Sunday, August 28, 2011


Political power often occurs as a reverse pyramid scheme--{this one apparently six-sided}--most benefits concentrated at the top 

The Times Herald 8-18-11 editorial laments a lack of candidates participating in our city council and mayoral elections. Only 12 have filed to vie for the 6 new council positions, and 3 for the mayor’s spot. Whatever the new city charter has done with its mix of 3 at large and 3 voting district positions, it has not increased participation in the process.
  full size availabel at

This should be no surprise. There have been 10 wards / precincts in the past, which have never, in the past generation, been each represented by its own council member. North of the Black River personages most often have been in the majority of council positions, with roughly 5 precints equal north and south. Detroit, with all its recent corruption, has finally converted to electing its council from each and every ward. Our wards may need to be recomputed from recent census data, but why can’t we have 10 or more seats at our city council table? And each ward, as an equal self-contained playing field, will invite more political involvement.
Good old boys club--don't know what they're missing, in possible solidarity with the common citizen
If we truly want more participation in our democracy, we must choose systems which promote participatory democracy. Elections should be about ideas and service, not about celebrity and name recognition. Immediate neighbors who know their territory, not just the city’s “in-the-know,” should be campaigning for city council.
Politics, locally and nationally, has become dysfunctional because those in power are all about consolidation of power. And when that power breaks under its own weight of protected interests, then emergency managers are imposed to further the choke-hold on democracy. We need to move in the opposite direction, making use of the creative energies that derive from all citizens, rich and poor and middle class.

In our fair city, which is undeniably facing diminished resources, much of this due to conditions imposed from the federal level, much the fault of our own miscalculations, it is the old system, not any more buildings, that needs demolition. Open up to full ward based elections. Give democracy a chance.

Blessed are the men and women - the deep spread roots of democracy

There follows a dialogue on this local issue, between Mike Connell, respected columnist of the Port Huron Times Herald, and myself.  He helped me be more precise on my final draft of article for the paper, on the north & south precinct divisions.

Mike M.,
The Black River essentially divides the city in half in both area and population.
Of the 10 precincts, 5 are south of the river, 4 are north and one is divided by the river but is mostly in the north:
In terms of votes cast, the north end dominates. Not sure why anyone thinks north-enders should be penalized because they actually bother to vote.
In essence, that is the argument you appear to be making. Southenders have the votes, but they do not choose to exercise them. That does not suggest anything sinister to me. I simply do not believe that someone who accepts his or her civic duty can be held responsible for the apathy of someone who is too lazy or disinterested or self-absorbed or whatever to vote.
To use another example, congressional representatives from Detroit inevitably are elected by far fewer voters than those elected from elsewhere in the state. In essence, an individual Detroiter's vote carries considerably more weight or value than yours or mine. Now that may be a problem, but if it is, I don't think it is caused because too many out-staters choose to vote.
Participatory democracy includes the right not to participate. That does not make it less democratic. Trying to compensate for apathy by fiddling with the "one-dude, one-vote" philosophy is sailing democracy onto dangerous shoals, or so it seems to me.

Mike C.


Thanks for the clarification on precinct divisions north & south [see correction below]. I'm not trying to increase those divisions, and don't disparage the north's history of participation, but do think that moving towards ward based voting districts will improve the south's vote counts. Apathy is reinforced by systems that protect privilege [in this case "at-largeness"]. My experience has been that giving people a better chance results in their investing in the opportunity. Lets watch the Detroit vote numbers over the next couple years [compensating for its de-population], and see what the ward system does for them.

A ward system here would only be a small step in the midst of our problems, but I'm not afraid of one dude one vote democracy. It takes time to fight apathy with opportunity, but I welcome the struggle. Thanks for your having taken the time to respond in detail.

Mike M
On Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 11:20 AM, Michael McCarthy <> wrote:
Mike C
 Again thanks for helping always, and your critical response. I'm putting my oped on my webpage, and would like to include our dialogue below, as it well illustrates our divergent opinions on the issue. What say you? Of course you may submit a rejoinder to my 8-24 note if you like. And thanks for all you do to make our community a better place.
Mike M
Yes, Mike, it would be fine. Hope it gives people something to think about. Every issue worth debating has at least as many sides as a casket.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The Sermon on the Mount

Dear President Barack Obama, our Commander in Chief Executive Officer,
                Please put an end to pseudo-conservatives fiscal crisis machinations right now.  Take charge with an executive order to raise the debt ceiling to the required limits for the next two years, and end the off-budget wars in Iraq and Afghanistan {and Libya} immediately.  President Reagan, though remembered as conservative, raised the debt ceiling 17 times while fighting Iran-Contra wars in Central America, and Star Wars with the Russians.

