of corporate attack money brought down on them. The party treats them like a defective part in an engine. It pulls and replaces them with someone who will do what they’re told.

The Ds, on the other hand, play at corporatism while promising working people that they are really for them.

Meanwhile, America has witnessed the steady destruction of our industrial base by the shipping of our manufacturing base overseas — to a Communist nation, no less — while wages, our standard of living, and the security of working people have dropped year by year.

We are developing into a two-class country composed of the hyper rich and the struggling everybody else. Every promise that is made to ordinary Americans gets broken, and every promise that is made to corporatists gets fulfilled.

I didn’t take President Obama’s passing allusion to support for organized labor seriously because I don’t think he meant it seriously. It was what the Democratic Party has been giving working people for quite some time now: A sop.

When did the Democratic Party stop being the party of working people? It happened in the 1960s, when true liberalism died and was replaced by radicalism and nihilism.

Both parties need to be reformed and converted. It’s time we the people stopped allowing ourselves to be lied to and manipulated. We don’t need to change the puppet people we keep tossing out every few years. We need to change the puppet masters.

Cowardly Congress Scraps Abortion Bill

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

The United States House of Representatives’ leadership has made the decision to scrap a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. They went for a bill banning the use of government monies to pay for abortions, instead.

The reason? Evidently, a number of GOP congresswomen objected to the bill based on the fact that it did not allow sufficient exception for rape victims.

I have a couple of points here.

First, why not amend the bill to allow this exception? I know that there are pro life purists who refuse to amend legislation in this manner, but I’m not one of them. The bill would save lives, even with such an amendment. I know from dealing with these things as a legislator that politics is always the art of the possible. If that’s what it takes to pass a 20-week ban on abortion, then do it.

Second, even though I have dealt with upset legislators on these issues and know very well that reasoning does not work, I want to make the point for the record and for public discussion, that 20 weeks and later in a pregnancy is too late to be having an abortion, period.

At this point, it is more dangerous and far more traumatic for the woman to have an abortion than it would be to simply deliver the baby and try to save it. There is a good chance that these babies would live, if they were properly cared for.

Second, rape victims have had months to decide to abort. Even if you accept the idea that a woman should be able to abort a baby because it was conceived in rape, there is no reason why any rape victim needs five months to make up her mind about the question. Abortions after 20 weeks are needless killings. There is no reason to abort any child that far into pregnancy.

If the mother’s health is in danger, just deliver the baby and try to save it.

It’s entirely possible that the House will re-think its decision about this legislation. They are going to get a lot of fire from their own base over it. It’s very, very possible that the heat will force them to back down and move forward with the bill.

If they do, and if the bill gets to the President, he has already promised that he will veto it. That will make the whole issue one big fat vote getting, money raising issue for both parties.

It will be a win-win-win-win for everybody.

Except the babies.

January 22 and Bunnygate

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Public  by Elvert Barnes  Protest Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Public by Elvert Barnes Protest Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

I’ve ignored the flap over Pope Francis’ latest airplane interview, mainly because it has no merit.

What I mean is that the carrying-on about the Holy Father’s use of certain phrases has no merit. It seems that Pope Francis affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In the process, he said that this teaching doesn’t mean that people need to have babies “like rabbits.”

Big deal.

All he meant was that people can use natural family planning. Big news.

The reaction was predictable.

On the one hand, Margery Egan, over at Crux, came out as a full member of The Pope is Catholic, Egad crowd. She reacted with hurt and outrage because Pope Francis stands by the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is illicit. Here’s a bit of her reaction:

The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.

I had hoped for so much more from this man.

Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.

Then we have The Pope is Human, Egad crowd, going full tilt, as well. Most of this is showing up on Facebook and in chat rooms. A lot of people like their popes neat and straight-edged. What they want are popes who come out for display, recite Scripture and Church teaching as if they were programmed by a computer and then quietly go back inside to say their Rosaries.

In case you haven’t gotten the news, Pope Francis is not that kind of pope. He’s so completely relaxed in his papal skin that he just says whatever comes into his head. Fortunately for us, nothing that comes into his head is against the Church. Every single time he makes a comment that the press latches onto and tries to massage into a change in Church teaching, they are using an off-the-cuff comment that did no such thing. Misinterpret as they might, Pope Francis is not going to teach modern nihilism instead of the Gospels.

