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Showing posts from 2024

The Vital Importance of Strong Trade Unions

  Strong Trade Unions are Vital        Gerry OShea During my working years, I recall a female colleague named Catherine coming to my office on the verge of tears. I was taken aback to see her in such a vulnerable state because our relationship had never advanced beyond a professional acquaintance. She apologized for her surprise visit and her distressed state.  Really distraught, she started talking about her father who, at 71, had just taken a job filling shelves in a supermarket. This decision was driven solely by economic necessity because he could not cover his bills every month. Catherine opened up with her family story. She was the second of three daughters raised in the rent-controlled apartment in the East Bronx, where her father still lived. Her mother died eight years earlier after all three sisters finished college and moved away from home. She described her father as a determined, hard-working man who provided well for his family, including paying the tuition for al

The Decline of Moderate Politics in America

  The Decline of Moderate Politics in America        Gerry OShea Aristotle, the renowned ancient Greek philosopher, counseled his followers that moderation should be their guiding principle in all deliberations. This advice is encapsulated in his famous Latin dictum: in medio stat virtus , meaning that wisdom and virtue are usually found by following a middle course, away from extremes. The history of American politics since the end of the Second World War affirms this perspective. With one exception, all presidents have been careful not to step far outside the mainstream of popular beliefs. Democrats favor imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and loosening the purse for anti-poverty and infrastructure programs, while Republicans always preach in favor of lower tax policies and fewer government regulations. There is no gainsaying that these important differences were argurd in every modern presidential race, but whichever candidate won, he understood that his opponents’ core beli

Propaganda in Ukraine and Dublin

  Propaganda in the Ukraine and Dublin    Gerry OShea In February 2022, when Putin launched the tyrannical invasion of Ukraine, strange tales of biological warfare began surging across the internet. Russian officials claimed a disturbing revelation for the world: American-funded Biolabs in Ukraine were conducting experiments with bat viruses. Furthermore, they said that U.S. officials had confessed to manipulating “dangerous pathogens.” This story was completely unfounded. It bore no relationship with reality and was repeatedly debunked, but unfortunately, it had legs. An American Twitter account with direct links to the QAnon conspiracy network began tweeting about the imaginary Biolabs, racking up thousands of retweets and eventually reaching over nine million viewers. A version of the story appeared on the Infowars website hosted by the since-discredited Alex Jones, last seen crying on air as he is compelled to part with over a billion dollars to the Sandy Hook families he l

The Changing Middle Class

  The Middle Class            Gerry OShea In the celebratory atmosphere that followed victory over the Nazis in World War 11, many scholars and commentators believed that America was best defined as a happy middle-class society. These terms never conveyed that meaning in the first century and a half after independence. The words designated only farmers, artisans, and merchants during those early years. President Biden preaches that his economic policies support upward movement for workers at the bottom and an expanded lifestyle for those in the middle. To achieve these progressive goals, he favors strong unions negotiating better deals for their members. Republicans still profess that the best economic way to help workers involves cutting individual and company taxes with a promise that the hoped-for resulting economic boom would trickle down to the workers on the lower rungs of the pecking order. This thinking comes under the umbrella of neoliberalism, which has been the preva

The November Presidential Election

  The November Election         Gerry OShea A chastening mood pervades the Democratic Party as they plan for the crucial presidential election in November. By most measurements, the economy, still the most trenchant issue for voters, is strong, but current polls in nearly all the swing states show Donald Trump leading by a few percentage points. Unemployment numbers are the lowest for sixty years, with a massive increase of over fifteen million jobs under Biden. During Trump's four years in the Oval Office, 1.9 million   wage earners were made redundant. This massive turnaround cannot be attributed to happenstance, but the polls suggest that the millions of workers who benefited are not inclined to show their appreciation in November. President Biden regularly proclaims that his definition of a vibrant economy must, in his words, help people at the bottom move up and those in the middle to expand outwards.   Workers’ standard of living has improved since the new administrat

Americanism and the Catholic Church

  Americanism and the Catholic Church          Gerry OShea The major conflict that rocked the Catholic community in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s was known as Americanism, and it resembles, in important ways, the current crisis in the church. The central issue in the 19th-century controversy dealt with the strained relationship between the Vatican and some top representatives of the Church in the United States—a conflict that also applies in our time. Americanism is associated with Isaac Hecker, who was born in New York in 1819, the son of Protestant German immigrants. He converted to Catholicism and later trained for the priesthood with the Redemptorist order. A few years after ordination, with four other priests from the same group and with the pope’s approval, he founded a new religious order that became widely known and respected as Paulists, with headquarters, then and now, in Manhattan. Hecker believed that the true Catholic ethos stressed the importance of commu

