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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full.’‘

Gardens Are Forgiving - Monday, April 30, 2012

Gardens are forgiving. You can make mistakes, learn from them and go on doing the right thing. Gardens like nature do not hold your past mistakes against you or care what you did in the past. After working in the garden today I came in to find a series of email from a friend reminding me how mistakes in the past can come back to haunt you and intensify a stigma that you carry from the past.

Stigma Stains the Soul and contains a partial truth but does not define who you are unless you let it. As I said in the posting March 3, 2009 Persons who ‘talk too much’ are usually very vocal. ‘Terrorists’ often do promote terror.” However, a stigma does not define a person. A person with cancer is not cancerous as a person with a mental illness is not mentally ill.

I was thinking about this today since I often find myself speaking a message that people do not want to hear and thus find it easier to focus on the faults of the messenger than deal with the message, like teaching war and violence in a Catholic school. Being a person with lots of faults I make an easy target for those ignoring the message by attacking the messenger.

Often I think being so sensitive to what I consider injustice or violating conscience is a curse. But then I realize the paradox that curses are often blessings. My deceased son Peter and my gardens have helped me learn that mistakes of the past and stigma, deserved or not, can hurt but with forgiveness, even be it self-forgiveness, can become a blessings.


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Faith and Science as One - Sunday, April 29, 2012

Emmanual receives his First
Holy Communion

This morning my friend Emmanuel Komba, 8 years old, made what is called in the Catholic Church, his First Holy Communion. He received what looked like a thin wafer more than the bread it was and drank from a cup of wine. We believe the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. How this could be is a mystery and matter of faith but is that not like our scientific belief that in every breathe we take it we are taking in a bit of the whole cosmos.

Science is racing to find the beginning of the universe and where the universe is going. Is this not like faith that dwells within us and is always searching for more? St. Augustine said about God: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Faith and science are not found for us in the past or future but in the present moment. The deeper we go in the present moment the more we find that place where science and faith are one.

I forgot my camera this morning but with my phone camera tried to capture the present moment, however unclear, when Emmanuel received the Bread and Wine of Life. Someday we will understand this mystery. The beginning, end and present will be one, when science and faith become one,


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Intersections Of Life - Saturday, April 28, 2012

May 1, 1933 rally in
Union Square, NYC

I love moments of life where various aspect of my life seems to intersect. Today a friend in Holland send me an article in the New York Times called A Different Intersection of Church and Politics were many parts of my life came together. First the person who sent me the article was Jim Forest a writer who had been a member of the Catholic Worker New Your city and has written books about Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Also, like me he was a member of the Milwaukee 14 nonviolent action in 1968. The article itself is about the intersection of the Catholic Worker in NYC and the Occupy Wall Street movement, both of great interest to me.

Also tomorrow is the big May Day march in Milwaukee for Immigration Rights, something close to the hearts and minds of Catholic Workers. In fact the first issue of the Catholic Worker was distributed, for a penny a copy, at the May 1, 1933 rally in Union Square in New Your City.

Thinking about this intersection of life I saw how other parts of my life have intersected today and every day. But this is enough for now. Read the article, A Different Intersection of Church and Politics and enjoy this intercession of life


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Pray That Rep. Ryan Does Not Harden His Heart - Friday, April 27, 2012

Pray for Rep. Ryan (WI)

The other day in the local newspaper I read how faculty members and priest of Georgetown University, a Jesuit school in Washington D.C., wrote Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee how his budget plan did Not reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church as he claimed.

Rep. Ryan, a Catholic, claimed that his budget proposal reflects the social teaching of the Catholic faith while the faculty members and the Jesuit say “it decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” Rep. Ryan does not understand, it seems, that in Catholic social teaching the main role of the government is to exist for the ‘common good.’

Rep. Ryan does not understand that the ‘preferential option for the poor’ in the Catholic Church is based on Jesus’ parable about the Judgment of Nation where he talks how feeding the poor, visiting those in prisons, visiting the sick as how we treat God and nations be judged and rewarded and how when a nation does not do the works of mercy it is condemning itself to ‘eternal punishment’. Americans tend to read Matthew 25 as individual acts. In the time of Jesus there was no individualism like we now have in the USA. Jesus was talking about nations and governments in the parable. Pray for government leaders, like Rep. Ryan, who do not get this basic understanding of faith that government’s major role is to serve the common good, especially to the poor and least amongst us. Pray that Rep. Ryan hears the voice of God and does not harden his heart.


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Marriage, Parable & Paradox - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pat with Peter and David
in younger days of our marriage

Today is our 43rd wedding anniversary. Some of my friends say that Pat, my wife, is a Saint since she put up with me all these years. Maybe so, I respond, but if she is a saint I must be at least a blessed.

One friend wished us another 43 years of marriage. I had the same thought writing a message on a card to my wife. But then I thought again and thought that would make me 112 years old at our 86th wedding anniversary, something I do not think will happen.

My deceased son, Peter, and I would at times talk about life in parables. His parable had a common thread that there was someone that was a scapegoat and being blamed for actions beyond his or her control. My parables were like Jesus’ Good Samaritan story, someone coming to rescue and saving someone else. If you put together a scapegoat and a savior I guess you get a person of nonviolence, like Jesus, Gandhi, King or Mandela saving people by taking suffering about them. Our marriage is like a parable, sometimes we scapegoat each other but it is really about blaming ourselves and we both want to save and rescue each other from all harm and injury.

Peter and I also talked some about how life is a paradox. For example, some say I do not care much about money, which is true, but at the same time I have made at times lots of money and am concerned about spending money. My wife loves me deeply and admires my strength of conviction but often is embarrassed by my words and actions.

My older son David is married and has given us three wonderful grandchildren. David is serious, thoughtful and a quiet but a real caring son, husband and father. My grandchildren all have good senses of humor. One of my grandsons knowing how I do not like Wal-Mart keeps writing on his facebook page how he ‘likes’ Wal-Mart. Today, my younger brother got in on the conversation asking me what’s up with my grandson and if he was adopted. Our marriage has been a serious business but humor has kept our relationship in perspective. I think we both wish there was more humor and thus more perspective.

