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Wealthy Need Poor! - Wednesday, December 30, 2015

“The rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor in society.” (M.K. Gandhi, The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 71)

For quite some time this year I have been looking for this quote from Gandhi. Now at the end of the year it appears in the daily/quote I receive from India.

I will need to look at the context of this quote but for me it represents the power of nonviolence that the poor hold in society. Without the cooperation of poor the rich could not accumulate the wealth they possess. This quote is especially poignant in the USA where 2% of people have more wealth than the other 98%. The gap between wealthy and poor is growing.

The poor having power over the wealthy is easy to say but difficult to achieve. The 2% keep the 98% divided and give them the illusion of power using elections. For example, about a year ago I predicted that the wealthy have decided to elect Hilary Clinton as the next president. Nothing has happened to change my prediction. In fact the leading Republican candidates are making Hillary, with the baggage she and President Clinton carry, look good, certainly the ‘lesser of two evils’ that my friends who vote tell me we need to elect.

Today a friend sent me a link to a news article: “Haitians Protest Outside Hillary Clinton’s Office Over ‘Billions Stolen’ by Clinton Foundation. Since my visit to Haiti I have been aware of this concern of Haitian people who call President Clinton, who controls their country, “devil”. One of the companions of our journey to Haiti, Bill Quigley, Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, wrote with another researcher a paper Haiti, Seven Places Where Earthquake Money Did Not Go. The billions, as protesters contended, did not make it to people of Haitian. A year after the earthquake when I heard on the local news in Costa Rica that the Clintons had turned the most fertile land in Haiti into an industrial park with a major sweatshop, I could not believe it. But I came home to find a New York Times article Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken showing it was true. Sadly the “powers that be” will not allow the media to consider this protest by Haitians to be considered and Hilary Clinton’s, who now represent the wealthy, drive to presidency will not slow down.

But we can consider what would happened if the 98% and not be controlled by the 2%. In this scenario the poor would rise and take back the power and wealth of the few.


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Discipline To Conscience - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I am working on an essay about how a small group took over the Milwaukee Society of St. Vincent de Paul and how a small group is trying to restore it to its mission. Writing is a focused event, something that takes discipline. Watching a sports event on TV in the background or writing in small periods is not conducive to good writing. Discipline in living is something I always have sought but not as often practiced.

However, there is a lot of benefits to being discipline. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying “Conscience is the ripe fruit of strictest discipline.” This quote about conscience might not have meant much to me when I was young but now, older and living in an age of great distractions, it makes sense. These days when I hear something interesting or am curious about something I often go to my computer or smart phone to seek out the answer. On my phone I just can say “Hey Siri” and ask a question and my phone will frequently give me an answer back. Siri on the phone is very smart. I asked Siri how smart she was and her answer was “I am smart enough to know not to answer that question.”

All the information, opinions, facts and stories in the world do not make our conscience. Our conscience, I believe, results from when looking deeply into something and seeing its inner meaning or purpose. To do this takes discipline. To get discipline we must practice discipline from what we eat to who we associate with to what we do with our time.

Distractions abound in living our life. Only with discipline can we uncover our conscience.


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Hope To Hope In 2016 - Sunday, December 27, 2015

There is an old self help saying that “You become what you think”. So I need to start thinking what I hope will happen in the New Year.

I hope people in Milwaukee will accept the racism of our city and organizations and take some radical steps to change it.

I hope I can be discipline of body this year, exercise and eat less as not to be so fat.

I hope to be disciple of mind and spirit this year, focused more on being than doing and doing less but more in depth.

I hope to take more time to read books this year.

I hope to better practice in daily life my values.

I hope that Marquette University will stop teaching war in killing.

I hope the local St. Vincent de Paul Society will reform and restore its mission and vision.

I hope that we will stop sending ill persons in mental health crisis to jail.

I hope to deepen my prayer and faith life and live more in peace.

There are many more hopes for the New Year but my mind can only think about so much. So I will end by saying I hope to have more hope in 2016.


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Jesus Is Born Amist Us - Saturday, December 26, 2015

Family at Christmas

A close friend told me the meaning of Christmas was celebrating family and friends and gift giving. Another friend wrote me how the meaning of Christmas was about God becoming human in the birth of Jesus. Perhaps my personal meaning of Christmas lies somewhere in between.

