Monday, September 24, 2012


Russian Television {English language} gives us the news about our own CRS study documenting surge in arms sales
“U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market” announces the NYT 8-24-12 article.  Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high…  … weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.
We are more than ever, Number One!  In Weapons and War [and Obesity].  We have always been in first place since WWII.  Now this Superpower has pulled far ahead of cold and hot war competition.  We now export more than 12 times the firepower of old Cold War competitor Russia.  Left them in the dust.   Job One is the gun.  Yet you get what you pay for, and produce.  Invest in war and the general impoverishment it effects in the world, and we will surely remain a nation at war, weighted down by a self-inflicted bad economy and morality.  For U.S. Christians who are taught to love the enemy, pray for the persecutors, and trust in God’s mercy, this is a fundamental problem.  Every weapon built leads us closer to a godless Armageddon.

War is not the answer.  Or, war is the answer to the question, “What is the most dangerous behavior, occasion of sin, risking loss of our collective soul—that of all nation states, the world’s tribes and factions, international corporations?

et us beware of conventional wisdoms that propel us in war’s direction: only good “injun” is a dead “injun”; better dead than red; must kill the village to save it; shoot first ask questions later=preemptive strike; deficits don’t matter; have cake and eat it too.  These noxious half-truths come whispered by the serpent in the Garden, paradise lost.  The Deceiver promises intricate knowledge of good and evil, and leaves us with a forest devoid of trees—a weapons of mass destruction wasteland.

Our Catholic Church effort at a “new evangelization” desperately needs the old regular full Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Son of God needs to be once again acknowledged Our Nonviolent Lord and Savior—the Way, Truth, and Life.  God is Love.  There is no violence in God.  Jesus has conquered death.  What was His weapon?  Forgiveness. 

Conventional Arms, Nuclear Disarmament, and Peaceful Resolution of Conflict sections.
From U.S. Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese [eg. -- 5’4” and >174 lb.]  [Read data brief [PDF-528Kb]]

This Sunday’s scripture--peace is a pure fruit, war perdition.
Jas 3:16-4:3

 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions;
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.



Monday, September 17, 2012


By Khalil Bendib , OtherWords
Our local Port Huron Times Herald 9-16-12 editorial, Spare voters needless obstacles,” gets it right.  The problem in our democratic elections system is not voter fraud, but voter inactivity.  There have been almost no cases of documented voter fraud in the past two decades [Wall Street Journal 8-31-12 “Voter Fraud: Hard to Identify”].  Almost half of eligible voters don’t vote in national elections.  Some of this is unfortunately voter apathy, but in addition we have subtly engineered ballot box obstruction [eg. those “anti-voter fraud” laws written by our state’s Republican legislature, most of them commendably vetoed by Gov. Snyder.]

Unfortunately, Republican strategy across the nation appears designed to further, and selectively, decrease voter turnout.   Democrats are no political angels, but a decade plus of Karl Rove’s Machiavellian influence is having unprecedented effect on the GOP juggernaut.  His super-PACs and others are not just trying to convince you by billion-dollar advertising to vote their way, but if it’s likely you’ll vote otherwise, they’ll put tripwires in the way.  Will Michigan’s newly minted emergency managers provide enough voting booths and staff in the 5 cities of over 50% minority population they now control?  [see article in my June 2012 archive]
It appears we can vote on this as a ballot proposal this election.  Hope the font size is adequate.
Photo ID laws now in 11 states  [21 states yet have had no voter ID law at all, photo or otherwise—as noted in TH editorial, identification is taken care of by voter registration] [and according to the WSJ article above, the rate of voter impersonation in the U.S. is "statistically zero."]  Felons barred from voting [5.8 million Americans denied this year].  Voter record purges by computers.  Rollbacks to early voting [which was response to long lines in inner city areas, in 2000 and 2004 elections].  Redrawn congressional districts—now disputed in Texas--to minimize minority voters’ impact.  New laws to make it very difficult for voter registration drives.  Cadres of vote challengers sent to swing precinct polling places, trained to harass the process.  A redundant citizenship question, to get a ballot in our state.
      Group wants to use this button at polls to challenge

Voter ID has been a hot topic in state legislatures over the past decade. Since 2001, nearly 1,000 bills have been introduced in a total of 46 states. Twenty-four states have passed major legislation during the period 2003-2012…”