This good man, our Pope Francis, is Catholic. He’s also human. He’s a pastoral pope who loves to forgive sinners and who is using his papacy to say in every way he can that Jesus meant it when He said He came to save lost sinners.

Margery Egan asked if Pope Francis understands the real lives of real people, including the beauty and goodness of marital sex. The answer is yes, he does. That’s where the ‘you don’t have to reproduce like rabbits’ comment came from. All he meant was that Natural Family Planning works and Catholics should feel free to make use of it.

Now what does Bunnygate have to do with January 22? After all, Bunnygate is just Pope Francis, making good copy, and the media, proving once again just how significant the Church really is in today’s world.

If you doubt that, go stand on your front porch and should “reproduce like rabbits.” Do it several times. The only thing that might happen is that your neighbors will have something new to talk about. The New York Times, BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN and all their pals will give your behavior a big pass.

But when the pope uses such phrases, it’s front page news all around the world. Everything he says, every little gesture he makes, is observed, reported and interpreted according to the interpreter’s prejudice in every media outlet going.

Why?

Because what he says matters.

Because the Church is not irrelevant.

Because Jesus Christ, despite all the attacks and attempts to destroy faith in Him, is Lord, and billions of people bend their knee to Him.

That’s why Bunnygate is Bunnygate. It’s a big deal because the Church and Jesus are big deals.

How does that apply to January 22?

Just this.

The early Christians stopped the practice of exposing infants, primarily baby girls, by three methods. First they refused to do it themselves. Second, they went out and rescued these babies, brought them home and raised them as part of their families. Third, they said it was wrong, over and over and over, until the message finally got through.

January 22 is the anniversary of the day when we resurrected the old practice of discarding unwanted children. We went further after that with our rights talk and brought back the Baals in new form as we sacrificed our babies, our elderly, our sick and even our unhappy people to the little g gods of modern convenience.

In our world today, bunnygate matters because it is the Vicar of Christ, however awkwardly he might phrase it, affirming once again that He is Catholic and that this means that he stands for life. The Church did not waver one inch in that airplane interview. The pope just stuck his foot in his mouth a bit. That’s all.

But he said the right things. He just said them in an off-hand and humorous way.

That is the only part of the interview that matters, which is why I haven’t bothered talking about it until now. The pope reiterated Church teaching. He practiced number three of the three things the early Christians did to overturn the practices of human sacrifice and exposing unwanted babies.

We do our version of number three when we go out into the streets today and march for life. We are saying, once again, that the Supreme Court was wrong. We will continue saying it until the message finally gets through.

At the same time, pro life people must also refuse to engage in abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells research, egg harvesting and the attendant anti-life activities that saturate our world. Our most important testimony for life is living pro life.

That means we take care of other people. We put people ahead of profit and ahead of convenience. If we believe that the right to life is the first and most essential human right, then we have to behave that way in our private lives and our public lives.

We are called to follow Jesus when we are in the shower and when we are on a stage; when we pay our bills and when we go to work. Most important of all, we are called to follow Jesus in our homes and with our families, in how we treat the people closest to us.

January 22 and Bunnygate go together because they are of a whole. The United States Supreme Court unwittingly called forth Christians to witness to the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father has affirmed that the Church does not back down from this call.

Today is a special day for each of us to re-affirm to ourselves and to others that we stand for life and that we will continue to stand for life in our homes, on our jobs and on the streets until the world finally gets the message.

 

Cherry Picking the Prez’ Big Speech

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

I’ve known for several months now that I had a job of work ahead of me, explaining the current situation in Washington.

I’ve dreaded doing this because, (1) There’s a lot I know that I can’t say, (2) People are going to get mad at me because of what I have to say, and (3) I’m worn thin by worries about my mother and that makes me sort of trigger happy in how I respond to rude comments.

However, I’m going to have to try to share this with you folks. The reason I have to do it is that Christians who want to engage the political culture for Christ need a much more accurate understanding of the beast they’re riding than they do now.

President Obama’s State of the Union address is an excellent place to begin this process. It was, in my opinion, the best State of the Union address he’s given since he was elected president. He’s at his best when his back is against the wall, and the elections last November shoved him hard against the political wall.

