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Monday, September 29, 2014

CAN'T HUG THE NEEDY WITH WEAPONS FOR ARMS


 “For the first time, the United Nations is handling four major humanitarian crises at once: refugee crises in Syria and Iraq as well as civil wars in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, where millions are at risk of famine. Meanwhile, West Africa is experience a devastating Ebola outbreak.”
And this is on top of “ongoing needs that are being met in Nigeria, Gaza, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the emerging crisis in Ukraine," says an administrator of our USAID programs.  She adds this is unprecedented in the scope of worldwide disaster responses, and extraordinarily complicated—much more than last year’s hurricane in the Philippines, where, “Nobody was shooting anyone.”


This NPR report was on August 19th this year [you can find online at NPR Morning Edition], and things are not getting better.   Our humanitarian efforts are beaten back by a world awash in weapons and violence.   The failed third world states are overwhelming us with their wounds of war.   The Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone wells up within a people who’ve been subjected to a bloodbath of fighting for decades.  We are becoming the failed superpower states—the first-world countries who’ve relied on, and exported, war industries to solve international conflicts.


                                                                Sermon on the Mount -- Hope for Africa



Our world leaders base their investment, politics, and security on military power. This terribly mistaken idea, that one can bludgeon the enemy into submission and peace, has plagued humanity for millennia, before the birth of Christ.  He preached from the mountaintops the Beatitudes—love of enemy was the only way to salvation and true security.  Many governments since have professed respect for Christianity, but put their money down on the war machine.   Yet the only guaranteed wages of war are continued sin, disease, and death.

We’ve been so blessed in the United States.  We reach a turning point.  God grant us the grace to change our hearts, then open our purses investing completely in the healing way of the peacemaker.

Graph of world's disastrous response to conflict thus far - from globalissues.org


 More complete info & graphs on the trillion dollar arms industry at last 2 sites below

References
http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/08/19/341413632/worlds-aid-agencies-stretched-to-their-limits-by-simultaneous-crises


http://www.globalissues.org/article/74/the-arms-trade-is-big-business#Developingnationsaretoprecipients

Here's the only image of St. Michael I can find without a sword [from St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Chruch in Concord, CA].   Happy Michaelmas Day -- the 29th was celebrated in Europe as a feast of the harvest.  Michael is "a star of the love that conquers pride," and means in Hebrew--who is like to God?

Monday, September 22, 2014

LIBYA, HONDURAS, AD INFINITUM -- WAR OFFERS UP ITS REFUGEES



Molech-Cronos-Saturn-Baal---god of  fire, war, and child sacrifice.     Mars--Roman god of war.             

War, violence and abuse are humanity’s most promiscuous false idol—that by means of these we can obtain the ends of peace and prosperity.   If we believe in Jesus, the Good News, the Sermon on the Mount, nothing can be further from the truth.  If we are simply a student of history, the same is still true.   Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are certainly doomed to repeat their mistakes.  One of the many constant tragedies of allegiance to war is the propagation of wave upon wave of refugees.

Two examples from our current affairs:  Libya-Gaza and Central America—distant places united in suffering.

The recent disastrous wars in Libya & Gaza, where we, the Europeans, Arab powers, and Israeli's contributed airstrikes, weapons, and “intelligence” to the conflicts, have led to a tremendous surge in refugees trying to flee across the sea to North Africa for uncertain safety on Sicilian islands.   Those bombed from their homes in Gaza have had to trek westward through Egypt [also in a state of militarized chaos].  People from Syria and Iraq also choose the ocean route of escape.
   
 Workers removing bodies of migrants that washed ashore on Libya’s coast-- Aimen Elsahli-Reuters

No one could accuse Pozzallo [a mass was said there for those who’d died at sea] of indifference. This small Sicilian town, like Italy itself, has staggered its way through a skyrocketing migration crisis in the Mediterranean that has seen roughly 120,000 migrants rescued by Italian ships this year, almost triple last year’s figure, while nearly 2,800 have died in shipwrecks or in transit, a fourfold increase. And more bodies may be coming. Rescuers are searching in the waters near Malta after reports this week that more than 750 people may have died in two shipwrecks in recent days.
Over the past three years, Italian authorities have swung from a hard-line policy to “push back” migrant vessels to Libya, to a search-and-rescue program to deliver them safely to Italian ports like this one. Migrants still keep coming.  {read the full account}
There are many in flight from Libya which now, after the war to depose Qaddafi is a failed state, fought over by militias, government in exile.   And many are those displaced from the most recent conflagration in Gaza, as well as the steady stream from Mali, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast …

On our side of the Atlantic we begin to appreciate the scope of those families displaced by our Central American war’s bad economy, and its militarized drugs wars that have become epidemic, esp. in Honduras, site of the U.S.’s biggest military base in the region—called the Southern Command.  Their children now pile up on our southern border.  [see previous July 21, 2014 entry]
To personalize one of these families, just through a brief encounter, read of a Guatemalan mom and her three kids’ stopover at Casa Juan Diego, in Houston.   In their journey refugees lose all security, often even the ability to ask for help.

 Immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas, on June 25

Pope Francis at the beginning of this year, called for a new attitude of solidarity with the displaced, then made it specific to these Central American refugees.
A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization — all typical of a ‘throwaway culture’ — towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world”.

Earlier, on Lampedusa another Sicilian island near Pozzallo, Pope Francis had this to say about that corner of the world’s war refugees crisis. But he lashed those who ignored the plight of refugees. "The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference."

Spanish police, in the foreground, and Moroccan police, in the background, blocked dozens of African migrants as they attempted to jump a fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla---Santi Palacios for The New York Times
One can’t leave this subject without remembering also the recent millions of those displaced, internally & externally, by our wars, direct and by proxy, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Yemen …  The incomplete list goes on back towards WWII, and deeper on down history’s trail of tears.
Migrants sat astride a fence separating Morocco from Spain during a failed crossing attempt into Melilla in April, 2014. Credit Santi Palacios for The New York Times

War always brings death, destruction, displacement and disease.  Those who fail to learn these lessons of history are certainly doomed to repeat them.  The only way to banish these curses, is to not go to war in the first place.  We are our brothers and sisters keepers.  We must each do our part in renouncing war as ever being a solution to society’s problems.


Mural, Fray Matias de Cordova Human Rights Center, Tapachula, Mexico {major crossing point into Mexico from Central America}


References

A recent story of the Central American refugee children at our borders –








Monday, September 15, 2014

RENEWED TRAVELS IN SPAIN


Looking back over the summer we’re grateful for our trip to Spain.  Ande and I, as padrinos to Theresa and longtime family friends, were invited by Joe & Rose Crowley to their daughter’s wedding in Cantabria, Spain’s north coast.   It was an intimate celebration within the gardens of a 300 year old country inn, hosted by Demetrio, proprietor and friend of the groom’s family, the Ferreiras, for generations.   Everything was generous and blessed, with la familia connections deep in the old world and new.


The spirit of this union, with new bonds spanning the distance of language, culture, place—along with later travels from the Picos de Europa mountains to the coastal El Camino, with the proud parents we’ve known for decades—renews my faith in traveled friendship.   Both our families have had up and down challenges.   Both continue to believe in extending the risk of encounter to beyond the regular boundaries, seeking immersion in the life of many different countries, rich and poor—our grown children now taking the lead.


he Basque country of Spain is especially close to my heart.  Though I’d never been there before, I’d wandered, hitch-hiking, broke, through other parts of Spain for many months forty plus years ago.  A young Basque of beautiful baritone voice taught me his Euskadi songs at our gatherings when I managed a few months stay in Madrid, shared the deep-rooted hospitality of his homeland, helped me buy my first Elosegui beret in the Madrid Sunday market.  Though they’d suffered the wars of Franco’s fascist bombers, and for years some responded with ETA’s terror attacks, he showed me the common people were renowned for their welcome of the stranger, closeness to the land, their cooperative labor movement.   I’d always hoped to go north to see their ancestral tree in Guernica, share more of their history and friendship.


City of Guernika, April 26, 1937, after the bombing by German warplanes - Euskadi archive photo

With good fortune, and lots of planning, that finally happened this trip.  After a few wrong turns in the coastal town we found Guernika‘ko arbola [tree], traditional assembly point for the Basque people.  Then Ande & I’d been put in touch [through Ande’s high school girlfriend] with Ester who’d been an exchange student in her school, after Ande left.  Ester was now a travel guide in San Sebastian, one of the most beautiful old cities of the Basque country.  Along with her husband Ignacio they gave us a wonderful evening of walking the streets and seacoast hills of their place, giving us the best of their food [pintxos], wine, and deep conversation in three languages about the necessity of travel, for peace in the world.  I was even invited, at a bar table shared with strangers, to sing my remembered version of the Euskadi anthem.