Now Representative. Candice Miller joins the fray on the side of the vote protection racket. She co-sponsors a House bill which would automatically advise the voiding of a new voter registrant in Michigan of their previous state’s voter registration, when they move here and go through the driver’s license process. This is the subject of her 9-12-12 “Putting an End to a Chance to Cheat in Elections” email posting.  Innocuous enough--and she does cite one person who was an alleged double voter in two states while maintaining double registration.  Yet most people in transition may keep 2 voting registrations as they make the move.  They don’t try to vote double, and God bless them if they do take the time to register and vote in their new location, or in their old if they’ve not completed the move.   Rep. Miller would better serve constituents by writing new jobs legislation for a new generation of workers, and effective regulations and declaration of war policies for the war- makers and financial wizards who’ve nearly bankrupt our nation.

Instead of circling the wagons to “protect the vote,” we need new ways to encourage the vote.  How about a law making national voting day, every 2 years, a National Election Holiday?  Everyone know your candidates, the issues, and get out and vote.  Make a day of it—responsible citizenship.  How about our state joining those 45 that have early-voting and/or no-excuse- necessary absentee voting?
As the corporate power brokers, now further empowered by the Citizen’s United court decision, beat the final breath out of the dying/dead horse of democracy, too many politicians stand by ready only to administer more convoluted last rites.  There is an even deeper problem to be addressed beyond whether we’re in the 99% or the 1%, that overshadows all our financial disparities.

Are we an inclusive or exclusive society?  For those of us who are Christian believers, some believe in the interdependent family of humankind given grace and justice by the one all-merciful God, and that the greatest among us are the ones who serve, that losing our life for the sake of the Gospel we save it.  Then there are those who believe in Manifest Destiny belonging to the fittest survivors who are committed to using all their powers to secure God’s blessings for themselves, and for the trickle down benefit of their chosen allied communities.  Which way will we turn, and who are our leaders?


Preview of coming voting distraction in Michigan?


Monday, September 10, 2012


As Caravan for Peace visits Atlanta, GA, Javier Sicilia prays at tomb of Martin Luther King

Detroit—Murder Capitol of the USA.  We’ve seen the headlines.  A recent benchmark high for Detroit was a murder rate of 37.4 per 100,000 population in 2008.  How does that compare to the killing in the drugs & guns wars that plague Mexico? — Ciudad Juarez, a murder rate of 238.7 per 100,000 in 2010. 

Drug cartels, a flood of assault weapons from the U.S. and elsewhere, a military & police compromised by drug money, an escalating violence to maximize drug profits in Mexico from the U.S. drugs/guns marketplace, all these have made life unlivable in many parts of Mexico.  This was the message from the 100 plus members of the Caravan for Peace, coming from Tijuana towards Washington D.C. over this past month, and as I joined the northern Chicago to Toledo leg.  It arrives in D.C. September 12th.  Most Mexican participants have directly experienced the death-violence in loss of their family and friends.
Javier Sicilia and supporters of the Caravan on the march in Chicago
They plead for an end to the War on Drugs as unwinnable--another way to spend outrageous amounts of money aimed at illegal drugs, but just killing more people.  They ask us to decriminalize drug use, to take the huge money out of the illegal drugs business, by government control and taxation, as we did with alcohol when we ended Prohibition.  Organized crime on both sides of the border is cashing in, while most of the killing happens in Mexico, 70,000 dead, 20,000 disappeared in the past 6 years.

Economic changes have lessened the immigration impetus to come to the U.S. for a better life.  They’ve always hoped to be able have a good life with their family in their native land.  But now many are being expelled by the violence.  They come to the U.S. as refugees, for physical survival.
Image by Corbis, from Wall Street Journal
I walked with them in a march in Chicago from the Latino to African American neighborhoods. A good sign of reconciliation between communities which have often been pitted against each other.  I listened to these  Mexican pilgrims tortured testimonies at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church that had invited them in, and at the Centro Autonimo de Albany Park the following night.   Shootings, women assaulted, assassinations, beheadings, disappearances with dismembered or no trace left behind.  Mind-numbing violence.
Disabled AK 47 held aloft by Javier at Caravan's stop in Houston 
Javier Sicilia, a professor and poet, a devout Catholic who leads the Caravan, opened one of his talks with a poem from Emily Dickinson, “I felt a funeral in my brain”… He knows grief firsthand, losing his 24 year old son to the drug violence.  He wrote his last poem then, and has been leading the movement to Stop the Drug War since.