My December 24 posting ls this Wall Blocking Joseph and Mary from Bethlehem was a ‘downer’ for him and he was glad he did not read it until after Christmas day. I had sent it to friends saying how the hope of Christmas, Jesus being born, I found in friends and family. As Pope Francis clearly points out there is not much joy in a world of wars. People suffering in our cities and in other countries from greed and wars cannot be denied. Yet in family and friends and in despair and suffering we can find hope in the birth of Jesus in our friends.

The other day I heard from a friend I met in my journey to Haiti. He, like I, is interested in making the connection between growing foods and growing nonviolence in our world today. His garden outside of City Soleil and his school for youth teaching nonviolence is a testimony to the vision of people in Haiti. My friend gives me hope as he has hopes for one of the biggest slums in the Northern Hemisphere. The people of Haiti have and are suffering at the hands of the mighty but still carry hope in their hearts and are the friendliest people I have met. If the people of Haiti with their mix of Haitian Voodoo and Christianity]] can have hope in such an impoverished environment who am I to say Jesus is not born amidst us.


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Is This the Wall Blocking Joseph and Mary from Bethlehem? - Thursday, December 24, 2015

Is this the wall blocking Joseph and Mary from Bethlehem?
Is this the wall imprisoning Palestinians in Gaza?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall along North Ave. in Milwaukee segregating blacks in an improvised area?
Is this the wall keeping new downtown condos from the deteriorating housing conditions of North side?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall keeping blacks from playing basketball in mostly white neighborhoods?
Is this the wall around neighborhoods where there is no adequate transportation?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall of wars dividing people in deadly conflicts?
Is this the wall around USA keeping Salvadorians, Hondurans, Guatemalans and Syrians out?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall Marquette University and nearby big businesses are trying to build around the Near West side.
Is this the wall Marquette University students, trained in war and killing climb over to kill?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall “powers that be” built to divide people?
Is this the wall behind which wealthy are building their mansions?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is the wall around segregated neighborhoods where public education money goes to private schools?
Is this the wall around neighborhoods with over 50% unemployment of African American men?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall around area Milwaukee SVDP will not create a thrift store for Christ’s needy?
Is the wall when people avoid the truth by stonewalling and ignoring?
If so, what are we going to do about it?

Is this the wall dividing justice for whites and justice for blacks?
Is this the wall behind which black lives do not matter?
If so what are we going to do about it?


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Periscope Into Simplicity - Monday, December 21, 2015

A newborn in Palestine

Living simply is becoming more and more difficult. There are just too many things to buy, too much information available, so many distractions to sidetrack a person, too many causes and struggles present in life and so much talk and opinions to consider. It is easy to get drowned with things and information. In a world of too much how does one live simply?

My thoughts go the birth of Jesus in a cave used to feed animals. Jesus was born to a Palestinian Jewish couple living in a land occupied by Roman Empire. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the son of Joseph the carpenter and remained there until he was thirty years old living a simple life with his mother and family. When he did go out on a mission he felt called to he was rejected by his own village people at the synagogue he grew up attending. He wandered around Palestine with his message of the Way to God but after nearly three years of rejection he was captured by his own people and put on trial before the Roman ruler. He was found guilty of treason, falsely accused of saying he was King of the Jews and killed. Only after his death and resurrection did his message get noticed and spread.

Living in a digital world has benefits like bringing people closer together but can be easily be a distraction from living life fully and simply. Recently I discovered a new app, Periscope that allows me to broadcast and receive videos in real time all over the world. Skipping around the world watching videos I noticed that most people are just videotaping self or friends do ordinary things but there are exceptions and there are those who do regularly broadcast. Videos stay on periscope for about 12–24 hours so you are constantly getting a view of what people are doing all over the world from dancing in a tavern in Russia to meditating a beach at sunset in California. Too much but fun.

Jesus being born in the troubled village of Bethlehem reminds us that amidst the ordinary things of life, there are extraordinary things happening if we can just see deeply into them. Jesus is born again today in the ordinary events of life we can now see happening all over the world. We can periscope into simplicity.


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Blessed are You who are poor? - Sunday, December 20, 2015

Today we went out to lunch with a friend whose mind and body is failing him. He lives in a small community home with four other people and staff, a decent environment. But no longer having a cell phone, access to his money, without contact with family and friends and with Parkinson body motions he has somewhat deteriorated in health of mind, body and soul. Without taking him to live with us there is not much we can do for him except be his friend. He is in a safe place and has a community, limited as it is.