These were high points in our two week trip.  The marriage, and on the road with rental car.  There were many small difficult decisions along the way, and one is always quite dependent on the good will of random local people.  It’s easy to get lost in many senses of the word, when you don’t understand every word.   Mistakes are always close by.  You must pay attention.

Traveling is hard work, but it is the only way to meet those new people far away who have something important to say to you—fresh foreign perspective.  Do not be afraid, despite issues we are all brothers and sisters.  They meet our simple daily needs which are now complicated as we swim outside our culture in theirs—in ways that are surprising, and make us grateful.  What positive connections!
Monastery at Cobreces, from the small part of the Camino we walked

We thank Mirna at the hotel in Lekeitio on Spain’s north coast, a Rumanian from Paraguay, cheerfully patiently respecting my efforts using my Spanish, bargaining down the price of our rooms.  Brother Bonifa at the Camino monastery in Cobreces, lodging us creatively, always with bemused smile.   Heriberto, young man in Nike cap who rolled down his window when asked directions as it was getting late and we’d found no place to stay.   He was high on something, but assured us to follow, on a fast wild goose chase up and down narrow hill roads seeking a country posada—but not finding, still wrote out directions to a hotel in the next town over, which did finally work out fine.   Vanessa, young professor from Oxford, and another Basque by birth, in animated discussion on the train in towards Madrid’s Atocha station, while suggesting good places to eat our last day in Spain.  And so many more, in just a two weeks journey.  Learning a foreign language is the key to travel, and the first step in global interpersonal understanding.

Artist's redition of Guenika'ko arbola--They've planted a new one to replace the old, of which the trunk only remains, though it did survive the bombng.

Of course we are most grateful to the extended family of the Ferreiras in Santander & Miami, and to dear friends of many years, the Crowleys who were our reason for being in Spain. 
¡Que Dios les bendiga Theresa y Arturo!  Que su amor crezca siempre.

Flores de Quijas, Cantabria


"The Good Shepherd" at Iglesia de Santa Maria in San Sebastian---The Basque people are famous for their shepherding skill


Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Photos by myself


Clicking on some pictures can make them bigger.



Monday, September 8, 2014

HOW TO STOP WAR'S DEATH THREAT

Face of our current enemy threat --Members of the Islam State of Iraq and Shaam (Isis) with senior commander Abu Waheeb - photo from the Telegraph UK

President Obama, reacting to the recent ISIS violent beheadings in Syria, said on 9-3-14, that “he wants to ‘degrade and destroy’ the extremist group Islamic State."  Out of our use of “overwhelming force” for 9 years in Iraq, comes now their overwhelming violence, the beheadings of fundamentalist Sharia law.   So the next evil empire to be attacked, is this Islamic State in Iraq and Syria { ISIS }, the very ones we helped create as we destroyed evil Saddam and his army, then moved on to battle Assad in Syria.

Can’t we yet see the moral bankruptcy of “if you don’t do as we say, we blow you away” foreign relations?  We’ll not overcome this with targeted killings.  What we do with drone operators and smart bombs, they do with bullets, IEDs, and the executioner’s sword.  It’s all gruesome with death the final solution—but the hatred and enmity of wars upon war never stops.

If we could only come to recognize that death is not the end, and all the killings pointless.  God’s love and mercy has saved us, and shown us the only way to conquer evil and death. War’s power always fails to deliver.  The way of the cross has defeated the way of the sword.

ave you ever heard any politician, from whatever the party, say, “Love your enemy.”?  And nobody says this because—it’s not practical?   Yet it’s the central teaching, along with forgiveness, of the Son of God.
From Rev. John L. McKenzie S.J., biblical scholar, we have, “Most Christian do not believe that Jesus knows what He is talking about in this area. They dismiss Him as unrealistic at best, probably stupid. Therefore they refuse to even to try to implement what He taught about nonviolence and love of enemies. This guarantees that His Way of nonviolence will never enter into history as more than a na├»ve and stupid idea. Give me the money that Christians give to the Pentagon for war, and I’ll show you nonviolence works.”

