Dave Agema, Michigan’s ‘Top Gunner,’ discusses politics and his vision for America

Here is the first segment of my hour-long interview with Dave Agema, Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman.
Dave discusses his background, including his experience as a F4 Phantom fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and his career as an American Airlines pilot. Along the way he learned a lot of excellent lessons.

Fun fact: I asked Dave if flying the F4 Phantom was like what we saw in the film “Top Gun.” He said those planes have fuel for about two hours in the air, and to get maximum mileage he spent as much time flying upside down (as they do in the film) as right-side-up!
The plane also goes 1,600 miles per hour! That puts something like 5gs of force on the pilot, which tears up their vertebrae, which creates problems years down the line. Amazing story.

Listen in, you’ll learn a lot about what motivates one of the brightest lights in Michigan’s GOP.

Here is the second segment of my interview with Dave Agema.  In the second segment, Dave discusses why he got into politics – he was never involved in any political party until he ran for state rep – and what’s on his agenda going forward.

Terry Bowman: Union Conservative Tells All

Here are podcasts of my extensive interview with Terry Bowman, founder and president of Union Conservatives.  The interview took place in the WAAM 1600 studios and aired Sept. 21.

Terry Bowman
Founder of Union Conservatives

In the first segment, Bowman discusses:

* How he grew up in a union household, since his dad was a Ford worker, and how over time he realized he did not agree with the “party line” of the UAW. His grandad was a coal miner who migrated north to Michigan from Tennessee.
* That day when Bowman was a banker in Monroe and met a “cleaner” at Ford (the lowest level of job category) who was making more than $130,000 annually, and how that event shaped his thinking about factory work.
* Life at Ford: How various experiences with the UAW led Terry to question the rationale for what the union leaders were saying to rank-and-file workers.
* “ENOUGH”: The moment during a union meeting when Terry realized he could not longer stay silent, and pledged to speak of “Truth and Reality” about the union movement.

In the second segment, Bowman discusses:

* The formation of Union Conservatives, a new national movement designed to bring “Truth and Reality” to contemporary union politics.
* The reaction from workers on the line where Bowman works: He’s got more support than union bosses are willing to admit.
* How Bowman has been tanking his message to the media and to Congress.
* His role in the landmark Freedom to Work law that passed in Lansing in December.
* What’s next for Union Conservatives next year, when union bosses hope to overturn Michigan’s Freedom to Work law.

In this guest column written by Bowman and published on MLive.com last November, Bowman explains that favoring Right to Work legislation is decidedly “pro-worker.”

Terry Bowman hosts a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing in November 2012. Pictured with Bowman are (l-f): Scott Hagerstrom, Sen Patrick Colbeck, Steve Mobley, Gary Glenn, Ron Babin and Jay McNally.

Terry Bowman hosts a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing in November 2012. Pictured with Bowman are (l-f): Scott Hagerstrom, (unidentified), Steve Mobley, Gary Glenn, Ron Babin and Jay McNally.

The photograph published with the column was taken on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing, where Bowman held a press conference. I am in the photo (in the blue jacket on the right), as I have been a strong and public supporter of Bowman’s group since it was founded in 2010.

I’m hoping Bishop Boyea says something about this

I discovered this morning that St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor is sponsoring a lecture tomorrow night by probably the most notorious Catholic nun in the country, NETWORK Executive Director Sr. Simone Campbell. It’s called a “Father Gabriel Richard Lecture.” Yikes! It will take place in the Ross Business School.

Every Catholic who has been fighting in the “Culture Wars” the last 30 years knows all about NETWORK. It’s run by leftist nuns who do not oppose abortion, thus their election-year voter guides are usually exactly opposite that of pro-life groups. Same on same-sex issues, and they nearly always come down in favor of expanding the federal government.Nuns on bus

NETWORK is active on the national and diocesan levels and too often is presented by priests and even bishops — wrongly — as conforming to Church teaching.

