Monday, January 30, 2012


A question has always perturbed me for the past twenty plus years: how much of that recyclable stuff we’ve saved & selected to get picked up by the green Waste Management trucks actually gets recycled, how much just ends up in the same landfills as the rest of the trash?  Our local paper just had an article, “Filling the void,” which discussed diminished drop-off bins & curbside pickup for recyclables, and cited the 1100 tons of recyclable material collected at Smith Creek Landfill in one recent year, but no mention of how much found a way to get re-used, how much was [after its local-government-paid ride in a recycle truck] dumped back in a landfill.  Nor was there a total for all recyclables, including curbside, collected in the county, and what tonnage was really recycled.  These figures are not easily obtainable.  [See references below]
1-21-12 Times Herald article--"Filling the void"--photo by Mark Rummel

Deciding to do some research, I started with whether we could throw green glass, as per wine bottles, in our curbside bin for effective recycle.  The photo in the Times Herald article showed a stationary collection bin with the port---GLASS, clear, windowpane—as the only labeled glass option.  Yet a county recycle webpage states---GLASS, clear, color, windowpane.  The Port Huron city public works office referred questions to Waste Management here in the county.  Their receptionist was friendly, and said she believed any clear and colored glass could be sent {not much is truly opaque}, and that she puts her wine bottles in the curbside tub, but that the fate of glass and the rest of it was unknown.  All their recycle trucks [and with them the stationary large collection bins it can be assumed] don’t stop in St. Clair Co. but go straight through to Great Lakes Recycling in Roseville, MI {sold to national entity ReCommunity Recycling last fall}.  She referred me on to GLR.

The secretary at GLR informed me that glass prices have gone down, and so even though they have a single stream system that sorts metal plastics glass & paper etc., they too now punt the glass, all kinds, down the road to some place in Dearborn, and its recycled usability remains a clouded mystery to GLR also.  No phone number for the next step was readily available, so I gave up the search for now.  In perusing websites I did come across complicated patented processes for chemical extraction of the color from recycled glass, so this expense may be prohibitive now for wine bottles & other glass.

his quest was for a small bit of information, while the larger question of percent actually recycled from total tons collected by the recycle trucks, remains more deeply buried.  I assembled an overview.   The major components that are variably valuable --metal plastics glass & paper-- are trucked to Roseville which has a MRF, materials recovery facility [a huge sorting machine], separating each type of material out—a single stream [in] process.  That’s why all our different materials go into a single tub at curbside now.  A certain unknown percent of that selected out of the single stream is for resale & reused, and a certain percent is plain refuse--sent to a landfill.   Some may be dispatched on to a solid waste incinerator, as this is a common practice, and Detroit’s is the biggest in the country.  [Over half of what it burns is from outside Detroit.]  Almost every year there’s an attempt by Sierra Club and others to permanently shut it down, but this foul-fumed phoenix arises again each time, a controversial method to solve solid waste problems.
City of Warren's own trucks dump at GLR in Roseville, and get paid for the recycled material [costs vs income to Warren, ytd]---From 10 article, "Warren's curbside program exceeds expectations"  - macombdaily

There is much more to delve into, in this recycled waste business.  I ask reporters, city officials, Waste Management and ReCommunity Recycling engineers for some help in getting to the bottom of this Port Huron barrel.  Where o’ where do our green bin recyclables go?  Please be specific.  The system is obviously complex and the market for materials, shifting.  But are we getting what we pay for?  True recycling? 

In the end, recycling is costly.  Containers & packaging are the major forms of MSW [municipal solid waste].  Better to find reusable ways to carry things home from the marketplace.   And MSW is dwarfed by larger categories not part of MSW---industrial, construction, and hazardous wastes.  Best for society to not produce, what can’t be economically reused.
Chinese recycler

See this most recent annual report, State of Garbage in America, from BioCycle magazine, for good overview that includes actual landfill data.  Pay special attention to “final note” on p. 4 which explains how their figures differ from EPA’s.
For the EPA’s annual report.  = GEEP, Global Electric Electronic Processing, --- for your computers & cellphones etc.  Michigan has it at GLR.  How is it practically functioning?

For a positive local note on another aspect of recycling see:
12-6-11 “DTE Biomass Energy landfill gas project begins operation in US”—features our Smith Creek Landfill’s operation of one of the first commercial-scale septage injection landfill gas systems in the US, whereby material extracted from septic tanks is applied to the landfill to speed the decomposition of organic waste—and the gas used to generate enough electricity for 3000 homes, if project successful.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Not many customers at Marjah {hoped for model city to be created by surge} popcorn  stand--NYT photo, AFghanistan, Helmand province

The AP story headlines today the true effect of “surge” in warfare-- “Afghans Fleeing In Droves.”  Ten years after we invaded this country, one of the results tabulated—three times more applications for asylum.  And many more flee, “illegal emigrants,” to whatever country they can find by any means necessary.  A $1 billion criminal enterprise is the unfortunate job our war has created, for those desperately re-locating, because Afghanistan can no longer be lived in by ever increasing number of its own people.  Three million suffer dislocation.  [ For details see,  ]