So to sum it up our marriage is the story of one saint and one blessed, is a parable and a paradox with a little bit of humor thrown in.


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New Tactics For New Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Social Media is a new tactic
for our times

Movements for Peace and Justice in the USA have multiplied since the 60’s but the tactics employed by activist in these movements have remained the same, mainly protest in word and action. However, “the powers that be”, those who have an interest in endless wars and keeping injustices, have radically changed tactics from reacting to protest to ignoring them. When a civil rights marcher in the 60’s marched into Birmingham they were met with vicious dogs and beatings by clubs by the Sheriff. Today when thousands march against the School of Americas in Columbus, Ga. the streets are blocked off and they are ignored by police and media. Also today the ‘powers to be’ overwhelm us with issues, keep us on the defensive and attempt to divide and conquer us while in the 60’s we are united around major issues, like war in Vietnam and civil rights.

For awhile I have been thinking about what are the new tactics in the civil rights and peace movement that we can use to make peace and build justice in our society? Last week I talked about what I consider three essentials for a real democracy: conflict, civil disobedience and suffering. But what are the new tactics we need to employ to battle the “powers to be”?

I do not have the answers but do have some thoughts. I have been listening to the ancient Chinese classic literary writing The Art of War by Sun Tzu in China in the 200–300 B.C. Although it has remained an important work for military strategist over the years its tactics have been applied to many other fields of endeavors, like business and sports. A successful strategy, according to this manual leads to a battle being won before it is fought, or better yet, won without a fight.
A lesson about tactics today for nonviolent action for justice and peace is enter the battlefield, like civil rights leaders did in the march in Birmingham with a win, win stragedy. If “Bull” Connor and the forces of segregation had left the civil right marches go, they would have admitted their segregation laws were unjust. By beating and arresting the marchers they showed the whole world how hateful and wrong segregation was. It is harder today, when the powers that be ignore marchers or protestors; however if we can create a situation where they have to face up to injustices, admit them or deny them we can win many a battle.

Waging Peace needs to be just as hard fought as waging war. One way we can wage peace and justice is by refusing to go on the defense and stay on the offense, despite attacks on us personally, defeats and rejections. Also we need to stay consistent and focused. As activist we need not to work for results but because it is the right thing to do and we need to do it to keep our dignity and respect. We need to work for immediate change, if it comes or not.

Above we must break the silence when we see any injustice, though it might mean hardship and rejection for us.

How to translate these principles into tactics, and more importantly, how to live them in daily life remains a lifelong search. We need new tactics for new times? Any ideas? Contact:


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DressTo Stop the Killing - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nelson Mandela spent 27 year
in prison to speak truth to power

When I sent out my recent notice of our nonviolent protest to stop teaching killing at Marquette University, a Jesuit Catholic institution, I featured a picture of Marquette students protesting military training, ROTC, on campus in 1969. We have been protesting ROTC at Marquette, according to my research, since 1968, 44 years ago. (See 44 years of resistance to ROTC at Marquette.) The student shown in 1969 was wearing a suit and tie. Since the event we are protesting this week is a black tie Alumni Awards dinner a friend suggested we dress up for our protest.

Two of the alumni being awarded are a former basketball player now a coach and the other is a Colonel in the military. These are interesting choices since for the last two years Marquette has suffered scandals with athletes allegedly committed sexual assaults last year and the university not reporting it and the arrest this year of four basketball players for underage drinking and fighting. The Colonial is receiving the professional achievement awarded for his military service in the wars in Iraq, a war called by Pope John Paul II as ‘illegal, immoral and unjust.”

The Alumni and Donors coming to the meal will need to drive or walk by our banners with our message: Marquette, Be Faithfull to the Gospel and No Longer Host Departments of Military Sciences or Teach War No More or Marquette Teaches Killing . The alumni and donors can choose to ignore us as Marquette administrators do, be angry at us for reminding of this message or agree with us and take action to stop the teaching of violence and killing at Marquette.

Whatever they choose we who are Breaking the Silence win. Speaking truth to power always is a winner.


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Endless Gardening or Endless War - Monday, April 23, 2012

Tap Tap Garden in Haiti
Endless tires, endless gardens

Working in our gardens today the thought came to me that the work was endless. There is more compost to make, more to plant and to reap, more castings to make and more to water. However, working in the garden is healthy and joyful so endless gardening is a blessing in spring through fall.

Endless gardening is in sharp contrast to the endless wars we seem to have been experiencing from President Regan to President Obama. The wars in Somalia to Afghanistan seem to grow larger, more expensive, are fought with more technology, engage more terrorism, are more deadly for civilians and breed more wars. Americans seem to be accepting a world of endless wars.

War and gardening are on the opposite sides of the cycle of life and death. Wars and violence bring more wars and violence while gardening brings new life. The Department of Defense recruits in middle and high schools and universities youth and young adults for war. What would happen if we had a Department of Gardening with the same resources and commitment recruiting and training gardeners? What if our universities, like Marquette University, taught gardening not war? We would have a green world with healthy food and with less suffering and violence.

When gardening work seems endless, smile and rejoice. It is better for life than endless war. We can choose each day, endless gardening or endless war.


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Being Over Doing - Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another Time Again by Peter Graf

A great tiredness has descended upon me. I am not sure if it is from my coffee pot breaking and thus having less coffee, the change in the weather, not sleeping good or what? Maybe it is just Earth Day and Mother Nature is telling me to slow down and to live more in the present.

Now I do need to say that when I was working in the garden this afternoon the tiredness of mind lifted. Soil therapy, getting my hands in the soil, does seem to awaken my brain and lift my spirits. Gardening, by its very nature, is slowing down.

