Monday, August 25, 2014


James Foley--died Aug. 19, 2014, after 2 years in captivity

The WSJ’s 8-22-14 story is ominous, “U.S. Eyes Wider Action on Islamic State: Killing [beheading] of Journalist Fuels Push for International Campaign; Officials Say Syria Vital to Defeating Islamic State.”  A video goes viral with the horrific execution—one militia's vision of war’s justice.

The major media publicizes this one brutal killing.   The strategists’ response is that we expand our war machine’s reach to kill however more thousands it may take to control Syria.    Arming these militias [object was to topple Syria’s Assad] has unleashed a most radical Islamist State army, which now with vicious calculation beheads captive U.S. journalist, James Foley.  Incredibly some think it just takes more weapons and firepower to solve this region’s problems.  [For partial history of our underwriting various sides of this Middle East violence, see previous entries, Aug 13, 2012, Jan. 20, 2014 ]

Condemned Saudi prisoner in a scene from the 1980 docudrama Death Of A Princess

nd once again, as with the post 9-11 push towards Iraq through Afghanistan, the U.S. points in conflicted directions.  Fifteen of the nineteen Trade Tower attackers were Saudis.  We are appalled at this terrible execution in Syria, contemplate increasing our war against terrorists there, while we ignore the 19 beheadings presided over by the Saudis just since August 4th.  Read of the deaths also of their prisoner victims--short story in the 8-22-14 NYT.  It’s a continued regular aspect of their justice system, for both violent and nonviolent offenses.  We don’t understand this, it’s not our culture, but we tolerate it, -- and of course our own more modern methods of capital punishment.

Saudi Arabia’s money and weapons, with our government’s blessing, have been a major support of the Islamic fighters, many using these same terror tactics, to fight Syria’s Assad.  With the Islamic State army, ISIS, now out of control surging from Syria to Iraq and back, some strategists suggest we bomb them in Syria, as we recently did in Iraq, paradoxically supporting Assad.

Which is more violent—being beheaded, or blasted to smithereens?  Every day in the Middle East many go to their death finding out, one way or another.

Barbaric violence seems to be most acceptable to us when it comes wrapped in oil money futures.  And if Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King are to be believed, all violence only insures future violence, no matter how noble or state approved the intention.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

"The beheading of journalist James Foley has prompted American officials to begin working to knit together a broader international campaign to combat the extremists of the Islamic State, an effort that the Pentagon warned will require taking the fight beyond Iraq and into neighboring Syria.
The Obama administration has indicated it is prepared to continue selective airstrikes against the extremists inside Iraq, where they have seized significant swaths of territory. ..."

“The country [Saudi Arabia] has historically rejected international standards for offenses deemed insufficient for capital punishment, applying it to crimes that include adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug trafficking, rape and witchcraft.”

Monday, August 18, 2014


In the 1950s, corporations paid for about a quarter of total federal spending, but it has generally dropped since, accounting for about a fifth in the 1960s and about 13 percent in the ‘70s. That proportion has seesawed since then and now covers about 7 percent of the country’s bills.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, “I love America.” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, “Investing in America still produces the best return.”
Yet guess who’s behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? [emphasis mine]   Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. …    [“tax inversions” turn patriotism upside down]
These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. And that figure doesn't take into consideration any future inversions. Nor does it account for the possible loss of jobs and revenue that will ostensibly move overseas over time.

 And total tax evasion by corporations is much worse.  A Bloomberg analysis estimated American companies are parking as much as $2 trillion in cash overseas.”

What to do?  If we follow corporate leadership’s logic, it doesn't look good.
Lets start with a premise, A implies B, and B implies A.  If corporations are people, then people are corporations.  So we should all follow their lead and invest ourselves, into foreign entities, so we can all avoid paying taxes, like the big corporations do.   That bankrupts the USA.

Then at the same time the 1% corporates lose their 99% infrastructure—we’re all in the same leaky boat.  At this point the rich can return to their fair to middling support of the common good here in our country, or we can all emigrate to our foreign corporate sites, and leave the U.S. to a whole new wave of more deserving immigrants.
  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.    Mt 6:19
[Port Huron alert -- bad "Float Down" possibilities]

Today's gospel was the story of the rich young man.  Jesus made the invitation, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."  Then come, follow me.”   This certainly upends any strategy to invert and evade public responsibility.  What will be our response?  How can we personally, and as a country, better direct the fruits of our labor, and our taxes to serve the common good?

