Monday, March 30, 2015


These words were in the title of yesterday's Times Herald Sunday editorial.  But what was the message?  It went on to say that a local crime sweep on the evening of March 20th was to be applauded and showed that police agencies “are taking Port Huron residents’ concerns seriously.”  There is another way of looking at the dragnet of squad cars and state police helicopters deployed Friday night, if you are low income in Port Huron which many are—and that’s from down below, looking up at a society bent on pushing you further down.

oor folks had to pay taxes for this too, any time they’re fortunate enough to land a regular job, with any purchase of goods or gas at local businesses, and a disproportionate number pay fines for misdemeanors, traffic stops, vehicles in disrepair, not properly insured, expired licenses.  It would be good to have a report from this newspaper on the details of these recent arrests and citations—exactly what were their crimes.   How serious the offenses, how many related to insufficient funds for them to make the payments required of the law abiding citizens?   And then the precise total cost for the Friday police operation needs to be calculated and reported.

We will get what we pay for.  If our society continues to invest in police state measures of Homeland Security, instead of public education {see Sunday TH article on 45 million illiterate Americans}, with job and manufacturing opportunities that pay a decent wage, we can expect further numbers to fall into marginal or illicit activities that lead to deeper poverty and incarceration.   Do we want more money for a police state and prison-welfare system, or a productive economy with an informed intelligent citizenry?

 case in point is a single mother my wife and I know who has three young children expecting a fourth.  She is about to be homeless, facing eviction, and though a high school graduate and having held a number of steady jobs, has lost most of them because with a suspended driver's license [ten years ago—no alcohol since] she has had to depend on others to get to work.  She is sharp and capable but with a couple strikes against her, often made victim.

For one year now she has maintained a restricted license, no infractions, using a fickle breathalyzer ignition device, just on the verge of reapplying for an unrestricted license, to be free of the costly process of these restrictions, paperwork and legal fees.   [It took 2 years to get to this point, due to Secretary of State slow response times of months on end for forms and interviews.]  Even with no recent record, and good recommendations, a lawyer had to be hired to get the restricted license.  The thousands it took to move this process beyond her previous unsuccessful attempt, was donated.   Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, or professional with means, a DUI conviction in Michigan, even if years ago, then means an almost impossible road back.

That Friday night she was driving to get diapers for her kids with diarrhea and was cited for running a yellow light.   All her work to improve her situation is now in jeopardy, and a lawyer again must be hired.   The state police officer making the stop here in town may have been technically correct, but how much the whole operation makes us safe from crime, and how much just a further millstone around the neck of the poor, is yet to be determined.

We who are the innocent unharmed bystanders can stand by and watch as our fellow low income citizens slide deeper under, or realize that this inequality and mercilessness is taking the middle class with it, and damaging the souls of all of us, rich included.

Let's remember all that Jesus said and did --His message -- about forgiveness this Holy Week

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

References -


Unfortunately yesterday's Sunday Times Herald editorial, 3-29-15, and feature story on illiteracy, are not yet available online.

Monday, March 23, 2015


The Day We Invaded Iraq {the second time}.
The Day we set in motion the forces that have created ISIS, and the “widening gyre”* of violence in the Middle East.

We’ve just past March 19 again and the date should give us all pause, the day we launched an undeniably unjust war in 2003, a preemptive war, a war of greed and power that we all have some share in—because we did not prevent it, our taxes pay for it, our oil consumption economy demands it, and we allow its continuation in drone strikes, weapons support, special forces, and mini-occupations throughout the Middle East.

Yemen is the latest manifestation of the futility of our “preemptive limited wars” policy.   U.N. Says Yemen Conflict Could Become 'Iraq-Libya-Syria' Scenario [my boldface] reports the 3-21-15 New York Times, echoing a term that makes countries we’ve helped take the fight to, synonymous with failed-state disaster.   Yemen has completely fallen apart as we attempted to use its Arab Spring as a drones springboard in our long distance fight against Al Qaeda, now morphing towards the even more dreaded ISIS.  [See references below, and my article 2 weeks ago—could do search on webpage for previous Libya and Syria articles also]

A national examination of conscience is needed.  We are not exceptional, but are called as are all people, to be merciful as the Lord is merciful, to put away the sword, to not eat of the fruit of the bad tree.
The tree of weapons has been cultivated by us too long, much longer than the three years the Lord gave the fig tree.  Are we forever doomed to repeat the horrible mistake of war, killing brother and sister enemy, so they can attempt to justify the same?   It has never worked, but always contains the evil seed of the next war.  The only Gospel solution is to uproot, disassemble, create of nonviolent love, plant something new.
 The Tree of Life. The sculpture was made by four Mozambican artists: Cristovao Canhavato (Kester), Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos and Adelino Serafim Mate. It is a product of the Transforming Arms into Tools (TAE) project and is made from decommissioned weapons.