In the last several years NETWORK has been quite visible for several reasons:

1) It lobbied hard for ObamaCare, then claimed credit for its passage, and has increasingly in the national spotlight under President Obama. Sr. Campbell told a reporter the same day she spoke a year ago to the Democrat National Convention that she was not even sure that abortion should be illegal.

2) The Vatican in an extremely rare move criticized NETWORK and some other nun-groups for being hostile to Church teaching

3) NETWORK sponsors a “Nuns on the Bus” tour around the country. When the tour was in Michigan Congressmen John Dingell and John Conyers joined them. To conservatives – or just plain Catholics – the bus tour is really “Nuns vs Bishops.”

I cannot attend Campbell’s talk due to a prior commitment. But I hope some faithful Catholics will attend and challenge her on her fundamental message; or just take notes. Maybe there is some priest out here who can be a visible witness to the truths of the Church and say something.

I sent a note to Diocese of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea’s office at about 12:30 p.m. today asking that he consider having the Diocese of Lansing host an all-day seminar on Catholic Church teaching on economics at the U-M campus for students.  It would be refreshing to see a bishop in Michigan explain subsidiarity and what Rerum Novarum was really about, as well as private property, and sound money, and on and on.  These are not hard issues for the laity to understand. Subsidiarity is easy.  I hope he also issues some kind of statement declaring that Sr. Campbell’s group is contrary to the Church, and why.

Perhaps the co-sponsors of this talk will bring in a speaker who will present the authentic Catholic position on issues addressed by Sr. Campbell. They don’t have to look very far, since Fr. Robert Sirico operates out of Grand Rapids. The other sponsors of the lecture, according to the St. Mary web site, include: School of Social Work, Ross School of Business, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Ford School of Public Policy, Women’s Studies Department

Podcasts from my Sept 14 show: The evil of CCHD

CCHD-bannerAt the bottom of this post are links to podcasts of my interview with Michael Hichborn of American Life League (ALL) about his investigation into the dark side of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which is funded by the United States Catholic Conference (USCCB).

The product of Hichborn’s research  is on the web site ReformCCHDNow.  I spent the whole hour on my talk show with Hichborn, and the interview is in two podcasts. But first, let me put into writing some main points about CCHD and links to useful sites for more info.

A great deal has been written about CCHD, going back more than 30 years. In 1994 Wanderer News Editor Paul Likoudis wrote a book, The Legacy of CHD, about  its radical roots going back to Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals. Unfortunately, I cannot find any links on the internet to Likoudis’ book, and hope somehow the book can be reprinted. If anyone ready has access to an electronic version of this book, I’d be grateful to see it.

Back in 2008 Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the late editor of First Things, wrote that “CCHD is “misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice” and said “CCHD has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it.

Here are some links that are good place to start in learning more about CCHD:

Alinskyite from the Start  This Catholic World Report article opens with the quote above from Fr. Neuhaus.

Basic facts about the origin of CCHD 

Left-Wing Radicalism in the Church: CCHD and ACORN (Human Events)

Picking Pockets in the Pew — The CCHD Scandal

Most US bishops deny most every criticism of CCHD — except when they issue almost annual apologies for being caught lying about these denials. Just two months ago, Chicago Cardinal George got praise for this year defunding a group he’d been supporting for a long time, by “between $25,000 and $30,000 each year.”

However, some bishops have shown some rare courage and refuse to participate. The letter from Bishop Morlino in Madison is instructive.

In my interview with Hichborn I lay out some of my main objections to CCCD:

1) The whole process violates the principle of subsidiarity. CCHD involves people in the pew giving money during an annual collection, which is then sent to USCCB bureacrats in Washington, who then provide grants to “anti-poverty” groups around the country.  While some of the money collected from parishes stays in the diocese where it is collected, the idea that funds should go to DC, then be returned to groups in different dioceses, is simply contrary to subsidiarity. A simpler approach would be to keep the money in the diocese.

2) CCHD has ALWAYS funded groups that oppose Catholic teaching.  Twenty years ago when I worked in the Archdiocese of Detroit chancery the story circulated among the peons around the water cooler that in the ’70s the archdiocese funneled money to a local group that was openly Maoist. When this funding was revealed there were some red faces in the chancery and backpedaling, I was told. Fast forward 30 yeras, and there is the same brand of scandal in Detroit. I invite anyone to look at this 2011-2012 report about grants approved by Archbishop Allen Vigneron only two years ago, and tell me how it’s NOT really weird that the Detroit seminarians sponsor Lenten fish fries to support local pregnancy counseling centers and the archbishop leads a vigil in front of an abortion clinic every year, but AT THE SAME TIME he directs $25,000 to group that is dedicated to advancing abortion.

3) CCHD is shrouded in an evil culture of secrecy.  During my first days as newspaperman I learned the universal rule of human behavior that when things are done secretly, there’s a good chance something bad is going on.  I have made several phone calls to the USCCB in DC asking to talk to the CCHD director or staff, and they don’t even acknowledge the calls. The CCHD director in the Diocese of Lansing flatly refused to give me any data regarding how Bishop Boyea is spending his CCHD dollars. The Archdiocese of Detroit likewise has not responded to my multiple requests for information about the MOSES grant, and the archbishop has declined to be a guest on my talk show to talk about it.  This is the way I look at it: They won’t talk because they have  have a lot to hide. That’s not a rash judgment because they I cann’t count how many times the media has uncovered some serious scandal by breaking through the veil of secrecy. There’s a pattern here.

4) CCHD does not decrease poverty. There’s no evidence that the poverty industry — of which the CCHD is a HUGE player — does anything except expand poverty and create new problems. There is quite a bit of research of every sort that demonstrates the problems poverty pimps create.

Here are the links to Hichborn’s three reports:

CCHD 2011-2012 Grants Report

CCHD Grants Report for 2010-2011

CCHD Grants Report for 2009-2010

Here is my first half of my interview with Michael Hichborn.

Here’s the second half of the interview.

NOTE: About halfway into this segment I refer to the Coat of Many Colors, a  great song about rural poverty by Dolly Parton. The audio of this song cannot be included in this podcast due to copyright laws, so it was edited out of this segment.

Here’s my interview with Mike Voris on Mic’d Up

We discuss abuse from bishops, Catholic media

I was a guest on Mike Voris’ Mic’d Up internet broadcast last Wednesday on ChurchMilitant.tv. Mike and I talked for more than 30 minutes about some of my experiences in the Catholic press, centering mostly on how I offended Cardinal Adam Maida and his crew in 1993 when I was editor of The Michigan Catholic and refused to go along with their efforts to cover up the crimes of a priest who turned out to be one of the most notorious pedophiles in Michigan.  That refusal was pretty much the end of my job there, and I joined a number of editors and reporters around the country who also were being given the boot for refusing to be accomplices in the pedophile scandals. That was nine years before the Boston meltdown in 2002.

Mike Voris interviews Jay McNally during his Mic’d Up program Sept. 4 on ChurchMilitant TV.

The theme of the two-hour broadcast was the “Establishment Catholic Media” and how/why Voris thinks most of the top names in Catholic media are lousy journalists, or whatever title it is they give themselves. Voris’ main talking point is that they are afraid to tell basic truths or ask simple questions, and thus are complicit in some of the worst internal corruption facing the Church today. I agree with his general premise and have been harping about it for a long time.

I enjoyed talking about my Detroit experience even though much of it happened a full generation ago, because the underlying situation I questioned back then is still a major problem and Maida’s successor, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, is making the same mistakes. Back then I warned Maida that a horrific Hellstorm was headed his way over his complicity in the pedophile mess, and my warnings came true nine years later. Archbishop Vigneron will richly deserve the fallout coming his way due to his administrative paralysis/cowardice today on these same kinds of issues. I touch on this in my interview with Voris. I say some very nice things about the archbishop, btw, at 45 minutes in the interview. I don’t challenge his integrity of spirit of goodwill, only his administrative decisions.

During my interview I make reference to articles I wrote about the group Dignity/Detroit, and the archdiocese’s bizarre campaign to keep it going, even though the Vatican in 1986 had issued a directive that such groups have no place in any Catholic parish or other property.