Looking around at some of the friends I have made since retiring about seven years ago I find many of them young and old suffer from health problems that limit what they can do. Almost all my friends since retirement are poor or live on very limited income. These friends are of all ages. Being poor and/or ill may make them in eyes of society less a person and not an very important. However, I am learning to understand that persons with poor of health and/or little money are blessed. Their dependency on others graces all those who encounter them and see the gifts they share.

Blessed are the poor is not something I invented and has been known for a long time and proclaimed throughout history especially by Jesus in the Gospels. However there is a major difference from knowing Blessed are the Poor and experiencing it.

‘Normal people’ often say I am a hard person to be friends with and there is some truth to that statement. Being passionate about one’s beliefs and values and struggling to put them in practice get come across as ‘arrogant’ or being intolerant. We all have faults and if not governing your life on what others think of you is a fault, I am guilty. Sometimes my friends that are ‘poor’ can be demanding or hard to be with at times but so am I.

As an ill and/or poor person I can allow my weaknesses and dependent personality get myself down or I can, like many of mind friends, recognized blessings in our fault and weaknesses. I believe Jesus meant it when he said “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.


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No More Money to Privatize Public Education - Saturday, December 19, 2015

This morning I went to a Brainstorming Breakfast featuring many candidates running for a variety of public offices and a panel discussion on future of public education. Here are some thoughts resulting from that panel discussion.

Everyone says they would like to see Milwaukee Public Schools strengthen. But are proponents of Public Schools, City, County and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) officials willing to detach from the lures of big money that comes from privatizing education.

In the City of Milwaukee there are 727 schools K-12. In the Village of Pulaski WI there are 5 schools. However, in Milwaukee there are 39 Publicly Charter Schools and 553 Private Schools that accept public funded vouchers. There are no charter or voucher schools in Pulaski, only one private grade school and four public schools. However, education quality in Pulaski school system outshinea that received in Milwaukee public schools with small class size and major emphasis on creative education like music and art.

MPS, city and county officials accepting money intended to further privatize public education, despite any good intentions, are eroding public education in Milwaukee.

If MPS, City and County officials wanted to support public schools in Milwaukee would refuse State and private funds to encourage privatization of education and with UWM refuses to authorize any charter any schools receiving public money. Together they would work to limit the voucher program.

The chance of any elected officials, school board, city or county turning down State and private money to private’s education in Milwaukee is slim. I may be over simplifying the issue but the enemy is within. With corporation of MPS, City and County officials public schools will not be privatized. The more money accepted to privatize education the more it will be privatized. The only hope is that MPS, City and County officials say No to Money to privatize education and yes to public to education.


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Truth Cannot be Not True. - Thursday, December 17, 2015

I was a juror in a criminal case. Our job was to judge if the State district attorney could show without a reasonable doubt that an innocent person was guilty of a crime. On two of the counts there was agreement in a very short period of time the person was not guilty. However, on one count we could not agree and after a long day of discussion were a hung jury. During the conversation I noticed that we all had a time deciding if person was guilty or not guilty. We talked a lot about who there was a slight possibility that the person did not commit the crime. But since we had to give a yes or no answer 10 persons answered one way and two the other way.

I have noticed in our culture there is a decreasing number of truths that are true or not true. Although Aristotle long ago said that if a statement is true it cannot be not true and vice versa we daily read and hear about ‘half truths’. If a statement by a politicians contains an element of truth and an element of falsehood it is considered ‘half –truth’. The old saying that that something is not black or white has been applied to truth.

The statement that “I have my opinion of the truth and you have your opinion of truth” is valid. But instead of following up with a dialog and struggle to work together to find the ‘truth’, often it is used to say “let us agree to disagree.” How can two people seeking the truth agree to disagree? We one agrees to agreeing to disagree seeking the truth ends with such a statement.

For example, in the debate on abortion I always ask if a person considers a fetus viable human life or at one point does a fetus become human life. If we could agree at the beginning of human life than we could agree at what point is abortion taking of human life. Modern science is a great resource in our understanding of life before birth but both sides seem to want to argue rather than seek out the truth as we can know it.