He’s made several disastrous political mistakes during his time in the White House, chief among them, the totally idiotic and destructive HHS Mandate. I got called all sorts of names myself for saying he was an idiot to do this, but he was an idiot for doing it. The HHS Mandate is an example of what happens when political power toadies to one special interest.

Any president who goes to court against the Little Sisters of the Poor … well … that president is not being too swift.

The HHS Mandate is an example of the kind of stupidity that happens when Barach Obama feels exalted and is full of himself.

The State of the Union address last night is an example of what we get when he’s fighting his way out of a corner. Nobody gets to the Oval Office without being a fighter. Not one person who sits behind that desk is a softy, or a weak-kneed sap who runs away from a fight. The electoral process is, when money doesn’t overawe it, a magnificent selection process which weeds out those who can’t or won’t fight.

Unfortunately, it does not weed out those who get too impressed with their own victories and go leaping off political cliffs in fits of presidential hubris. That’s how we got the Viet Nam War. It’s how we ended up with Clinton’s gun control bill and the HHS Mandate. Presidents who are too full of themselves make idiotic political moves which harm the country and destroy their own political parties in the process.

But there’s one thing I can say for our presidents: They may dip their toes in political idiocy when they start believing their own campaign ads, but we’ve never yet elected a president who was a coward. Every single one of them would rather fight than switch.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was a gauntlet, and he threw it down. If he’d opted for programs like these at the beginning of his presidency, he wouldn’t have been speaking to a Republican Congress last night. Instead, he chose to go on tangents against the First Amendment and attack the Catholic Church. He blew off a Democratic Congress to pass a health care statute which helps insurance companies a lot more than it helps people.

I’ll wait until Monday to start unpacking the politics of it. We’re going to school next week, and I imagine that by the end of the week everybody, both on the right and on the left, will be gathering up their ropes and looking for a tree to lynch me. I’m not going to make anybody happy. But as I said, I have a job of work to do. This sort of thing is a big part of why I am here.

President Obama made allusions to several concerns without putting any specific policy ideas forward. Among those were global warming, support for organized labor and trade agreements. I think some of this is window dressing and some of it concerns things he intends to address outside of Congress. That raises a whole other issue which I’m going talk about in depth next week.

For this post, I’m choosing to highlight those points he made which were attached to actual policy suggestions.

As always, with every president, there are policy ideas here I like, and others that I think need a bit of tweaking to be workable.

Here are a few of the highlights of President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

1. I’ve been a good president.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage

…  Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care. We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to their training and experience into civilian jobs. Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran. Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined. Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago — jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

2. Wages, Equal Pay. 

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

3. Education.

I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero … Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.

4. Trade and Exporting Jobs. 

But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

5. Medical Research. 

Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

6. Taxes. 

As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do. This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford. And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

7. Terrorism and War. 

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference.First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

8. Child Care, Sick Leave and Families.

… we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example. Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.

Home Movies from Papa’s Trip

Photo Source; Flickr Commons, jojo nicdao, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonicdao/

Photo Source; Flickr Commons, jojo nicdao, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonicdao/

Pope Francis’ Flying Zucchetto

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Hurricane Haiyan: When I saw from Rome that catastrophe, I decided I have to be hear. Jesus is Lord, and He never lets us down. Many of you have asked the Lord, Why Lord, and Christ responds from His heart, on the cross. Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us, he understands us because he underwent all the trials that we — you — have experienced.

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Pope to Filipino Authorities: Protect the Inalienable Right to Life, Beginning with the Unborn and Extending to the Frail and Elderly

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The Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ … see things in a new light and and thus respond with honestly and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality … Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent … be present to those who living in a society burdened by poverty and corruption are tempted to give up.

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As a family we have to be very clear, prepared and strong to these attempts to the ideological colonization that wants to destroy the family.

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Pope Francis breaks away from official itinerary to meet with street kids of Manila.

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Pope Francis in Sri Lanka

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Pope Francis’ Best Quotes in Sri Lanka

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6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now

I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.

I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.

I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.

I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.

In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.

Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.

 

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1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.

There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.

There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.

Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.

That’s in America.

I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.

Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.

It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.

Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.

Catholics praying

2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.

The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.

I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.

My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.

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3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.

I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.

This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.

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4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.

Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.

Teen drug abuse

5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.

It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.

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6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.

Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.