Catholic World Report: Ignoring the Obvious – December 1996

Catholic World Report, Dignity-Marches On, summer 1997

While these articles are pretty old (17 years ago!) the Dignity/Detroit scandal continues.  Only a few months ago the group celebrated its 40th anniversary and Archbishop Vigneron allowed his subordinate, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, to preside at the Mass.  I was among the 40 protesters or so who picketed the event, and was thrown out of the chapel building by the police. It was the first time in my life I’ve been denied access to a Mass. Read about it here, in an article from the Cardinal Newman Society.

I publish these articles here to provide some history about the way the archdiocese operates.  I keep hearing things are changing in Detroit, yet not much really has changed on the fundamental issues that are killing the Church and our culture. On the matter of  a Mass celebrated by and for men who hate Church teaching on sexuality, I trust the judgment of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who issued a statement from the Vatican in 1986 specifically calling on bishops worldwide to refuse access to Church property by groups like Dignity, rather than archdiocesan PR guy Ned McGrath, who contradicted Ratzinger and told the press that the Dignity Mass was no different than any other of the hundreds of Masses held every Sunday in Detroit.  McGrath was the central figure in the Dignity/Detroit scandal 17 years ago. His role is described in the CWR articles linked in this post.

Here’s the key paragraph from Razinger’s letter that Archbishop Vigneron is ignoring week after week, going into five years:

All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.

This Mic’d Up episode is a follow-up to two of his daily “Vortex” narratives (on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1), which were both a dramatic attack on the “Professional Catholics” in Catholic media. I discuss much of that in my blog post Sept. 4.

I learned quite a bit about Voris during the second half of the two-hour program. Beginning at about 48 minutes, Voris gives details about how he’s been harassed and persecuted by the Archdiocese of Detroit and several other bishops, as well as about curious treatment from some heavy-hitters in the Catholic press. Voris said most of it has not been revealed before.

A final note: Voris explains that he got into the Catholic media in 2006 after rather extensive experience as a TV reporter with CBS, where he was an investigative reporter and earned five Emmy awards. His  background thus is quite different than that of the generic Catholic media figure, most of whom have have never worked in any other media.

Like Voris, I too came to the Catholic press after many years in the secular press. The bottom line for “real” journalists is simply telling the Truth, and it doesn’t matter who gets hurts in the process: Truth trumps everything.  But the bottom line for the Catholic press is wrapped up in a not-very-complex process of “avoiding scandal,” always writing “with charity,” and deferring to the judgment of bishops as a matter of spiritual obedience.  I watched that process during my 10 years as editor of Catholic publications and cannot count how many times I was expected to publish what I considered half-truths and even untruths.  If you ever wondered why it took The Boston Globe to awaken the world to what was going on with pedophile priests for several decades, just ask any journalist who was taking a salary at any Catholic publication why they didn’t publish what they knew was going on before 2002 (and still don’t, in many cases). You’re not going to like what you hear.

Tonight I will be interviewed by Mike Voris

Tonight I will be a guest (via Skype) on Mike Voris’ internet TV program Church Militant Mik’ed Up.  The show starts at 8 p.m.

Mike asked me to be on tonight’s show, and my appearance coincides with the controversy on the Catholic blogosphere following Mike’s  commentary of Aug. 29 (“The Empire Strikes Back”) and Aug 30 (“Protecting the Status Quo”) in which he said that Pope Benedict XVI had it right about the problems created by “Professional Catholics.”

I’m going to talk about my experience as a journalist in the Catholic world.  I was employed 10 years full-time (1990-2002) as the editor of two Catholic newspapers, The Michigan Catholic (the official paper of the Archdiocese of Detroit) and Credo, an independent weekly published by Tom Monaghan.  Additionally, I’ve written for most of the big national Catholic publications. So I think I know the subject well.

I haven’t written much about Catholic stuff in recent years except for pointed rants on Facebook, but have gotten into extended commentary about Catholic issues on my Saturday talk show on WAAM 1600, “The American Dream.”

