Monday, November 29, 2010


When Ande and I first got married we moved to Kentucky. I worked at Mud Creek Clinic , and she at Our Lady of the Way Hospital. We lived away from these places, up a holler called Blue River. You had to cross the "river," your car wading through the stream, past the old landfill, back to our land at the head of the holler.

That was the first of two unsuccessful community land trust attempts we've been part of—too much idealism and not enough attention to the practical details that make things work. But the story of broken land trusts is another story. This is the story of building the physical structures.

With the help of a community of ex-patriots from the north and locals, mostly Catholics, in the land of Old Regular Baptists, we built a house with a pole-barn-like foundation, vertical board and batten siding, formed of 8-16 inch wide sawmill planks—rough cut red oak & hickory. Its floor plan was 20 by 32ft., on two levels following the 30 degree grade of the hill.

To get to the house you had to cross a foot-bridge. All of the home's construction materials were hauled over that bridge or up a side path, on foot. By design it faced 15degrees SW, and the eaves had the proper overhang for maximum sun in winter, minimum in summer. It looked a passive solar menagerie of self-built double paned windows, and was hyper fiberglass insulated.

Maura, our first of four, was born when the shell was just being completed, and lived her first two years with sounds & sights of finish construction surrounding her. Now Maura has gone from Blue River, KY, to co-founder of Bluhomes, Inc., a multi-million dollar start-up company producing factory built efficient green homes. They use an innovative technology combining hinged steel framing, and state-of- the-art ecological materials, that can bring affordable earth friendly homes, right to your site-prepped door. The more basic designs [one at 432 square feet] are "small is beautiful," and can be built out for greater living space. [see the Bluhomes website, ] -- the Origin model below

Maura wasn't old enough to add much to house construction efforts, until helping to paint her new room when we moved back to Michigan, building our second community assisted home, more conventional but still eco-oriented. Yet something in the can-build-it atmosphere contributes to who she is. With her attention to detail, and the spirit of building good structures, this in some way multiplies the two simple homes we built with lots of help, perhaps now into the hundreds.

My hope and prayer is that someday soon, our society will also find ways to form more creative, just, respectful, and merciful nonviolent communities in which to build our good world-conserving homes.

As the advent season begins this week, keep in mind the coming of the Prince of Peace, savior born in a stable, builder of beloved communities. For a moving reflection and prayer on this theme, contact Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy at .

Monday, November 22, 2010


Today, November 22, is the anniversary of the death by assassination of our nation's youngest elected President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Unlike the commemorations on the date of the natural death of President Ronald Reagan, the "Great Communicator" apostle of "deregulation," you probably won't see it given much notice by the mass media.

We are ashamed of what happened to JFK. When he was shot in Dallas Texas, under the noses of the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service, he had reversed the Cold War confrontation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was beginning to reverse the growing Vietnam War. The exact background of the complicated killing of the President is unknown, but enough details are on record to show that this was not the work of some accidental hothead of whatever political persuasion.

ttention must be paid to the motivation for the murder. Certain members of the Mafia, Cuban exile community, and the group typified by President Eisenhower as the military industrial complex, thoroughly hated President Kennedy, and his brother Robert [later shot down as well.] I don't often recommend a whole book in these postings, but JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass [available at local libraries & Amazon] is unique in that it points strongly to the culpability of many, in allowing this death of a statesman happen—a yet unanswered unexorcized crime. Read at least the intro and chapter 1, "A Cold War Warrior Turns."

JFK had feet of clay, yet was struggling to make his Presidency another profile in courage—battling the unspeakable evil of those who would sacrifice hundreds of thousands, millions, of lives to achieve Cold War nuclear victory. Another very different person also joining the conflict against the unspeakable, and banned by his order from any further publishing on nuclear cold war issues, was the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. [See his posthumously published book, Peace in the Post-Christian Era] Unspeakable was his term for the evil of an age which has become so accepting of corporate violence. Of Kennedy he said:
What is needed is really not shrewdness or craft, but what the politicians don't have: depth, humanity and a certain totality of self forgetfulness and compassion … a deeper kind of dedication. Maybe… Kennedy will break through into that someday by miracle. But such people are before long marked out for assassination." JFK [above] p.11

illing Kennedy also partially killed a spirit that was coming alive in America—"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." A call to service, to help removing the causes of poverty and violence that led directly to the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty. I knew many young people answering the call, and being given the financial means to do so. Then the war in Vietnam ramped up, and grabbed the national consciousness and treasury. War hot and cold surged. Civil Rights was dealt a blow in the murder assassination of Martin Luther King. The Peace Corps has stalled at 4000 to 7000 yearly participants on average [the original plan was to soon deploy 100,000] in its 40 plus year existence. The War on Poverty was abandoned.

o today remember the death of young President JFK, and rededicate to taking a hard look at the truth of who we are as a people. Let's move on, with special invitation to our young people, to fully engage an international war on the human misery that forms the sources of terrorism, invoking the principal method of another fallen hero, MLK, "Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people."

