Evil or Stupid?

Apparently, Lew Rockwell doesn’t like unions any more than I do. However, Mr. Rockwell’s feelings seem to be much stronger than mine, prompting him to call them evil. IMHO, he would do well to remember Napoleon’s wise maxim, “Never attribute to malice what could be sufficiently explained by ineptitude.” While some unions have certainly arrogated enough power to prove Lord Acton’s maxim regarding absolute power, I think in most situations unions are populated and run by ordinary, fallible people who fail to act in their own best interest or in the best interest of society in general. I don’t think it was malignant intent that priced the steel industry out of Pittsburgh; I think it was short-sighted, foolish selfishness.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

6 thoughts on “Evil or Stupid?

  1. Rob

    Your point would make more sense if it had been the unions that chased the steel industry out of Pittsburgh.

    The steel industry died because of management short-sightedness.

    USS taught Japan and South Korea how to use modern steelmaking methods — sold them the technology and trained them in its use. Yet because it wasn’t cost-effective in the short term, they never did serious upgrades of the plants here in Pittsburgh. By the time it was no longer cost-effective to run the old plants, the lead time required to build new ones made it impractical to do so. USS, rather than accepting responsibility for their own short-sightedness, blamed the unions for the failure and closed the plants.

    When I was a child in grade school at Sunday dinners,my uncle (who was management at US Steel) would explain US Steel’s coming doom — long before it actually happened. That was around the time they were contemplating moving from the Murial Street building to a tower in downtown Pittsburgh made of Cor-ten steel.

    Nancy, when working at a US Steel subsidiary, did help to upgrade some plants in Gary, and they lasted much longer, although they fell victim to the same basic shortsightedness. Interestingly, Nancy did CAD engineering work on the Dravo Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. Bet you’ve never heard of the Dravo Tower…

    A member of our church worked at a smaller steel plant in the ’70s. At a church retreat in 1973, I remember him asking, at 3 am in the morning while some of the adults and one teen were still awake and chatting, how Christianity should be applied in the workplace. He started Bible studies with the workers and got to know them as individuals. If a person was having trouble with his marriage (back then, steel workers were all male), he was given time off with pay and counseling was made available. During the gas crisis, the company gasoline was made available to employees. When it came time to negotiate the contract, Wayne and the union produced a model contract, one that was regarded in the industry as a perfect example of win-win for management and labor. The company did fantastic.

    The company was bought out. Wayne was given an order by the new management — stop fraternizing with the workers and begin treating them as the enemy of management. Wayne resigned his position — an action that was considered unthinkable in our little sheltered suburban community.

    Not surprisingly, the new management managed to close the plant down after re-opening the contract and negotiating a lose-lose contract.

    Management, not unions, cost the steel valley its industry.

  2. Squat

    Due to a recent change in my profession, I’ve had to join a union. During the past year I’ve learned a lot. Not all unions are the same. I belong to the International Association of Fire Fighters. I am glad that I am represented by the IAFF to make sure that my city treats me right. My union can’t strike. There are cities with locals working for decades without a contract but the fire fighters still show up every day to pull people out of burning buildings.

    Dealing with management is hard enough. It’s worse when management is a municipality. We just got a new four year contract signed and we went through hell to get there. It’s like playing some twisted game. The cost of living around here went up 6.5% over the past year. The city wanted to give us no increase in pay. We asked for 8% but we settled for 4%. So we are getting poorer. Cities are always looking for ways to cut expenses. Sadly, it’s commonly the fire department who feels it the most.

    I’m not saying that unions are the best. Unions are run by people, who are falable and sometimes self serving. I feel that some unions are needed to make sure that management does not compromise safety in order to save money. I couldn’t believe the corners that a municipality would cut around safety just to save a few bucks until I saw it myself.

    Sorry if this turned into a rant. I just couldn’t sit back and watch unions get bashed. Hug a fire fighter. They need it more that you know.
    *steps off soapbox*

  3. Squat

    I just started in Jan of ’07 for the City of Bethlehem. Are you an EMT or a Medic? All new fire personnel from ’04 to present are required (for us) to be an EMT. Most of our EMS are Medics. Part of what took our new contract so long is that the city wants us to run EMS as well but not raise our pay. Managements rights? Who knows?

  4. Rob

    Squat —

    I got confused — thought you were City of Pittsburgh, not Bethlehem. I have some good friends out there. Thank you for protecting them.

    In Pittsburgh, EMS is the unwanted stepchild third service. The union is the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics (FAPP). One of our mayors actually said we weren’t an essential service. Firefighters are at least 1st Responders and get paid much, much more than paramedics. Every once in a while, EMS tries a two-tiered service where EMTs respond to less serious calls and aid paramedics on the critical ones — and then budgets get tight and the EMTs get dumped again. EMS call volume is 6-9 calls per day per unit, about 1 in 10 ALS.

    Most of the fire fighters I knew in the City of Pittsburgh were good folks. A good friend of mine, Patty Conroy, was one of the three fire fighters killed at the Bricelyn Street fire on Valentine’s Day, 1995.

    And, of course, they were all Union, too.

    Please be careful.

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