Pope Francis: Inequality Between Rich and Poor Threatens Democracy

 

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Pope Francis: The Devil Hates Human Beings and Wants to Destroy Us

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Send it Back: Surrogates and Killing Their Manufactured Babies

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It’s the new hot trend. Go online and pick an egg donor from photos and order up a harvesting of her body in order to design a baby, made to your specifications. Then hire a “surrogate” (read that breeder) to carry the baby to term for you. And if the thing goes wrong, as biology is wont to do, why, then, order the surrogate to kill the baby for you. You know, like a Roman Pater discussing the upcoming birth of his child with the family Mater in this love letter from the front:

“Know that I am still in Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”

This lovely practice of “discarding” baby girls —along with babies with birth defects — runs throughout recorded history. It is still practiced in parts of the world today.
Early Christians labeled the practice infanticide. They went out into the streets, got these baby girls, brought them home and raised them.

The idea that there is no Greek nor Jew, no male nor female but all are one in Christ Jesus was a startling Christian innovation. The teaching, which was formalized in writing as early as the Didache, that all human life, including unborn human life, is sacred, is another peculiar Christian innovation.

Today’s version of “discard it,” at least in the “civilized” West, is abortion. The neat tidiness of legal killing in a clinical situation has it all over any other mass killing field in history. There are no furnaces belching out smoke to run day and night disposing the bodies. No one sees the carnage except the medical staff. Even the receptionist who sits out front is left innocent of what is really happening.

Combine this take-a-number-and-wait killing field with the highly-lucrative business of harvesting and renting women’s bodies as if they were farm animals in order to manufacture made-to-order babies for sale, and you have the total commercialization of human life and human beings.

Call it “creating families” or whatever pretty little phrase you want to paste over its ugliness. This is the practice of commercialized medicine for hire, put to the service of creating, buying and selling people. It has nothing to do with the healing arts or medicine practiced to save lives.

It is the ultimate prostitution, and the “doctors” who do it are the ultimate pimps. It degrades women and babies to the level of chattel for the express and openly acknowledged business of buying and selling people.

The tripping up part, of course, is what if the baby-buyers decide at the last minute that they don’t want their new human widget. What if, say, there’s a divorce? Or the manufacturing process goes awry and the baby has a cleft palate or down’s syndrome or spina bifida. What if those designer genes turn out to be somewhat idiosyncratic?
In that circumstance, our “modern” baby buyers do the modern thing. They order the baby killed. It is, after all, their possession that they bought in good faith that it would be delivered as ordered.

Now, it’s defective. They’re behaving the way anyone would if the factory delivered the wrong purchase. They are sending it back. Consider these stories:

1. An Australian couple who was paying a woman from Thailand to carry their twin unborn babies as a surrogate asked the woman to abort one of the babies because testing had revealed one of the babies has Down Syndrome.The couple enlisted the woman, whose family was heavily in debt, to become their surrogate and to use IVF to become pregnant. She was subsequently found to be pregnant with twins but the initial joy turned to rejection when testing showed a boy nicknamed Gammy was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.The couple wanted the mother to have an abortion, but she refused and eventually gave birth to Gammy and his twin sister in Bangkok. The couple then refused to take Gammy back with them to Australia and left him in Thailand.

2. A British surrogate mother said yesterday that she is raising a disabled baby as her own after the child’s intended mother told her she did not want a ‘dribbling cabbage’ for a daughter.The healthy boy was taken home by the childless British couple whom the surrogate mother claims then rejected his unwell sister because of her disability.‘I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a ****ing dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child”.’She is now raising the baby – identified only as Amy – with her partner and their other children.

3.  A British woman who agreed to become a surrogate mother for an American couple is suing them for allegedly backing out of the deal because she is carrying twins.Helen Beasley, 26, claims Californians Charles Wheeler and Martha Berman demanded she abort one of the foetuses because they only wanted one child.When she refused, they allegedly refused to have anything more to do with her.Miss Beasley, who is six months pregnant, wants to put the twins up for adoption. But under Californian law, parental rights in a surrogacy agreement go to the intended parents, not the surrogate mother.Miss Beasley, a single woman from the Midlands, already has a nine-year- old son. The two of them arrived in the U.S. a week ago.She said she could not afford to support the twins, so adopting them herself was not an option. But she claimed to feel very responsible for the babies.’You can’t help but get attached to them, and I just want the best for them,’ she said last night. ‘When they’re born, what happens to them? I can’t have them. I can’t do anything with them. They’re not mine.