What probably happened is that I got myself into one of those busy frames of minds where doing is more important than being. My brain knows better so just shuts down to send me a message to slow down.

At times like this I just need to slow down, do less and clean and organized my office. When my office gets very messy and I do not put things away after working on them it is down to ‘stop, look and listen’. I will try pulling away from some things tomorrow, withdraw from a few projects gently and outside of family obligations just focus on works of mercy, works of resistance and, naturally, work in the gardens. In a strange way doing less has always led to doing more, at least more effectively.

I guess this is part of the death and life cycle of living in the moment. Living in the moment means dying to the past, letting the future be and looking deeper into the present. “When will I ever learn that being is over doing?”


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Way of Nature and Jesus - Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tree of Life

St. Ignatius of Loyola in his book the Spiritual Exercise talks about two standards of two leaders calling us. One is Lucifer, the devil and the other is Jesus Christ. Lucifer who attracts us with promises of riches, honor and pride while Jesus promises us what offers us the opposite, poverty over riches, contempt over honor, and humility over pride. At first Jesus’ promises seem to be a paradox but after a deeper look Jesus’ way of suffering is the only way to find peace and joy with God.

St. Ignatius was a soldier of the court looking for riches, honor and pride but when after a battle injury he had a change of heart and renounced his weapons. He realized that to discover the true peace of God and to be a companion of the way of Jesus he needed to, like Jesus, be with the poor, suffer contempt and be humiliated.

Living as a companion of Jesus is not easy. It goes against the way of the world.

I worked quite a while in the gardens today and one of the things I did was plant seeds for pole beans along my trellis. It was the same in the garden as it is for us: the seeds needed to be planted and die before they will rise again.

Many of our institutions, structures and systems, like us, do not understand how hard we need to work and even sacrifice and suffer to find true peace, life and joy. The lure of Lucifer and the world for the quick fix, to find riches, honor and pride without suffering seems to the flavor of the day. Yet the way of Jesus, poverty, contempt and rejection and humility is the way of Jesus and Nature.


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Food for Health or Profit - Friday, April 20, 2012

It was recently announced that SHARE, a not-for-profit food club will close the Wisconsin Branch next month. This will mean not only a lost of low cost healthy food for person in need but also for some of us middle class persons to get healthy and organic foods at a reasonable price. For us it means no more boxes of organic fruits and vegetables for only 15% and no more natural meat from Black Earth Wisconsin. The reason given for the end of SHARE was that discount grocery food stores, like Wal-Mart and Aldi have gone into the central cities offering discounted food.

Aldi, an international German based grocer that also runs Trade Joe’s I am okay with and often shop there. But Wal-Mart the biggest retail chain stores in the world with the poor treatment of workers, the cheapness of products and the greedy way they acquire products, I believe cost all Americans a high price. A film about Wal-Mart’s impact on our society, rightly named The High Price of Low Cost clearly makes this point.

So Share, a national non-profit organization to provide discounted foods fall to an international for profit organization that make is main goal, making profit off the Americans need to eat food.

Like medicine, health care, shelter the right to decent food is now driven by profit. Food for the health of SHARE is lost snf Food for Profit of Wal-Mart reigns.


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When Will They Ever Learn? - Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bob Dylan

Going with the spirit today I discovered some good news. I found a used appliance dealer on the north side of town who can offer the people we make home visits a better deal in purchasing with a partial voucher and stove or refrigerator. By chance I called a store the other day and happened to talk to the owner. Today, by chance, I stopped by the other store he owns and was able to talk to the owner. I felt so blessed to have made this discovery.
When I was driving around on my errands today I heard the military was hiring some 1600 personnel to deal with the growing issues of mental illnesses with veterans. The numbers are staggering of the suicides each week and the persons return from the wars with serious cases of military training. I am glad the military is dealing with the issue but am sad, while dealing with the symptoms; they are ignoring the causes of this rash of serious illnesses. While the military teaches Army values over religious or other personal values and while the military teaches men and woman how to fire their weapons reflexively, killing without conscience there will be more incidents of returning veterans with illnesses as well as incidents of soldiers doing shameful deals with residents of the country they are fighting. When the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, orders more Killer Drone, unmanned aircraft, attacks, killing many civilians, with impunity what do you except of soldiers?

I am reminded of two of my favorite songs, Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan and “Where have all the flowers gone” by Pete Seeger. One gong with the spirit of the good news is “Blowin’ in the Wind” and especially the line “The Answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” The other one going with not looking at the causes is “Where have all the flowers gone” and the line: “ When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

The wind and rain today prevented me from working in the garden but from my experience with finding a new vendor for appliances I felt like “the answer, my friend is ‘blowin’ in the wind.” From my hearing about the attempts to solve the mental health ills of the military I asked: “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”


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FriendshipIs Like a Yellow Bush - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

At our last Church, the last one of nearly 14 of 17 Catholic Churches on this north side neighborhood of Milwaukee that has been closed since the 1960’s, we became friends with a couple. The man had grown up in the area around the Church and had attended the grade school in the parish. Both had come to live with his mother who when she passed away left a house with a big mortgage.

They had their own business as landscapers and did well but not enough to pay off the debt of the house. So as the house was falling into foreclosure, the church was closing they decided to move to Florida where she had family and were their landscape business could be year around.

Before they moved they gave away a number of plants around their house. We were the recipient of a number of them. One yellow bush they gave us did not do much last year in the rain garden but this year is blooming and beautiful.

On a visit to Pat’s brother we spent a day with them. They seem to be doing well where the weather was right for their outside work all year around. We have had not much contact since.

Looking at the bush of beauty Pat said we should said them a picture of it. So tonight we did. I forgot the name of the bush but it does not matter. It is in early spring beauty that I think will last throughout the summer and into the fall.

Our friends are gone south but a yellow bush they gave us lives on in our lives. Friendship is like this yellow bush, slow to bloom, but once it does, it lasts forever.


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Gardens Teach and Heal - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rain Garden Today

It was not untill today that I realized how healthy and good it was for me to work in the gardens around my house for an hour or two each day. I was filled with gratitude while planting a few more perennials in the rain garden pictured.

The gardens take time, money and stewardship but it is worth it, not for the flowers, herbs and vegetables provided from March thru October but what it does for the body, mind and soul to those who work it. The garden heals. Even my hunt tonight in a large hardware store for a few parts for the rain barrels seemed adventuresome and left me with a sense of accomplishment.

With the early spring this year I have even more time to prepare, plant, care and pick the flowers and vegetables. My efforts to keep a vase of freshly cut flowers on the Kitchen Table from March 1st thru October 31st so far are working. Hopefully the tulips and daffodils will last until the next flowers bloom.

I guess you should expect rejoicing over the garden from a guy who keeps a daily posting on the web called “Diary of the Worm.” But the gardens like Nature are my teachers and healers. When you are excited about learning and feel healthy it is only natural to share your joy and blessings. Class is dismissed


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Suffering For Democracy - Monday, April 16, 2012

“My method is conversation, not
coercion; it is the suffering, not
the suffering of the tyrant.”

In the What Does Democracy Look Like posting I listed three ingredients for a real Democracy, conflict, civil disobedience and suffering. Suffering is the most difficult of these three. Nobody wants to suffer, yet without suffering democracy cannot exist. We all accept that citizens of democracy must sacrifice and suffer to keep it. Yet no one wants to be the person doing the sacrificing.

My Gandhi Picture Quote from Mumbai, India today was to the point of suffering. The Gandhi quote was: “My method is conversation, not coercion; it is self-suffering, not the suffering of the tyrant.” The key to nonviolence is taking suffering, rejection and insults upon oneself and not delivering them on the one we are opposing.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, even goes so far in his Spiritual Exercises to pray to God for the “desire to be with you in accepting all wrongs and all rejections and all poverty, both actual and spiritual — and I deliberately choose this, if it is for your greater service and praise” Choosing suffering is a hard thing to consider but it is essential to democracy.

We honor our soldiers, even though we might disagree with the war they are fighting, for their willingness to suffer and die for the country. Leaders of great nations, like Nelson Mandela of South African who spent 27 years in prison, have suffered greatly to create democracy.

A real democracy does not come about by voting but by suffering. Fear of suffering and sacrifice is understandable but not acceptable to create a true democracy. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Yes, true Democracy needs suffering.


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Democracy Needs Civil Disobedience - Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our informal small group of people who say to Marquette University Teach War No More by our resistance to military training on campus and who say to the politicians and officials No More War Spending by our resistance to Killer Drones call ourselves Breaking the Silence. We have no leader but say in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation…”

Howard Zinn, historian, playwright and social activist said: “Our problem is not civil disobedience. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.” The opposite of blind obedience to authority, even when our conscience is violated, is civil disobedience. All true revolutions start when people break the silence and resist with acts of civil disobedience, like throwing tea taxed unjustly overboard;like gathering in the city square like in Cairo; like refusing to take a seat in the back of the bus because of the color of your skin; like union workers refusing to work in unjust conditions. The examples are endless but the common thread is that change, like building a true democracy, starts with resistance and civil disobedience.

In our times, 20th and 21st century where there is so much technology of killing the successful revolutions seem to be ones of nonviolent resistance, like in South Africa, the liberation of India, civil rights movement in the USA, the beginning of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt. Attempts to change using violence, like in Vietnam, Iraq or now Afghanistan have lead to more violence.
This is not to say that nonviolent acts of civil disobedience have not met with violence. However, the violence has been one sided, the oppressor not oppressed. Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter from the Birmingham jail, talks about how “disciplined nonviolence totally confused the rulers of the South.” They did not know what to do. “When they finally reached for clubs, dogs and guns, they found the world was watching, and then the power of nonviolent protest became manifest.”

Father Ignacio Ellacuria S.J. The Salvadoran Jesuit Martyr wrote ,in his book “Freedom Made Flesh The Mission of Christ and His Church”. “Nonviolent action is born of two very powerful forces: the absolute and total rejection of injustice committed against human beings, and a love that impels one towards the construction of a new society. It transforms hatred into a constructive force.”

Of course this type of nonviolent action needed to construct a true democracy requires enduring suffering without reprisals. The nonviolent cross is a symbol of this kind of love. We will save suffering as the third ingredient of building a strong democracy until another posting. For now we can with Howard Zinn say: “Civil disobedience is not our problem.” “… to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience.” Democracy needs Civil Disobedience.

The full quotes of Howard Zinn and Father Ignacio Ellacuria S.J are below:


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The Invisible Hand - Saturday, April 14, 2012

Invisible hands made visible

In my April 12, 2012 posting I wrote how a liberal lawyer speaker talked about how disappointed she was in Obama and his policies but she was going to vote for him anyway, as he was better than the alternative of Romney. I called her out on this attitude of accepting voting for lesser of two evils and said how it was powerful comment on how our democracy has fallen.

Many people in the audience were upset at my remarks and talked about how glorious it was to vote, even though there were no acceptable choices. Today on the Common Dreams web site there were two articles about President Barack Obama signing the Bill for the HR 3606, the ‘Jump start Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The title of one of the articles on this progressive site says it all: Why Obama’s JOBS Act Couldn’t Suck Worse. It was an article in “Rolling Stones” magazine.

Thinking that article title was too direct I chose to put on my Feature Article web page the other article: The Real Invisible Hand: George Orwell, and Why We Got JOBs not Jobs. But the message of the two articles is the same: the new job bill will allow Wall Street and the rich, the 1%, to get richer and greedier at the expense of the rest of us, the 99%.

The 1%, the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith, decides on who we can vote for. So why not “shine the spotlight on the invisible hand”, as the author suggest and rather than choose the lesser of two evils. Whoever we elect, the Republican or Democrat choice of the “Invisible Hand”, will not do what we can only do.


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Democracy Needs Conflict - Friday, April 13, 2012

Fredrick Douglas

Often I find a robin or two sitting on top of my worm depository, a compost pile for growing worms. The robins are waiting for a worm to come near the surface to snatch it up for food. When I turn over the pile or after rain or when it is watered are the best times for the robins. This conflict between robins and worms is one sided but it is a conflict.

There are all kinds of conflicts, some violent, some nonviolent, some creative and some destructive. Conflicts, as Frederic Douglas talks about in the quote below, when healthy, is essential to good leadership and a healthy society. Without conflict he says we would have ‘group-think’. Although Frederic Douglas spoke these words below in 1857 they are relevant today, especially the part of what is true conflict: “The problem in our communities today is not that we have conflict, but that we manufacture conflict and exaggerate differences to the point where it is very difficult to make meaningful change. Too often we abandon basic civility and cannot disagree without questioning the motives of our adversaries.”

I find many people avoid healthy creative conflict by avoiding any type of conflict or by taking a dogmatic side of a concern and not open to change. For a true democracy we need to struggle for the truth and yet be open to opposing views. Gandhi called his side of conflicts ‘opinion of the truth’ and Dorothy Day when pursuing a conflict said “we must follow our conscience, even an erroneous conscience.” They, as many great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that from healthy conflict the truth would emerge.

Politics these days are so polarized. The side with the most money and best negative ads usually wins. Although Republicans and Democratic are so similar in what they do they, as Douglas says “manufacture conflict and exaggerate differences to the point where it is very difficult to make meaningful change.”

So to develop a true democracy in this country we need healthy and creative conflicts.

Words of Frederic Douglas on conflict are below:


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What Does Democracy Look Like? - Thursday, April 12, 2012

One of the chants you here in the Wisconsin movement to resist the changes the Republican Governor and legislature are making comes when one person in a protest calls out: “What does democracy look like?” The people in the crowd cry out “This is what democracy looks like.”

Tonight I went with friends to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to listen to a person talk about torture in US foreign policy. She put the blame for torture on President Bush’s administration although she reluctantly admitted it goes on today in various forms in the Obama administration.

As someone from Columbia, South America told us at SOAWatch at Fort Benning, when asked how conditions have changed with the new democratic administration, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans are more overt about their actions and Democrats more subtle, but they end up doing the same thing. In Columbia it was suppressing the human rights of people.

During the question and answer period she made a remark that I have heard so many times before from persons upset with President Obama for what he did or did not do the last four years in area of war, poverty, discrimination and foreign policy. She said it was still going to vote for him since the alternative, Governor Romney, was worst.

I called her out on this attitude of voting for the least of two evils and when asked who I would vote for I said “nobody.” She asked the audience about my response and I was taken to task, in a nice way, for not voting. I was preached to about how voting was so central and essential to our democracy.

I thought if I believe it was a true democracy I would probably vote but when it comes to voting for the least of two evils I feel it is wrong to vote or support someone because the only other choice we are given by the ‘power that be’ is worst in our eyes.

It got me thinking that this was the real problem with our democratic government. We are faced with two choices that both will end up doing the same thing the people who gave them the money wants them to do and choose the lesser evil in our minds.

So what does a real democracy look like? I can think of three qualities essential to a real change and building a democracy. In my opinion they are conflict, nonviolent civil disobedience and suffering. In postings to come I will discuss these three and give example. May I can even relate these three to nature and the garden.


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Listen To Nature? - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

“When I slow my walk, open my eyes
and listen,nature reveals her hidden
beauty to me.” Dwayne Oakes

Preparing the gardens and doing a little planting today seems to be an endless task. But I know that if I consistently work each day and persist that the gardens will grow, flower and bring forth produce. I know this to be true from past experiences, successes and mistakes, and from observation of nature.

Nature let along or enhanced by humans is always successful. However, nature, interfered with and defiled by humans leads to disasters.

The tragedy of New Orleans during the hurricane Katrina is a good example of human interference and defilement. The destruction of the hurricane was intensified by the trenching of the Mississippi river for commerce, the warmer waters of the Caribbean, the underfunded and insufficient dam network built around the city and so forth. The flooding of the city after the hurricane where most of the destruction and lost of human life occurred was not that of nature’s doing by of humans.

The way war is taught in our military is against nature and leads to intense repercussions for our soldiers and the civilians in the countries we fight. It is not ‘natural’ for a human to kill another human without thought and conscience but this type of killing without conscience is what is taught in our military training centers and is at the heart of the tragedy of innocent civilians and dying and the mind and lives of our soldiers being ruin.

When I work in the garden I enhance the soil with compost and castings; I enhanced the water supply with rain barrels and irrigation for times when garden is dry; I use wood chips as mulch to keep the soil moist and the weeds at bay.

Our own beings as human beings and part of nature need to be enhanced not defiled. When driving along a new freeway being built today I noticed the large walls being built along the side of the road to keep the noise away from the housing on the other side of the barrier. In this part of the highway we are losing our view of nature as we drive to keep out noise for housing constructed nearby. It is my guess if we listened to nature it would tell us to stop building more and bigger highways and construct high speed railways to transport more people more efficiently without as much energy or noise.

Working in the garden we need to listen to nature. But in other parts of our life do we listen to nature?


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Get Justice for Justice - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today while turning over the soil in my front vegetable garden I was listening to a podcast from the public radio show On Being. An Armenian Orthodox theologian, Vigen Guroian, was talking about Restoring the Senses, Gardening and Orthodox Easter. Finding God in the garden by use of our senses was something that brought together my training in Ignatiian spirituality of using the senses with the healing powers of the garden. By use of metaphors and symbols the author is a theologian who contemplates the grand ideas of incarnation, death, and eternity as they are revealed in life and in his garden. His theology is grounded in the soil rather than some abstract concepts.

I ran across another use, or abuse, of metaphor or symbols today in the news. For many years I thought of justice as being something good and full of mercy, like justice for those seeking civil rights or justice for the poor. We often heard that “if you want peace work for justice”. However, these days the word justice has gotten to mean having someone arrested or being convicted of a crime or suffering death or a long prison sentence sentence.

The national news is full of protests calling for justice for the person who shot the 17 year young man in Florida. He has not been charged and the calls are out for the family of the victim to get justice by having him arrested. For all victims of crime ‘getting justice’ means have someone convicted of the crime. When a terrorist is killed politic leaders say ‘Justice has been done”. Justice is widely used to means arresting someone for a crime, convicting the person and inflicting punishment. Justice and getting justice has been reduced to a limited legal version of the word.

Getting Justice for the poor, oppressed, marginalized and outcast never meant punishing them but helping for all to get freedom, quality and fairness. Now we need to get justice for justice


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And Then There Is - Monday, April 09, 2012

“what is because
what ever there was”

by Peter Graf

Today when I was working on the gardens in front of the house I saw Paul, the person from the home for visually impaired persons nearby. I had met him in one of my walks in Doyne park about a month or so ago and as we had walked together he had told me a lot about his life. As today, once Paul starts talking he can go on and on about many subjects, mostly memories of his past life.

Today I tried to listen carefully how he moves from subject to subject. I discover he uses a phrase like “and then there is” to bridge the gap between talking about his mother to growing up on a farm. I think that in his mind all the various subjects are connected and this phrase is a way of connecting them for me.

Many persons I have met with a brain illness, including my own son, have this uncanny ability to connect a variety of events and subjects together. They really see and feel the connection although many of us ‘near normal’ persons do not see the connection. In fact I have observed that persons who think of themselves as very normal fight off making connections between persons and events.

I understand that in very primitive times persons that could connect many things were considered extraordinary and privileged persons and not ‘crazy’. They were gifted with the ability to see how all things are interconnected. Individualism and categorization seem to be the flavor of the day. Perhaps losing one’s eyesight helps persons, like Paul today, to see the connection of all things in their life.

Paul used the phrase “and then there is” probably more for my sake. To him everything seems connected. Paul is blessed.


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Blessed Easter - Sunday, April 08, 2012

Emma, the new life of Easter

We were blessed with family and friends this Easter Sunday. My brother had come in from Iowa Friday night for a weekend visit; today my son, his wife and three grandchildren came in town; and part of our African family from Sierra Leone came over to join us for dinner, including the newest member, a two week old baby named Emma. It was the first time I had seen Emma and although she slept most of the visit brought joy with her presence.

The dinner my wife, Pat, made was spectacular, including many of our Middle East favorites including stuffed grape leaves. After dinner, as normal, I and the children retired to living room. But soon I found my three grandchildren involved in playing video games on I Phones and I Pods. My African grand nephew, 6, wanted me to show him the legos and toys he remembers playing here when he was young. We could not find much and soon my oldest grandson had taught him how to play a game on the I Pod games.

Eventually as the adults keep talking and laughing my two oldest grandsons and I were attracted to the dining room table where each grandson told the story of how they had shot their first Turkey this week. Although my wife and I were not into guns or hunting my oldest son, their dad, became involved in hunting and was proud father as their stories of the hunt unfolded.

After all family and friends left my wife and I, after doing some of the cleanup, watched the final installment of the Great Expectations Dickens’s story on Public Television. When I finally check my email I discover that one our friend’s daughters, who suffers from a mental or brain illness had suffered a relapse and had to be hospitalized. Soon memories of my son Peter and his struggles to his death from a brain illness flooded my mind.

Easter by way of family and friends had brought great joy to my life. But as the day ends I am reminded from my friend that death, illnesses and pain are still there. Hopefully the joy and new life of Easter can make the death and pain of life more bearable. Maybe instead of Happy Easter we should say Blessed Easter.


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Love and Truth - Saturday, April 07, 2012

My friend, Francis Pauc, author of the web blog Father at War recently sent me this letter to the editor of the local Catholic newspaper that he has not heard from. He said in his email “Maybe you will find some value in it.” Yes, I do need it and the greatest value I can find for it is to share it with everyone who reads the Diary of the Worm. In a few days I put it on Frank’s blog but for now here are some Easter blessings.

“All you need is love”, is what John Lennon sang over forty years ago. Even after all this time, his words have an enduring appeal. But, are they true? Are these words about love just some kind of hippie sentiment, or do they describe the human experience? Are they real?

It would be easy to dismiss the Beatles lyrics as being the relics of a more naive period of our history, but they also point to a deeper meaning. The words echo what we as Christians treasure most in our tradition. The Bible, especially the New Testament, testifies to the importance of love in the world. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians describes love beautifully, and Jesus spends much of the Gospels exhorting his disciples to love others. Pope Benedict, in his very first encyclical, proclaimed that “Deus Caritas Est”, that “God is Love”. Our faith is founded on that fact.

Unfortunately, there is much confusion as to what love really is. Perhaps part of the problem is that in English we use the word “love” to mean a variety of things. Quite often “love” is simply used as a synonym for “lust”; certainly, that is the definition that sells best. In many cases, the word “love” conjures up images of flowers or valentines, and generally feels warm and fuzzy.

Love very seldom is warm and fuzzy. Love is usually hard as hell. A friend of mine once explained to me that love and sacrifice are really the same thing. Love is more of a verb than a noun. Love is more often an act than a feeling. Love is a parent staying up all night with a child that is running a high fever. Love is when a husband or wife hangs tough with a spouse who is going through recovery for an addiction. Love is Jesus dying on the cross.

I don’t think that our society is comfortable with love. As Americans, we are fiercely independent, sometimes self-centered, and often outspoken. I think that we prefer the word “truth”. We admire the person who “tells it like it is”. We don’t like a subtlety or nuance.We want it all to be in black and white. We are encouraged by our religious leaders to fight for the “truth”. We are not shy about speaking our minds regardless of the consequences. If somebody’s feelings get hurt because of our words, we can always excuse it by saying, “Well, it was true!”