Our understanding of truth may change but if we have an understanding of truth we will have something to compare our new information to. We will have a base of understanding of truth on which to change.

As a religious educator in the past I believe it was important to give youth and understanding of the truth of Gospel and Catholic teaching. My thirst to convey the truth was born with the understanding of Gospel and Church the religious sisters gave me in my grade school days. I have different understanding of truth than the nuns taught me in some areas but, as I say, I had a foundation of understanding of truth to expand on, change and deepen. I noticed the youth often had an attitude of “your opinion, my opinion’ in understanding their faith. Often they have no solid foundation to compare new statements and teachings to and thus often stop practicing their faith as it does not seem to relate to their daily life.

After living carefully to the evidence at the trial hearing yesterday listening for burden of evidence to prove the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt I came into the jury room today with my opinion of truth. Hearing nothing during the day in our discussion of the evidence to change my opinion I was confirmed of the truth of my understanding. Someone in the jury room said some came in the jury room this morning with their mind made up. I believe that is true but does not mean truth cannot become a non-truth. It is just that truth cannot be not true.


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Does Voting Make a Difference? - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” (Mark Twain)

I found this quote on the Nobody for President Facebook web page. It reflects a lot of my thoughts, especially after another 3 hour Republican ‘so called debate’ on CNN last night. I did not watch the debate but from the little bits I saw from TV news stories,it was another entertainment event to boost ratings and inflate Donald Trump. The more people that react against Trump the more the better the poll numbers are for him. All the awhile Hillary Clinton, whom I predicted almost a year ago would be the next President, wins more support and gets more big money from the people who determine who will be elected.

This might sound sarcastic, as does the quote from Twain, but it, sadly, is true. People do not like to hear that all these debates are not meaningful but I think most know deep in their heart, that it is true. Study after study has proven that the candidate with the most money wins the election 95% of the time. To hide the this fact the rich had made it hard to track the money. Political packs can spend large amounts of money without it being reported in campaign statements. And our own US Supreme Court have declared that ‘money’ is ‘free speech’, corporations are people and thus corporations and wealthy can give all they want and get their candidate in office.

So the ‘they’ of Twain’s quote is the ‘powers that be’ or the’ unspeakable’ or the 1% that control majority of wealth in USA. They use fear to manipulate and make us feel like we are doing something by voting.

Voting is important in a true democracy and can make a difference. Just look at Venezuela that after seventeen years of socialist in government just had the opposition parties win in a national election. When I was in Venezuela a few years ago I was shocked how much freedom the opposition had. One American resident of Venezuela told me recently there was too much freedom in this country. I was surprised how the opposition could speak and act out publicly against the government in ways that would put us in jail in the USA. One University student of the ‘elite’ class told me how he and others had blocked highways and done other disruptive actions without being arrested. When he was complaining about the control of central government I pointed out to him that we in the USA could not get away with the brazen acts he and his friends did without being arrested. In one village there was near unanimous agreement by people over a government project but the media controlled by the small wealthy class were attacking it viciously.

Maybe if voting made a difference I would vote. But for now I support Nobody for President


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People Power Can Stop Climate Change - Monday, December 14, 2015

For all the hype leading up to the Parish Climate Change there has not been much follow up in the media about what was really accomplished. Maybe it is because as the article below claims: “The Paris agreement was a diplomatic success but it will not stop the climate catastrophe; it is neither ambitious nor just.” However, the article offers hope by claiming while the Paris Agreement can not stop climate change the Power of People can. Enjoy!

Published on Monday, December 14, 2015 by Common Dreams

Paris Agreement Will Not Stop Climate Change, But People Power Can
By Jagoda Munic

PARIS, France – The most inspiring moment of December 12 was not the adoption of the United Nations Paris agreement but the sight of more than 20,000 people on the streets, building the power of the people, demanding climate justice and an end to dirty energy.

The Paris agreement was a diplomatic success but it will not stop the climate catastrophe; it is neither ambitious nor just. Many heads of state used the language of climate activists when they addressed the summit on November 30. They noted the extreme urgency of the crisis, their responsibility to future generations and the need for a just agreement.

“After more than twenty years of climate negotiations, developed countries demonstrated once again that they can talk the climate justice talk, but not walk the walk.”