The Taliban and the U.S. are both responsible for increasing violence.  The Taliban became stronger when we, after a quick rout of our Afghan enemies, re-pointed our war machine in the direction of Iraq—a more oil-lucrative objective.   Afghan, the stepping stone, regained importance after stalemate in Iraq.  It appeared a Bush administration surge of troop numbers in Iraq in 2007 helped stave off total loss there [yet with 4 million dislocated].  So the Obama team imported the strategy to Afghanistan in 2009.  The result: highest number of U.S. troop deaths since invading, in that next year 2010; increasing Afghan civilian deaths; increasing “insurgent” deaths [President Reagan had called these same groups “freedom fighter” in his term]; and a huge surge of refugees in and out of Afghanistan.
Nov 12, 2011--Pakistani soldiers at Shamsi air base {former site of our CIA run  drone operation targeting Afghan & Pakistani insurgents}, in a photograph provided by the Pakistani military’s public relations arm to NYT.  Pakistan ordered us out a month later.

Fighting fire with fire, and killer drone robots, only fans war conflagration deeper and more
widespread.  Witness the renewed strain on Pakistan’s government by its terrorist factions.   With this surge there’s now danger of collateral damage to neighbor Pakistan which has been our reluctant partner ever since the Soviets were entrenched next door.

A way of life in Afghanistan that was severely wounded by 9 years of Russian occupation, is now battered by 10 more years of war under U.S. auspices.  The surge in night raid doors kicked in, and drone-directed whole-household-destructed assassinations has achieved nothing but more fervent enemies.

Millions left in misery didn’t stop wars badly needed by the war industry.  This is not the way to teach the Taliban not to be terrorists.

The Kites of Kabul -- Benjamin Lowy-Reportage- for The New York Times

In Sunday’s Old Testament reading Jonah preached forgiveness from destruction to Nineveh, if they’d change their evil ways.  Then Jonah was outraged when the Ninevites did change, and God withheld destruction.  How could God spare these terrible foreigners!  We in the U.S. have yet to learn from the sign of Jonah--God’s true merciful nature.  The book of Jonah is a short and valuable lesson.  Please read.

Jonah is angry at God & Nineveh

For a recent background history of Nineveh {Mosul, Iraq--Saddam's hometown} see

Monday, January 16, 2012


From 2001 Space Odyssey


From conception through to death and eternity, God expects us to fully respect all life, no exclusions or exceptions, whether that life is guilty or innocent, or even a threat to our own life.  Violence and killing are never justified, not in war, not in self-defense, not in abortion, not in euthanasia, never for the “greater good.”  When does Jesus, by word or deed, ever justify violence?  He does not.  He says and lives the opposite—complete unconditional love of friend and enemy.  This is the truth at the center of our Christian faith, often hidden by society and church, down centuries of misconception.
From Mennonite

f we are to become true evangelists, proclaiming and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must re-discover and celebrate the central truth—nonviolent love.  If “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” why would we ever need armies, handguns or abortion machines?  Offering only a false promise--preserving the way of life of our worldly kingdom--they are all severe impediments to the coming of God’s Kingdom.  O God, we are of little faith—help our unbelief.

Psalm 139:13-16
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

We are each and every one of us fearfully wonderfully made.  This cold month of January, please attend a  Right to Life march, and attend a march for justice & against war as did Martin Luther King.  Respecting all life, praying without ceasing, we can end all justified killing, these uncounted desecrations of body and soul.

For more on the difficult beauty of God's unconditional all-merciful nonviolent love, see the many articles on Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy's website, especially his "Abortion & War."

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, January 9, 2012


Martin Luther King at Riverside Church NYC-- "Beyond Vietnam" speech

The young Ghanaian docent at the W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Center, half a block away from where my brother was working in Accra at the 2010 U.S. Embassy [our newest, biggest, most fortified in Africa], answered with no hesitation.  “I’d recommend Dubois’ The Souls of Black Folks for a first reading of his work.”  The young man had volunteered to take me through the exhibits, though I’d arrived just minutes before afternoon closing time.  He was proud to have shown me something of the life of this African American who’d come back to Africa, after speaking & writing so eloquently & courageously for just recognition of his people in the USA.   Both sides of the Atlantic, Dubois inspired many.  [For a history see ]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "… history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man." 
Dr. King went on to help lead a civil rights movement that put into practice the scholarly quest for justice well expressed by Dr. Dubois.  Rev. Martin Luther King then went even beyond faithful determined advocacy for his race, appealing for an end to our unjust war in Vietnam. 

