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Sunday, February 28, 2010

MOTIF SHOULD REFLECT BRIDGE PLAZA PROJECT’S ENDPOINT: FORTRESS AMERICA







he submitted designs in August 2009 for the new Bridge Plaza’s decorative fa├žade were admirable, but fall way short of telling the truth. This new bridge plaza is unnecessary, a waste of good money, brought to us by those from the outside of Port Huron, who would profit by turning our town into a barricade against barbarians/giant truck stop. It is a government pork barrel, sold to us at a price we can’t refuse, by the neophyte Department of Homeland Security. Its basis is fear of the foreigner.



Designs to sit atop the Blue Water Bridge Plaza to make it more palatable


Since fear is the fundamental motivating factor in this new Bridge Plaza Project, the plaza’s artistic theme should reflect this fact. Enough of 40 to 60 ft. light house and sailboat motifs! My suggestion would be a prison wall, barb wire, and guard tower sculpture to loom high above this new Blue Water Bridge Plaza {which in reality takes us deeper into a Fortress America mindset}. An alternative monument could be a representation of the Statue of Liberty, clothed head to toe in a bristling body suit of barbed wire. The words above her head in flashing neon could read, “Stand back--you tired, poor, those yearning to be free!”

Do we want to see her shrouded in body armor and barbed wire?


But, alas, in the unbridled effort to protect our prosperity, we actually surrender our own freedom, paradoxically deep-six our economy, in the end only to be “mooned” by our nearest neighbors.* Pity we in the U.S. waste so much of our treasure, and turn our backside on our principles, in the futile struggle to be iron-clad invincible.

Adding more fiscal insult to injury, today's [3-1-2010] Port Huron Times Herald has a front page article on current lack of funding for the Blue Water Bridge Plaza project.** Apparently most of the required money will come from loans that State of Michigan taxpayers will have to repay, or from toll increases. With only 19% of the estimated $583 million thus far secured, what will Michigan taxpayer debt be? What will the toll rise to? Congresswoman Candice Miller calls the project "absolutely critical." To whom? Why? Port Huron residents receive no meaningful money from this; instead only a study of how to promote our area, with mounting unsecured bridge plaza debt, significant lost tax base, and ten years of a big mess.

Bridge plaza planners please stop. It’s not too late. Don’t demolish 30 businesses, and 125 homes, [$500,000 per year of our city tax base]. Build us a new Black River Bridge for I-94. It’s needed. Don’t waste any more of our tax dollars on a bridge plaza renovation, just to please Mount Clemens and other Southeast Michigan based contractors, Congresswoman Miller who represents them on the House Transportation and Homeland Security committees, and the many more outstate, national, government- favored corporations.

ort Huron could be a beautiful jewel in this Midwest water wonderland. We need creative projects like the proposed Lake Huron University [expanding St. Clair Community College into a four year university], and power generating river turbines, and windmills, folded into our landscape, enlarging our worldview. These can be designed and manufactured right here in our area, and can inspire us all, to engage, interconnect with, and make better, every corner of our world. In conclusion I offer this prayer.




Prayer in a Time of Contrived Fear

God of peace, we live in a culture
that seeks to manipulate us through fear:
Headlines scream: “Be afraid!” Advertisements
prod our deepest insecurities and anxieties.
Our political and corporate leaders
know that if we fear, then they can do
whatever they want and we will follow.
But over and over again in scripture,
You call to us: “Be not afraid!”
Your words penetrate, us past the noise,
over the tumult: “Do not fear…”
From Your Word we regain
our freedom. No longer afraid, we speak
the truth, we live the truth,
and we become that peace which we seek.
In Your peace, we pray: Amen.

By Tom Cordaro
Pax Christi USA

For more of his writing on response to the current manufactured fear factors, please read his book,
Be not Afraid: An Alternative to the “War on Terror”

Thanks again to Kathy Brahney for illuminations artwork.

*For some details of the Sarnia, ONT protest see http://www.canadaeast.com/rss/article/761904

**http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20100301/NEWS01/3010304/-1/NEWSFRONT2/Plaza-project-waits-for-federal-decision



Sunday, February 21, 2010

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL SHORT CHANGES READERS ON THE CHALABI STORY

The first casualty of war is truth.

Prisoner and child at Abu Ghraib, Iraq at start of current war. These are also, no matter faith or faction, always first casualties of war.




"What a pity that so many innocent people have to pay with their lives for our obsessive fantasies." Thomas Merton in Ishi: A Meditation


For five years I was a subscriber to the paper and online editions of the Wall Street Journal. Last year I quit them in disgust at the Rupert Murdock takeover, and a pattern of news sequestration, such as the incident described below.

There has been much discussion the past few weeks of troubles caused by some in Iraq’s current Shiite Maliki government who would ban 500 Sunni candidates in coming parliamentary elections. The WSJ opinion piece, “Iran has designs on Iraq,” 2-17-10, warns that there are democracy destabilizing elements in Iraq that would tip it in favor of arch-enemy Iran. Buried within the op-ed are the names of two men who have been doing this dirty work. On this same paper’s front page, in the iconic, “What’s News” column, appears this item with no names of the two officials, and no news article indexed for follow-up reading.

“The top U.S. commander in Iraq said two Iraqi officials in charge of keeping Saddam Hussein loyalists out of the government have ties to Iran.”

Who are these Iraqi politicians acting in the interests of former axis-of-evil partner, not-long-before mortal enemy, Iran? One of them is Ahmed Chalabi, former WSJ columnist, celebrated numerous times in WSJ op-ed features and interviews*, as sage advisor on Iraq, pre and post 2003 invasion, though he’d not lived there for 47 years prior to U.S. occupation. Now Chalabi is a threat to democracy in Iraq? To get the full import of the story given incomplete mention by “What’s New’s”, with names not deleted down some memory hole, we need to turn to the New York Times. In their 2-16-10 article, featuring and naming these Iraqi politicians, Ahmed Chalabi and Ali Faisal al-Lami, our top commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno’s direct accusations are reported.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that two influential Iraqi politicians now involved in blocking candidates in the parliamentary election next month had close links to Iran, which the general said was trying to undermine the vote.

General Odierno was unusually blunt in publicly expressing concerns about the actions of the two Iraqis: Ahmed Chalabi, who was a confidant of Bush administration officials in the prelude to the 2003 invasion but now is perceived as having supplied false intelligence to the United States; and Ali Faisal al-Lami, suspected of involvement in murderous activities of Shiite militants, including a bombing in Baghdad, accusations that he denies.

The two Iraqi politicians “clearly are influenced by Iran,” General Odierno said. “We have direct intelligence that tells us that.” He said the two men had several meetings in Iran, including sessions with an Iranian who is on the United States terrorist watch list.


houldn’t this be WSJ front and center news? Our man in Iraq, gone over to the other side! Should it surprise us that our former point man on the Iraqi National Congress, who once received $335,000 per month from the Pentagon** to help promote and pursue our invasion of Iraq, is now accused by General Odierno of consorting with terrorists, and aiding our next best enemy, Iran? War is hell, but unfortunately there are many who make a hell of a profit from war. Chalabi is Shiite, with roots in the monarchy Saddam helped overthrow, and continues to act out of convinced self-interest, whichever way the wind blows.

The major concern for Wall Street Journal readers should be how their news is being managed. This newspaper, a long celebrated source of accurate information for the connected and financially correct, is now failing its customers. To get the “rest of the story” they must look elsewhere. When clever disinformation and omission replaces direct reporting of the truth, the prospects for conserving our democracy diminish.

With hope for a springtime of renewal this Lenten season, and with thanks, for artwork created by Kathleen Brahney



*A partial list appears below.

Put the Iraqis in Charge
Why Iraq is proving much tougher than Afghanistan.
by BERNARD LEWIS
Friday, August 29, 2003 12:01 A.M. EDT

THE REAL WORLD
Strip Poker
It's time for the U.N. to bare all and release its Oil-for-Food documents.
by CLAUDIA ROSETT
Wednesday, August 11, 2004 12:01 A.M. EDT

AFTER SADDAM
The Future Iraq Deserves
A pluralist state built on a democratic social contract.
by AHMAD CHALABI
Wednesday, December 22, 2004 12:01 A.M. EST

The Chalabi Comeback
Iraq's "indispensable" man returns to center stage.
by ROBERT L. POLLOCK
Monday, August 29, 2005 12:01 A.M. EDT

Survivor
One of Iraq's most controversial politicians offers thoughts on the "surge," Iran and where we go from here.
by MELIK KAYLAN
Saturday, July 7, 2007 12:01 A.M. EDT


**Sources for $335,000 figure, and other notable bio on Mr. Chalabi.

http://www.nndb.com/people/645/000024573/

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Ahmed_Chalabi




P.S. This posting in edited form was sent to the Wall Street Journal today for op-ed consideration.



POSTCRIPT FOR THOSE IN THE PORT HURON, MI AREA

The next SNV/BWPC Free Film Series offering is this coming Tuesday, focusing on the abuse of prisoners that pressed, still unchecked, from Afghansitan, to Iraq, to Guantanomo, now back to Afghani-Pakistan. Details below.

BLUE WATER PAX CHRISTI -- SEASON FOR NONVIOLENCE FILM SERIES
To be held this year at the Palmer Park Recreation Center, 2829 Armour St., from 7:00pm to 9pm

Tuesday Feb. 23rd Taxi to the Darkside Academy award winning docu-drama follows the story of a rural taxi driver in Afghanistan, who is swept up and detained in the early days of the U.S. invasion there. Testimony from our soldiers describes how pressure from above, and bad situations in the war zone, leads to the death of an innocent man, and abuses are multiplied on into Iraq, at Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, Cuba detention-without-charge facilities.










Sunday, February 14, 2010

TO WARD OFF VOTER APATHY---ELECT THE CITY COUNCIL BY WARDS


[ How deep into local government has the crack extended? ]




There has been much discussion since last November’s Port Huron city council election of low voter turnout, and ward, vs. at large, representation. The Times Herald in its election review Nov. 6, 2009 quoted Steve Miller, one of the winners, speaking of the controversy, and admitting some north-south representation deficiencies, said “…hypothetically, you could have a ward system and it would work out just as it did.”


But the ward statistics in the article tell a different story. If the election had counted only votes in each ward, for candidates only from their local ward, Ken Harris who ran from the 6th Ward would have won by the third largest victory margin of any candidate city wide, trailing in mandate only Mr. Miller’s in 3rd Ward and Ms. Repp’s in 2nd. Instead, Mr. Harris and his neighborhood are left out. Fisher, Moeller, and Lewandowski would have made it in their wards, but Palmer and Byrne, who didn’t make it, would give Wards 9 and 5 a voice. Ruiz and Archibald, now on council, would have been beaten by Miller. In addition there would be seats at the table also for Wards 4 and 8, which had no candidates in the current system. There would be a number of new faces in city government. Of course this is hypothetical, with these votes having really come from across the city. I predict many more votes, in every ward, if there were a true ward election.


Why not have ten citizens on council, representing each and every area of our city? There would certainly be two qualified individuals per ward that would be interested in running, once the playing field is leveled. And the dismal August at large city council primary could be abandoned. In its last effort, it had a record lowest 8.5%total voter turnout, and accomplished a near meaningless reduction of candidates from 16 to 14.


It’s easy to say that the five southside wards, and the neighborhoods of wards 4 and 5, are just too apathetic to get out the vote. But you have to have time, money, and name recognition to run for office, especially pitted against the whole city. The apathy of an at large system is self-fulfilling. Income and resources do matter. The five southern wards had a less than 10% average voter turnout, and the five northern averaged greater than 20%. Is this more activism on the part of the north, or simply more clout? If all wards were given the real equal opportunity to elect council members, I’d bet that would light the fires of political interest and responsibility city wide. Voter turnout numbers would increase across the board, and the south’s voting percentages would come to equal the north’s.


The City Charter Commission has thus far given us the choice to retain the at large system, or have a hybrid ward system. Either way the deck is stacked against real local democracy. The hybrid system is just a modified at large system. It would have 3 at large seats, 3 ward seats [somehow fashioned out of the current 10] and a mayor as the 7th member. Four members would be city wide elected, and there would only be 3 wards for the other seats. These new hybrid wards would be 2 north, 1 south? Or vice versa? Seems either way we continue to polarize. Hybrids may work green advantage for cars, but they’ll never drive a grass roots democracy.


We need to place on the coming ballot the choice for a true, full participation ward system. Detroit was able to replace its terrible at large system in this way, and Port Huron can’t?


The common perception in this country, and in our city, is that the laws and policies are made for us, not by us. Here the Charter Commission has a golden opportunity to push for more inclusive neighborhood by neighborhood involvement in our local political process. Let’s move away from power broker political machines, and create innovative systems that welcome government by the people—all the people, as many as possible, from all walks of life, neighborhoods, and income levels. Port Huron can do much better.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

UNJUST WAR REMEMBRANCE DAY ------ MARCH 19


[ Picture on front pages around the world except in U.S. 1-20-2005, President Bush's 2nd Inauguration Day, of child whose parents were just shot in car at checkpoint, in Tal Afar, Iraq by U.S. forces. Uncounted children and parents have been killed there before and since. An untold number of U.S. soldiers have been witness to such unnecessary violence. ]




UNJUST WAR DAY OF REMEMBRANCE – MARCH 19


This idea should be re-introduced each year until we adopt it as a country to celebrate conversion from the way of unnecessary institutionalized wars. It took decades to establish Martin Luther King Day in the U.S., a step towards renouncing racism. It will take probably as long to declare an Unjust War Day of Remembrance, to begin fully dismantling all weapons of mass destruction, and the war mentality. But we need to call for it persistently, and assume world leadership in this cause. Members of Congress and the nations’ churches should start petitioning for this Day, as a national, and even international, holiday. Almost all powerful countries have been compromised by unjust war.


