Matthew Fox was first stopped from teaching Liberation Theology by Cardinal Ratzinger, then defrocked. He has since lived an extraordinary life. But he also brings a unique point of view on Pope Benedict, the next pope the college of cardinals will choose and today's Catholic Church.
I interviewed Matthew Fox on February 13th. This is part one of a two part interview. Here's a link to the audio podcast.
Thanks to Don Caldarazzo for doing the transcript.
I met Matthew Fox about nine years ago when we were both speakers at the first Mythic Journeys conference an amazing event bringing together writers, mythologists, psychologists, poets. At the time, I was running the Storycon Conference on the art science and application of story, which I'd founded two years earlier, and which ran for six years.
Matthew Fox was first stopped from teaching Liberation Theology by Cardinal Ratzinger, then defrocked. He has since lived an extraordinary life. But he also brings a unique point of view on Pope Benedict, the next pope the college of cardinals will choose and today's Catholic Church.
by pope image from wikipedia
Rob Kall: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM out of Washington Township, New Jersey, reaching metro Philly and South Jersey. My guest tonight is Matthew Fox. Now, Matthew Fox has an interesting story, and I'm going to ask him to tell us a little bit about it. I invited you on, Matthew, and welcome to the show...
Matthew Fox: Thank you. Good to be here.
Rob Kall: I invited you on because you know a lot about the Pope, Ratzinger, from a different perspective than many. Can you explain that?
Matthew Fox: Yes. First of all, I wrote a major book on him a year ago, and I've been translating the German and Italian, called The Popes War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church, and How It Can Be Saved. I was involved for twelve years in a battle with Ratzinger, and you have to understand: he has pursued and hounded Theologians for the last thirty-some years. I was just one of a hundred and five  that he silenced and expelled or hounded in some way. In fact, I list the 105 (they're from all over the world) in my book, at the end.
Ratzinger was a young Theologian at the Second Vatican Council, and he was quite Progressive there; he complained about the Curia and all the rest. But then in 1968, when he was a professor at Tubingen University in Germany, the student riots were happening there (as they were in Paris in Berkeley and every place else), and the students invaded a faculty meeting and were honored to be heard, ranted and raved; and all the faculty at the [incoherent word] stayed except one guy, and that was Ratzinger, who stood up and walked out. People said the next time they saw him, he was an arch-Conservative.
Then he made his way up the Ecclesial ladder, but meanwhile, he brought the Inquisition back. That's how History will remember him. And he didn't do it alone: his boss John Paul II gave him complete carte blanche to do that. And it's scary, because when you dumb down the church, which is what has happened the last forty-two  years, deliberately dumb it down, it's like General Motors firing all it's engineers!
That's really what the Vatican has done: they fired all their Theologians, and they destroyed Liberation Theology, which was the most vibrant and justice-oriented movement on the planet after the Civil Rights Movement. They replaced the heroic Bishops, including people like Oscar Romero, who was actually martyred for his work with the poor in El Salvador, they replaced him with an Opus Dei Bishop; and they've done this all over South America. Opus Dei is a Radical, Fascist, Right-wing Catholic movement begun by a Fascist Priest, Escriva, who actually praised Hitler. And Ratzinger and John Paul II rushed him into canonization! They made a saint of him faster than anyone in the history of the church, and they destroyed the whole process of canonization to do it. They did away with the Devil's Advocate tradition, where you have someone there representing the "shadow side" of the guy -- they had none of that. Anyway, the guy is leaving a very dirty footprint behind.
Rob Kall: OK. Well let me slow you down and get you to give a little more details on a couple of things you said. You described him as "Bringing back the Inquisition." What do mean by that?