4. “The View” host Sheri Shepherd reportedly wants “nothing to do” with her unborn childnow that her marriage has folded. Shepherd reportedly used IVF to conceive a child with her husband Lamar Sally but now is not interested in caring for the baby, who is being carried by a surrogate mother. 5. Doctors told surrogate mother Crystal Kelley, 29,five months into her pregnancy last year that the baby she was carrying had a series of disabilities. When the child’s parents told her they wanted to abort the foetus, she fled from Connecticut across the country to Michigan, where under state law she had legal rights as the child’s mother. … The baby was suspected to have a cleft palate, a brain cyst and serious heart defects. Doctors were unable to locate the child’s spleen or stomach, and gave the baby only a 25 percent chance of living a normal life They offered her $10,000 to have the procedure but Ms Kelley refused, demanding $15,000 instead in what she says was a “weak moment”. The parents refused, and reminded her of her contractual obligation to abort the foetus if it displayed signs of abnormality. If she refused, she would be sued for the fee she had already received, plus all the medical expenses and legal fees.

Retirement: Cashing In Before You Cash Out

 

I’m not so much interested in the return on my money, as I am in the return of my money. Will Rogers

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately, trying to figure out our family finances going forward.

I have an advanced degree in management, with graduate level courses in finance and accounting under my belt. I’ve even taught graduate level courses in management at one of our local universities.

That does not mean that I have a crystal ball about what the markets are going to do in the next decade. In fact, about all it means in real life is that I understand things like beta and r squared and other odd whatnots of data that the investment firms put out there. Truth told, my insight into politics has actually proven to be a better predictor of long term financial trends than technical financial data.

The markets have given us quite a hayride since the turn of the century. We’ve had two big recessions that basically leveled the returns generated in the bull runs that came after each of them. Extreme volatility has been the hallmark of the markets in the first years of the 21st Century.

I kind of knew this was going to happen way back, but not because of my master’s level coursework in finance and accounting. I knew because I understand politics and I saw what most people don’t want to admit: We are electing ideologue puppets who do not care about this country and who have put corporatists in charge of our nation.

So, what does this mean to the retiring baby boomer generation? Just this: You’d better be careful.

As I said, I’ve spent a bit of time lately, re-jiggering our itty bitty retirement savings. That led me to read the info on various investment web sites. One thing that struck me is the paucity of honest advice from the financial services industry for people who are actually in retirement.

Most of what’s out there is a series of useless three, four or five question risk assessment questionnaires that end in a pretty little round chart advising you to put your doh re me into set percentages of equities, bonds and maybe the side bet du jour, such as REITS or commodities. There’s usually a breakdown between percentages of international and domestic investments, but that’s about it.

I’m not arguing that the allocations you choose between equities (read that growth and loss) and bonds (read that income) will pretty much determine how your investments ride the market. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that almost everything you’re doing with your investments is just riding the market.

If what you are doing when you invest is riding the market, and the percentages you chose between growth (and loss) and income determine how your investment boat floats, then that makes those ridiculous questionnaires and their pie charts important. What’s scary about this is that the percentages those charts are advising are totally off for retirees. They are far too risky, and they are based on a laughably fallacious assumption.

These savings, which are often accrued with a self discipline and self denial about money that approaches a fashion model’s discipline concerning food, may well be their owners’ best shot at all the extras and a lot of the necessities of their elder years. Without Social Security, these savings could be all they have between them and what people used to call “the poor farm.”

This pro forma advice, if taken down like the daily dose of castor oil that my grandmother’s generation once administered in the spring time, will probably yield you a reasonable-sized pot of money at the end of your working years. This outcome is nowhere near as certain as the investment websites imply, as those who had to retire in 2008 know. But that is another story.

At that point, you will find yourself looking at the numbers on your computer screen with the knowledge that this is all there is and you’d better not blow it if you don’t want to eat beans and rice for supper every day of your extreme old age. So, you turn to the “expert” advice on those websites and play copy cat with those little round charts and their color-coded percentages.

Sadly, your actual situation and true risk aversion probably have little or nothing to do with the proportions those charts advise. The primary reasons are a fallacious premise and human nature. Let’s take the human nature part first.

The plain truth is that all people lie to themselves about themselves like they breathe.