Promise our citizens that the real contract with America on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, will not be broken while you are president, under assurance of your veto power.  Charge Congress to balance the disposable budget without raiding social insurance programs {they’ve already been doing this for years--{see link }. 

ut the Department of Defense, all wasteful military & homeland security programs, and equitable taxation of the wealthy, at the center of the budget balence table.  Thank you for taking on the difficult duty of President.  "Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people." -- Martin Luther King
This is a matter of national security.  Certain powerful elements in our country are trying to feed us all a steady diet of national insecurity.  We need to be led out of this self-absorbed abyss.  The diffident defeatists / war profiteers are deadening any chance for democratic discussion.   Time for the richest most creative country in the world to demand full egalitarian positive participation and investment in society—starting with the most privileged, and including the most disadvantaged. 
The captains of industry & Wall Street have to stop pretending they are the captains of America.  Our political institutions are not meant to sail under their command.  Whatever privilege they have includes the duty to serve the common good of the country, and all its citizens.  Their success has been built on the backs of every other American.   The crashes of our stock markets, devaluation of dollar & home values are not true losses, but redistributions into the deep pockets of the cleverest, often most ruthless, corporate financial wizards.  The restitution of excess profits gained in unnecessary wars protecting the international oil companies, is the only way to rebalance America and its budget, and benefit all of us, even the wealthiest---if the Gospel is to be believed. 
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, there's is the kingdom of heaven."   -- Mt 5:3
"That extra coat you keep in your closet belongs to the poor."   -- St. Vincent de Paul

From today's Gospel at daily mass--
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! ...
You declare, 'If a man swears by the temple it means nothing, but if he swears by the gold of the temple he is obligated.'
Blind fools!" Mt 23: 15-17

Monday, August 8, 2011


"Never more a Mexico without us."
This most recent trip into the indigenous mountain highlands of Chiapas probed themes of friendship, service and loyalty.  Making the journey for the first time with me was George Moger, retired special ed teacher and basketball coach of long successful service in Port Huron.  His main purpose was to immerse in Spanish language, while helping out with basketball or construction skills.  I was to work in medical clinics as in 6 previous visits. 

View of Tila Sanctuario from bell tower--Clinic is white with white railing in front.

George showed courage ascending bell tower---does not like heights.

When we got there we found most all regular basketball had stopped when school got out for the summer, and no real construction projects.   Don Ramon, now retired middle school principal, was available for some Spanish classes, a couple of hours, on half the days, but that left a lot of time.  And one of the problems of immersion [I still have it after 7 visits] is that trying to keep up with the regular conversations of our hosts at the parish often makes one’s head spin, leading to episodes of language fatigue.
Don Ramon reads names of the confirmed as Padre Heriberto congratulates.