Matthew Fox: That he fired all the Theologians, and he hounded them; like in my case, he expelled me from the Dominican Order, of which I'd been a member for 34 years, and he silenced me for a year, and then expelled me three years after that. Father Boff, the most read theologian in Latin America, he hounded him, silenced him, and then, Boff quit the Franciscans, of which he was a member for many years. The most read Catholic Theologian in Germany was a psychologist Priest, Eugene Drewermann; and he hounded him, and kicked him out of the Priesthood. So, that's what the Inquisition means, you're not free to think! They spread fear. The three of us were the most read Theologians on our Continent, and all of us were expelled, one way or the other; and so they spread fear to other Catholic thinkers. You know: "Don't think too much, and just stay in line."
In addition, by pushing Opus Dei and these Right-wing groups that are all about obedience and not about Theology, they are sending a message that "The Pope knows everything, and it's all about just obeying what the Pope and the Curia has to say." So, what do you get then, with a dumbed-down church? You get the Cardinal Law's, you get the cardinal Mahony's, you get the sexual crisis, the pedophile crisis, because you don't have men of conscience and intellect overseeing things. You have people that don't know what to do when they here there's a pedophile Priest, they just hide it under the rug. Obviously that's no way to go.
Rob Kall: Now, I call my radio show The Bottom Up Radio Show because I believe that we're in the middle of a transition from a more top down world to a more bottom up world, and I've long thought that the hierarchy in the Catholic Church is one of the most top down organizations in human history.
Matthew Fox: Absolutely. Unfortunately, that's what Pope John XXIII, in calling the Second Vatican Council in the early 60s, was trying to alter. For example, the Council defined the Church as the people of God, not as hierarchy, not as "top down." But all that was taken away under John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. In fact, Benedict actually uses the phrase "The people of the Church," and by Church of course he means the hierarchy, so he totally changed the language. So, this effort to try to bring a horizontal dimension to our Catholicism, which really was a big part of the Second Vatican Council, and certainly a big part of Base Communities and Liberation Theology, and the other movements after the Council, all this has been stuffed by the last two Popes.
And frankly that's what I say in my book on the Pope's war, that these two Pope's actually are in Schism. They're in Schism because they have destroyed the basic teachings of Vatican II; and in the Catholic tradition, and Ecumenical Council trumps a Pope, a Pope does not trump a Council. When there were three Popes in the 14th century all claiming their infallible rights, if you will, they called a Council. The Council deposed all three and chose a new one. And so, Councils trump Popes, Popes don't trump Councils, but what has happened the last forty  years is that these two Popes, Ratzinger and John Paul II, working together, have trumped the Council. Therefore, they're in Schism; and people who are still attempting to live out the teachings of Justice and also horizontal Catholicism, they're not in Schism, they're trying to live the reality. Of course, now they're coming /
Rob Kall: When you say "Schism," what does that mean? It's a word you hear but, what does it.. ?
Matthew Fox: It's a loaded word. I mean, it's a heavy word in theological history. For example, when the Eastern Church split from the Western Church, that was called Schism; and Protestantism splitting from Roman Catholicism, that was called Schism in the 16th Century. It's a big word historically, and for me to say... I'm not alone in this. Father Schillebeeckx, the great Dutch Theologian, I spoke to 15 years ago, (he's dead now, he was a big thinker at the Vatican Council), he told me, he said "I and many European Theologians," this is under John Paul II, "feel the present Papacy is in Schism." And that conversation really came back to me when I was writing this book on Ratzinger, and I realized "Well, this helps name what has been going on." The Vatican is not really preaching the Gospel or even the Catholic tradition. They've gone their own spin, their own route out of Vatican II, and are trying to create this church based exclusively on Ratzinger's catechism, and obedience to whatever the Pope says, the implication being "We don't need Theologians, we don't need thinkers." That's why they've silenced so many. And I will say, that's not very smart.
Rob Kall: Let me take another step back to review what you've said so far. You talked about Liberation Theology, and that Ratzinger hounded over a hundred Priests; it wasn't just a hundred people.
Matthew Fox: Not just Priests; some of them lay people, some of them Sisters, women. Of course, now they're hounding Catholic Sisters; they're trying to kick them under the bus.