As soon as their speeches were over, the hollowness of the leaders’ words became clear. Negotiations quickly showed the divide between developed and developing countries. Who will take on the burden of decarbonisation of their economies? Who is going to finance it? How will we support people affected by the impacts of climate change? After more than twenty years of climate negotiations, developed countries demonstrated once again that they can talk the climate justice talk, but not walk the walk.

In October 2015, a large group of civil society organizations analyzed the national voluntary pledges which states have submitted as their contribution to reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This analysis revealed that developed, richer countries are trying to shift the burden of responsibility onto developing countries.

Countries that have become wealthy by burning fossil fuels have taken up much more than their fair share of our limited carbon budget but are unwilling to do their fair share to deal with the climate crisis. They bear the legal, moral and political obligations to urgently make the deepest emissions cuts and completely transform their economies and societies.

For instance the USA presents itself as a climate hero, but its pledges add up to only 20% of its fair share. Some observers of the Paris process described the final text as having ‘the USA’s fingerprints all over it.

In June 2015, the ‘People’s Test on Climate’ was developed by a large group of civil society organizations to evaluate the Paris agreement based on what science and justice require. The People’s Test identified four criteria for a success in Paris:
1. Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic carbon emissions reductions;
2. Provide adequate support for transformation;
3. Deliver justice for impacted people;
4. Focus on genuine, effective action rather than false solutions.

Measured against these criteria the Paris agreement is a failure.
The Paris agreement is not ambitious enough in terms of temperature target or urgency, as it includes little action before 2020. The need for ambitious action by those most responsible is glossed over with weak promises of action in the future. Developed countries are shirking their historic responsibility and shifting the burden to developing countries. This is is not based on fair shares that take into account historical responsibility and capacity to act and hence it is not acceptable.

Furthermore, there is no obligation in the agreement to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees celsius, but only to ‘pursue efforts’ to do so. In any case, 1.5 degrees without requiring rich countries to do their fair share only places the extra burden on the poor.

The Paris agreement is incompatible with climate science. If the global economy isn’t fully decarbonised by 2050, keeping temperatures below 1.5 degrees is out of the question – but the text alludes only to net zero or ‘carbon neutrality’ by the end of the century, if we can manage it.

The good news is that we can see real leadership and transformation taking place everywhere else.

“All around the world we see communities and individuals building the energy revolution that we need.”

The voices outside the yearly UN climate summits are getting louder each year, as more people join the movement for climate justice. At almost the exact moment political leaders were praising themselves at the convention center, people were in the streets declaring a climate emergency.

All around the world we see communities and individuals building the energy revolution that we need. Our current energy system is unsustainable and fails to meet even the most basic needs of millions. Community-owned energy and local, sustainable food and farming gives us an opportunity to provide a dignified life for all.

Instead of embracing these grassroots alternatives, politicians have fallen under the spell of corporations pushing false solutions to climate change. The unproven technique of carbon capture and storage, the creation of rigged carbon markets—where the polluters make even greater profits—and industrial agriculture will all endanger communities and exacerbate the problems.

We could be on our way to climate-safe societies by now if politicians were not holding back people’s solutions. In Paris we saw these solutions in food, energy, transport, housing and more at the Alternatiba—the village of alternatives. Politicians should get on board or get out of the way.

Now is the time to act. We need to continue to mobilize a broad movement for climate justice to resist dirty energy projects, to build and promote community-owned and democratically-controlled alternatives. We need to unite our struggles and keep the pressure on our governments to abandon fossil fuels subsidies and infrastructure development.

There are many campaigns to win in the next months and years as more and more people get involved in the struggle for climate justice. Join the struggle.


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Sending Our Sick to Jail? - Saturday, December 12, 2015

A person suffering an heart attack, a stroke or involved in serious car accident is taken to the Emergency Room of a Hospital and treated. Even a person injured in committing a crime is given emergency room care and hospital treatment before they are sent to jail. However, there is one group of ill persons, people suffering from brain health crisis, we call mental health illnesses, that do not receive emergency care and hospitalization. Law enforcement can take such a person to a county mental health crisis or to the county jail. Often the person in crisis is trespassing or acting disorderly, minor offenses, and thus arrested by the law enforcement and taken to the county jail. If a person is deemed a “danger to self or others” the person is placed in solidarity confinement, the worst treatment you can give a person suffering a mental health crisis.