"I felt such an immense pain, I can't even explain," Sicilia said in Spanish. "It's the biggest pain one can feel — when one loses a child."
His son's friends had visited a bar they hadn't known was operated by people involved with organized crime, Sicilia said. Valuable work equipment had been stolen from the car of a friend of his son. When his son, "the pacifier" of the group, approached the bar owners, he and his friends were kidnapped and murdered, Sicilia said.
His son, three months from graduating from university, had been offered a job as a cardiologist in Mexico before he died, his father said.  *

Javier asked me to pray for him and his Caravan as I left Toledo for home.  I am doing that, and trying to tell some of their story.  Thank God we don’t have their level of violence yet in our towns and cities.  But there were 11 heroin deaths in my mainly rural St. Clair County in 2011.  I don’t know the Detroit figure.

Drugs guns and violence are a terrible curse, taking deeper hold if not confronted.  We must make it severely less profitable to be pushers and killers.  This can be done by the nation courageously decriminalizing drug use, and state control of pricing and availability.  Upping the violence ante with superpower assault swat teams will not work.  It hasn’t in Mexico.  It won’t here.  This is a common sense opinion within the police departments themselves.  The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition group had a symbolic squad car as first car in the Caravan for Peace behind the 2 giant buses.  Please visit especially the Caravan’s website.

ork and pray in any way you can for their success.  Let him and her who have ears listen to their pleas.  They have decided not to be silent.  These pilgrims are the frontline against the wave of guns & drugs violence that can soon inundate ourselves and our children, perhaps much sooner than any international terrorists. 

Illumination by Kathey Brahney

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Javier Sicilia, 55 y.o., Catholic poet turned leader--His story
You may have heard that 60,000 Mexican citizens have died in the past 6 years as the “War on Drugs” has escalated.  You probably haven’t heard of Javier Sicilia, Mexican Catholic poet professor who lost his 24 year old son, assassinated by the drug merchants in 2005.  Javier has led his people on long caravans pleading for an end to this violent war, in which criminals and authorities are locked in struggle and profit—the bodies of bystanders piled ever higher.   The war on drugs is newly militarized.  Firepower escalates on both sides of the battle.  Now SeƱor Sicilia leads a bi-national Peace Caravan from Tijuana across the USA to Washington D.C.   My priest friend in Chiapas, a champion of justice himself, says this may be the next Martin Luther King.
Violence has become an epidemic across our border, as the marketplace for illegal drugs and hi-power weapons mushrooms, supply and demand provided mostly in US dollars.  And the U.S. Army and CIA are newly on Mexican soil [partnering with the DEA], raising old specters of the sovereignty question.  Most of the bloodshed is on Mexican ground.
Javier Sicilia with assault weapon that's just been sawn in half during current U.S. caravan
The “Fast and Furious” controversy, which accused the Obama Justice Department for tracing some guns as they went across the border which came back to kill a DEA agent, ignored the point that Arizona and other states hemorrhage massive amounts guns and ammunition into Mexico daily, because of our historically permissive gun laws.  Was tracing some of them a bad idea?

From the definitive Fortune magazine article on the issue [long, but please read entire]:
 The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking within the U.S., so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. ...  By 2009 the Sinaloa drug cartel had made Phoenix its gun supermarket and recruited young Americans as its designated shoppers or straw purchasers.

o counter this deluge of violence and drugs, a Caravan for Peace comes to us from Mexico.  A poet cries out to us in the name of his son and countless dead, Stop the War on Drugs, estamos hasta la madre!  {Virgin Mary we’re at the end of our rope!}  I hope to join them in Chicago tomorrow, Labor Day, and accompany to Cleveland [their northern part of the U.S. journey].  May we hear their cries, and find the courage to invest in nonviolent solutions to the many threats we feel surround us.  No more scorpions when our children ask for bread.  Seek ye first the nonviolent kingdom of God, all else will be given to us.
On Caravan with La Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico
Illumination by Kathey Brahney