Rob Kall: And basically, this was not just about influencing them, because they were creating whole movements, particularly in the Americas, right? Liberation Theology was a really big deal that the Pope basically (with the help of Ratzinger) killed, right?
Matthew Fox: Absolutely. Emasculated, absolutely. And it was a big deal. First of all, it was such courageous people who, for example, on behalf of the rainforest Indians in the Amazon, stood up to the corporations who were tearing down the rainforests willy-nilly; stood up to the military government of Brazil. Cardinal Arns of Sao Paulo was a real hero who stood up to the military there, who were in charge for like 18 years. And it's out of that movement that in fact Silva, the fine President of Brazil, he came from that movement, as did the President of Uruguay who used to be a Bishop, actually. You know, a lot of leaders now in South America, which has really become much more Democratic in the last thirty years, these people came from the Base Community and Liberation Theology movements.
On the other hand, the Pope, was backing Pinochet, this horrible dictator who has blood on his hands from torturing and murdering priests, nuns, and lay people. Pinochet, of course, was put in by the American CIA. In the proof of my book, the CIA under Reagan worked real closely with the Vatican to destroy Liberation Theology. That was the goal of the National Security group under Reagan, and I footnote that. That's well documented now. They had a meeting. They said "We can't destroy Liberation Theology, but we can split the church." And that's how they got the pope and Ratzinger splitting the church, and we're still dealing with some of that fallout today.
Rob Kall: Tell me a little bit more about what Liberation Theology was and is about. Does it still exist at all? What's the Status of It?
Matthew Fox: Good question. If you talk to many South American Liberation Theologians today, they'll say "We used to serve the church, now we serve humanity." So they've broadened their, if you will, their agenda, their scope; they realize the church, as now constituted under Ratzinger and the previous Pope, is impossible to deal with, because Opus Dei is now running so many of the Dioceses in South America, and of course, more and more they're forming Opus Dei Bishops and Cardinals in North America too. The Bishop of Los Angeles, the largest Diocese in North America, is Opus Dei now, the new Bishop there, who will be Cardinal soon.
Rob Kall: Tell me more about Liberation Theology. I want to hear about Opus Dei, and we're going to have a conversation about that, but first tell me about the good stuff, about Liberation Theology.
Matthew Fox: Well, it is, as the Latin American Bishops said in one of their big conferences, Medellin Conference, years ago, they said "It's a preferential option for the poor. The Gospel requires that we put the poor out front and up front, and that we listen to them. So, the Liturgy is Base Community Theology is about a circle, not about just one guy preaching, but about everybody testifying to their experience trying to live out the Gospel. So it's a much more Horizontal approach to worship and to Theology, and it is about the struggle for justice being one of the important ways to incarnate the Jesus teaching, such as Matthew 25: "When you do it to the least, you do it to me." Love your neighbor is not an abstraction. Of course you remember, Latin America back then had horrible disparate divisions between the very rich, and the many, many, many poor. But since then, you'll notice that the Middle Class is building up in many of these countries, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and so forth; and so there has been real progress, but it's not been -- what can I say? It's not from the top down, it's from the bottom up, and that's how Liberation Theology operates. The Holy Spirit works through the poor, and not exclusively through the [Church]. It's not trickle-down grace - or trickle-down economics.
Rob Kall: One thing I've wondered: is it possible for there to be a Catholic Church, a Catholic Religion, that is bottom up as compared to the ultra-hierarchical system that begins with the Pope?
Matthew Fox: That's a great question, and that's really what I concluded in my book on the Pope. It's that I think the Holy Spirit has been at work destroying the Catholic Church as we know it. That is to say, exactly how you're identifying the top down thing. It's just lost all credibility. This horrible revelation of, not just the Priestly Pedophilia, but the coverup of the priestly pedophilia by hierarchy; like Cardinal Law, like the Pope, and like Cardinal Mahony now. All this coverup, that's the real crime. To think people at the top, the CEOs so to speak, would act on this this out of moral necessity, but they didn't. They swept [it] under the rug to protect the institution.