The pursuit of truth without love is an ugly thing. I have been to many protests and demonstrations over the years. Some of them were protests against abortion, and some were protests against the wars. Quite often, I found very little love among the people that were gathered. I could sense the anger and the bitterness in the crowd, but very seldom did I feel any compassion or understanding. Single-minded zeal, even for a noble cause, can be very destructive.

Truth and love are not separate entities. Edith Stein explained it very well when she said, “You cannot have truth without love or love without truth. One without the other becomes a destructive lie.” Our problem today is that we want truth without love. We want to be able to speak without listening. We want to judge others without showing compassion or empathy. We want to be right more than anything else. We seldom stop to ask the question that Pilate asked: “What is truth?”, before we fight for it.

The other part of Stein’s statement is also applicable to our times. We sometimes think that love is the same as complete tolerance, and that we can love others by turning a blind eye to the evil that they do. That is also an error. We are called to be prophets in our world, but we are called to be prophets with hearts that can understand the suffering in our fellow humans. We are called to correct and encourage; we have no right to condemn.

Love and truth both come from God, and both are found together in God. To truly serve God, I have to learn what love and truth really mean, and then I have to unite them and make them part of my life. That is what I have to do to be a Christian.


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Good Friday - Friday, April 06, 2012

Arrest on Good Friday for Praying
with Sign on the Steps of the Church

Did you wonder why on the day we remember Jesus Christ dying for us is called ‘Good Friday’. When I was in Guatemala I discovered it was the major holiday of the year for the country and was celebrated in grand fashion. You can find some of this on my pictorial essay Buried in Guatemala.

Today a group of us held on weekly hour of prayer in Lent outside of Gesu, the Jesuit Catholic Church on the Marquette University Campus. Our message was the same: Marquette Be Faithful to the Gospel, No Longer Host Departments of Military Science which is called ROTC. While we were all were outside of the Church when people were coming in for a Good Friday service at noon all when was okay. When two went on the stair going up to the Church the atmosphere was changed. First the usher than the security of Marquette University and finally the police were demanding that we leave, since praying on the stairs was okay but not with the signs with our message and pictures of the war.

When elderly lady walked into the church door and saw all the security surrounded the two persons praying with signs she asked “isn’t there a service here today.” She was insured there was and the security was just there for the two praying.

One of the two continued to stay on the stairs after the services in the Church started and police came. With approval of the Jesuit pastor of the parish, he was arrested. Although he was silently present praying, with the sign, he was arrested for ‘criminal trespass’ and taken away in handcuffs.

After four years of praying with banners and signs on Marquette University property it is ironic the first arrest was on Good Friday. Maybe it is called Good Friday, because this was the day Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of treason. His crime was speaking the message of truth to power. In some little way we, followers of Jesus, were trying to do the same thing on Good Friday.


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Good Or Bad? - Thursday, April 05, 2012

Today, Holy Thursday in the Christian tradition was a bad day and a good day. With so much to do I decided I better set up my new printer. I got it going but not as wireless. The warranty number was not toll free so I ended up using all my cell phone minuets talking to person after machine after person. Maybe I had to pay the long distance cost since all the persons I talked did not have Indian or Asian voices patterns. Where ever they were the technicians kept putting me thru the same hoops without any results. Whenever I get new computer equipment there seems to be a frustrating period of set up. Today was the day. Hopefully, my brother, who is now retired, but works with computer, when he comes for a visit tomorrow, will know what to do.

The other frustrating experience was in parking my car downtown this afternoon for an appointment. When I finally found a spot it was one of those automated meters, one a block that accepts credit cards or money. Using my credit card I could only get 5 cents worth of time. I needed more so I tried good old cash. It did not work and just came back. So I decided to use the credit card again and this time the meter said that it was not a metered time. I finally looked up at the parking sign and it said it was 2 hour parking only to 3:30pm. It was 3.29 when I started, thus only the nickel and 3:30 when it rejected all my money. This experience would not have been frustrating but after my appointment I came out to find my car with a parking ticket. The machine and I know what the metered hours were but not the parking person. I took a picture of my car with license number and 2 hour sign in background that says parking is only to 3:30 pm. I will win this ticket battle but oh what a waste of time and energy.

Now for the good news of the day. Finally after years of hassle the four rims on the basketball courts at the park across the street have been restored. Resurrect the Rims have been my cry forever and today, it happened.

Also thoughts in my mind today was from a movie we finally watched last night: “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Although the movie does not pretend to follow the Gospels and be theologically correct it got criticized and praised when it came out in the 80’s. I thought it was good surrealistic story about Jesus discovery that he really was and accepting his suffering and rejection at the hands of the Romans and his own people. The film was truly about the “The Non-Violent Cross: A Theology of Revolution and Peace”, a book by Jim Douglas. Jim’s book was written in 1969.

The weather today was sunny, that is good, but chilly and windy, not so good.

All this talk about good and bad reminds me of fable about a farmer by spiritual writer Anthony De Mello. Good news turns to Bad News and vice versa. The fable is below but the good and bad is to found each day.


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Altruism Selects Surviors - Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Altruistic Ants

Like the robin hanging around the compost pile waiting for a worm to come near the surface so it can pluck it up for a meal, so I hang around this pile of earth waiting for something to consume. All of creation is like the worm ready to pluck and be consumed.

But not like the robin I am a social animal, like ants or the bees, that have survived when other animals have not due to the power of being in a group, willing to sacrifice and share with the group for its survival.

Last night on the Charlie Rose E. O. Wilson, a Harvard University social biologist spoke about his new book The Social Conquest of Earth. Some creatures like ants, wasps, bees or humans have developed a high level of social organization. This breakthrough to this socialization where these creatures are willing to sacrifice for the common good has heightened their survival. The spirit of altruism, concern for welfare of others, of these groups, ants and us, have allowed them to survive and evolved where other creature have not. With the leap to the social order, we survive longer than creatures who are defined by greed and selfishness.