A good day for reflection and action on our relationship with terror and war, comes just after Easter, and Divine Mercy, Sundays this year—April 15th.   Can we begin to convert our war tax dollars into peacemaking tax dollars? 

* “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'  Lk 13:7

The more complete article with all the dysfunctional players [except for ex-ruler Saleh, who now fights Hadi also – see next ref] in this failed state.  Includes a sentence to our part, now eclipsed by the more chaotic violence. –  The deteriorating situation led U.S. troops to evacuate a southern air base crucial to the drone program targeting al-Qaida militants.”  This is why we’ve been meddling in Yemen politics, and now, with a bomb blast killing many at a Shiite Houthi mosque, ISIS appears in Yemen.

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

Monday, March 16, 2015


Unattributed photo as to photographer, time, place, or identity of child.   Part of email message often under heading "Urgent prayers for Queragosh" or "Prayers urgently needed,"that states that children are being beheaded and crucified by ISIS.  It went viral from at least August of 2014 to the present.

I have received recently two disturbing messages from faithful friends, on the already horrible situation in Iraq and Syria , where ISIS has been a byproduct of our ongoing wars, direct and by proxy, in the Middle East.  The first was an email being circulated about ISIS atrocities, that although based on deadly truths in the these conflicts, appeared to stretch the truth, reaching to engage Christians' attention.   It came with critical commentary a couple weeks ago from Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy [I’ll forward to anyone interested].
Online Catholic put this title to the problem viral message.  URGENT email from Iraq asks Christians to pray for ISIS victims in Queragosh -- but is it a hoax?”  Their editors investigated, found the email to be a hoax, but the disaster of war in the area still very real.  Though the first version I was able to find [without the pictures] was from August 19, 2014, it is still making the rounds as a current crisis.
Claim--Prayers are needed for the city of Queragosh which has fallen to ISIS and is seeing Christian children being beheaded in large numbers. -- Image from Snopes--see site for fact check

Now there appears a similar new appeal, with the same general title, “Prayers urgently needed.”   A dear friend forwarded – and many were the others forwarding.
Prayer Requests
Information forwarded from Marla, spiritual director at River's Edge in Cleveland, Ohio:
  also Rev. Carl L. Pieber, C.M., Ph D. 

Our St. Vincent de Paul Society in Syria has been captured by ISIS. It is serous. The message came from our Central Headquarters in Rome: 
Urgent Prayer Request from Sister Monica, Daughter of Charity in Paris:
 "Late Sunday afternoon on 1 March 2015, I received a message from M. Francoise, a delegate of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and I managed to reach her by telephone. She was leaving for Paris, and collapsed at the news she had just received:  Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Syria were kidnapped, along with their wives and children. The children were isolated and put into cages. Adults who do not deny their faith will be decapitated, and their children burned alive in the cages. [my boldface]   M. Francoise had been in regular contact with several of them before all this occurred. She asked me to transmit the news and make a fervent appeal for prayers for these people, and all who are held hostage.
Let us remain fervently united in prayer, and have as our intention the welfare of all brothers and sisters in our Christian faith who are being held hostage.  Mother Mary, please console them, and protect them all from harm!
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Syrian refugees near the Turkish border (CNS) - published in the Catholic Herald, U.K.  3-10-15

Yes let us pray fervently for an end to all war, as all our recent Popes have pleaded.   And may we know the truth, for the truth will set us free, trusting in the Lord, and not the rush to war. 

