Monday, April 28, 2014


Recent headlines in our local paper give hope that we've turned the corner, from hyper homeland security fear-based planning, towards more common sense positive thinking.  The first sign was the front-page announcement in the 4-1-14 Times Herald [April Fool’s Day no less], “Line for plaza money gets longer.”   It finally dawns on local and state government that a great big Blue Water Bridge Plaza is very unlikely, and less needed than ever before, and the money for it [promised by the Feds] has dried up.  A half billion dollar project had been forecast.

                            Camera tower at Naco, Arizona

                                                      Tower at St Clair, MI, installed at north end of their riverfront Palmer Park--Photo by Joe Crowley

The little money left, post the War on Terror and the Great Recession, is probably to be shifted to Detroit’s border crossing, and some was spent on hi-tech Boeing border camera towers---re-positioned from the Mexican border where they didn't work, to ours where they might. Traffic estimates that pre-dated the year 2000 never materialized, nor did any terrorist threats along our Great Lakes borders.

Gone are the military stationed at our inspection booths.  Gone are the armed guards surrounding plastic handcuffed family members prostrate on the ground, because their names popped up on an inspector’s computer.  Gone is the shiny surveillance balloon {famously “mooned” by the Canadians}.  Gone are Plaza drawings of barracks for guards, and a double duty phalanx of out-going inspection booths, with artistic sculpture towers to make it all look pretty.

here is a breath of fresh air across the Blue Water area this spring.  A subsequent headline in our paper, 4-5-14, reads, “More Customs officers coming to city.”   As many commentators suggested in the midst of the hey-day of CBP-MDOT mega plans, what the Blue Water Bridge Plaza has always needed is more personnel to better do their job, not a giant re-build of the plaza structure.  It was built new less than 20 years ago.

The Canadians helped, in the past few years, by giving us a new set of booths to add new capacity to the inspection area.  Now the Feds have finally wised up, chastened by fiscal reality, and are sending us more well-trained people to help facilitate our border crossings.  Our frontier with Canada is not meant to be a fortress, but for commerce and friendship.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, April 21, 2014


There is real danger and evil in the wars, greed, pride that I read about to do my writing, and see too often in the world about me, and at times recognize in myself.   Thomas Merton wrote about this as hatred {at base an alienation from one’s true self, and God at the center}. 

Strong hate, the hate that takes joy in hating, is strong because it does not believe itself to be unworthy and alone.  It feels the support of a justifying God, of an idol of war, an avenging and destroying spirit.  From such blood-drinking gods the human race was once liberated, with great toil and terrible sorrow, by the death of a God Who delivered Himself to the Cross and suffered the pathological cruelty of His own creatures out of pity for them.  In conquering death He opened their eyes to the reality of a love which asks no questions about worthiness, a love which overcome hatred and destroys death. [from Chapter 10, A Body of Broken Bones-- New Seeds of Contemplation]

This Eastertime we should rejoice in this unconditional merciful love of God, God’s eternal and only answer to hatred and sin.  We are called to share this love with all people, friends & enemies alike.

n Easter Monday I’m remembering at our morning mass offertory petitions, some friends suffering the struggle of chronic illness—Jean Jaques, John, Bob, Catherine—and that they, as well as all of us, have this wonderful Easter promise.  We are healed beyond the bounds of time and bodily infirmity.   All of us at some point to die, but at once born into an eternity of goodness, by the mercy of the God-Man Jesus who joined in our death, to conquer it.   And in this way we’re re-united with all loved ones who've passed through before us.

Riding my bike back from church, the spring sun starting to re-warm the earth, bringing out grass and early flowers, there is a certain momentary cast to the deep yellow light of sidewalks & yards I pass.   I feel a surge of my 5-year-old body and mind returning.  {Seems to happen on occasion now}   This fleeting vision gives way quickly to the 66-year-old me, but it refreshed, makes me know that my concept of time and place is just a baby.  Our second childhoods will merge into an infinity of loving childlike play at the feet of the Creator.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, April 14, 2014


                                                                                       Fed. income tax pie - somewhat near half for war the past 60 yrs.