"It is no longer reasonable or right to leave all decisions to a largely anonymous power elite that is driving us all, in our passivity, toward ruin." Thomas Merton, Feb. 9, 1962

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, November 15, 2010


An ambulance brought the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to his ranch in the Negev Desert on Friday [10-13-10]. Reuters photo.

The back page news the past few days includes the return to his home, still in post- stroke comatose condition, from a year in hospital confinement, of the once powerful Ariel Sharon, arch-conservative leader of Israel.1 It's costing the Israeli government too much money to keep him in the hospital. We should all take time to remember the prayerful words of a humble faithful Jewish woman some 2000 years ago,

"He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty."

Mary spoke these words [Magnificat 2 ] as she awaited the Savior's birth, the Prince of Peace.

Ariel Sharon has not been known as a man of peace, but as one who practiced violent confrontation. Yet, towards the end, he'd turned some from his iron rule of Likud Party, and relentless settlement building, to removing settlers from Gaza, giving Palestinians a small space, though still embattled and isolated, with Israeli controlled borders. Who is to know if there was any change of heart then, just before he was struck down by a major stoke in 2006? One can only hope for more change of heart, and justice, renunciation of violence, in the Holy Land.

Here is a letter I faxed to Mr. Sharon, when he'd just taken a provocative walk on Jerusalem's historical Temple Mount. The Temple, destroyed in 70 AD, has had the Muslim's holy site, the Noble Sanctuary, built on top of it since 692 AD. Ariel Sharon's incursion on disputed holy ground helped ignite the second Intifada.

October 14, 2000

Mr. Ariel Sharon
Likud Party
38 King George St.
61231 Tel Aviv, Israel
fax: 011 972 352 83560

Dear Mr. Ariel Sharon,

Please Mr. Sharon, at this time of increased violence, please cease being the provocateur. What was your purpose on your Sept. 28th walk around the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount? It lit the match to the current crisis. At this time just past Yom Kippur, look into your own heart, and read the books of Isaiah {as I will do also, along with the four Gospels of my faith}. Then we can all pray, Muslim brethren as well, for atonement.

If you can find the grace to atone publicly for your role in Sabra and Shatila, {the 1982 massacre of--conflicting estimates--800 to 2000 Palestinians} you can call for reconciliation with the Palestinians in the most credible way. And this present conflagration--killing about 100 Palestinians and 10 Israelis, and threatening thousands more on each side--can be ended in a heartbeat.

Then a true peacebuilding can begin, between your people and your Arab neighbors, and to include us Christians who have need of forgiveness and reconciliation in your part of the world.
The next time you walk on the Temple Mount, let it be hand and hand with a Palestinian neighbor, to the Noble Sanctuary, [al-Haram al-Sharif], the name they give the same place. Our Lord God Yahweh, and His Son and Prophets, Jesus, Mohammed, and Isaiah, will look on with deep and lasting approval.

Yours truly,
Michael McCarthy PA-C
2714 Stone St. Port Huron, MI 48060
810 982 2870

AT THE HEART OF JERUSALEM is the Noble Sanctuary, Al-Haram al-Sharif, enclosing over 35 acres of fountains, gardens, buildings and domes. At its southernmost end is Al-Aqsa Mosque and at its centre the celebrated Dome of the Rock. The entire area is regarded as a mosque and comprises nearly one sixth of the walled city of Jerusalem.

The Noble Sanctuary is one of the three most important sites in Islam, and a showcase for Islamic architecture and design from Umayyad to Ottoman times that continues as an important religious and educational centre for Muslims to the present day.
It also is built upon the ruins of the Temple, central to Judaism.
The "Wailing Wall", one border of the Temple Mount, is the ruins of the Western Wall of the Jews Holy Temple destroyed in 70 AD.

2 THE MAGNIFICAT Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Magnet available from--

This Saturday Admiral Mike Mullens, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, talked openly on NPR * [see link below] about the personal tragic cost of war { more suicides, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, risky behaviors} for our soldiers and their families, in this time of multiple war re-deployments. What is not mentioned is that to truly prevent the trauma, we must stop the wars. Sending people into war repeatedly, the "stop loss" troop policy, maximizes their chance for trauma [even more certain for civilians, and insurgents in Iraq & Afghanistan].