The Paris Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s webpage, the source of this story, had warned -- “also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information.”  [because of its unverified nature]
March 4th, 2015

One of the first items to pop up when I did a google search for “Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Syria were kidnapped” was an article titled, ISIS Kidnaps Catholics in Syria, Threatens to Decapitate Adults and Burn Their Children Alive in Cages” from CNSNews.  I thought this would be a most credible source, as the Catholic News Service has a long and distinguished history.  In fact this was an unrelated organization which strives to counterspin what it feels is the inherent left-wing bias of mainstream media. [see below]**  They certainly had no caution on sharing this dramatic information.

The most credible report I’ve found thus far, from the more trustworthy CNS ---  excerpts.
"We're waiting for news," Helene Afriat, communications officer for the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, told Catholic News Service, March 13. She added that communication with people in the Mideast was "very difficult."
She also said the Society has not been able to verify or confirm reports that those kidnapped were being threatened with decapitation and their children were being held in cages.
The Society announced on its website March 4 that "several colleagues," along with "women and children," were kidnapped in the province of Hassakeh in northeastern Syria.
The website announcement called for prayers and said, "At the moment we have no details, also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information."
In an interview more than a week later, Afriat said nothing had changed.
"The surrounding villages have been evacuated, the people have fled, communication is very difficult and we have not been able to establish contact with our volunteers and correspondents working locally," she said. "The people who reported these recent kidnappings were unable to give us more precise details."
Afriat also warned of the danger in circulating unverified claims.

Image a St. Patrick's Day gift sent by Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Because the people who reported the kidnappings [sources in this area of multiple militias make a big difference] have provided no verification, there is the possibility that SSVP workers in that area are not still captive.  Many of the recent Assyrian Christians held hostage have been released.   A CNN report states that it was an Islamic judge that made the decision ordering ISIS to free them. Under Sharia law he ruled they were not guilty of anything.

It’s yet to be determined how many, whom, and whether, Catholics were even among those held captive.  And it must be remembered that “Unlike most other churches that trace their origins to antiquity, the modern Assyrian Church of the East is not in communion with any other churches, either Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Catholic.”  [from Wikipedia, verified by Encyclopedia Britannica].   The plight of all these people, caught in a terrible war zone is never to be minimized.  But we much search for the truth, and not be led astray towards even deeper war and division.

There is some likelihood that this yet to be verified story was planted in the Catholic online media space to serve as a goad to further war support among Catholics and other Christians.  During the Iran-Contra hearings which exposed some of the manipulations that favored our expanded war in Central America in the 1980’s, the term, “dysinformation” came to the light of day.   It is one of the many power tools that politicians use to march us off to war, for the profit of a few, and the suffering of many.

Image from rock band of same name

Ancient hatreds plus an infinity of weapons supply equals the guaranteed upsurge [asymptote] of suffering and death.  The sources of many war stories, on all sides, are often intent on inflaming war fever to benefit their cause.   In the case of Syria, many of the information sources, such as the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council, are allied with militias in the areas of ferocious fighting.  And the Syrian state apparatus has its own spin, while our own military industry seems to constantly help create new opportunities, backing multiple sides of the coin.
Beware of the Father of all Lies, big and little, especially when they justify violence, against the child in the womb, the neighbor, the enemy—the ways that lead away from Jesus, towards endless war.  “Chain letters” and their facsimiles, can be chained to untruths, binding even the “strong man’s” wisdom.
I will certainly pray for the people caught on all sides of this brutal war, and any St. Vincent de Paul Society workers that may have been kidnapped as part of a reported 220 Assyrian Christians taken by ISIS, now apparently most released.  And let us pray for an end to the confusion, the fog of war. 
We can break this chain that dictates -- dealing death is the only certain way to protect life.

Christians -- see how they love even their enemies.  The only true effective weapon that defends one body and soul, is a good Gospel word spoken from the heart, and a good deed that springs from God’s mercy.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council said heavy clashes against militants in the area were continuing. The group, which is fighting alongside Kurds and Arab militiamen, said three of its fighters were killed in Tal Hurmiz Tuesday.
"The Syriac Military Council and the Khabur Guards are determined to fight back ISIS, to regain the Assyrian villages and to release the Assyrian Christian hostages from ISIS," it said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group.

Nuncio to Damascus: IS releases 52 abducted Christian families without a ransom payment

** was launched on June 16, 1998 as a news source for individuals, news organizations and broadcasters who put a higher premium on balance than spin and seek news that’s ignored or under-reported as a result of media bias by omission.
Since 1987, the Media Research Center [CNSNews parent organization] has been the nation’s premier media watchdog. We don’t endorse politicians and we don’t lobby for legislation. MRC’s sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media. This makes the MRC’s work unique within the conservative movement.
The Media Research Center’s unwavering commitment to neutralizing left-wing bias in the news media and popular culture has influenced how millions of Americans perceive so-called objective reporting.

Assyrian Christians Demand Arms, Support to Fight Isis As Hundreds Kidnapped
Assyrians in California to pray for those kidnapped, threatened by ISIS
ISIS releases some Christian hostages -- but why -
3-10-15 - Reports ISIS release some Assyrian Christian families, but others still held

Monday, March 9, 2015


From Reader's Digest, "Wide World Atlas" 1984 {People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, also called South Yemen, perhaps because sliver under "North" Yemen has important port of Aden}

Yemen became a country we were conscious of on the international scene, with the bombing of our naval destroyer, U.S.S. Cole in the year 2000.  This became a precursor to our ongoing War on Terror, and for years now in Yemen, little noticed by our media, to persistent drone attacks and chaos.

Why is a place like Yemen important to us?  In our strategic interests, it’s the lower third of the Arabian Peninsula, right below Saudi Arabia, and forms the seacoast border of the Suez Canal / Red Sea outlet [right across from the Somali pirates], a major shipping channel.   Oil is the area’s major export.   In the days of the Cold War this nation was divided between a Soviet favoring South Yemen, and a U.S. favoring North Yemen.   Tribal and religious allegiances have always predominated in Yemen, but the various factions have gone from communist-capitalist, through warlord, and now terrorist designations in the minds of our political leaders, to keep the battle-lines properly drawn.
  Yemenis gathered around a car after it was targeted by a drone strike that killed three Qaeda militants in Marib, Yemen. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images 1-27-2015
Currently our previous North vs South favoritism is reversed, now supporting in the South the deposed leader, Hadi, [who favors our drone war against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula {AQAP}on his soil] retrenched in the southern-most port of Aden, and the Shiite Houthi tribal factions in control of the capitol of San'a and most of the North.

Paradoxically al Qaeda fights on Hadi's and “our side” against the Houthis.   And AQAP has been cast as a more serious threat to our country, three highly trumpeted cases of bombs aimed at us--Times Square bomber, Christmas Day underwear bomber, UPS cargo package bombs--have all fizzled. There is reasonable doubt as to whether they were more designed for damage, or to cause fear.  A U.S. citizen Muslim cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, who supported his country immediately after 911, then opposed us moving to Yemen when we invaded Iraq, is now dead by order of U.S. drones.  He was the supposed mastermind of these half-hearted attacks, and inspirer of the military psychiatrist who did kill 9 U.S. soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas.  [See below for history of this long-distance mini-theater of war.]

Our embassy and mission in San'a has closed leaving many vehicles and weapons in the hands of these current Houthi Shiite partial enemies-du-joure.   The Houthis biggest problem for us is that they are allied with Iran [enemy of the Saudis, and Israelis--made strange bedfellows once again].
Our only ambassador in Yemen?

Our playbook in the Middle East is in shambles.  Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Gaza, West Bank, Yemen …  We’ve made weaponry the linchpin of all our power-plays, and knowledge of the field, and respect of peoples with whom we deal is trivialized.  We keep hitting with the military cudgel [which we misname a surgical strike or covert action, or support only--no boots on the ground] and overlook the lethal damage to hearts and minds--ours as well as theirs.
“No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing, and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war."  -- Pope John Paul II,   Centesimus annus, 1991

Litany of this millennium's U.S. Strife with Yemen

2000 - USS Cole Bombing Fast Facts - CNN -- timeline--17 U.S. sailors killed, then includes rendition, torture, Guantanamo etc.

2009 - Christmas Day Underwear Bomber

5-2-2010 NYT – Times Square Bomber

5-13-2010 NYT - U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease

10-30-2010 WSJ - Yemeni [UPS cargo] Bombs Target U.S.
 UPS airline cargo bombs -- “Contraptions” “weren’t rigged to explode”

11-20-2010 NYT - Qaeda Branch Aimed for Broad Damage at Low Cost
They bank on our collective fear.