Look at Penn State, look what happened at Penn State. Within two years they fired everyone, they took down the statue of this icon, this hero football coach, and they got moving. But here, it's been thirty  years since the horrible news abut Father Maciel, this Priest that Pope John Paul II was so close to that he took him on his plane with him when he went places. This Father Maciel had abused twenty  of the seminarians, sexually abused them. He had two wives and four children, and he sexually abused them, all of the rest of it. And Ratzinger knew about this and did nothing. After he was Pope he finally did something, but he knew about it well beforehand. That's absolute fact. And it was his job as head of the congregation, doctrine, and faith, to do something, and the Pope knew about it and did nothing.
And, you know, what's more horrible than abuse of Children? Jesus talks about that, doesn't he, in the Gospels? You put a millstone around your neck and throw yourself in the water, he said. Tough language! And so, I think it's impossible to bring the structure back. It's lost all credibility. It has nothing to do with Jesus anyway. By that I mean: Jesus was on the side of the poor, he took on the Empire. This whole idea of "The Church is here to organize Empires and give it religious legitimacy" is contrary the Gospels, and contrary to History.
So, I think the Holy Spirit is at work deconstructing the Church as we know it, and that's why the last third of my book on the Pope is "Where do we go from here?" Hey, it's wide open! Since the Vatican is in Schism, we're free to ordain women, ordain gays, bring back married Priests; just start things over again, keep it simple. Don't travel with basilicas on your back, a backpack is enough; the Gospels, the Prophets, the martyrs, the mystics, we are all part of that story, and we can move forward now, much, much, much, much lighter. And I think that's what the younger generation is looking for: a much lighter version. As I say: spirituality? Yes. Religion? I don't think we need so much of that.
Rob Kall: This is the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, reaching South Jersey and metro Philly out of Washington Township, sponsored by Opednews.com . If you want Liberal news, Progressive opinion, Opednews.com is the place to go. Don't ask me. Check with Google. Put in the search terms "Liberal news" or "Progressive opinion," you don't even need to remember the name Opednews.com . If you Google those terms, Opednews.com will come up at the top.
My guest tonight is Matthew Fox. He's the author of thirty  books on culture and spirituality, and he's co-directing a three-year workshop series on The Cosmic Christ with Andrew Harvey. He's got a book that he published last year called The Pope's War; and we're talking about Pope Ratzinger, and Pope John Paul II, and Liberation Theology, and the idea that the Catholic Church is going through some major changes. Now, Matthew, you talk about some big changes, but are they really possible with the powerful hierarchy that exists right now that is used so effectively to silence anybody that speaks out?
Matthew Fox: Well, that's why I have very, very little optimism about the next Pope, because they've sacked the Cardinals, the people who vote for Popes. All the men they've appointed the last forty  years think like themselves, which means they'll do nothing new there. So that's why I think the Holy Spirit has asked us to step beyond the structure that we know as the Catholic Church. I think that it's run it's course.
And I'm not alone in this at all. A very great Saint, a Father Bede Griffiths was a monk in Southern India for fifty years, a Benedictine monk, and he said to me shortly before he died a few years ago, "Don't worry about the Vatican, don't look over your shoulder, don't even think about them." He said, "Continue to 'plant shoots' for the new Christianity, because one day it's all going to come tumbling down, just like the Berlin Wall." And I think we're living through that day.
Every day these revelations - just this week they finally printed the documents from the L.A. Diocese. Of course, Mahony sat on them, got high priced lawyers to sit on these documents for seven years (I believe it was). And the documents just absolutely reveal that Benedict XVI knew about this, Cardinal Mahony knew about it, they did nothing about the pedophile Priests; they passed them from parish to parish, diocese to diocese, even country to country, instead of protecting the young people. The credibility is gone, and the structure has run out of steam. So I just don't think we should be putting a lot of energy into electing Popes and all the rest, I think we have to, like your program says, start at the grass roots. There are a lot of wonderful grass roots Christians and Catholics, and Priests and Sisters, who know about the essential teachings of Jesus.