As an abundantly blessed nominally Christian nation, we should be the first in the world’s history to admit the mistake of unjust war, before forced to by defeat or self-depletion. This should happen on March 19th, the day we invaded Iraq in 2003. It would be a day dedicated to disarmament, international justice, and diplomatic conflict resolution.


UNJUST WAR REMEMBRANCE DAY – MARCH 19

“It is a sin to build a nuclear weapon.” This was the title of an article by the Jesuit priest, and friend, Fr. Richard McSorley, a couple of decades ago. America has yet to confess this sin. Instead we invaded Iraq to squash an Arab’s attempt to make one, when we’ve built tens of thousands. A nuclear weapon is an ultimatum destined to certainly kill innocents along with combatants if ever used, and already robs the poor, with every rocket built.



President Eisenhower and the U. S. Catholic Bishops—not radicals for sure, but senior statesmen of society and religion. They offered us wisdom--that these weapons and their industry would bring us to our subservient knees, moral and fiscal bankruptcy. But there has been no demand to change behavior, no teeth to the criticism, and no legs of action to stand on. No obligation, no persistent call to conversion. There follows one concrete step that could be taken.



March 19th. I suggest we name this day in the U.S., “Unjust War Remembrance Day.” When we invaded Iraq in 2003 on this day, on the slim possibility of finding even one nuclear weapon, we tried to change our national justification of war, from defensive move of last resort, to preemptive war—a war of convenience for perceived benefits. The people of the United States and the people of Iraq will be paying for this for years to come. It will be redeeming to our true national interests, if we remember that war is a bad tree, and you can never get good fruit from a bad tree. The evil of war is always multiplied, as one side is always unjust, and both sides take up evil means.

[Soldiers who have seen combat will be among the first to pray for an end to all war.]



May we re-dedicate ourselves as we approach this Lenten season, to turning away from the pride of the single super-power. May we place our human and natural resources in the service of the ever merciful Creator God, origin of all the world’s peoples.


For Catholics especially, we ask the continued intercession of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, who would not fight in Hitler’s wars, helping us beat the swords into plowshares, puting an end to war, and our possession of nuclear weapons.

Michael McCarthy, first written in November 2008.

Monday, February 1, 2010

WHY WAR SHOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOSPEL CHRISTIANS




This posting is in response to a good, courageous & pastoral Catholic priest's request that I describe where the church's tradition of nonviolent peacemaker comes from. In a word--direct fom Jesus. For more detail on the church's positions on war & peace, and my conclusions, read on.


In my first year in college, at Sacred Heart Seminary, Fr. Scherzer taught us new testament scripture studies using as a main text “The Power and the Wisdom” by Fr. John L. McKenzie S.J.. It seemed a traditional work on scripture. Sacred Heart was an inner city Detroit institution and a vanguard within the church at the time of Vatican II, opening up to the world’s issues, racial justice especially in our setting. Yet at the seminary [and this in 1965 as the Vietnam War was heating up], war & just war theory theology received only cursory mention. Years later I learned that the scholar Fr. J.L. McKenzie’s summation of what Christ teaches us in scripture on war & violence was this:

“If we cannot know from the New Testament that Christ totally rejects violence, then we can know nothing of His person or message. It is the clearest of teachings.”

If Christ totally rejects violence, then why do Christian churches have military chaplains, and send their young people off to war, and encourage parishioners to pay their war taxes the same as tithes? The problem for Catholics, and all followers of Christ, is that the Gospel collides with political and personal realities. Nations, and worldly kingdoms of various sorts, claim to need organized violence for their security.

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops put it in their pastoral letter 1983, The Challenge of Peace*, “The Church’s teaching on war and peace establishes a strong presumption against war which is binding on all; it then examines when this presumption may be overridden…” This pastoral letter then goes on to explain what it treats as the two parallel church traditions on war: the earliest, nonviolence, and then the just war theory. The letter was written in part as response to the movement for a nuclear weapons freeze in the U.S. in the early 1980’s. We will concentrate on the earliest church tradition.