The whole program tonight is going to last an hour and a half, and my segment will be about 20 minutes or so.

I think the general premise of the show tonight will be a response, or a continuation of the commentary, that Voris put on his Vortex last week. The theme is that bishops don’t much like to be criticized, and if a journalist – like me or Voris – does write something the local bishop doesn’t like, the journalist can expect to be, as Voris puts it: “Crushed like a bug!”   True, true, and true. MegaTrue.

So I’m looking forward to the show. I’m intending to explain for the first time publicly some stuff that went on in Detroit’s chancery when I was there and afterwards, and in the Diocese of Lansing that I witnessed personally. None of this fits the narrative that the “Professional Catholic” class puts forth.

The narrative of the “Professional Catholic” goes something like this: Whatever is wrong or was wrong with the Catholic Church is mostly behind us, and there’s no good reason to dwell on the negatives. The “Professional Catholics” instead focus on what’s good and wholesome in the Church and rail against the bad stuff in the culture. I’m not a Professional Catholic and generally think they’ve really mucked everything up, and Voris makes that argument better than me.

A prominent blogger, Msgr.Charles  Pope laid out the narrative of the Professionals three week ago , and this column is a rehash of a column he had written on the subject a year or two earlier.

None of this controversy is new to me as I’ve been up to my ears in Catholic journalism and politics since 1976, when I discovered Catholics United for the Faith and saw the public battles being waged by “faithful” Catholics vs wayward bishops in Detroit when Detroit seminary theology professor  Fr. Anthony Kosnik  wrote a sensational book,  “Human Sexuality,” and got formally reprimanded by the Vatican.  One criticism of Kosnick back then was that he is “soft on beastiality.” Kosnick in those days was a superstar in the Archdiocese of Detroit and both Cardinal Dearden and his newspaper defended him to the hilt.

I’ve written for a bunch of the big national Catholic publications, beginning in 1980 for the National Catholic Register.

I was also deep into Catholic grassroots politics for several years (1996-2003 or so), when I was executive director or, alternatively, a board member of the group Call to Holiness, which held annual three-day conferences in metro Detroit that attracted 2,000 people for several years.

I left full-time employment in the Catholic world in 2004, when Ave Maria College began its shut-down after Tom Monaghan got bored with it. I was the PR guy there, and was given the boot with several other employees. That’s a long story for another day.

Anyway, after the AMC experience in ’04 I moved happily into other fields intentionally far away from internal Catholic controversies, in part just to stay sane.  I’ve migrated over to being a political consultant and PR guy, and but find that a lot of the projects I’m working on are openly opposed by Catholic bishops, formally and informally. This includes ObamaCare, which I’ve spent a gillion hours  even traveling to other states to lobby against it.

And that – the persistent presence of Catholic bishops on the wrong side of political issues for the last two years — led me to start putting more and more Catholic stuff on my radio show, even though I intended to stay away from it as much as possible.   I’m thinking here of Chesterton’s fishhook.

 “The Roman Catholic Church has the unique power of keeping remote control over human souls which have once been part of her. G.K. Chesterton has compared this to the fisherman’s line, which allows the fish the illusion of free play in the water and yet has him by the hook; in his own time the fisherman by a ‘twitch upon the thread’ draws the fish to land.”

Which gets us to the background to why Voris asked me to be on the show.

Every day Voris presents a video commentary, usually from 4 to eight minutes long, that he dubs “The Vortex: Where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed.”  It’s really fun to watch, and as often as not follows the theme that internal corruption in the Catholic Church is the main problem facing our culture.  Lots of people like what Voris says. And lots hate it, hate it, hate it: Mega Hate!

But I like Voris and most of what he does, mainly because he’s got rare courage to say what needs to be said, and he does it with great humor and class. I’m kinda jealous too, ‘cuz he can go a full 10 minutes without stammering or stuttering once, and I can’t get through three minutes on my radio show without tripping all over my myself.

Even though what Voris says in these two Vortexes is nothing new, it has created quite a stir, apparently because he criticized some of the most prominent Professional Catholics, and gave their salaries that were previously published on social media comboxes.