St. Joseph's Industrial School

The Tralee Industrial School        Gerry OShea On May 4 th of this year, the Mayor of Kerry, Terry O’Brien, unveiled a memorial plaque in Tralee recognizing the location of St. Joseph’s Industrial School. The poignant inscription reads: “To acknowledge the children who passed through the doors of St. Joseph’s Industrial School between 1871 and 1970.”   Their best-known graduate, Michael Clemenger, who was there for eight years from 1959, was pleased by Mayor O’Brien’s decision to unveil the memorial because he feared that, otherwise, all the boys who were forcibly kept there would be forgotten about as if St. Joseph’s never existed. Mr. Clemenger, an orphan, wrote a memoir starting with his early treatment by uncaring nuns in Dublin before being moved to Tralee in 1959. This book, which was published by O’Brien Press, deals with the outlandish behavior of many of the Brothers who treated the boys in their care using excessive physical punishments while keeping them on near-star

Poverty in America

  American Poverty           Gerry OShea According to the March 2022 Oxfam America report, about one-third of American workers live below the poverty line —approximately fifty-two million people, and just short of 90% of employees with annual remuneration of less than $31,200 live in similarly dire monetary circumstances. The same research asserts that people of color are disproportionately affected by low wages. 27 percent of white workers earn less than $15 an hour compared with 46 percent of Latinx and 47 percent of Black workers. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not been raised in fifteen years and is now worth less in inflation-adjusted terms than at any time since 1956. No place in the country can offer an adequate standard of living on such a meager salary. Women also are doing poorly, with 40% of females hovering below the hourly fifteen-dollar mark compared to males, who show in the results at 25%. Ideological opposition to any mandated minimum wage is s

Home Rule: A Mighty Day in Dublin

                  Home Rule: A Mighty Day in Dublin      Gerry OShea Two general elections were held in Great Britain in 1910, which yielded roughly the same results. The two main parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, ended up with similar numbers of seats in parliament, giving John Redmond, leader of the 82 Irish MPs, the balance of power in Westminster. The Irish contingent supported the Liberal leader Herbert Asquith, who promised to introduce an Irish Home Rule bill that would give Ireland a measure of independence that the two great Irish leaders of the 19 th century, Daniel O’Connell and Charles Parnell, had failed to achieve. Sunday, March 31 , 1912, was a momentous day in Dublin. Up to 150,000 people from all parts of the island gathered to celebrate the introduction of an Irish Home Rule Bill in Westminster, surely guaranteeing the achievement of the long-sought goal: the restoration of a parliament in Dublin, achieved without resorting to guns or bombs. For th

Elite Living

  The Elite Culture             Gerry OShea Thinking about the allurements of capitalism, the promise that anyone can make it in America, a country where every self-made millionaire is widely admired. Rags-to-riches stories guarantee an attentive audience. The entrepreneur is often portrayed as a rugged male who successfully overcomes bureaucratic regulations and peer opposition — an admirably dogged character. Reminds me of a tale about a rogue confronting impossible odds. A condemned man is begging for clemency from the all-powerful king. He is facing a death sentence for stealing the king’s donkey. He pleads with the monarch to let him live for a year, and in recompense, he swears that he will teach the king’s favorite white horse to talk. The king expresses incredulity about the proposition, but he reckons he has nothing to lose in the deal, and he agrees to postpone the execution for twelve months to see if the criminal can get his special horse to talk. The prisoner retur

Book Review - Come Forth by Fr. Jim Martin

  Come Forth - Book Review       Gerry OShea I recall a fine priest who ministered when I was young in my home parish in Kenmare, County Kerry. In response to perennial   questions about God’s role in the human condition, his usual answer was, “It is all a mystery.” For example, one parishioner approached him for an explanation of how a merciful God would condemn anyone to eternal damnation. A number of others spoke of their bewilderment about why a loving and personal God tolerated so much abject poverty and destitution among his creatures all over the world. In reviewing James Martin’s recent book Come Forth, which deals with what many consider Jesus’ greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, I thought of the priest from my childhood.   Delving into the whys and wherefores of this amazing biblical event, Martin wonders why, despite Christ’s promise, “Ask and you shall receive—- knock, and the door shall be opened—for everyone who asks receives,” this rarely seem

Priestly Celibacy

  Priestly Celibacy          Gerry O’Shea The name of Charles Scicluna is unlikely to resonate with readers, yet he is playing a major role in deciding whether the Catholic Church should change its regulation on priestly celibacy. Alone among the main Christian denominations, the Vatican insists that at ordination, its ministers must pledge to remain single and chaste. Scicluna serves as the Archbishop of Malta, and, more importantly, he has Pope Francis’ ear. With advanced qualifications in civil and church law, he was highly regarded by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who appointed him as the principal investigator of clergy sexual abuse crimes. So, he has heard the stories of the dark side of human nature. The most coherent institutional argument for ending this celibacy requirement comes from the parishes, which are understaffed and struggling to provide presbytery services comparable to those available as late as fifty years ago. The number of priests in the United States