The dialogue with my gun-bearing friends continues.  Most recently a long term friend of the family sent me this video of a very respectable sincere Dutch commander of troops, explaining his having chosen the gun as his career.  It’s part of the TED series, always well done and worth watching.  The contrasting vision of how a Christian is called to counter violence is given in a potent video series of 10 minute lectures by Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy. {see links below}   Please consider taking time this coming Easter season to view both sides.

Can violence ever be truly conquered by violence?  Is there really another way?  In this Passion-tide, and forward in time, we have a choice between two images.

Either killing is part of being a faithful follower of Jesus and entering His kingdom—or it is not.  Which will you choose?  Which will you carry?

Along with Holy Week comes another significant date on the calendar, April 15th.   Some of us in our area are attempting to make it Peace Not War Tax Day.  {see our first video}   As a couple Ande and I did not claim enough exemptions on the W-4 form to owe the government this April, so we still pre-paid for war, but less than the year before.  Hope to do better next year.  For more on war tax resistance & redirection for peace see the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, esp. their W-4 calculations pamphlet.

here is certain need to collect for the common good; and great moral hazard in what we collect for the common bad.   This constant excessive tax money collected then spent in our country for war is morally wrong—directly counter to Christ’s command to His disciples, “Put away the sword.”  Our bloated budgets favoring the rich and powerful and their arms race is a theft form the poor.  The wealth squandered and consumed by our rich is a scandal.  These are crucial and troubling matters of conscience for all of us.

Videos on the unconditional, Nonviolent Love of Jesus, and its implications for us, by Fr. E. C. McCarthy

Monday, April 7, 2014


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rabat -- 4-4-14 photo by Reuters-Stringer // Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  after delivering a statement-11-12-12--REUTERS-BAZ RATNER

I’ve been following the war & peace conflict between Israel and Palestinians for many years.   There’s been some slight hope since this past July of renewed peace talks producing results.  A plan for solving some of the territorial disputes, and establishing a Palestinian state was given a basic structure.   It seemed everyone was tiring of injustice, and intifadas.   The violence has taken a deep toll on both sides. 

Bethlehem West Bank- 2000- Body of Moayad Usama Jawareesh, Age 13- Resident of Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, killed by Israeli soldiers
Photo by Larry Towell from No Man's Land

But last week the headlines were of collapse—that our Secretary Kerry was upset with both sides, and Prime Minister Netanyahu was upset with Palestinians for signing 15 treaties on international issues, a move that bids for recognized statehood circumventing the peace talks. [see articles below]  It seemed a bold move out-of-the blue this past Tuesday.  But this same day I’d read a short news-feed sidebar in our local paper, reporting that the Israelis the day before had re-bid a contract to move ahead with the building of 708 new settlement homes in the contested areas—totally out-of-bounds vexing the peace process.   This fact was not much mentioned by the major media.

After making numerous searches I found this from the Israeli side:
Chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said that an announcement last week by Housing Minister Uri Ariel that Israel wanted to build 708 housing units in a disputed community in East Jerusalem was timed to “torpedo” the efforts to make peace.
And this from the Palestinian side [both in same Washington Post report]:
“Israel wants never-ending ­negotiations, negotiations for the sake of negotiating, while it buys time to build more settlements,” a top Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Voice of Palestine radio.

f course it’s more complicated, and reading of the articles below just begins to give some of the scope of the problems.  But something new appeared in that short local newspaper sidebar.  The reason that the settlements contracts had to be re-bid by the Israeli government was that no contractors had submitted bids.  There was no interest.

Perhaps just business decisions, but it could signal that there is a new wisdom growing amongst more and more people of the region.   Peace will come, but it has the price of justice, which cannot be paid with violence, nor intimidation.

Netanyahu vows retaliation after Palestinian treaty move

Kerry warns U.S. is evaluating role in Middle East peace talks

Netanyahu blames Palestinians for collapsing peace talks

“Israel: Bid on settlement homes moves ahead”   4-4-14 Port Huron Times Herald [no link given at their online site]

Also of interest ---
Leaders Deny Report of a Truce in Mideast Violence

Peace Accord Bets Trigger Palestine Stock Trading Surge

Israeli Settlement Building Soars—Israeli settlement building in the West Bank more than doubled last year to a 13-year high, the country's statistics bureau said.  - WSJ, 3-3-14