Bloomberg explanatory video for reference on tax inversions - the financial experts are divided.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Palestinians inspect the destruction in Farouq Mosque after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza--Times of Israel photo, 7-24-14

July 23, 2014--UN Rights Chief Warns of Possible Gaza War Crimes - NYTimes. [both sides accused, with Israelis holding the higher count]

 “Some are shamelessly accusing Israel of genocide, or putting us in the dock for war crimes. The truth is that the Israeli Defense Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize! A Nobel Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint."  Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, speaking 8-1-14 at the annual Christians United for Israel conference.

An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth is again on the rampage rained down on the Gazan territory that Israel claims control over.   Christians in the U.S. most often give a pass to whatever Israel does to protect its interests and integrity in the embattled Middle East.   The current death toll in this Gaza conflict, is more than 1900 Gazans [a majority according to the NYT probably civilians], and Israel 67 [3 reported civilians].

The Old Testament equal damage axiom, has certainly been exceeded.  The New Testament Gospel admonitions to love the enemy, forgive seven times seventy, are not even on the table.  This is even more a failure of U.S. Christians than of the Israelis.  We are called by Christ Jesus in whom we profess belief to resolve rather than perpetuate conflict.   Instead we’ve played into and ramped up their fears for survival, that loom powerful out of WWII’s history of Holocaust, by arming them to the teeth for decades, instead of working hard to disarm the whole Middle East, to give some hope of real lasting peace.  In the midst of this current lop-sided bomb-blasting our government resupplied Israelis with hi-tech stockpiles, no questions asked.
Israel has a claim on us Christians.  We follow Jesus a most faithful Jew, and our scriptures converge.  My first memories of their history as a nation come from the movie, Exodus—‘this land is mine, this old and ancient land.”  But there is a sad complicated history of the destruction of the Jewish nation in 77 AD, two thousand years of diaspora troubled without a home, Holocaust, and then a violent re-founding on Palestinian land in 1948.
Palestinian protesters marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, on May 15, 2014, near the West Bank village of Walajah -AFP-Musa Al-Shaer

he Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacuor, of Palestinian roots, called the Prophet of Peace, and a friend of Israeli presidents, still states the problem this way, [interviewed in the St. Anthony Mesenger] “Where I was born was a village in North Galilee, a Christian village. All the inhabitants were Christians and Catholics. In 1948 we were deported, evicted  from our homes by the military and promised that we would be out for only two weeks. But the two weeks did not end; now it’s 64 years later. We were reduced to refugees in our own country, to deportees in our region. We took refuge in a nearby village
where some houses had been emptied. And we lived there, waiting for the time to return. And the time did not come. We wonder if it will ever come.
Q: So it’s not a dead issue to you, all these years later?
A: It will never be a dead issue, as long as we are living! And those who ought to understand our position most are the Jews. They say, “We were here 2,000 years ago; we are returning.” We say, “We have been here that 2,000 years, but 64 years ago, we were deported by violence and we will return.”
Photo by Larry Towell--WEST BANK 2004. A Palestinian man runs through an opening in the wall where the last eight meter high concrete slab seal is to be set in place.
And this happened also, to countless more Palestinian Arabs [they call it the Nakba].   This land is whose?   The Palestinians now have about 23% of the land [calculating from the CIA World Factbook] they had before the Israeli state was formed, and that is now mostly occupied and/or controlled by the Israeli Defense Forces.  And since the new military government of Egypt cut off Gaza border commerce a year ago, the people there have become so impoverished and desperate, driving the most radical to launch their low-tech missiles indiscriminately as long as they can, just to attract attention, even though it’s self-destructive to Gaza.