What did the first followers of Christ believe they should do about violence and war? From The Challenge of Peace, St. Justin in the second century said of those who have become Christians,
“And we who delighted in war, in the slaughter of one another, and in every other kind of iniquity have in every part of the world converted our weapons into implements of peace—our swords into ploughshares, our spears into farmers’ tools—and we cultivate piety, justice, brotherly charity, faith and hope, which we derive from the Father through the crucified Savior…” [Section 112]
And quoting from St.Martin of Tours even into the fourth century speaking to his secular authorities, “Hitherto I have served you as a soldier. Allow me now to become a soldier of God…I am a soldier of Christ. It is not lawful for me to fight.” [Section 114]

Another beautiful source for understanding the early church’s stance on nonviolence and war is the chapter, “War in Origen and St. Augustine” in the only recently released 1962 book by Thomas Merton, spiritual writer and monk of Gethsemane Abbey, Peace in the Post-Christian Era**. Therein Celsus, a Roman patrician writer of the third century, complains of the “insidious doctrines” of Christians, “Instead of returning to the customs of their fathers and living content like the rest of men with the status quo, they refuse to take part in public life, they do not carry out their duties as citizens, and in particular they refuse to fight in the army. Many many were the early Christian martyrs because of this refusal, and denial of the idolatrous incense offering and tax to the emperors Caesar. Origen, a noble Christian writer answers Celsus, “No longer do we take the sword against any nations nor do we learn war any more since we have become the sons of peace through Jesus who is our author instead of following the traditional customs by which we were strangers to the covenant.”

The Church has indeed since provided us with an exemption to allow participation in the violence of war, coined three centuries after Jesus--the just war theory. This tradition was promoted by St. Augustine {more on this in Merton’s book}, and has predominated politically ever since. Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy has preached and written on this change in the direction of our church’s history-- “Constantinian Christianity.” *** An over-simplification: when the Emperor Constantine became Christian, he gave Roman real estate to convert pagan temples into Christian churches; then Christians were required, by the year 400 A.D., to join the army to defend Roman real estate.

After looking at these historical reminders of the Church’s earliest tradition rejecting war, following the nonviolent and all-merciful Jesus, we come to what is most important. Please read the four Gospels from start to finish, listening to and praying with Jesus. Take your time, be deliberate. In a world of Roman conquest and many Jewish factions, what did Jesus preach and do? From the Sermon on the Mount with “Love your enemies…” at its heart, though the many healings and devils driven out on the way to Jerusalem, cleansing the Temple, swiftly taken into custody, and then executed as a criminal on the cross, Jesus was always active and prayerful in nonviolent love, obedient to Abba God the Father. He refused to have disciples take up the sword to defend the earthly kingdom promised Him by Satan, father of lies. Jesus taught, lived, died, and rose again to save us and show us the way--nonviolent love and mercy towards friend and enemy is the Way to the Kingdom of God.


When you read the whole story [or have read to you as was most probable in early Gospel times], take wise companions with you. John Pilch's The Cultural World of Jesus has been very valuable to me, and the Little Rock Scripture Studies give a good overview of how and when the scriptures were inspired. There are many other good guides. Discuss the nonviolence of the Gospels with your faith community--attend a scripture class.

Read and pray the four Gospels thoughtfully from start to finish. You will find hard sayings, the narrow gate, and the Way the Truth and the Life. You will meet Jesus, "for it is in prayer that we encounter Jesus, who is our peace, and learn from him the way to peace." [The Challenge of Peace Sec. 290] The promise of everlasting life in the Kingdom of God is open to all, and can give peace and true happiness on earth as well, if we put away the sword, and become militant in God’s justice and mercy.

“If we cannot know from the New Testament that Christ totally rejects violence, then we can know nothing of His person or message. It is the clearest of teachings.” Fr. J.L. McKenzie S.J.


* These sections, 66 through 121, as well as the whole document, are well worth reading. http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/TheChallengeofPeace.pdf

**This Thomas Merton book, Peace in the Post-Christian Era, [available from Amazon.com] is also worth contemplating in its entirety. It was his spiritual attempt to save us all from nuclear self-destruction. Changing “communism” in the text to “terrorism” most often serves to fit present times to the T.

*** Fr. E.C. McCarthy’s website: http://centerforchristiannonviolence.org/. [At present there is no article at the site that directly discusses this church history—for an academic organization’s outline of the issue see http://www.the-orb.net/textbooks/eccles/constantine.html ]