It's about justice and compassion, as of course is the essence of any religion, when you get it down to it's essence. So let's move on that. There's plenty of beauty and richness to bring along. As I say, "What to take from the burning building?" There's a lot there in the Christian tradition and in the Catholic tradition, and I've honored that. That's why I've written thirty  books.
One book I wrote recently is on Christian Mystics. There's just great stuff in the teachings over the centuries, and we bring that along. But as I say, in a backpack, not as a basilica. Let them have the basilicas and the big buildings. Religion is renewed at the grass roots; small communities, there are more and more of these springing up now, and they're ordaining women and all the rest, they're not waiting for permission from, what can I say, from an institution that's proven it's immorality from the way it's mishandled the horrible cases of priestly pedophilia.
You know, in Ireland fifteen years ago, ninety percent [90%] of Irish went to church on Sunday. Today it's down to about four percent [4%]. In ten years, it's dropped from 90 to 4, and they're not coming back, the young are not coming back, because they've been so put off by the revelations of the cover-up by the hierarchy of these horrible sexual abuse situations.
Rob Kall: There's an article today in the Wall Street Journal that has a graph, "Empty pews." It looks like Poland has the highest weekly Mass attendance with the least drop-off, but Italy dropped from forty-eight to thirty six percent [48% - 36%], Germany from twenty-seven to twenty-two [27% - 22%], Spain from thirty to nineteen [30% - 19%], Switzerland from twenty-three to seventeen [23% - 17%], France stayed steady at twelve percent [12%], and the Netherlands dropped from nineteen to seven percent [19% - 7%]. Big drops all around!
Matthew Fox: All Across Europe.
Rob Kall: But again, yes, and the article is about how they're having problems with Europe, that Europe is a challenge, and that the baptism rate in Europe /
Matthew Fox: Well, it's happening in America too. I tell you, I did a retreat a few years ago in upstate New York, and Friday night about a hundred and fifty there said what traditions they were from. A hundred were Catholic, "How many are practicing?" About 60 percent. Then I said "How many of your children are practicing?" Every hand went down. Zero percent of the children of these Catholics were practicing, and that was three or four years ago. I find this everywhere, that again, the revelation of pedophilia and the way it's been handled, plus the other teachings against birth control, against gays, the preoccupation with sex as the apparent primary teaching of Christianity. All this is turning off many, many people, as it should.
Rob Kall: Now, there's an Oped in the Wall Street Journal today that says "Catholics needed a Pope for the new evangelization." What does that mean, "New evangelization?"
Matthew Fox: Yeah. You have to be careful with that word, because the Right Wing loves to play with that. But in a basic sense, evangelization means "Preaching good news." It's really the meaning of the word "Gospel." Evangelium: The Good News. So, that could be taken innocuously, but on the other hand, that's kind of a code word, evangelization, for a lot of Right wing Catholics.
That's another scary thing about [what] Ratzinger and John Paul II have done. They put wind in the sail of extreme Right wing people who get on television all the time saying that they represent Catholicism, and they don't. They represent these cults like Opus Dei, who is very powerful. Opus Dei is this movement that was backed wholeheartedly by the last two Popes, and they're secretive, and they're very powerful.
I'll tell you a story. I was in Frankfurt a few years ago and a journalist took me to lunch in downtown Frankfurt, and he said "Look out there. How buildings do you see being built?" I said, "It looks like seven skyscrapers." He said, "Yes. Every one is about finance, because the head of finance is moving from Switzerland to Frankfurt because of the Euro," and he said that "At the top of each of those skyscrapers will be Opus Dei." So, Opus Dei goes where the power is.
And in America they're embedded in a lot of media, they're certainly represented in the Supreme Court. Citizen's United happened because of five votes from five Roman Catholics Supreme Court Judges. That Citizen's United thing is about as Fascist an idea you can come up with, the idea that Corporations are people. Mussolini defined Fascism (and it's a quote) as " The marriage of corporations and Government." Well, isn't that what Citizen's United is all about? Tell me that it isn't! That's what I read in it. American's are so naïve. You know, we think that religion is someone dressed up pretty in white and blessing people - well there's a lot going on behind the scenes. And that's what I tell about in my book, The Pope's War, because we're not just talking religion here, were' talking politics.