11-16-2010 WSJ - U.S. Pursues Wider Role in Yemen
Yemen's government in San'a has urged Washington to provide more helicopters and other supplies such as night-vision goggles to aid missions against militants in remote areas.
The Yemeni president [the previous undemocratic ruler, Salih] has created counterterrorism units— commanded by his sons and nephews—that get training from U.S. Special Operations teams. The Yemenis also use intelligence, planning and equipment from U.S. military and spy agencies to conduct many of their counterterrorism operations.
The Yemenis have had limited success in fighting al Qaeda. In two major offenses launched this summer in Yemen's southern tribal areas, the Yemeni military failed to capture its top targets and lost more than 150 of its own men, according to people in the Yemeni military.

2-14-2015 - Shiite Rebels Expand Territory in Yemeni Capital - NYTimes
2-20-2015 - U.S. Fears Chaos as Government of Yemen Falls - NYTimes


Miller Statement on the Killing of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki   -  9-30-2011
Harrison Township, MI – U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10), member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, today made the following statement on the reported killing of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki is linked to terrorists, such as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted Christmas Day bomber aboard Detroit bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253; Maj. Hasan, who killed 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas; Faisal Shahzad, attempted Times Square bomber; and a group of men who planned an attack in Fort Dix, N.J.

“The killing of Awlaki is justice served. This terrorist has met a fitting end in our fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. For the past several years, Awlaki has proven he will stop at nothing to wage war against the United States and our Allies. Today, his death serves as proof that our collective resolve against terrorism will not waiver. I thank the men and women of our military and intelligence community. We must continue to remain vigilant in defending our nation and the world against these threats.”

Transcript of and video of Jeremy Scahill’s report on Anwar al Awlaki
For the whole story in Scahill’s documentary --

Monday, March 2, 2015


I remember my recent trip to Chiapas en el Santuario de Nuestro Senor de Tila atop one of the old city’s hills.  Time spent waiting in relative silence, in the present moment, a beautiful moment—like looking up at the point at the center of the dome of the cathedral—of the whole universe as it slowly turns round within the loving creator.  First procession arrives, the faithful crowd, mariachis and incense.  Here comes the crucified King—carried aloft on shoulders of strong young men, who in no time at all will barely walk themselves.

ack home there’s news.  Rumblings of the duty to sell weapons to the good guys, this time in Syria, and Yemen—fight ISIS, fight Assad, fight Al Qaeda, fight the Houthis [but problems of good guy recognition persist, see below for some details of our involvement in these violent quagmires].
Those who sell weapons do not want peace.  {Except for the peace of self-satisfaction critiqued by Thomas Merton—image below}  They sell war and the protection of empires and oil consumption.  Real peace is against their nature of profit motivation wedded to national security.  Those who planned our invasion of Iraq are not dumb.  They understood that violating the delicate balance of the predominantly Muslim territories would guarantee hatreds leading to lasting wars in the Middle East—more than adequate to replace the brief weapons market decline at the end of the Cold War.

At the 2010 SOFEX {Special Operations Force Exhibition} Middle East's arms bazaar - 14th annual

SOFEX takes place every two years in Amman, and is largely the brainchild of Jordan’s king, Abdullah II, who has a penchant for special operations and massive displays of artillery. Over the course of a week, more than 12,000 attendees tromped around 30-odd tents staked across the desert, hosting approximately 300 vendors. The atmosphere was insidious but open, an organized free-for-all in which American companies like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics sold weapons to almost anyone who could afford them.
Be sure to find the time to watch this video, and the “see more” at their site--VICE Media.

Let’s face it.  Many of our leaders do not want peace.  It’s bad for business, and the business of the military-industrial-complex rules in the USA.  No one can tell us to give up our guns and military superpower—except Jesus, the disarmer-in-chief, who leads without weapons to eternal life, who tells us to put away the swords.  The only way to follow him—mercy—the only way to lasting peace.

{Click on any image to enlarge}

Thomas Merton's thoughts on peace, in his chapter, "The Root of War is Fear"
This is from the program booklet of our marriage mass , 1978

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


More on our troubles in Yemen next week, the proxy war between the tribes and big oil.