*******************************************

Image of Mary from Cuba -- Our Lady of Caridad de Cobre
Today the universal church celebrates the birthday, chosen to be Sept. 8th, of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Though not much is known of her origins, the Saint of the Day page has this to say:  “We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings [Anna and Joachim in this case] has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God's love and peace to the world.”  “Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary's birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world.”

Love and respect for all life give us the greatest hope against degradation, destruction, and death itself.


References
http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saintofday/

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, September 1, 2014

LABOR DAY-- CAPITALISTS TO SERVE LABOR?

...we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.” -- Pope John Paul II [emphasis in original]


There was not one advertiser’s glossy insert in today’s local paper.  The Monday edition has become the slimmest—but there’s usually at least one insert even as all local dailies seem to diminish size and coverage.

Could it be the lack of flyer is due to the fact that today’s Monday holiday is only Labor Day?  It’s become the poor sister of holidays, the sad end of summer.   Holiday editions almost always have more heft than the usual run of the news mill.  But labor has become less and less profitable in recent years, discounted, certainly not celebrated by mainstream media.  And now since average workers have so little wages to buy with, their day doesn’t even merit a single shiny sheet enticing them to go spend.

The whole situation is shameful in the world’s richest society.  Powerful people paint unions and worker solidarity as the obstacles to success.  They ignore the history of how the vibrant middle class was built in this country.  Now the slow death of our middle class is documented by many observers, such as in the video, Inequality for All.


Doing a job well, work for work’s sake, for the creative good done, is devalued.  The message trickling down from the wealthy top is that fat profit margins are the most important measure.  This way of thinking makes the Gospel story of the generous master who pays all equal regardless of how long they worked that day, an incomprehensible scandal, never to be imitated.


We have some great examples to lead us in the positive spiritual direction, the direction of solidarity with brothers and sisters here and abroad.  Martin Luther King was assassinated as he was in Memphis TN, helping to organize garbage collectors.  Cesar Chavez gave his life organizing farmworkers.   Walter Reuther, after bringing auto workers together here in Michigan, reached out to help the farmworkers union.   Gandhi worked tirelessly for the rights of the untouchables in India.


What we do here has grave impact on societies across the globe.  The Gospel instruction, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” has been turned around—take as much as you can get.   Pope Paul VI’s instruction, “If you want peace, work for justice,” has its covert obverse, which is now active in all earth’s corners:  If you want war, promote injustice.    War, lamentably, is short term very profitable for a select few.


The Church has had something to say on this.  Pope Leo XIII back in 1891, said in his  Rerum Novarum,  “The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvelous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen; in the enormous fortunes of some few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses…”   All too familiar a situation.



Then Pope John Paul II in 1981’s Laborem Exercens continues, We should also consider here the prospect of worldwide catastrophe in the case of a nuclear war, which would have almost unimaginable possibilities of destruction.  In view of this situation we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the Church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital.[emphasis in original]  Capital is to serve the interests of labor.  The union makes us strong.  What an about face from the current direction of the corporations of America.


May we all learn to be in solidarity with, and capitalist servants of, the poor, to our best abilities, as our Catholic church teaches, but not yet preached from many pulpits, nor reported by the press.






From Fr. Joe Scott, CSP’s commentary on Laborum Exercens
The Church has sometimes criticized corrupt practices within a particular union, or warned against the practice of fostering division between management and labor. Yet Pope John Paul II in his encyclical on labor, (1981) asserted the fundamental principle of “the priority of labor over capital.” While in actual fact capital has organized itself against labor in our society, John Paul II insists that capital exists to serve labor: “There is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers…The Church is firmly committed to this cause, for it considers it to be its mission, its service, a proof of its fidelity to Christ…”

Leo XIII: Rerum Novarum -- A Summary Article by Gerald Darring
“The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions.” – U.S. Catholic Bishops 1986 Pastoral Letter, “Economic Justice for All.”



Monday, August 25, 2014

VIOLENT PUNISHMENTS & WAR

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

References
"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

CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY ABANDON SHIP--TAX INVERSION TUTORIAL



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.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/business/the-muddled-road-to-overhauling-corporate-taxes.html

 
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.
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/07/28/banks-cash-in-on-mergers-intended-to-elude-taxes/


 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.”
 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/business/Action-in-washington-on-corporate-inversions.html



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.