Fellow citizens, there should be no surprise in this. All suffering is assured, when you embrace the hell of war fervently. You have supplanted trust in God with trust in weapons. Making them your Gods of Metal, you give them the first fruits of national budgets annually, fabricating new specters of national threat [here a communist, next a terrorist] to augment the power of this business of war, Job One in the USA.
NYT photo August 11, 2010--- imposing view, from the streets of Afghanistan

When young men and women are trained to be warriors, expected to kill without hesitation, put in fields of battle where a 5 yr old child may be their mortal enemy, seeing their own comrades with heads, arms and legs severed, themselves pumping 50mm rounds into 15 year old enemy bodies watching them explode, how can you expect anything but anguish in their souls when they return home?
View from Israel—imposition of power has similar adverse effects, esp. for the young, worldwide.

Arrest of 7 year old. Photo by Larry Towell, 1997, Hebron, West Bank.

You did this in the dawn of a new era, of war by preemptive choice, the post World War II business-as-usual plan, finally formalized by the Bush administration, continued now by the Obama administrators.

And you have done this to protect your consumer society's access to oil? Our young soldiers have to stay in these countries perpetually acting as private security guards for international oil/military corporations, securing their elitist and foreign-held fortunes? What does it profit a country superpower if it gains the whole world, and loses its soul? War is most certainly hell for the soldiers who are contracted to do the fighting.
Again from--

s a people, we have thoughtlessly accepted war of corporate convenience, and abandoned the natural law constraint—war of "last resort." All war that follows is unjust war. Our society has lost its way. And for followers of Jesus, the "just war" concept has always been a horrible stumbling block, armed against the coming of the kingdom of God's unconditional love and mercy. Lord grant us all the strength to renounce the darkness of war, and embrace the light of your love.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Paradoxically, prophetically, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Martin of Tours [316 - 397 AD] on Veteran's Day, November 11.
The son of a pagan veteran, he was forced to serve in the army against his will at the age of 15. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23 he refused a war bounty from the emperor with the words, "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight." After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers. ---From americancatholic. org, St. Anthony Messenger's Saint of the Day.

*Please listen online, and then follow up with these 3 stories showing problem that's been long known, and increasing:

Then, in this time of Veteran's Day Nov. 11, 2010, take the time to contemplate the stories of residual violence and its effects presented in these videos. The first can be streamed online, and the next two found in your local library [St. Clair Co. at least], as well as at Amazon [the online reviews are worth reading].

A similar story to the movie below, THE WOUNDED PLATOON, events in Colorado Springs, 2007.

This is a feature film IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH with Tommy Lee Jones, events at Ft. Bragg, 2003.

Especially good documentary, THE GROUND TRUTH-- soldier testimonies on residual effects of organized violence.

There is at least one other way to help resolve these conflicts—the "Three Cups of Tea" methods outlined in this article.

"War is a defeat for humanity." Pope John Paul II

"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." President John F. Kennedy

"We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount." General Omar Bradley

Monday, November 1, 2010


As promised last week—a practical solution to impasse in the current Israel / Palestine peace talks.
This was my letter to the NYT [no response yet] after reading, "Settlements Stymie U.S. Envoy's Mideast Effort" NYT Oct 2, 2010, by Ethan Bronner 1. I'll now send it on to Congress, and urge you to send something similar.

Dear Ethan Bronner,

Thanks for your coverage of the peace talks/west bank settlements issue. Don't you think our government is missing a necessary step? To break the logjam towards real peace negotiations it will be necessary for the U.S. to suspend all aid to Israel [biggest recipient in the world, of our foreign aid 2], until all settlement construction, by Israel in Palestine's West Bank, is halted. This can be done while reaffirming our long term support for Israel's right to exist and live in peace with its neighbors. This is the only credible action to back up our words--that we want our Israeli allies to construct a permanent two state solution: both Israel's and Palestine's right to exist.

Yours truly,
Michael McCarthy, Port Huron, MI

Or--A land of milk & honey--with no wall between.

See the Congressional Research Service document on U.S. foreign aid to Israel, most of it military, which has averaged $3 billion / yr, and now is stated to reach $4.8 billion/yr for the next decade. Read the opening summary at least, and even the table of contents is revealing. Entries like cluster bombs, and, for free, 20 of the costly controversial F-35 stealth jets, yet to be deployed even in our own arsenal.

For an interesting video, latest MPT posting on Sandy Quntano's, and other peace teams' olive harvest support in the West Bank, follow this link:
Israeli High Court ruling not enforced by soldiers

Moses and the Messengers from Canaan, by Giovanni Lanfranco. The question of how Israel should enter Canaan has persisted down through the ages.


Paphiopedilum praestans - Plant from Surabaya, Indonesia. Artwork by Kathy Brahney