Those self-lies carry over into the answers you give to the three or four questions that the marketing departments of those various investment firms put out there on the internet. You will say and believe — when you are clicking answers on a questionnaire — that when the market takes a breathtaking dive for the bottom, you will not only hold your investments, you will pile more money into them. You can say that all day long when you’re answering one of those questionnaires. It won’t hurt a bit.

But the real time pain of watching your life’s savings drop, drop, drop like a rock falling into a well is something else again. Suddenly, you’re the star of a gambling movie and you’re letting your lifetime winnings ride on the next roll of the dice. Or, you’re the driver of a car who just pulled out to pass and is staring into the headlights of an on-coming semi.

The older you are, the more you have to lose, the less you can get back, and the harder staring into those headlights becomes.

People duck in those circumstances, and in the parlance of the game, “lock in their losses.”

The first rule of successful investing is “sell high.” If you can’t white-knuckle those blood-curdling dives into portfolio oblivion, you will violate that rule and sell, not only low, but historically low. You will deflate all those years of scrimping and saving and doing without with a single click of the “sell” button.

But what about the person who has no choice? What if, say, you’re actually living off those savings? What if the crumbs that are left on the table after the crash are all you’ve got? What if you have to sell to pay the bills, even if it means liquidating an unrecoverable large percentage of the fund shares you’ve labored to accumulate over the decades?

That’s the point where the advice in those little circular charts with their color-coded admonitions to buy various percentages of stock/bonds//cash/side bets become something approaching criminal. Because if you’ve done like all of us do and lied to yourself about yourself and blithely answered those questions to the gunslinger side of investing, and if you’ve then slavishly followed the advice in the little chart, you are out there with an investment portfolio whose decline you cannot stomach when it dives for the dirt.

Oh, it was great fun when said investment portfolio was soaring toward the clouds. It felt wonderful, like winning at the annual office softball game, to check your score and see the numbers ticking off in a steady climb higher. You’d check those returns and bask in your own brilliance for being such a clever investor.

But when the bitterness of going down the other side of that mountain begins to settle on you, it’s difficult not to feel panic settle on top of that. If you are actually in retirement, rather than preparing for it, that panic is not at all misplaced.

If you have, as I do, kids in college and an elderly mother to care for while you are also figuring out how to keep a roof over your own head, that panic is not only a realistic response, it may very well be an emotionally accurate assessment of your situation.

You can easily find yourself prey to the marketing advice of the disconnected minds on the other side of those little charts. They  advised you to put entirely too much of your nest egg in equities for your situation and your stomach and you did it. Now you, and not they, will pay the price.

I’ve looked at the advice out there for retirees and I believe quite strongly that it is entirely too focused on growing your money instead of spending it while conserving it.

The recommendation to keep a certain portion of your retirement portfolio invested in growth and loss is — at least in the early years of retirement — good advice. But those questionnaires and resulting charts are way off in the percentages they are advising you to take. This is where we get to the fallacious assumption part.

Old-school opinion was to subtract your age from 100 and put that amount in stock. Or, conversely, to put your age in bonds and cash. Either way, the whole scenario was based on the assumption that the human life span ended at 100. It further assumed that people in retirement have less time to make up losses and a need to liquidate assets on a regular basis in order to live off them.

Today’s financial gurus quarrel with that assumption. They claim — with straight faces — that, because “people are living longer than they used to,” we should change the formula and base it on 120. Subtract your age from 120, they tell you, and put that amount in bonds. Put the rest in stock. “Keep your money working for you” by being “100% invested,” which is to say, eschew cash entirely.

All this is based on that magically altered number: 120. This new number, on which the investment industry has millions of nurses, welders, middle management types and professionals betting their retirements, is supposed to reflect the “fact” that “people are living longer” these days.

As if.

How many 120 year old grannies do you know?

The truth is, we’re not living longer. Fewer people are dying young. Our so-called longer life span is just an average that reflects the fact that stable government, better nutrition, vaccines, antibiotics and anesthesia which allows advances in surgery is giving more people the chance to live out their full span of years.

Don’t let these ludicrous claims about “people living longer” persuade you to Invest like you’re in your mid 50s and have a dozen years to work, when you’re really bumping against 70 and drawing down those savings. That’s fantasy investing. It can leave you broke and sucking air at the precise time of your life that you scrimped and saved to provide for in the first place.