o you remember how this current tragic exchange began?  The parties were just about to find a possible Two State peace agreement, when the Palestinians declared they were going to start signing their own international agreements with other countries regardless.  Israel immediately announced a new round of settlements construction in the Palestinian territories.   Eyes for eyes--no peace.   Next, three Israeli teens are abducted and killed.  Israel alleges Hamas of Gaza is responsible.  Immediately a Palestinian teen is killed in revenge.  The battle is on—no holds barred.
Who has a solution?  Remarkably, from the start, it was family members on both sides, whose teenage sons were murdered.  This received virtually no notice from the main media, as the bombs burst on the scene.  [Appears in a commentary of Nicholas Kristof, 7-23-14 NYT]
In the carnage of Gaza and the Middle East, the most unlikely people have stepped forward from their grief to offer moral leadership.
The family of Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old Jewish boy who was one of three kidnapped and murdered, said in a statement after the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian boy: “There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder.”
Likewise, the father of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian boy, said: “I am against kidnapping and killing. Whether Jew or Arab, who would accept that his son or daughter would be kidnapped and killed? I call on both sides to stop the bloodshed.”
Thus those who have lost the most, who have the greatest reason for revenge, offer the greatest wisdom. Yet, instead, it is now hard-liners on each side who are driving events, in turn empowering hard-liners on the other side.

he leaders paid no heed.  But the solution is—to follow the wisdom of these who’ve suffered, and put away the sword.  Every violent death is a little part of holocaust.   No country on earth should sell or deliver any more weapons to either side in this conflict.   The arms moratorium-disarmament should include the whole Middle East, all countries, all factions—a true path to a new Arab-Israeli Spring.  This would cost the arms dealers and their political allies dearly.  Yet, the means of peace are the only way to peace.

U.S. resupplies Israel with munitions as Gaza offensive rages - Reuters (1)
                Arab Boy’s Death Escalates Clash Over Abductions – NYT 7-3-14

UNICEF laments Gaza child casualties, warns of task ahead—Reuters 8-4-14
140807- Conflict Leaves Industry in Ashes and Gaza Reeling From Economic Toll -

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, August 3, 2014


For many years, starting in Croswell, MI in 1985, there have been small gatherings making prayer vigils on the August 6th, 9th anniversary evenings of the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We've placed floating candle lanterns on area rivers, and prayed in commemoration of all those who've died in all wars, on all sides, and for an end to all wars.  This year we'll do this again this Wednesday on the banks of the St. Clair River in Port Huron.  There is an ever increasing need, especially with Gaza and Israel, to turn back to God for our trust and strength, and put down forever the terrible technology of war that ensnares us, and plagues so many, all across the globe.  Please come if possible and pass the word.

Wednesday, August 6th, Year 2014

A prayer vigil in commemoration of all those who have died in war
To commit ourselves to put an end to war
On the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
So that future generations may live in peace
Come pray for conversion from the arms race, on the banks of the St. Clair River, at the new River Walk, south of Vantage Point, in Port Huron {midway down the walk at the reef barriers}  At 9:15 PM, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
ave we yet listened to, or even heard, the voice of the U. S. Catholic Bishops, spoken in their “The Challenge of Peace” pastoral letter of 1983?
            “After the passage of nearly four decades and a concomitant growth in our understanding of the ever growing horror of nuclear war, we must shape the climate of opinion which will make it possible for our country to express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.  Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future use of nuclear weapons…”
We found none invading Iraq, but we still possess more than 5,000 nuclear weapons here in our homeland, and plan on making new generations of them ourselves.  We are by far the biggest overall arms supplier in the world.  It’s time to follow the Gospel’s advice:  “Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”  Mt 7:5
"Other warheads" are bombs still in storage, yet to be destroyed.

            Unjust wars rage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, Sudan, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, drug wars in Mexico, Central and Latin America …   This tragic violence should touch our consciences--our choices of vocations, jobs, our uses of time and money.  Do these support war or peace?  Do these follow the way of Caesar, or the way of Jesus?