Although persons with mental illness are less likely to commit a crime than the average person “an estimated 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of jail inmates have a mental health problem.” Probably more disturbing is the statistic that in the United States the “risk of being killed by police is 16 times greater for those with mental illnesses.

The report with this startling statistic “cites psychiatric deinstitutionalization, the process of emptying and closing psychiatric hospitals in favor of pharmaceutical and other less extreme treatment strategies, as a major driver of these disproportionate police contacts.” Yet this, “psychiatric deinstitutionalization” in exactly what Milwaukee County and other counties in Wisconsin and nation-wide are doing with persons suffering a mental health crisis.

A person suffering a health crisis, even if the person is injured in the act of committing a serious crime, receives treatment in ER of a hospital and may be kept in the hospital. The hospitals by law, with one exception, are required to give the person,conscious or not treatment. The one exception is that persons in a health crisis suffering certain types of brain illnesses can be sent to jail! Sending our sick to jail needs to stop.


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Showing Love at Christmas is Not Buying a Home Security System - Thursday, December 10, 2015

Despite the “no call lists”, like most persons we get phone calls from solicitors. Recently we have got phone calls from alarm system companies for home safety systems. There is the regular calls like we are in your area and have fifteen free alarms systems but a recent one was unique. A woman wished me holiday greetings and continued to tell me that the best way to show love during this holiday system was by installing a home safety alarm system. I let her continue for a little while and politely told her that I was not interested in a home security system.

Everyone knows that Christmas has been commercialized and the meaning of Christmas has become purchasing and giving or receiving gifts. It is no wonder that many people get depressed during the Christmas season. If the meaning of Christmas is giving and receiving stuff that is depressing.

Jesus was born in a cave used to feed animals and lived in obscurity for the first thirty years of his life. After he went public with his mission of showing us the way to God he was rejected and being true to himself was killed. Two thousand years later we celebrate Jesus’ birth but ignore his message. Jesus told us to “love our enemies” and to do good who would harm us but today Christians talk about “killing our enemies” and doing harm to these ‘bad guys’. Jesus told us blessed are the poor and to make them a priority in our lives. Nowadays the rich are blessed and the poor can be neglected outside of the Christmas season.

The meaning of Christmas is not showing love by purchasing a home security system. However, being not afraid to show love for the poor and marginalized may come close.


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Give No Oxygen to Trump - Wednesday, December 09, 2015

There is been a lot of attention paid to Donald Trump’s remarks about allowing No Muslims to enter the United States, at least for the time being. Politicians, Democrats and Republicans, media, liberal and conservative, have given much attention to his remarks. I thought the remarks of a spokesperson for former President Bush were the most telling, although it got little coverage. In an email to the New York Times Bush’s spokesperson said: “President Bush spoke a lot about this during his presidency, and he won’t be weighing in anew now — or commenting on or giving oxygen to any of Trump’s bluster.” If individuals and groups, liberal or conservative, left or right would follow the example of President Bush the ‘bluster’ of Trump would disappear.

The more reaction there is to Trump’s outrageous statements the more he makes them and the more coverage he gets. If media, politicians and all of us were to ignore his prejudiced messages we would deflate them and him. The best way to marginalize Tromp would be not to react to his statements. The air would be removed from his bluster and his message would be deflated.

But can the media, politicians and rest of us resist the temptation to give oxygen to Trump’s remark. I should end now as not to give more oxygen to Trump’s bluster.


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Where Is the Music? - Tuesday, December 08, 2015

124 members of 6th Grade Band

Tonight I went to my sixth grade daughter’s middle school band concert. She is a percussionist just like her two old brothers before her and who now are in the high school band. Music plays a major role in my grandchildren’s life and has taken us, grandparents, on band trips to the 4th of July parade in Philadelphia to the Outback Bowl Football game on New Year’s, to a parade in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and in 2017, to Durmline competitions and perhaps to the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena Jan. 1, 2017.

I thought of the extensive music programs in Venezuela that I saw pervade all aspects of the culture, even in the barrios. Music was an integral part of education even before Chavez and the Socialist gained power 17 years ago. They only enhanced it and the hope now is the new government will continue to sustain the integration of music in everyday life.

In Memphis I saw how local music programs in high school was crucial to the development of famous music studios like Stax and Sun studios. Stax Studio is now a museum but the site host the Soulsville Charter School and the Stax Music Academy nurturing the next generation of music lovers.

In Milwaukee Public Schools music education along with art and physical education were the first victims of budget cuts. We all agree that quality education is important in preventing high unemployment and imprisonment in young adult African Americans yet we deny them a full education that music brings. My granddaughter has three full time music teachers in her middle school and there is more in the high school program while Milwaukee Public Schools are fortunate to have one full time music teacher for several schools.

If we believe music is part of a well rounded education some cities, like the small town my grandchildren live nearby are excelling. However the school systems in poverty stricken and racially segregated cities like Milwaukee are failing. Milwaukee needs to ask where is the music?


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A Day of Tragedy - Monday, December 07, 2015

On this day 7 years ago my brother’s wife died in a terrible car crash.

On this day, today, the socialist party of Venezuela suffered its first major defeat since its founder, Mr. Chavez, was elected 17 years ago this date.

On this day 74 years ago the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy base in Perl Harbor, Hawaii marking the USA entrance into World War II.

Some of these events are tragic to some and some are not tragic to some. I am sure other great tragedies, small and large, have occurred on this date. Yet life goes on; my brother lives on without his dear wife; the democratic reforms of socialist part are still there; the USA military once again reigns supreme. Tragedies come and go as time just goes on.


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Celebratre Christmas With Rejects - Sunday, December 06, 2015

On this St. Nick’s day I received this video from Father Charles McCarthy on The Real Santa Claus, the Real Christmas, and War Toys. It is meant for children but is something adults can learn from and enjoy. St. Nicholas was the first real Santa Clause and is tied in with the Christmas message of God’s love for us manifest in birth of Jesus.

Today’s Gospel was about another forerunner of the Christmas message,St. John the Baptist. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, called for repentance, a change of heart. He was fearless and was not afraid to speak “truth to power”. In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 3, 1–6) it struck me that John was so bold a prophet and “voice in the wilderness” because he had nothing to lose except his life. Being detached as John was makes one dangerous and John did pay for his message of pointing to Jesus with his life at hand of the authorities.

Father McCarthy, who I had a privilege of meeting a few times, is a prophet of our times. His Gospel message of “love of enemies” is bold and prophetic. He has been marginalized and ignored but keeps on preaching the Gospel of nonviolence. He does so with grace and dignity and thus gives us hope.

Preaching and Practicing the Gospel of Jesus can be tough and cause one to be rejected, labeled and suffer. John the Baptism is the saint of the rejected. Perhaps that why I am so attracted to him and to Father McCarthy. Christmas we celebrate the birth of the greatest ‘reject’ of all time, Jesus the Christ.


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I Saw Santa Riding a Bike on Wells Street - Saturday, December 05, 2015

I saw Santa Claus riding a bicycle in the new bike lane on Wells Street. Yesterday the final line defining the bicycle lane were painted and the temporary No Parking signs on Wells Street were removed. The newly reconstructed Wells street was finally completed after years of planning, much deliberation by the neighbors, three months of construction and the hard work of our alderman. Today we were driving west on Wells street, coming home from a Christmas craft fair, we saw Santa Clause driving east on Wells on a bicycle. We beeped our horn and Santa replied by waving at us as we drove by.

Seeing Santa driving in the bike lane on Wells Street brought a smile to our faces and for me a confirmation that all the hard work by neighbors and alderman to narrow the driving lanes and make parking and bike lanes was the right thing. Maybe the street was Santa’s gift to Wells street neighbors.

It is too early to tell but is seems like with the “traffic calmers”, curb outs, narrow driving lanes and bike and parking lanes the cars driving by from the suburbs on way to and from work are slowing down. If not, we can always ask Santa to put all the speedy drivers on Wells on the “naughty list”.


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Industrial or Digital Revoluiton? - Thursday, December 03, 2015

Industrial or Digital?

On the left you have a rice cooker given to us by a friend in 1972 and still working. On the right you have a new I Phone 6S that we just received yesterday by UPS. The Rice cooker is a symbol of the industrial revolution when things were made to last. It has one basic function it does well, cook rice. On the right you have the I Phone a much more sophisticated and technological object that can do many things, receiving email, giving driving directions, being a speed gun or hearing aid among the many things it can do. The I Phone will last a few years until a more sophisticated phone is on the market which can, believe it or not, do more things.