In my opinion, if you need to invest percentages in growth and loss that are as high as these websites advise in order to have enough money, you are not ready to retire. You need to change something on a more fundamental level than your portfolio allocation.

Perhaps you should become a one car family, or clip the cable tv, get your books and periodicals at the library and start thinking about visits with the relatives in a nearby state instead of high dollar tours of foreign lands. Maybe it’s time to give up eating out every night and replacing automobiles, appliances and computers while they are still working perfectly well.

In addition to telling you to invest in portfolio allocations that are too risky for your age, a lot of these web sites also advise you to keep on working ad infinitum to “let your savings grow.” They use a full-blown oxymoron to describe this: “Working retirement.”

Get a part-time job they say, or maybe even a full-time job. To which I reply once again,

As if.

Are you saving in order to have money to retire, or are you saving to grow money for itself?

Do you really want to be an old coot, sacking groceries in your “working retirement?” Is that your big plan that you’ve been saving for, to work until you drop?

Whatever it takes, you need to get that growth and loss portion of your portfolio down to the point that those dives into the dirt level off and become dips in the air. You need a big chunk of your money in cash, even if it’s not earning anything, so that when the plumbing breaks or the kids need tuition or Mama has to have a hearing aid you can chin it without being forced to sell low.

And you need to pare your expenses so that these sensibly invested savings, plus Social Security and whatever pension you might have, will keep you going.

Someone should put a big red Stop! sign in front of those questionnaires and their little pie charts. Because they ask the wrong questions and they are based on fallacious premises. They give dangerous advice to vulnerable people.

They should really be asking you things like how much money will you get from other sources besides this little pot of gold you’ve saved? Do you, or will you by the time your retire, own your home? Are you saddled with short-term debt such as credit card debt and department store loans? How many miles do you put on your car each year? How healthy are you? Is your house energy efficient? What are your human liabilities: Do you have aged parents to care for, kids to educate, a disabled spouse or child?

And oh yes, what will you do when the markets tank? What is your contingency plan for the days, months, weeks and years when the whole thing craters and you are left holding a couple of quarters on the dollar of what you had before? Because it will. The only thing uncertain is when.

Sure. It has historically always come back.

In time.

But how are you gonna live while the tide is out?

The real questions, as far as risk is concerned, are (1) how much (and how long) of a dive can you take without cutting and running, and (2) how will you fare while your savings are bottom feeding? Remember: It took 10 years for the markets to come back after the crash of 1929. That’s scary stuff. But it is also a fact.

The difference now is the leveling influence of Social Security and unemployment compensation on the economy. No matter what happens, Social Security keeps pumping money into the economy. People tend to forget that, but the “earnings” of Social Security and unemployment compensation act much the same way on the economy that dividends act on stocks. They level out the troughs.

Your questions of personal survival in the choppy waters of macro trends are only partially based on the psychology that says that you and everyone else gives wonky answers on those little questionnaires. There is a bottom line here and it’s hard as concrete. How do you plan to survive and keep your obligations during those down times?

There are answers to these questions, but you won’t find them in the boring and simplistic advice being churned out by investment firms’ marketing pages. Even in retirement, investment firms are advising you to swing for the fences.

That’s bad advice. Get that growth and loss portion (stocks) down to manageable levels. Raise the income-producing portion (bonds) and non-productive but safe cash portion up accordingly.

If you’re in need of a formula, the traditional advice to keep your age in bonds and cash and put the rest in stocks is time-tested and simple.You don’t need an advanced degree to figure it out, and, unlike the advice coming from those little charts, it’s based on your reality.

Don’t worry about what-ifs like whether or not interest rates will rise. If you have cash, that’s more money for you, and if your bonds fall, they’ll keep paying themselves interest and buying more shares of themselves in the bond fund and, well, you and compounding will win out in the longer while. The trick is, don’t sell them while they’re low.

Which goes back to cash. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to keep a chunk in cash so you can live, no matter what. Assess your real-life responsibilities. Put yourself on both a short-term and a long-range budget. Ignore those questionnaires and their cutesy little pie charts. Make sure your Congressperson knows that anybody or any political party that messes up Social Security is going out the door, feet first.

Then fold up the investment planning for a year and get back to living.

All will be well.


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