Below are only a few links to articles that seem to be a good sampling of the back-and-forth going on about Voris the last few days:

Prominent Blogger Fr. Dwight Longnecker doesn’t like Voris’ commentary, and asked, “Do we need Mike Voris.”

And then a lesser-known blogger asks in reply: “Do We Need Fr. Dwight Longnecker.”

Detroit area writer and full-time free-lance Catholic intellectual Dave Armstrong has written quite a bit about the recent Voris videos, and some of it is a rehash of some back-and-forth Dave and I had about two months ago.  Dave is an apologist, which means he sees his vocation to be a kind of free-wheeling all-around Defender of the Faith, and he’s written a pile of books about Catholicism and gillion articles. Some day I’ll write about how a meeting in Dave’s house in 1990 was a big “Eureka” moment for me.

And then my friend Diane Korzeniewski weighs in with not one, but three,  thoughtful and long essays on hour outstanding blog site, about the generic scandal of the division, fighting and general messiness  in the Church.  Diane is a photographer and a professed Carmelite (very serious stuff, with formal vows)  and a member of the great Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit, where the Latin Mass has been celebrated for as long as I can remember. I used to belong to “Grotto,” as it is known, for several years, until we moved to Ann Arbor and my young kids thought the 45 minute drive there was really 15 hours there, and 35 hours back.

I disagree with Diane’s premise, but have to think it through a while before rebutting. She and I have discussed the issue of “stridency” many times, and I think that desperate times require desperate measures.

And I’m out of time for this post, since the program starts in 90 minutes.  This will be the first time I’ve been on Mike’s show, and it is a kind of re-introduction of  me on the national Catholic stage since I happily walked away from it almost a decade ago.

If you tune in, let me know what you think by email or on the combox here.  I hope the combox works.


Aug. 31 Podcasts

Today’s show includes my first  appeal for financial support to keep “The American Dream” talk show on the air. I called this show my first “telethon,” and talked about how I strive to be a light in the darkness, and that light has led to some pretty significant achievements, at least from my point of view. Most significant is the turning back of the Archdiocese of Detroit from its 30-plus year legacy of donating tens of thousands of dollars annually through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development  to organizations that push values contrary to Catholic Church teaching. I hammered on this issue many times for more than a year, and am pleased to see that my vigilance had a good effect. I think the only other person in Michigan focusing on this issue in any meaningful way has been Mike Voris, but he did not go into the detail I  did in my show.

During the show I interviewed long-time metro Detroit pro-life activist Lynn Mills, who has been on the front lines of movement for more than 30 years. I first met Lynn about 28 years ago when she organized a picket at the WomanCare abortion clinic in my hometown of Southgate, MI, and have watched her with admiration all this time.

My path has crossed with Lynn many times since, and highlights include being present at some of her Operation Rescue rallies in the early ’90s, then reporting on her heroic efforts to shut down Jack Kevorkian in the early 1990’s.  Lynn found the incriminating evidence (in his trash) that Kevorkian was lying about how he killed his “patients,” and that led to investigations by police and prosecutors. Then, I was honored to be the master of ceremonies at a fund-raising event to help defray costs for Lynn’s monumental legal expenses in a lawsuit brought by Kevorkian and Goeffrey Feiger.

These days Lynn has been doing amazing work finding ways to hamstring abortion clinics, and with great success. In this interview Lynn explains what she’s doing and breaks the news that an abortion clinic in Flint is now closed, in part due to her diligence.

Lynn pays her own expenses, which includes hundreds of bucks in gas, parking, copying fees for documents at courthouses, and more. If one wants to help out Lynn to cut these expense, just click my Donate Page, donate and designate that the funds go to Lynn, and I’ll get them to her.

I interview Spunky Homeschool blogger Karen Braun about Common Core and what parents need to do to stop it from being adopted by the Michigan Legislature next week. Her interview begins at 7:35. Before talking to Karen, I discuss reasons why one who cares about life and liberty might want to contribute to funding the show.

In this segment I continue the interview with Karen Braun, and then continue our “telethon.”