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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

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Nation of Smart Phones - Saturday, January 31, 2015

Modern family with devices

The last day of January 2015 is bringing the ‘big’ snowstorm we have been talking about and waiting for, or maybe not. Talk about snowstorms, often is just that, just talk. But even if the snowfall reaches 6–8 inches how bad is that? I can remember snowfalls of foot or two that would be considered just another one. Thanks to constant weather reports, on news, smart phone computer and tablets weather predictions are always with us, like it or not. I like it when the weather reporters are wrong, like recently in New York City where 2–3 feet were predicated, the worst snowstorm even. The subways, trains, and buses were shut down and the streets were closed. When only ten inches fell the word was “better safe than sorry.”

What we made a big deal of today is often decided by the media. The media will pick up on some story like terrorist attack in Paris or deflated footballs in a NFL game and make much of it, while other stories of more significance are put aside. Talking heads on TV will appear to tell us all about the picked story while the others news, good or bad, goes neglected. Who are the gatekeepers who decide what we hear and see on major media?

The internet has stolen some power of the gatekeepers of media away since there news and information can be released around the world by just about anyone who has computer and a little money. In fact there is so much information out there these days it becomes hard to distinguish what is important or not.

The overwhelming of the world with information, where many people walk around with a smart phone, checking news, weather, emails, twitter or a million other things has become a distraction to organizing and focusing persons on injustices. When I try to support issues like racism fighting poverty or military training to kill humans, I often had heard that is “your issue and I have my own.” True enough but unless we get together to focus and organize around specific issues nothing gets down. We just talk and talk and hold more conferences and talk some more.

Learning from history seems to take a backseat to what is happening now. Have we become a nation tied to our smart phones and do not really hear or see what is going on around us?


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Black Lives and Black Coffee - Friday, January 30, 2015

Black Lives Matter Starbucks!

The family of Dontre Hamilton, the young man who was shot fourteen times by a police officer and killed outside a Starbucks Coffee shop, tonight first saw police photos taken right after shooting. The pictures, close-up of the police officer, reveal no scars and bruises, although he claimed he shot Dontre out of self defense when Dontre had grabbed the club that he was beating him with. Dontre’s autopsy shows he was severely beaten before he was shot.

However, the rally for Justice for Dontre tonight was not about the police officer but about Starbucks who has a coffee shop in Red Arrow Park County Park. It was Starbuck employees who keep calling police about Dontre sleeping on a county park bench. The responding police told them not to call any more since Dontre was doing nothing wrong by being on the park bench. However, a third police officer, the one whose beat includes this park, came along later and without even talking to Starbucks employees or checking past police reports woke Dontre up, padded him down, took out his club and severely beat Dontre. When Dontre grabbed the police club, in self defense, the police officer, out of fear he claimed,took out his gun and shot Dontre fourteen times, including shots in his back and when Dontre was down. Eight months after the incident the District Attorney cleared the office of all charges in Dontre’s death.

The family has not given up seeking justice and tonight took the struggle to Starbucks. We entered the coffee shop, singing and read a letter to the company president condemning the profiling of this young black male and asking him not to hire racist employees like the ones that kept calling police on Dontre.

In the park there is also a public skating rink whose skate rental place shares the same space as Starbucks. After a while when police and sheriff deputies appeared, we took the struggle outside marching in chanting in front of Starbucks. We continue the marching and chanting for awhile and at one time just stared in at the people inside enjoying their coffee drink as nothing had happened as were the skaters circling around the rink outside. But something had happened, and as a result of Starbucks employee profiling, a black man’s life was taken by a white police officer. The three family members present did a die-in for fourteen minutes, one for each of the fourteen shots and eventually with a final plea for treating all people as family and that all lives mattered we prayed and disbanded. Black lives matter more than Starbucks black coffee.

The skating were on, around and around, and the black coffee kept being poured into cups but maybe someone heard our cry that “Black Lives Matter” and a young man should not have been killed for sleeping on a park bench.


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Blessed are Those Who Have a Hard Life - Thursday, January 29, 2015

I have talked in these posting a lot about how ‘hard and expensive’ it is to be poor. Today I drove a friend to the dentist. She has severe fibromyalgia, a brain illness that causes chronic pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure. She needs to go in a wheel chair to the back of her Chevrolet Blazer where she can lay down in the backseat. Everything she does is full of pain. In the elevator today I brushed the back of her head accidentally and she immediately felt the increased pressure. It is hard to be chronically ill.

I mentioned how the other day I helped salvage material from my 86 year old friend’s house that was in a fire. Having a house burn down is a dramatic experience for anyone, especially for an elderly person. Any major change and adjustment in life is hard when one is old. It is hard to be old.

For some young African American adults is extremely hard to be black. Being stopped by police officer for being suspicious, finding jobs or getting a good education is hard. It is refreshing to see the new civil rights movement which can be seen in a movement like #Black Lives Matter.

It is hard to have a prison record. No matter what is said, employers do discriminate against a person with a prison record. It is hard to be an ex-convict.

It is hard to have a mental illness. Brain illnesses are not treated the same way as other illnesses or injuries. People with a mental illness are identified with their illness and called ‘mentally ill’. We would never call a person with cancer, ‘cancerous’. Stigma is hard to live with.

I can go on with people who in our society find it hard to be who they are. But from the above I can say it is very hard, to be poor, black, young or old, ill with a prison record. These are the persons who we are talking about when we say Jesus’ ‘preferential option for the poor’ or we call bless, while we allow society to treat them with inequality and make life ‘hard’ for them.

Perhaps a forgotten beatitude in the Gospel is “Blessed are those who have a hard life, they will have a life of ease.


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Consistent Life Being Consistent - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last week I wrote a few web sites that claim to be based on Catholic social justice and peace principles asking them to link the YouTube video Marquette and Notre Dame Universities Teach War and Killing to their web site. One of them, Consistent Life wrote back to me saying that although Marquette and Notre Dame Universities host all three departments of the military “most Catholic colleges and universities teach war and killing.” I felt compelled to respond since this misconception, that nearly all universities has ROTC and teaches war and killing is a common misconception that keeps Catholics from speaking out against this immorality. Here is my response:

Dear Consistent Life,

Thank you for your response to my request for consistent life to share the video about Teaching War and Killing. You are correct in saying that only the Catholic universities of Marquette University and Notre Dame host all three branches of military officer training on campus Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force, but you are wrong in saying “most Catholic colleges and universities teach war and killing.”

After the selective service was eliminated in the 70′s the military turned to an education model of recruiting soldiers from 5th grade through University. As many private and public colleges and universities refused to teach the new training of military officers, based on reflex killing, killing without conscience the Department of Defense (DoD) turned to the US Congress. In 1995 the Solomon act was passed in Congress requiring all colleges and universities, except approved pacifist ones, to offer ROTC, NROTC or AFROTC in order to receive any type of Federal Education funds. However they did not have to host the military training that teaches war and killing. Only universities that elected to host such training will received military support and money for teaching. Other Universities in the area became partner schools, sending any ROTC interested students to host colleges and universities.

The number of Catholic colleges and university that host military training has significantly been reduced. The attached list, I made a few years ago, has only 23 Catholic Universities offering some type of military training. For example in the D.C. area Georgetown is the only Catholic University that offers military training for Army and Air Force.

For example, in the D.C. area any students at American University, Catholic University of America or George Washington University interested ROTC would be send to Georgetown University for ROTC classes. You can check this out at the Army, Navy/Marines or Air Force location sites. If you find any changes in my list please let me know and it will be changed.

It is the Army ROTC that flaunts teaching Killing without Conscience. See the movie Soldiers of Conscience which is also now on YouTube and was officially approved by DoD.

We picked on Marquette University and Notre Dame not only because they are the only Catholic Universities to host all three departments of military sciences and training but because they also flaunt the teaching of war and killing, both have Peace Centers and both benefit greatly from the three military departments they host as well as other academic departments. (The big difference is DoD does not allow any oversight by university where all other departments are accountable for their teaching.)

I am a great admirer of ‘consistent life’ and your site. However, I find the lack of pointing out the teaching of killing that takes place in our Catholic universities very inconsistent, as a number of peace and justice groups are doing. Please allow a link to our YouTube video on your site. Add if you choose make a note there are 20 other Catholic Universities that have Army ROTC (St. Louis has Air Force Not Army) that teach war and killing without conscience.

All the statements in the video are backed by teaching of Army ROTC training and teaching of the Catholic Church.

If you need more information about Teaching War and Killing at Universities and Colleges please see Teach War No More.

Thanks again for responding, The message that some Catholic Universities teach war and killing is one that Catholics do not want to hear. Let’s walk together to get the number down from 23 to six this year.


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Integrated into a Burning House? - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We were in a burnt-out house of an 86 year old friend today,
Salvaging what we could of the many memories and things of her long life.

The smell of smoke still lingered, a month after the fire.

Four of us, she, my friend Joe and our friend Theresa,
Packing knickknacks and other collectibles, maybe valuable or not,
Looking for items of the past that might be valuable going forward,
Made me reflect how things do not make our lives.

On the way back to my friend’s new apartment she was telling me
Stories of the past, like the time she and one of her grandchildren came across a nineteen year old girl on a city bus. The girl had been institutionalized since she was eight and now was just sent out on a bus by herself, vulnerable to all.

My friend ended up signing paper work and taking the young woman from the mental health complex to her home,
Which was open to her children, grandchildren and many foster kids?
This is a memory that is valuable and a story of random kindness that needs to be passed on.

My friend is full of these kinds of stories and it is this that makes her life valuable,
Not all the stuff that was lost or we salvaged from the fire.

America is like a burning house. We ask with James Baldwin in the book The Fire Next Time
“Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?”


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Honor Gandhi but Ignore His Principles - Monday, January 26, 2015

President Barack Obama throws rose
petals as he participates in a wreath
-laying ceremony at the Raj Ghat
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial on
Sunday in New Delhi.

In today’s newspaper there is a picture of President Obama throwing rose petals on the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial site in New Delhi on Sunday. The headline of the article reads “U.S., India strike nuke plants deal.” President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a deal Sunday to clear the way for American companies to help build India’s nuclear energy power plants.

I realize President Obama is the first President in over 30 years to build a new bomb plant, in fact three of them, and that India is Nuclear Bomb country. To make matters worse, or more obvious, President Obama and the Prime Minister of India attended Constitution/Republic day parade. Here is what a friend of mine had to say about this parade in 2011 on his Pilgrimage of Peace in 2011. “Wow! I saw the parade of parades on Wednesday, a National Holiday. It is India’s Constitution/Republic day (Jan.26 1950)! The parade started about 10:30 and went till 12. Here you go. Each aspect of the defense of India was represented. India, despite all its poverty, spends one/third of its entire budget on the military. They are fearful of both Pakistan and China. Tremendous security! No cameras -everyone is searched on the way to the parade twice. I had a camera which I gave to a condo parking lot attendant before the last checkpoint. He had it for me after the parade.” At India Republic Day Parade you can see some pictures of the parade. My friend was told that “the parade is a statement about the power of the Indian military as well as the integration of diversity among its ranks.”

Although Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India independence was assassinated in 1948, at the beginning of the ‘nuclear age’, he did make clear his absolute disdain for the atom bomb and the science that was part of it. “I regard the employment of the atom bomb for the wholesale destruction of men, women and children as the most diabolical use of science.” His view of the power of nonviolence as opposed to military force is quite clear. “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.”

The President of USA and Prime Minister reach an agreement about US developing nuclear energy in India and then, after paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, go off and watch one of the greatest displays of military power at a parade celebrating India’s independence that was won with nonviolent power Gandhi not with military power. What is wrong with this picture? A friend of mine, a leader of Gandhi nonviolent movement in India, told me once that people of India honor Gandhi but ignore his principles of life, like nonviolence.


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Feel the Music - Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grandsons on Drum Line

Today I spent the afternoon at Pulaski High school eating chili and listening to all variety of their of middle and high school bands. Pulaski schools have a fantastic music program with award winning bands on all levels. My three grandchildren are fortunate to be students in this musical renowned school system.

The music program reminded me of music in the country of Venezuela. For many years Venezuela has enjoyed a great music program on own levels. The big difference, however, is that in Venezuela, good music programs are available to all, poor and rich, people of variety of racial backgrounds, youth in the barrios to suburbs. Pulaski is a mainly middle class white town and rural area. These white youth are blessed like the multiracial youth of Venezuela to have such a great music program.

Children who live in Milwaukee, especially in North Central and South Central Milwaukee are not so fortunate. They are fortunate if they have a music program at all. Many public schools had to choose between music, art and other programs due to cuts in funding.

Music education is important to youth development. This is clear in Venezuela and certain cities and towns in the USA. But the inequality of music education, as inequality of income, is growing in USA. This is sad.

At the end of the program the drum line got to perform as people were leaving. Both my high school grandsons are part of the drum line and from the faces and passion of these youth, as from sound of the drums, you could feel the music.


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Hard to Be Poor, Easy to Be Violent - Friday, January 23, 2015

Prayer Vigils for Two
homicide victims today

This morning I went on a prayer vigil for two homicide victims in Milwaukee. I had not been to earlier ones this year but had sensed it has been a bad month. Sister Rose told me this morning that the two we were praying for were the 9th and 10th homicide victims and there had been one last night bringing the total to 11 victims. Today I heard on the news that there were two more homicide victims of a stabbing, one a five month old baby.

Upon request from Mothers Against Gun Violence I was updated their web site to add a list for 2015 victims. We have already 13 in January where, according to the 2014 list, we had only four the whole month of January.

A friend on her way to prison for entering a drone missile base made a comment that got me thinking of the connection between killer drones and violence in our country. Also yesterday I read an article in the New York Times How expensive it is to be poor. The article gives specific evidence of something I have been saying for awhile, that the poorer people become, as is happening in our nation, the harder life becomes.

Today I was directed to a research site on poverty showing how Poverty and Crime are tied together in a vicious circle. The article talks about issues related to poverty, unemployment, poor housing and education system, mass incarceration of citizens, contributing to violence. If we look at demographic MAPS of Milwaukee we discover two areas, North Central Milwaukee and South Central Milwaukee have highest rates of unemployment, poor housing and education system as well as the two most racially segregated neighborhoods of the city are the two poorest area and the areas were violent crime is prevalent. Although it cost society less to give a person ten years of education than keep a person in prison for life we still continue to make it harder for a person to be poor.

Getting a job for a young African male after serving time in prison is nearly impossible. Being a poor, black or Hispanic young adult, unemployed male with a poor education present an environment that encourages violence.

After the murders today the Mayor said how incongruous it sounded to tell people that killing is wrong. He is right but as long as we do not deal with conditions of violence, poverty, unemployment, mass incarceration, poor education the vicious cycle of poverty and violence will continue.

We cannot change people by simply telling them Not to do something but we can change our environment where it not so hard to be poor and easier not to be violent.


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Winter of Discontent - Thursday, January 22, 2015

As I grow older I find winter more and more ‘the winter of discontent.’ Without the sun everything seems dreary. The feeling of tiredness and feeling lousy takes over. Trying to make something positive of what life brings, this year I tried to look at the positive side of winter.

Feeling tired and unmotivated gives one a certain amount of detachment. Saying “so what” has a certain amount of perspective in it. Trivia things do not seem so worrisome when you are finding it hard to get motivated to do anything.

Another positive side of the ‘winter of discontent’ is it is easier to endure things you might otherwise find a waste of time. “What does it matter” helps keep things going. Seeing the good in the boring is a little easier.

The darkness and cold of winter offer hope. We know deep down that the cold, snow and darkness will be following by spring of hope. I am not sure how you deal with this aspect in Alaska?

Winter is a good time to rest. Getting some good sleep, some solid dreaming has some benefits for days to come.

Stories of war and violence seem more real in the winter. It is harder to be complacent in the cold.

When it is cold warmth is much appreciated. I think of people I know that keep the heat down in the house to save energy and heating bills. I have the luxury of heat I can afford.

Crawling under the covers going to be on cold nights brings out an attitude of gratitude.

Hot soup, warm drinks and hot and spicy food have more zest in the winter months.

Politicians who talk and talk but do nothing can be seen easier, I think, in the winter as been all sound and fury but hollow.

So Father Winter, Bring It On, your cold, snow and darkness. I am ready to deal with the ‘winter of discontent, at least for a little while.


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Do the Right Thing! - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sad scene from Civil War
in Syria

Today, two friends and I assisted in removing salvageable items from an burnt our house of an elderly person. The three of us are 73, 72 and 67 and have worked together for years struggling against the militarism and teaching of killing at Marquette University. So here are the three of us, older persons, peace activities, helping an 86 year woman saved some of her stuff from her long life. What is right about this picture? It is right and illustrates the point of last night’s posting, demonstrating how works of mercy keep us resisting. Tomorrow two or three of us will be out on the street at Marquette protest ROTC military program.

Two other events stood out for me today. One is a video of police shooting a man who steps out of a car unarmed with his hands up and is shot. There might be circumstance justifying the killing but looking at the video one must state the shooting of unarmed black men by police must end. What about this picture. It is wrong!

Last night the President of United States again called for “Fast Track” trade authority of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), denying public access to the ‘free trade’ agreement and giving congress only limited access. Other ‘fast tract’ agreements like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) while profitable to businesses, hundreds of official corporate trade advisers, who have access but disastrous to people involved in the nations with the trade agreements. What about this picture? It is wrong.

When looking at history it is easier to see how peoples and nations made right moves or wrong moves. What seems to be harder these days is to apply these lessons to present. After the Vietnam War no one could imagine that we would be involved in wars like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We know what Jesus says is the Way to God in the Gospel, love your enemy and treat the least among us as we would want to be treated. It seems so simple that even a child can easily grasp these points. But as we grow up as a society and individually it seems harder and harder to just “do the right thing.”


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Discern and Choose! - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In these dark,cold days the State of the Union depresses me but works of mercy lift my spirits. If you listened or read President Obama’s State of the Union Address you will find little or no mention of poor, marginalized, people in need, low income, racism, military spending, defense spending, money for war hurting poor, the rising gap between rich and poor in the USA or even poverty. The triplet evils of militarism, racism and poverty. of Martin Luther King Jr. did not make the speech.

Listening to the speech, driving back and forth to your suburban home you might believe that all is well in this country and not even see or feel the underlying decay these three evils are bringing to America.

Many Americans know instinctively and feel in their gut what is happening to Americans, the greater lack of equality and opportunity that grows each day. Some may excuse the President from the injustice and violence in the USA because he is Black, Democrat or Liberal. But it does not matter. He is just the front man for what would some would call “the fifthly rotten system.”

Now when I look at works of mercy. I feel good. Acts like driving someone to a bus stop or doctor’s appointment, moving someone, being kind to a person with a mental illness or visiting prisoners give me hope and renewal my spirit. Acts of kindness lift people’s spirits, the giver and receiver.

Applying the “discernment of spirits” of St. Ignatius of Loyola to thinking of political situation in this country and to works of mercy, I can discern from the interior movements what are the good spirits and what are the evil spirits. Thinking about the speeches of politicians, like the one tonight or the one by Governor last week, leave me feeling down and depressed while thinking about acts of mercy leave me uplifted. Using this method of discernment it is clear that God’s will is to do works of mercy and not listened to promises of politicians.

By ignoring the triplet of evils the President and leaders ignore the reality of evils in our lives. People doing the works of mercy remind us of God’s will and the good in our lives. Discern and Choose!


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Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Today - Monday, January 19, 2015

Today I spent some time writing an email to friends about practical ways to struggle against the “triplet evils of militarism, racism and poverty” that Martin Luther King Jr talked about and acted against.

Dear Friends,
Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke about the “triplet evils of militarism, racism and poverty”. I feel compelled by conscience to suggest some ways we can fight these three evils right here in Milwaukee, the most racially segregated city in the USA, one of the poorest, and located in a State that has the highest percentage of African American males incarcerated in the USA, the country that leads the world in incarceration of its citizens.

Evil of Militarism

Marquette University in Milwaukee is one of two Catholic Universities in the USA to host military training for Departments of Defense, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. Marquette prepares young men and women from all colleges and Universities in S.E. Wisconsin for war and killing, killing without conscience. Marquette has ignored our message to “Be Faithful to Gospel and Not teach war and killing”. You can watch a brief video with this message, Marquette and Notre Dame Universities Teach War and Killing or a longer documentary where military admits to this teaching how to kill on reflex and soldiers talk about their conscience problems,Soldiers of Conscience. Also you can read some of the research and studies done on this issue at Teach War No More.

Local Action on Militarism

There is a new President at Marquette University, Dr. Lowell who claims to be aware and open to Catholic values. Ask him to stop this teaching of war and killing on campus or at least be open to a dialog at the University on this moral issue. Ask President Lowell to make Marquette Faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host Departments of Defense military training.

Dr. Michael R. Lovell, President of Marquette University
Zilber Hall, 441
1250 W. Wisconsin Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Evil of Racism

There are many forms of racism in this most racially segregated city, but a specific one is the demand of Justice for Dontre Hamilton, the young unarmed African American male who was waken, searched, beaten and shot 14 times while sleeping on County park bench downtown. In seeking Justice for Dontre we are demanding equal rights and justice for all of us, despite our race. “Black Lives Matter”. Sign the petition at Justice for Dontre Hamilton. and keep in contact with the Coalition for Justice on Facebook.

Evil of Poverty

The largest Catholic Lay organization in the world dedicated to doing the Gospel message of Works of Mercy is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The mission of the Society is to offer “person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering”. The Society in Milwaukee, under leadership of a few staff, SVDP members and outsiders has gone astray by spending millions of dollars for the poor on social projects and businesses not serving the persons in need. (Society claims all its money belongs to poor.) For example, it has invested millions of dollars to open a thrift store in Greenfield, an 85% white neighborhood with household income of $42, 500 that has many discount and thrift stores rather than in North Central Milwaukee which is 85% black and average household income of $20,787.00 (53206 zip) that needs a thrift store. The elite group behind the new suburban store claims it will be self sufficient and produce profits for the poor. Demand that, at least, the store be self-sufficient. Ask the Executive Director and President of Milwaukee Council to keep budget of new store separate and pay all operating, compensation and other cost for the Greenfield store from the proceeds of the Greenfield store after it opens. Any other proceeds from the new thrift store should be used to pay down the 3.2 million debt of store, from bank loan and borrowing from the St. Vincent de Paul Trust fund. Ask for a commitment that the Greenfield store be self sufficient, after it opens, and no longer take money that could be used for of poor. (This year central office project budget of nearly 3.5 million has only .03 per cent going for direct services to needy, like milk for meal program or funds for needy conferences.) Many persons in need now calling the central office are hearing the message “We do not serve your area” or “the conference in your area is not making home visits at this time”, for lack of money.)

No More Society funds for Greenfield Thrift store after it opens. If not profitable make it at least self-sufficient.

Debbie Duskey Execuative Director,
Rosemary Storts President of Milwaukee Council,
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
9601 W. Silver Spring Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53225

I know signing a petition, sending an email or two will not mean much in terms of change. But it can lead to a revolution of the heart and nonviolent action. If you are interested in taking nonviolent action on these triple evils contact: Breaking the Silence,


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Racism, Militarism, Two Sides of Same Coin - Sunday, January 18, 2015

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Racism is to Militarism as gasoline is to fire. A culture that thinks it is superior can justify killing others. Martin Luther King Jr., a year before he was assassinated, in his famous speech “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” said “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

The equality of all human beings, young, old, black, white, men, women, poor, rich is given nominally recognition by most Americans but is not normally practiced. I heard today about a white woman with a weapon that was a threat to police. However, the police were able to disarm her without killing her. If Dontre Hamilton was an unarmed white man sleeping on a county park bench and approached by an African American police officer, who wakes him, pats him down, struggles with him, beats him and then shoots the white man 14 times, would the black police officer be held accountable? People can say “Black Lives Matter” but then justify violence against blacks on the basis that most black violence is on black persons. Our police chief, mayor, sheriff and call those who protest for justice for Dontre ‘thugs’, ‘anarchist’, ‘radicals’, ‘outside agents’ and ‘disappointments’, but name calling is just an excuse for not hearing the message: “Black Lives Matter.”

How can our country that has the largest military force in the world, more than the next nine militaries combined, call for citizens to not use violence on each other and then go and send a “killer drone” to a village in Yemen to kill a suspected terrorist and whoever gets in the way.

Militarism and Racism are linked by violence. The bigger, more powerful force, be a man in an abusive relationship or a country in conflict with another, is expected to be the one who, with a bigger weapon defeats the other.

Martin Luther King Jr. called for a revolution of values that he believed was necessary for change: He calls on us to see the evil of militarism and racism for what they are, evils, and to take direct nonviolent action against them.

In the same speech, “Beyond Vietnam” King says near the conclusion “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

Martin Luther King Jr. as many blacks, who have suffered and been suppressed was not talking ‘pie in the sky.’ He was talking specifically, like the struggle of the sanitation workers in Memphis to get decent treatment and decent wage. He was talking about blacks in North Central Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s most racially segregated and poorest neighborhood who must choose between the crumbs’ of white society and organizations or stand up for themselves. Racism and militarism are two sides of the same coin. You cannot maintain racism without violence and militarism and you cannot support militarism with respecting the rights of all, despite race.


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King’s Values in Our Hearts - Saturday, January 17, 2015

“The Triple Evils of poverty, racism
and militarism are forms of violence
that exist in a vicious cycle.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

My 86 year friend’s, an African-American civil rights activist, house burned down a few weeks ago. Since than her life has been in turmoil but through it all she has kept her sense of humor. Powers that control her life have moved her to a place far on the edge of the city. She has wanted to go to her former home and see what is salvageable. Today we were able to arrange with the building owner a chance to go back to her house in North Central Milwaukee.

The fire had mysteriously started in the basement and spread through the walls. The house was a disaster. We could not find her purse with her ID in it or the fur coats she was going to give to grandchildren. We took a few boxes of items that were not so damaged and left for future pickup her large collection of knickknacks she has collected over the years.

It was a hard experience and afterward we went to lunch at Amaranth Café, a favorite place for good soup and bakery. Then we went to the memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr., sponsored by African American Catholic organization at a local Catholic Church. The Church was packed, many African American Catholics, which there are many in Milwaukee. The music, as usual, at this Church and with this choir was outstanding, moving and participatory.

The young African American woman who gave the opening remarks pointed out how the three main issue of Martin Luther King Jr. were the evils of militarism, racism and poverty. I felt good hearing that since the local issues that take my interest revolve around the same three evils.

Militarism reflects on our effort hear in Milwaukee to get Marquette University, a Catholic University, to be faith to the gospel and no long teacher war and killing. Most recently the message was put into a YouTube Video Marquette and Notre Dame University Teach War and Killing.

Racism is present in many of the local efforts I have been involved in, Resurrect the Rims at Doyne County Park; Justice for Dontre Hamilton; and our efforts to get the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to make investments in central city not in the suburbs.

The last issue, reform of Milwaukee of St. Vincent de Paul also is clearly involved in alleviating poverty by person works of mercy, the main mission of St. Vincent de Paul Society.

All the efforts on these issue, military at Marquette, resurrect the rims, justice for Dontre Hamilton have been unsuccessful so far. However, acts of mercy, like moving a friend with a disability last week and taking my elderly friend today to recover some items after the fire are real blessings that keep hope alive that in these bigger issues, struggling against these major evils, we will someday overcome. Many of us believe that the evils of militarism, racism and poverty are more with our society now than at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Be it so or not, it does not matter since the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are rooted in our hearts and we believe that someday we will overcome. Works of mercy, as Jesus said, are the way to begin.


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Love Our Troops, Do Not Think About Them - Friday, January 16, 2015

My ambivalent feeling toward military personnel and veterans is starting to become clear. In the cover article of Atlantic magazine for January-February is The Tragedy of the American Military the author, James Fallows, says of the present American attitude toward the military “We love the troops, but we’d rather not think about them.” We do not know what they eat or how they are trained as ‘killing machines.’ In the movie “American Sniper” the wife tells her husband, the war hero, upon his return from his final deployment in war “I need for you to be human again.” Everyone loves, praises and supports our troops but “Those matters of humanity are not things we tend to talk about when we pin polyester ribbons to our lapels.” ( American Sniper Makes a Case Against ‘Support Our Troops’ by Megan Garber.Atlantic Magazine.January 16, 2015)]])

This attitude of support our troops but do not think about them and what they are doing might explain the lack of response to our YouTube video Marquette and Notre Dame Universities Teach War and Killing. The message is clear but hard to hear so people on both sides of military training in Catholic Universities ignore it. The YouTube video has only a few comments by viewers but one by a veteran says it all: “I graduated from a Catholic university, (Dayton) and from its ROTC program. I was an Army officer for 20 years as a combat arms officer. I fought in most of the wars the US fought in the years during this time. I was wrong and was not obedient to the teachings of Jesus, Son of the living God, and risen. The Justified violence supporters cannot make an argument that follows the teachings of Jesus or the apostles in the NT.” It took a veteran to clearly get the message to these two Catholic Universities.

As many were, I was against the US war in Iraq before it started. One of the early Wisconsin causalities of the Iraqi war was a young man that had been in high school when I was a youth minister at a church in the Milwaukee suburbs. He was one of those kids you had to like, funny and witty. He had a bright future but when I heard he has been killed in Iraq I went to his funeral. I was bothered by the military trappings of his funeral mass and after the liturgy when the doors were open to hear and see the traditional gun salute, I was upset. The government had sent this young man to a war that was supposed to be “preemptive” but turned out to be the first of the “endless wars” we now live with. He has been sent “to kill or be killed” as were soldiers in Vietnam and soldiers in Afghanistan, still in Iraq and elsewhere are being sent. People give pious reason for the killing like “they fought for our freedom” and “gave their life for our liberty and peace.”

So soldiers come and go. We call them heroes and defenders of freedom without really know what they do and how it matters to our lives. We do not want to know these men and women and what they do. We rather know more about our football heroes as they prepare for Sunday’s Championship games. “We love the troops, but we’d rather not think about them.”


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Retirement Means Tired and Doing - Thursday, January 15, 2015

When I retired from a regular job for pay, about ten years ago, I thought I would have lots of chances to read, write, fish and maybe even play some golf. Well that is not quite how it has gone. I was introduced to some great people, though they may be poor or ill, and was given a chance to provide what these friends need, rides to medical appointments, schools, vising friends and attending events. Also issues of peace and justice, right here in Milwaukee, came up and consume my time.

The other day, when I was 72, I jokily decided I would try to retire again. It did not last long as today I spent lots of time helping a friend with a disability move to adult family living house and brought another friend home from the hospital. In between I notified people of prayer vigils for homicide victims and doing a little on my appeal of my suspension from local Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

I am not bragging but just saying that often what you plan in life is not what happens and something better does. My advocacy of issues has caused me to be ignored or rejected but that is just the way it goes. And my driving of people in need has turned out to be a real blessing. I called by car the “Blessing Cab” and ask people to just leave the blessings at the door when they leave.
I am trying to cut back on my providing rides and working on issues, but not because I do not enjoy it, but just that I am getting tired these days. I often find myself during the day sitting in my soft chair and watching TV mindlessly, usually sports or news.

I was always a self-motivator in my various jobs as business person or youth minister. Now I find it harder to get myself going, especially in the morning getting out of bed. Once I get going I am okay but getting going in the morning is hard. I heard once that Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is celebrated today, had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning but once he got going he was energized as ever. I am not Martin Luther King Jr. and he was much younger than I; but I am an old man tired until I get going.

We are who we are but we can always be better. I can tell if I had a good day when I go to bed at night. If I feel gratitude and full of blessings than I know it was a good day, no matter how tired I am. Now, if only I could have that same feeling when I wake up in the morning. I guess retirement means being tired and redoing what you are good at doing.


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Buy American, Boycott ‘Made in China’ - Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A business section article in yesterday’s newspaper was decrying the trade deficit of the USA with China, Local businesses on front lines against trade deficit with China. The author suggest the way to reverse this economic nightmare was for US business to increase exports. With China this would be hard to do, for with their ‘controlled’ economy they can put high demands on American businesses wish to export to China.

Ironically one of the big promoters of the “Buy American” campaign in 70’s and 80’s was Sam Walton, the founder of the Wal-Mart chain, now the largest retailer in the world. Nowadays it is hard to found anything in Wal-Mart that was not ‘Made in China.’ Wal-Mart became the world leader of importing items from China. The “Buy American” is all but forgotten. China can make products for Wal-Mart that are cheaper than American made products because of cheap labor and cheap products, not exact, precise or quality as most American products. Using American tax breaks and welfare system with cheap products from China the documentary on Wal-Mart is now called “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”. Americans want low prices although they end up paying more in the long run.

Wal-Mart is not the only violated of this “Buy American” campaign. It is hard to buy almost anything that was not ‘Made in China.’ Even in a grocery store, where quality of food products is important I need to read the label to make sure it is not ‘Made in China.”

Some years ago I remember being a part of campaign of encouraging people to not buy ‘Made in China’. But now I, as others, have given up and try to personally practice that, although it is hard, especially in area of electronics. Even my American “Apple I Phone” was mostly made in China.

As the newspaper article points out “China accumulates the dollars but doesn’t spend them on an equal amount of imported goods from the U.S. Often it spends them on U.S. Treasury securities, which the U.S. government issues on a daily basis to fund itself. The Chinese who buy those bonds effectively are lending money to the U.S., enabling Washington to spend more than it collects in taxes — and putting Washington in debt to Beijing in the process.” So the cycle worsens, the more we buy from China the more in debt we become to China.

If we could only find a way to revive the ‘Buy American’ campaign we would reduce imports and reduces our trade deficits. My experience is that “Trade Agreements” we have with many countries, like China, do not really benefit the working people of either country but the rich of each country. China now is the leader millionaire maker country in the world.

So next time you purchase that jar of peaches or pair of socks take a look at the label first and make sure it does not say “Made in China”. Not buying “Made in China, will be helping the American economy to reduce imports and debt.


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Drone in my Gut - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Predator launching a Hellfire

Here is a day nightmare.

Drone in my Gut

There is a missile from a Drone in my gut,
Trying to get to its programmed target,
A house behind me, full of women, children
And men. As I try to hold the missile back,
A handful of American soldiers behind me
I noticed near the house; I think, “we are saved.”
Only to hear the officer in charge yell “fire!”
And all the solders fire reflexively
Into the house without thought;
Killing everyone within.

After the soldiers leave, I move aside for the
Missile to do what it is programmed to do:
Destroy the house and everyone in it.
For now they are already dead.
I slowly turn around to see the missile
From the drone in my gut hit the target.
The neighbors come running from out of nearby
Houses to examine the carnage; but,
No one in the house there is left alive.

I feel another missile from a Drone,
Gnawing, clawing its way through my gut.
I cannot stop it and suddenly behind me
I feel another drone missile coming and
It strikes the forsaken house and
All the villagers looking over the ruins.
It’s like a scene near the end of the
Hunger Games Trilogy
Where, after a battle, the rescuers
Are killed by a second missile.

But this is no novel or movie, this is real.
Programmed missiles, programmed soldiers
Killing real people:
Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis.
Not knowing what to do I can only cry out,
“Stop this insanity of missiles sent
By Our White House, with
Soldiers trained at Our universities
On how to kill innocent people on orders.”

A few hear my cry; but the killing goes on,
I weep and I weep till my tears are near dry,
Till I feel another drone missile in my gut
Gnawing and clawing its way out for a killing.

by Bob Graf with revisions from Joe Jradoszewski


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Dependent on God is Hard - Monday, January 12, 2015

I told a friend that after I moved him tomorrow to a group home I was going to retire again. The 13th is my 72nd birthday and I feel tired and worn out. Today my friend said he was not moving till Thursday. I told him I would come out of retirement to help him move on Thursday. Another friend of mine who has been ill and in pain for years told me today that I might need to come out of retirement again if she could not get another ride to a Doctor’s appointment. But gradually I am slowing down by choice and not by choice.

I got another rejection letter today from the USA Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I had been suspended for some general charges of false allegations but never told who my accusers were and what were the specific allegations and evidence. There was a conciliation committee, not construed by rule of the Society, who got 81 pages of evidence against me but I was not allowed not see one. Although I feel personally hurt at this unjust treatment I am more concerned about the millions of dollars given to the poor that are be wasted and used by elite members for salaries and unnecessary operating expenses while the poor get poorer. I have been accused of going to media and organizing a public campaign. I wish that was true now and maybe that is what I should be doing.

Between struggling for justice for poor, against racism in Milwaukee and to stop the teaching of war and killing at Marquette I must be focused and pick my battles. My heart aches at the injustice and violence I see and to love those who do harm to me. A pastor friend who got fired after 24 years of service to the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul unjustly told me tonight to pray and love those who are abusing the Society. God will have justice on them. I agree but cannot give up and do nothing while God is working. I must continue “to do the right thing” as far as I can see with my faith and conscience. To be dependent on God to do the rest and bring justice and peace is hard. but maybe that is what is meant when the Gospel says “Blessed are the Poor”.


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I Am Dontre! - Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dontre Hamilton

This afternoon I went to a gathering of people arrested on Dec. 20th in the protest for justice in the death of Dontre Hamilton. I expected a large crowd, 75 were arrested, but found only about 25 persons present. I expected some lawyers to be present to give us some advice. There was none. I expected more black males present there was only one. We did establish some kind of sharing list among ourselves. Afterwards I realized there was no discussion of what brought us to the protest on Dec. 20th, demanding justice for death of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed African American male shot 14 times by a white police officer although he had broken no law. I thought maybe the plan to arrest us two days before the DA announced there would no charges filed against the police officer in order to scare us and divide us, had worked. The focus of the meeting was on us not the injustice and death to Dontre.

I have noticed the news account of Dontre’s killing has been shorten to there was a struggle in the park and Dontre grabbed the police officer’s club and maybe make took a swing at police officer which justified him shooting Dontre 14 times. Left out of the narrative is the fact that Dontre was resting on a public park bench, already had been checked by police twice earlier that day and found to be doing nothing wrong or illegal. Also left out of the narrative is that the coroner’s report that Dontre had bruises on his body indicated he had been beaten before he grabbed the officer’s club. The officer was fired by police chief for not following police procedure and shaking down Dontre but DA said that did not figure into his report. I am going to try to find a narrative that is complete. However, it does not take much more information that we already have to know that the police officer should have been held accountable for killing Dontre. A trial and jury could decide his innocence or guilt just like any of us who shot a person in similar situation. But however, you cut it justice was not served and that is why we were on the streets that night we were arrested.

Dontre’s case is important in a bigger way. He represents black man around the USA who are treated unfairly by white police officers. Police officers are just human and we cannot expect them to be free of the racial discrimination in our society. It is not a struggle of police officer against young adult black males. It is much deeper and the way to get at it is through cases like Dontre’s.

After the terrorist attack on the magazine “Charlie Hebdo” on the website appeared the message: “Je suis Charlie”, I am Charlie. This was the cry throughout France. I remember in some of the protest calling for justice in death of Dontre the cry was “I am Dontre.” That cry is important for unless we identify with Dontre Hamilton and black men whose lives seem not to matter as much as white lives, the issue of racism this case highlights will not be resolved. Saying I am Dontre is saying I am willing to take on the suffering and discrimination faced by black males in our society, not generally or in the abstract, but personally. I need to know more about Dontre Hamilton, what he felt and experienced, so I can truly say I am Dontre.


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“No Regrets, Learn from the Past, Live in Present” - Friday, January 09, 2015

Tonight a friend who grew up in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee wanted to go see a movie in the newly restored Avalon movie theater, a place he had found memories of visiting as a child. The place was beautifully restored and now is a movie theater where you can something to eat and drink during the movie. So Pat and I, my friend from Bay View and his wife and another friend from the old neighborhood went to see the movie “The Imitation Game”. Going in, all I knew it was a true story was about a code breaker in World War II.

What was surprising was how good the movie was. What I did not know it was about a brilliant man that with help of others help build the first model of what we not would call a computer and not only broke the German code but kept it secret, thus shortening the war by a few years and saving many lives. The secret of the code breakers was kept for over 50 years after the war. I did not know that the lead character in this true story was a gay person in a time being gay was illegal in Britain and he would suffer greatly as a result. The story was well done and made the comfortable surroundings of the renovated theater more enjoyable.

There are lots of good movies out these days based on true story. Sometimes a true story told well can be more fascinating that one of fiction. I saw an interview with Angelina Jolie, the director of the movie “Unbroken”, another true story that has gotten high ratings and was recently screened by the Pope. It is another one of these stories more rich than one you can make up.

What this rash of good true life movies says to me is that if you look at life fully in the present it can be something exciting and meaningful. I recently saw an interview with Norman Lear, the famous TV producer. He was asked if he had regrets about things he had done in his past. He said there were certain things he would have done differently but he had no regrets since all his past experiences brought him to where he was today and that was in a very good place.

We cannot change the past but we can learn from the past, in history and by our own mistakes. These movies say to me “No Regrets, Learn from Past and Live in the Present.”


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What Else Can We Do? - Thursday, January 08, 2015

Self-censoring journalists
shield us from ugly consequences
of U.S. military power

With all this very cold weather I am feeling down and lethargic. I am not very motivated and feeling much of anything. But even in this low state I had to feel sad when reading this article that appeared in the German magazine SPIEGEL. It is called Obama’s Lists: A Dubious History of Targeted Killings in Afghanistan.

Revealing recently released documents about President Obama’s ‘kill list’ the article asks the questions: “Can a democracy be allowed to kill its enemies in a targeted manner when the objective is not to prevent an imminent attack? And does the goal of eliminating as many Taliban as possible justify killing innocent bystanders?”

We probably will not see this story in the USA press but it does raise the issue of why USA is so hated in parts of the world. I remember after 9/11 Pope John Paul II, not excusing this tremendous act of terrorism, asking the question of what was behind such an terrible and evil act of hate and destruction. The question was around for a few weeks but disappeared as we went to war with Afghanistan, Iraq and supported war and terror in other countries like Yemen, Syria and Honduras. Our killing has led to more hatred of USA and terrorism.

I believe our American military and political leaders and industrial leaders are intelligent people and know that our killing leads to more killing. Yet we cannot seem to stop our killing ways, even when we make them less personal like with killer drones.

Where are the hundreds of thousands of people marching on the Capital asking the President and leaders to stop this killing as there was in the Vietnam War.? Now all we do is blame people, Republicans, Democrats, Muslin militants, leaders of countries, terrorist. Almost anyone will do. We play the blame game rather than try to understand the root causes of such evil and killing.
As I get old the cold gets to me but I do not want to lose feelings for the poor, outcast, people of countries we terrorize to stop terrorism. My goals this year are local and simple but are all I can do. Be a friend to people in need; End military training teaching war and killing at Marquette; expose racism wherever it may appear in our community, justice for Dontre Hamilton or abuse of money for poor by the Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul Society. I may fail and grow old and die but I can try. I feel cursed and blessed in my goals but what else can we do?


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The Empire is Falling - Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Today, in a day of violent attack on a satirical magazine, “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris, I received an article from Salon magazine called “No civilization would tolerate what America has done”. One paragraph in the article really struck me as being true.

“The acknowledgment of America’s need to learn to live together has a simplicity that masks its profundity. Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, documented the extent of Americans’ isolation from each other. Mass shootings, rates of violent crime higher than the rest of the developed world and outrages like Garner’s and Brown’s deaths demonstrate that the inability to peacefully coexist in America goes beyond race. It is a bone-deep dysfunction with social costs, political implications and spiritual disasters. Inequality will continue to grow and injustice will continue to worsen until America is made to actually deal with its levels of selfish indifference to suffering, from ordinary people on grand juries to those who occupy the highest thrones of power.”

Politicians, like our Governor in his inaugural address yesterday and our President keep talking about the equal opportunity of Americans when the opposite is true, inequality is growing. The ‘indifference’ to suffering in the USA seems to me to also be growing. People are coming desensitized to violence. When we show that Marquette University teaches killing, killing without conscience like in the YouTube video: Marquette and Notre Dame Universities teach war and killing, we are still ignored. The killing of innocent women, children and men by USA Killer Drones seems to bother only a few.

Like many others I have called for a change of heart, for One Person Revolutionaries to Unite; but can that happen in time before the USA explores from the inside out?

Perhaps we are doomed for the fall of the Empire but we must try to change ourselves and then join others who are compassionate and not entrenched with ‘selfish indifference’.

A friend has criticized me for using the world “racism” in describing actions of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Milwaukee to raise funds for the poor and invest them in the wealthy suburbs. Persons at Marquette do not like to hear that it teaches war and killing but if we are silent, when even the military admits it, what will happen to our Catholic Universities.

There is a chant used in protest of white police officers killing unarmed black men that says: “No Justice, No Peace.” Until black lives matter as much as white lives, until Catholic universities dedicated to Gospel values, like ‘Love your enemy’, stop teaching war and killing there will be no peace. The empire is falling and all can do is throw wrenches in this ugly machine of racism and militarism and try to slow it down. Perhaps we can slow in down until we can unite and begin a new society of life in the shell of the one of death.


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The Band Plays On - Tuesday, January 06, 2015

With temperatures hovering around 0 degrees I am more aware that just last week we were in Tampa where the temperature was in the high 70’s. We were there because the high school my two grandson’s attend, was invited to the Outback Bowl to play in the parade and at half time of the football game as well as to enter competition concerts with schools from around the country. As one band director noted the parade for the Outback Bowl was a ‘band parade’, composed of bands from the two universities and a number of high schools.

My two grandson play drums in the marching band, my son and his wife were official chaperones and my fifth grade granddaughter was the banner bearer for the parade. As an extra bonus we found out that the Wisconsin Badgers were chosen to play in the football game against the team from Auburn. The band played great and Wisconsin won the football game.

Watching the band concerts, the marching bands and the bands at halftime during the game I realized how important music was to the educational experience of youth. Venezuela realized this a long time ago and built music into all aspects of its culture for poor and wealthy, in schools and neighborhoods.

In the USA suburban and small town bands with quality education have quality music programs, while public schools in poor neighborhoods have limited or no resources for music. So for the white middle class, mostly white youth the band plays on. For the poor, racially segregated neighborhoods the band does not play on.


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One Person Revolutionaries Unite - Monday, January 05, 2015

It is hard to stay focused on just a few issues of justice and peace when there is so many. But the more there is, as the ‘powers that be’ know, the more we become divided and social justice becomes like the rest of your life, “my thing and your thing.” Sometimes I feel like yelling “People let us get together, struggling and talking about your issue and my issue just divides us.” Together we will overcome but getting together is becoming harder and harder.

This new year of 2015 I am trying to present my message on a few issues in a positive manner. So instead of saying Marquette University stop teaching war and killing I may say Marquette live up to the values and mission of the University by respecting the dignity of human life and conscience. Rather than say Milwaukee is racism I could say I could say people of Milwaukee do not be afraid to embrace your neighbors be they white, black or Latino.

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement used to say that we could end homelessness if everyone that could took in one homeless person or family in their house. Practicing the Works of Mercy, as Jesus taught, us could make systematic changes in this country without the government. When you take the “one person revolution” and combine it with working together you have a one-two punch that could solve many of our ills.

But the powers to be know that the way to keep us divided is to present many concerns and issues at one time, not encouraging dialog and joint action.
I have known for quite a while that I could not change the world but only myself but recently I have become to realize how sinful and harmful it is to allow one’s self to be focus of the change required. The message gets lost as the messenger gets marginalized. But rather than give up and ‘do nothing’ as many have done one can make revolutionary changes in one’s own actions.

People of Milwaukee unite, change yourself and join with others for change. Join forces on a few issues and then move on to new ones. With the one person revolution and working together we can make change.


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Cycle of Poverty, Fire to SVDP - Sunday, January 04, 2015

“The poverty rate for U.S.
children is the highest in the
Western world.” Sociology:
Understanding and Changing
the Social World,
Brief Edition, v. 1.0′’

by Steven E. Barkan


Pat and I have gone from the 80 degree weather of Tampa to the 0 degree weather here at home. After church this morning we planned to go shopping for a few items we needed for Pat to make 10 lbs of meat loaf for the meal program tonight at our Church.

First, we drove a friend home and he mentioned he was down to a few dollars for food. Later he called to say he went to the church meal program and had a delicious meat loaf dinner. (It must have been the meat loaf Pat made which we also had for dinner.)

During Church I got a text from a friend who lives in poverty about a mutual friend. It turns out the house of our friend, 86 year old woman, had a fire and she was in hotel where the Red Cross put her up. She had to leave in a hurry and needed a few essential items. So I went to pick my friend and one of her daughters up to take them to a store to purchase some things. As we were driving down the street we noticed her other daughter with her two grandchildren and her boyfriend stranded in a car in the middle of road. It turns out that the gas line of car had broken. We drove her daughter’s friend to a local gas stations hoping the car would start and allow them to get home. It did not work so we ended up driving the four of them to her daughter’s house which was not nearby.

Finally we went to the big store, whose name you know and I cannot repeat, to purchase some stuff for our friends. When poor people go into a store like this, with everything, they see many things, which they really need, like diapers for a great grandchild. My friend and her daughter spent quite a bit in this store just to get some necessities of life for themselves and our friend. We stopped to get some fried chicken our friend and these two. My friend had not eaten for a day and she could not help but eat on the way to the motel where our friend had been placed.

At the store waiting for her daughter to purchase a few things my friend, who now works, told me how she feels she will never get out of debt, for past rent and for other bills like for heating. A long period of unemployment had taken its toll on her life. She lives with two teenage granddaughters and one great granddaughter.

When we finally got to our friend’s hotel home we found her in good spirits, despite losing everything and being told she could not go back to her home. Earlier when my friend had called her to see what else she needed. When she mentioned I was coming with her, our 86 year old friend said to tell Bob to bring her a rich husband.

This experience which took the whole afternoon taught me how the vicious cycle of poverty can trap you. If a car breaks down, a bus is very late on a cold day,house burns down or a lost job can throw you into a deeper and deeper cycle of poverty. There seems to be now way out and maybe there is not.

I read today in the Greenfield edition of the local paper how a 3.2 million dollar investment by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP)in building a thrift store in a white suburb would help the poor in the racially segregated neighborhoods of Milwaukee. There is no evidence of this and, in fact, the proponents of the suburban thrift store show a budget with a significant lost for years to come. St. Vincent de Paul Society is dedicated to “person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering…” By taking “money that belongs to the poor” according to Rule of the Society, and serving the rich and white SVDP is contributing to cycle of poverty.


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Devices Unite And Divide Us - Saturday, January 03, 2015

Electronic devices are bringing us closer together and further apart. When I was a kid, I remember my mother insisting the TV be off when we had company. In time, in our family and many others, this was lost and this Christmas family celebration at my brother’s and son’s the TV went off only during dinner time or exchanging Christmas gifts. The new development is the use of ‘devices’, smart phones, tablets, computers, I Pods and I Pads. At family everyone had one and except for dinner was on it. A couple persons played games against each other or with other persons on the devices. Some used it for entertainment, watching TV shows, Netflix or the like. Some used the devices for communications, emails, text messages, tweets and such. Some like me and students, use the devices for information and research. For most families, middle class or above, everyone has a device and communicate with each other or anyone they choose to. On a recent trip to Outback Bowl my son and his family were part of the Pulaski band that went to Tampa to play at game and parade. My daughter-in-law, a chaperone as my son, was able to keep in touch with youth on the trip, with parents at home, with family or friends, even us that had gone to Tampa. Using Facebook she was able to share videos and pictures of the trip with whoever she wanted to.

I am not immune to this consistent use of phone. I am not a big fan of GPS systems but in Tampa the GPS system on our phone got my wife and me around the city in our rented car. In a strange city it really made a difference giving us directors to band practices, parades and performances as well as getting around to various sites, even finding a good place nearby to eat. You can find people on the bus, watching the football game, walking down the street on their device.

This phenomenon of individual persons on ‘devices’ can be found all over the world. I first noticed it in Palestine and Israel in a 90’s trip where people were using cell phones. For many low income persons and seniors a phone is used to phone call or text. However, for the younger generations, non-poor, the phone is just a device to get on the internet to use Facebook, email or the many other services.

Yes the ‘devices’ are bringing us closer together, but despite my New Year’s resolution to be more positive I need to warn how ‘devices’ can bring us apart. When all ‘devices’ were removed from us a few weeks ago when we got arrested for demanding justice for the killing of Dontre Hamilton, a wide diversity of people in our cell got into meaningful conversations. However, once we went free the contacts were lost unless we were on contact or ‘friends’ list with the others. Devices can divide us by giving us lots of information, and distracting us from experiences and use of our imagination. Not much is left for the imagination with devices, watching TV, communicating, and researching. Devices make us think we ‘know it all’ and we lose track of our insignificance in the course of history. On devices when someone gets killed they usually can be revive to see another day. Death becomes just a common place things and the feeling of death, that keeps us balanced, can be lost in the escape of devices.
Also the distances between rich and poor, young and old, increases with one group having almost unlimited availability to devices and the other limited to cell phones and text. So while devices unite us they also divide us.


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201501002-Solidiarty Jail Sailsfor Ill - Wednesday, December 31, 2014



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Page last modified on December 14, 2014

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