George & I had agreed to speak Spanish, instead of any English, most all the time we were there [except for short time outs for necessary full comprehension], and we both held to this fairly well.  But whatever help I might be was limited, as I had two trips, one overnight, for extemporaneous medical clinics in remote villages.  All parish staff were busy with preparations for the Bishop’s coming and confirmation of over 200 teenagers [average age 15—diocese believes they should be a little older, well trained 5 years, and more mature].
Dishes on the kitchen porch
George found an admirable solution.  The woman who came in daily to work in the parish kitchen, only hired for half the day, could use help.  Reina is 4ft.6’’, about 45 years old, very capable, and of kind disposition.   Chol is her first language [as for most all in Tila] but her Spanish is very good. George is, with basketball prowess, at least 6ft.6’’ and the most polite gentlemanly person I know.  Every day he’d spend 2 to 3 hours helping with dishes, mopping floors, and she’d patiently explain language, her work, and life in Tila.  How much he’d really taught her about friendship and service we didn’t find out till the last day there.
Matias [seminarian], George, Reina
Reina gave us each a gift she’d made, handicrafts of her side business-- George a bright yellow-bodied red-combed woven chicken tea cozy, and me a white embroidered with local fruit patterns mantilla, to wrap tortillas in.  We took pictures, said goodbye, and then she told me to be sure it was well understood, and to tell George, “I’m very glad I met him, because I thought all from the U.S. were bad, and now I know that is not true.”
With incense & statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the lead, Padre Heriberto & comunidad in procession at Carmen [Carmel] Chinal.
This was the second time I’d heard something similar expressed on this visit, not said during any of the 6 visits over 12 years previously.  When we were finishing the Offertory rite, midway through the 3 ½ mass, in the village of Carmen Chinal, in the midst of copious wood chip indigenous incense burnt in a foot-tall goblet of baked clay, Padre Heriberto introduced me to the people crowded into the simple cement floored tin roofed chapel.  Before he handed me the microphone, and a huge downpour, rain on tin, made me cut short my words, he gave preamble.  “Mike has visited us 7 times and brings simple medicines and will offer brief medical ‘consultas’ for those interested after mass.  He is a friend that shows us that not all people in the U.S. are bad.”
Padre preaches at 3 hour mass at Carmen Chinal, before 4 hour clinic ending 10:30 pm.

This need to exonerate and testify for the moral fiber of a U.S. citizen is something new.  Even when some of the Chiapas villages were being regularly overflown 10 years ago by helicopter gunships {donated by the the Mexican army cause of occupying rural Chiapas} I hadn’t heard such general criticism.  Mexico since the 1920’s has been our [somewhat reluctant] friend.  The ambient feeling in Mexico now is that our recent wars of choice Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya, financial crisis, NAFTA, and drug war weapons support to both sides [traffickers & swat team soldiers] is killing them with collateral damage to life limb and economy.   They can’t understand our self-imposed fears, addictions, & debt woes.  Mexicans, from the wealthy middle-aged woman playing video games on her tablet and young dapper business man in the other seat next to me on the return plane trip to Detroit, to the faithful villagers and parish-house cook in remote Chiapas, are baffled by our behavior.
Community of Joljatiomtyak, family of Rogelio, shucking frijoles--kitchen/living room on left, bedroom/my clinic on last 2 visits to Chiapas.

Because of this, travel---meeting, working, serving, and praying together, one to one and community to community---is becoming ever more important.  We need many U.S. citizen ambassadors in many nations to dispel the many mutual misconceptions that have steadily arisen due to the activity of powerful interests at the top of U.S. society.
With part of Rogeio's Joljatiomtyak family--Chol speakers who tolerate my Spanish.

Friendship and service we did experience in Chiapas.  But this brought to mind an important value lamented by Padre Heriberto as on the wane in all parts of society—lealtad, loyalty.  He’d had friends leaving the priesthood; we all see promises under siege, in marriage, friendship, churches, business, politics, banking, pensions, labor contracts, social security.  One’s word counts for little anymore-- only the day to day scrimmage for personal gain.
Debt-ceiling-fight by Phil Ebersole Wordpress--[President Reagan raised the debt ceiling 17 times]
We resolved to continue and expand our connections, “Si Dios Quiere,” Lord willing.  There is hope Detroit diocese seminarians and other faithful will come to know the people of Chiapas, and their pilgrimage to Nuestro SeƱor de Tila.  Our church is Catholic—in diversity there is strength and loyalty.

"Is not one of our problems today that we have separated ourselves from the poor and the wounded and the suffering?  We have too much time to discuss and theorize and have lost the yearning for God which comes when we are faced with the sufferings of people."   -- Jean Vanier {founder of communities inclusive of the disabled}


On the current financial crisis--
We are being rolled by powerful Wall Street bankers and politicians. Those hating Obama, as well as all appearing alien, are willing to drag the whole country down just to defeat him and the outsiders.  Our self-inflicted fiscal suffering is directly connected to our sin of racism.  Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, intercede for us.  May God grant us the grace to purge greed, war, and racism from our hearts and nation.   {Two more days of the Jagerstatter novena--but please keep praying for these miracles.}

From today's old testament reading at daily mass, Dt10:12-22---
For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods,
the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,
who has no favorites, accepts no bribes;
who executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.
So you too must befriend the alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Click on images to enlarge.