Come, pray, help prepare the way of the Peaceable Kingdom.
            “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.” -- Martin Luther King
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”  -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
"I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you" -- Jesus Christ the Lamb of God
 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Vigil at atomic bomb site, every July in New Mexico
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, family man who wouldn’t fight in Hitler’s Wars—executed August 9, 1943
{Prayer Novena now in progress}
St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Jewish intellectual convert to Catholicism, became nun, sent to Nazi gas chamber August 9, 1942

Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Paintings by Kristin McCarthy
Franz icon by Fr. W. McNichols

Monday, July 28, 2014


s long as we continue to claim that our recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, ... were just and good projects of who we are as a people, we condemn ourselves to repeat tragic unnecessary violence. The war we left behind in Iraq rages on, as it will in Afghanistan.  Violence once again burns out of control in the Middle East. In Libya, where all our bombs and bullets intervention have left only lawless militias in charge, we've just had to evacuate all our embassy personnel and their Marine guards.  They went to Tunisia, the country that initiated Arab Spring's nonviolent movement for change that succeeded there.  After Tunisia all the weaponeers of the world rose up to nip that Spring in the bud, as it tried to reach neighboring countries.  We reap only bad harvests from this conviction, might makes right, guns are like gods.

There is another way.  The way that follows Jesus in his nonviolent love of friends and enemies, the solving of conflict by the belief that death is not the end, only love conquers evil.  We have many heroes of faith to remind us of this eternal life and love.  One is Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  A Novena of prayer for his intercession to help end all wars begins at our Holy Trinity parish this Friday, August 1st, till August 9th, a day that also commemorates his execution by the Nazis because he wouldn't fight for them.

More of his story is included below.  Please join in the Novena [prayer at this site] for the conversion of the world to Jesus' way of courageous nonviolent peacemaking.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – The Family Man Who Wouldn't Fight in Hitler's Wars
Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian Catholic who was executed on August 9, 1943 by the German Reich because he would not fight in Hitler’s unjust wars, has been recently recognized as on the path to sainthood.  Franz was beatified on October 26, 2007 in Linz, Austria.  He was a loving husband and father of four small children, a peasant farmer, and a sacristan at the local church.  He knew the wars of Hitler were unjust, and that faith in the Fatherland was taking the place of faith in God.  He couldn’t understand why more German Christians didn’t see this danger.  Pope Benedict XVI who is from the adjacent Bavarian region of Germany, neighbor to where Franz grew up in Austria, has met with Franz’ widow Franziska, helping to shepherd this beatification.
Franz was born in the small farming village of St. Radegund near Linz, Austria on May 20, 1907.  Due to the poverty of his parents {servants too poor for marriage}, he was raised during early childhood, in the home of his grandmother who had 13 children of her own.  He was as hungry for learning as for food, both which were limited in those days.  His natural father died in World War I.  When his mother did marry in 1917, he found more opportunity for learning, with a good library in the farmhouse.  From early on a lover of books, Franz later advised his godson, "People who don't read will never be able to stand on their own feet and will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others."

The driving lessons were a welcome interruption of the army basic training. Winter 1940/1941 under extreme weather conditions.
Franz Jagerstatter in basis training--deployment he later refused.

As a young man he is remembered as fun-loving and popular, went to dances and the pubs, owned the first motorcycle in town, sometimes a “Raufer” [brawler], and also took part in the yearly Passion Play.  In his Catholic region this play was thought equal to Oberammergau’s.  He’d had a child out of wedlock, the mother’s family wouldn’t allow marriage, but he remained a supportive loving father, very unusual for those times.  Franz went then to mass regularly and attended social events at church, where he met his wife Franziska. She was a great joy and inspiration for him. They had three small daughters to whom he was dearly devoted, and they together operated the family farm.

he Jagerstatters continued attending daily mass and were well respected in the village. Yet some thought they were carrying things too far in their criticism of the Third Reich.  The family rejected the state’s social aid payments, and then Franz refused to report for army duty, when called up, after basic training, a second time.  For this he was jailed in March 1943 and sentenced to death that summer.  He could see clearly that Hitler’s wars were unjust, and knew that he was one of those given the grace to resist this evil.

Franz had been in prayer constantly the six months he’d been in jail, praying the scriptures and the rosary.  On the day of his execution, a priest at the prison, Fr. Jochmann, offered spiritual readings. With an unforgettable joy in his eyes, Franz replied, “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”  The priest later stated, “I say with certainty that this simple man is the only saint that I have ever met in my lifetime.”

On August 9, 1943 he was beheaded in Berlin.  His consolation was his trust in God, and the promise that his family would be reunited in heaven.  Now in our time of terrible war without end, Franz is a shining example of faith in the Gospel life, conquering death by refusing to kill.

Edited from a previously published article in Ligourian magazine, by Michael McCarthy 


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, July 21, 2014


The map shows the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by origin (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) from January 1 to May 14, 2014. Over 2,200 children, the largest number, came from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the highest murder rate in the world according to latest rankings from Mexico's Citizen Council for Public Safety and Justice.
Recent reader comments in our local paper suggest that Rep. Candice Miller’s approach to the surge of Central American children at our Southern border is best.  Just cut off all aid to those countries until their people stop trying to crash our gate.   I find myself apparently in agreement with Rep. Miller, if she is in earnest—all aid, including the military and drug enforcement funds which are the bulk of what we've offered Central America in the past.   She is not specific in her statement [see her newsletter 6-24-14]   If this were to really happen, at least the violence spurred by military operations in those countries would lessen, and perhaps families in those regions could resume hopes for their children’s’ futures, at home.

She begins with an important point, “Unfortunately, Central America has had a long history of bad economies and violence.”  But she neglects to elaborate on our contribution to the problem.

emember the Iran Contra Wars against Nicaragua, where we even sold missiles to terrorist Iran to raise dollars to fight this clandestine war that Congress had outlawed?   [To try to contravene in some measure this misguided/illegal policy, which included an embargo on Nicaraguan commerce, my wife and I living in Croswell, MI regularly bought our coffee beans from a cooperative in Nicaragua.  They had to come from an intermediate Netherlands vacuum packing company.  The small fair trade operation in Ft. Wayne, IN that arranged this is still in the business of doing good 30+ years later—Friends of the Third World, Jim & Marian will serve you well.]

U.S. military money poured into the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala [where most of these child refugees now are coming from] in the 1980’s to fight a proxy battle to ward off socialist tendencies in places that had been considered our banana republics.  The weapons and drug violence, and very bad economies created from these wars, have been great aggravating factors to the pain and suffering which now piles up on our border.  Interestingly enough the country we certainly did not give military money to, Nicaragua, although as poor as the others, now has the least violence of these four, and is not sending a wave of refugees to our shores.

Number of deaths by border patrol sector along the U.S.-Mexico border between FY2000 and FY2013.

The number of unaccompanied minors (aged 0–17) taken into custody in the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas exceeded 42,000 for the first eight months of FY2014.

Another conservative, Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas the state with the most influx of child migrants, wants to completely defund President Obama's Deferred Status for Childhood Arrivals order.   “And so a Canada-born senator whose father fled the communist regime in Cuba to build a life in Texas is the point man for reversing the 2012 psuedo-DREAM Act.”   They mistakenly think this cuts the problem off at its roots, while forgetting that, at the root, almost all of us are immigrants.  We must beware of constantly building our walls taller.
Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” [to Listen] is one of his best-known ballads of all times. First written as a poem in 1948, Guthrie’s song ties a tragic event to the role that Mexican migrants play within the United States’ agribusiness economy

A Cuban √©migr√©, Elise Hilton, [writing for the conservative Acton Institute] was part of the Peter Pan brigade of children during the early 1960’s.  She recognizes better, at least some relationship between her own flight from Castro, when most of the families leaving then had some resources, and these new drug violence refugees from the poorer classes of Central America.  Yet she wonders why they don’t have some more organized setup for their arrival in the U.S., like they did.  Good question.  They were welcomed, these are not.
e must recognize our responsibility for this current exodus, especially when the money from U.S. appetites and addictions for drugs is fueling the fires of these Central American families in despair.   Many communities throughout the U.S., including Vassar here in the Thumb, and Catholic churches near the Mexican border, are not only debating the issue, but stepping up to the plate to offer help to these refugees from violence.  Shouldn't this be our response if we wish to answer positively the challenging words of Matthew 25, “Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you…?” 

See previous mcweekly-pv on this
References you may consult –   

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, July 14, 2014


It’s up and down the hill we go in life
gracefully, thankfully if we can
put aside our kicking and screaming.
It will never be the same
as when we were young.
Thanks be to God we go
step by step to the better place
that completes all our yearnings
makes up all our defects
lifts up all we’ve met rich and poor
we wish we could have done, more --
until the end of our brief moment in time.
Then somewhere mystically we go beyond.