Do people know, for example, that when Kerry ran against Bush II in that election in 2004, in June, you know, right in the middle of the election, Bush went to the Pope, went to Vatican and complained, and said, "I'm against gays, I'm against abortion. Why don't the Catholic Bishops support me more?" A week later, Ratzinger, the Pope's right-hand man, wrote a letter to the Bishops of America saying "A Catholic politician (i.e. Kerry) who does not come out against gays and abortion should not receive communion." And this just totally flipped the Kerry campaign upside-down, because Kerry is a practicing Catholic, and they didn't know how to handle it. But the results of the election show that three states, New Mexico, Ohio, and Iowa had a very peculiar percentage never before seen of Catholics who voted for a Republican president, for Bush. If just one of those states had not had that result, Kerry would have President and not Bush.
So there is an interference by a foreign government, the Vatican, into an American election, and the media just kind of yawned it's way through it. It's a very significant thing. And, they got away with it.
Rob Kall: OK. Let's dive into Opus Dei. Now, you mentioned Citizen's United and the five Justices who are Catholic on the Supreme Court. Are any of them Opus Dei? Do we know?
Matthew Fox: I believe at least three are.
Rob Kall: Who?
Matthew Fox: I footnote that in my book. But it's hard to know for sure, because Opus Dei is by definition, very, very secret. We do know this: Santorum, the presidential candidate, sends his teenage sons to a Catholic School where the Opus Dei runs the religion department. And every time I hear Santorum open his mouth about moral issues, it sounds like the straight Opus Dei line. The governor of Kansas, Brownback, converted from being a Fundamentalist Protestant to being an Opus Dei Catholic, and he ran for President eight years ago, and he's now governor there.
So again, Opus Dei goes where the power is. They're in the CIA, the FBI. The greatest spy in American history, about whom Hollywood did a good movie and an accurate movie called Breach, he gave away more secrets than anyone in American history, got more of our spies murdered - he was Opus Dei, and he hid within the organization for twenty years - he got away with it. Finally they caught him. He's now in jail, but he was Opus Dei.
So, you know, it's a very peculiar organization, and yet they're so influential, especially in the media in this country. People who write sweet books about them, you'll see their face on the media representing Catholic Thought, and interpreting the Vatican. People who write critical books about Opus Dei, you don't see them any place. Their works don't get out there at all.
Rob Kall: Now there's another group, or maybe it's not another group, but there's a group called "The Family," that many of the members of the Congress are a part of. Is there a connection between the Family and Opus Dei?
Matthew Fox: Yeah, well, I think the Family is a more Protestant based group. But yes, this is what's going on: The Fundamentalist Evangelical are linking up more with the Fundamentalist Catholic. There is a lot of linking. For example, there's a fellow named George Weigel who has just come put with a new book, Evangelical Catholicism. And he's a very, very Right wing Catholic. One of the really strange things about this book that I just read, and I'm doing a review for [unintelligible word], is that he never mentions Opus Dei the whole book, which is really interesting, because he's hiding something there.
But his whole goal of this book is to link what he calls "Evangelical Catholicism" with Evangelical Protestantism, and to create a religiously-based political Right wing movement. He himself is a Neocon. He cheered the Iraq war and all the rest, even though the Pope was actually against it, and he claims complete fidelity to the Pope. So obviously his Neocon ideology trumps his Catholicism when there's a real crunch of issues. These groups are in bed with each other. More and more, the Right wing of Catholicism has teamed up with the Right wing of Protestantism, and we see more of these movements.
Rob Kall: So, there are some speculations about who will replace Ratzinger. What are your thoughts on that? It sounds to me like you think it's...
see the Part II of the interview here.
Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.
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