We have from the Industrial age of the rice cooker to the digital age of the I Phone. With the rice cooker we can cook rice anytime we want and it comes out right. With the I Phone we are in constant communication with the world for news, sports or personal communications. We can even purchase a rice cooker online with the phone and track its delivery with same phone. The rice cooker provides rice in about 20 minutes while the I Phone puts us in instant communication anywhere in the world. The rice cooker is steady and the I Phone is instant.

With the industrial revolution workers were replaced with machines. In the digital revolution workers are replaced with computers. In our supermarkets check outs lines the option is given to check out with digital devices out. When we called for information in the industrial age we talked to a person. Now we are likely to talk to a digital computer that recognized voiced words. Politicians and fund raisers used to call for support now computers do the calling. Books, films, radios, newspapers and magazines are now digitized. We can play a game or solve a puzzle without leaving our digital device. Our digital devices fit in a pocket while industrial items like rice cookers need to be carried in a box.

It is said that the average person in the USA spends around eight hours or more per day in front of a screen, TV, computer, phone or tablet. We have access to a world of recipes on our digital devices but still need a rice cooker or pot to cook rice.

The other day using the rice cooker and some leftovers I cooked a delicious lamb and rice dinner. Cooking this meal was creative. My wife pulls out her phone, types in the ingredients she wants to use and instantly has access to all kind of receips. Both types of dinner can be delicious, one by freelancing food in the mind and the other by taking advance of digitized recipes. With digital devices the speed of information is near instant. With industrial devices like the rice cooker the mind is free to create something while the machines does its thing. The industrial world is giving way to the digital world.


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When Will Endless Killing Ever End? - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Another mass shooting in America! Another day of endless news coverage on the killing. Another day of fear and revenge. Another day of ignoring causes of violence and killing.

I read today how “four former US air force service members, with more than 20 years of experience between them operating military drones, have written an open letter to Barack Obama warning that the program of targeted killings by unmanned aircraft has become a major driving force for Isis and other terrorist groups.” This story,Obama’s drone war, a ‘recruitment tool’ for Isis, say US air force whistleblowers will not make the news.

I do not know who and why of the killings in California but when we find out doubt it make any differences in dealing with the root causes of violence.

Tonight I watched Part 1 of an Al Jazeera documentary,Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL. It explores the origins and evolution of the world’s most feared and powerful insurgent group - ISIL. In it an Iraqi minister talks about the short slightness of USA by creating conditions in which Muslims were radicalized by Islamic extremists, like in a USA run major prison in Iraq.

In the Industrial Revolution more weapons of killing were created. In the new Digital Revolution better weapons of killing were developed and now we can communicate around the world the killing and the response, which is more killing.

We know from history that killing leads to more killing which leads to more killing, be it on local, national or world level. We know the only way to peace is by peace yet we ignore this fact and keep creating conditions for more killing and fear. “When will endless killing ever end?”


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Fear or Hope Connections - Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Connecting life events these days create fear or hope. The death of young black adults plagues Milwaukee and other cities. It was announced today the US is sending more ground troops to Iraq and Syria. Food Stamps are no longer available for about 15, 000 adults in the Milwaukee area, around 31,000 statewide. The local St. Vincent de Paul leadership pouring more money into a wasted effort in suburbs rather than using it for people in need. Marquette University, a Jesuit Catholic school, continues to teach war and killing to students. The poor are being more segregated and struggling for basic survival while people of ‘white privilege’ talk about the problem and do token things.
If we connect these life events fear grows and can master us. Where is the hope?

Some say that people facing addiction from alcohol or drugs might have to experience bottom before they seek to turn things around. I have doubts about this statement and know for sure it does not apply to people with illnesses, like brain or mental illnesses. However disaster, like watching a 17 year youth be shot to death 16 times for no good reason does tend to push people over the top and want to do something. Maybe if we put things together, tragic as they may be, we can see the face of racism and other evils. Seeing, truly seeing, hearing, really listening, feeling the tragedies personally can wake some people up. People awake have a hard time ignoring these disasters of human life. Perhaps waking up and finding others awake will lead to direct action, not revenge or retribution, but mercy and kindness and, who knows, love of friends and enemies. We need to be hopeful and believe that from death new life can begin.


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