This blending of science and philosophy is fascinating. This understanding of altruism, working for the ‘common good’ has been acknowledge in philosophy but just now it is being based on sciences, biology and math. Advance social organization like ants, bees and human, use altruism to overcome greed and individualism.

This understanding of the virtue traits of altruism gives me hope. A local radio and TV network went out of its way last night on TV news and this morning on radio to apologize that a few of its staff were revealed to have signed the recall petition for Governor Walker of Wisconsin. They apologized and had reprimanded the staff for this break of journalism professionals. Watching the apology on TV last night was surreal since this is the same network that broadcast some of the most, if not the most, right wing, conservative, partisan talk show hosts. How can they talk about lack of professionalism where they are clearly one sided in their broadcast. I turned one of the most right wing talk host on this radio network this morning to see if there has been a change. Even in talking about this issue he was biased and spitting out individualism and disdain for the Democratic Party. These talk show host excel on glorifying individualism and wealth of a few over the many as the American way and denounce any sense of the ‘common good’ or ‘altruism’ as dangerous and wrong.

It is comforting to know that those of us who believe in service to other human beings and the ‘common good’ in the evolutionary selection of nature will triumph over this group. Maybe this is why some of the same conservative, right wing people also deny evolution. Altruism, like the cross, will overcome death and select the survivors.


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Logic Has Little Meaning - Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Is it moral or ethical for Marquette University to host military training on campus? This debate question we asked online in 2008 when Marquette University would not allow us to debate this question on campus. The debate went on for about a year when we had we had to call it off when a few individuals on both sides of the debate started to misuse the forum. However, the overwhelming response was that is not moral or ethical for Marquette to host military training, ROTC programs, on campus.

The other day my wife, Pat, suggested that I present my argument that it is immoral for Marquette to host of ROTC on campus in a logical matter, like in the Thomastic logic formula the Jesuit taught us in my two years of philosophy studies. I said the use of logic was difficult when the other side, those who say yes, do not answer and ignore the question. However, it is worth the old college try.

Whereas, the Catholic Church teaches the ‘priority of conscience’ over government orders,
And the military teaches the priority of military values over religious values, like conscience,

Whereas the Catholic Church teaches we cannot kill anyone except when self defense is the only option.
And the military, ROTC at Marquette teaches, reflexive killing, killing without conscience,

Whereas In the Catholic Church there is no such thing as ‘preemptive war’ or ‘wars of necessity’,
And the wars in Iraq were and are called ‘preemptive wars’ and ‘wars of necessity’,

Whereas Modern warfare, drones, atomic bomb, massive air and missile strikes which all involved killing of non-combatants make war today impossible in Church teaching to justify,
And the military, like ROTC, says the high number of deaths of non-combatants due to modern military warfare is necessary collateral damage,

Whereas the Gospel teaches Love you enemies and do good to those who harm you,
And teaching war at Marquette teaches us to see the enemy as evil and kill them,

Therefore it is not moral or ethical for Marquette University to host military training on campus.

There is also an academic argument to be made for a university to give accreditation to military training courses that do not meet the academic requirements of the University. But so what? Logic, like the Gospel, has little meaning to ROTC programs being on the Marquette University campus


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Distract and Conquer - Monday, April 02, 2012

A good part of tonight was spent watching the NCAA national championship basketball game. Some would say it was a waste of time to spend so much watching basketball on TV. Maybe so, but there are other ways of wasting time rather than watching sports on TV. Some people spend hours watching news and talk shows; some are abdicated to ‘reality TV’ and some watch entertainment shows and TV comedy and drama series. I agree that it would be better not to watch TV much, but if you do, sports is not a bad choice. I found that having sports on TV in the background I can get some work done, be it slower, but can do it, like I can do while listening to classical music in the background. I cannot do that with other kinds of TV shows where my attention is drawn to words and pictures on the TV.

Some people spend a lot of time and effort at meetings talking about things to do. Some spend a great deal of time and effort working for political candidates. I view these activities the same as watching TV, a distraction to facing reality.

In our busy fast paced world we need some type of distraction to keep our entertainment. Plenty are provided for us by media, talk show host, news reports, drama, political groups and organizations fighting for fighting all kinds of issues.

I fear a little that we all get caught up in so many distractions that we lose focus on particular big issues and failed to work together. Scattered and distracted those big, organized and powerful groups and businesses can control our lives.

A well known political and military tactic is “Divide and Conquer.” A more relevant one in today’s world might be Distract and Conquer.


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Vote For ‘Nobody’! - Sunday, April 01, 2012

I am hearing many peace and social justice activist express extreme disappointment in President Obama for what he has done or not done in areas of poverty and war. Poverty and War have increased over the least four years. Yet I heard these same people say they will vote for President Obama since he is the least objectionable of the choices. I agree with that statement but do not agree that we should vote for the least objectionable person. After the 2008 elections I stopped voting until we can restore democracy and some real choices again. However, many feel an obligation to vote and I am suggesting the candidate for those who want to vote positive and not for the least objectionable.

Vote for ‘Nobody’. ‘Nobody’ will not disappoint you and will make the country aware of how we must all take responsibility for our government. ‘Nobody’ is not beholding to any financial powers that determine who we can vote for and Nobody will run a clean election. ‘Nobody’ also is not only available for the Presidential election but also for any election when you have no clear choice. ‘Nobody’ is not controlled by the 1% or any group. A vote for ‘Nobody’ is a vote for representation of the people in the government. ‘Nobody’ does not ask for any donations but for your participation in the government.

‘Nobody’ is officially endorsed by the Diary of the Worm. There is a quote from the Indian mystic, Osho, which is important here:
“Nobody can teach you love. Love you have to find yourself, within your being, by raising your consciousness to higher levels.”

A vote for Nobody is a vote for everybody.


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