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”  Dr King knew that the God’s nonviolent love was the only way to defeat this evil.
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: ‘Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.’ ”

A year to the day after this “Beyond Vietnam” speech against war & violence, Martin Luther King was shot dead by an assassin in Memphis, TN while helping to organize city garbage workers.  A great loss to all who believe in the way the truth and the life, in doing for others as you would have them do for you, in a God who loves across all cultures extending to all peoples—no privileges, no discriminations.  [For full speech, audio & print, see ]
The death of Dr. King , April 4, 1968
While serving in medical clinics and learning from another culture--Tila, small town of Chiapas, Mexico--I’ve encountered a sacred image of Jesus that coincides with recognition of Martin Luther King, whose national holiday is now celebrated in the U.S. on Jan. 15th.  This day also, for centuries, has been the feast day of Nuestro Senor de Tila, the miraculous Black Crucified Christ in Chiapas, where the indigenous decedents of the Mayas have long struggled for their civil and land rights.  Their devotion to Nuestro Senor gives great strength to their effort.
Cristo Negro de Portobelo                                                                                         Nuestro Senor de Tila
El Cristo Negro, the Black Christ, is a recurring image of imprecise origin in the Caribbean, and the greater area of Spanish colonization.  [More investigation of this another day.]  There’s a Cristo Negro de Portobelo, Panama, and one also as far north as Chimayo, New Mexico.  The suffering, and healings, and resurrection of El Cristo Negro have resonated, through 500 years of devotions, with black African and brown indigenous peoples who’d been enslaved, and continue to work to throw of those chains. 

From Africa to Memphis to Mexico we follow the star that promises justice, leading to the Savior born in a stable.
African Art--The Magi Visit Jesus

Monday, January 2, 2012


{ From my 11-28-2011 posting---I have voted for many different party candidates since my first franchise exercise in 1968.  Also I’ve created my own presidential write-in candidates when all those offered were inadequate, and felt best about voting for competent intelligent Bill Moyers-- journalist, egalitarian, ecumenical Texas Baptist preacher.   The people should be able to raise up candidates for these national offices from amongst themselves, and then get a real look at what they stand for, instead of how they spin.  More on this method next week.}
system does exist that could better bring about true democracy.  It was designed by a political science professor at the University of Michigan in the 1960’s, and given some political expression by a group of Michigan State University honors college students I attached myself to, before the presidential campaign of gentle anti-Vietnam war Senator Gene McCarthy came to a crashing end in Chicago, 1968.  Its basic tenets as I remember them were:  

·         All candidates for national office would be determined by volunteer petition campaigns—a small regulated amount of money could be dedicated to these, and an elections commission would certify.   They would depend on volunteer public involvement.   They would produce more than a two party system.

·         Each one reaching the determined number [varied by type of office] for valid candidacy  would then receive an equal share of state supported campaign funds, and media time [which would be a public service donation by the media, due as a condition of their regular use of the public airways].  

·         “Prime time” television, radio, [and internet] availability would be allotted each candidate to produce as they see fit, but with same production budget.   The campaign season would last three months only.   Everyone’s “war chest” of dollars would be the same, so that political programs & ideas could trump political maneuverings.

·         No private nor outside money could be spent on political campaigns.  This would be enforced by major fines & jail time, being considered a crime against democracy.

If we don’t institute and refine such measures, let’s just accept that giant corporations are people, and that money equals the right to vote.  One person one vote, has been replaced by one dollar [or hundreds in practice] one vote.  Elections could be turned into a season of much more straight-forward candidate fundraisers—the one that amasses the most money by any means necessary, is the winner.
This system we have now on the national level is no longer actual democracy, but programmed political playbooks paid for by outrageous sums of private money.   It is true that almost any election system can be rigged by the most clever, given the level of technology we are dealing with, but either we give up, or we try to forge a new system {as above} that persistently encourages an informed and effective public will.

hen I witnessed Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, who were against the Vietnam war, assassinated in those days leading up to the 1968 presidential elections, I could feel U.S. democracy under siege.   Then Eugene McCarthy, also opposing the war, was railroaded out of the national Democratic convention, and finally the incorrigible Richard Nixon elected president that year.   It has gone, since that time of war promoting politicians and their war industrialist supporters, from bad to worse.
You get what you pay for.  We are paying for war hand over fist.  Pay for war—we’ll get more war.  The War on Terror is destructive.  We are destroying not only other countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya.  We destroy also our own best instincts, to creativity, generosity, productivity, and democratic public involvement in our communities.  We damage ourselves, as well as severely damage the countries of our enemies, in our constant struggle with a perpetual supply of chosen adversaries.

To break this cycle of oil-resource-war and financial industry based politics, we need a completely new democratic system, that works hard to restrict the influence of money, and favors the mindful participation of every U.S. citizen.
Sign apparently used by the opposition to the regime in time of contested 2009 elections in Iran

  Leading towards a Light-filled New Year's Resolution ---

Reading 1 Is 2:1-5
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD's house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
"Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths."
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney