Give peace a chance… Hot here?

Children International Summer Village photo taken in Mongolia, 1996

I recently interviewed a former teacher who was involved with what is called “Children’s International Summer Villages.” He’s been all over the world with the program. The essence of the program is that each “village team” is composed of four children (two boys and two girls) and one “adult leader.” And each of the 12 teams are from 12 different countries. The children are generally 11-years-old. They live together in a designated campground/village for a four-week-period. (It’s in a different country each year.) There are multiple activities designed to establish camaraderie. The teacher said the children learn that, no matter what the nationality, no matter what the language, there are, indeed, all kinds of commonalities. It is the essence of “building peace,” the teacher said. Note: Our administration would get behind programs like this, in spades, through one, of many, of our U.S. Department of Peace initiatives. Note 2: The day I’m entering this, a CBS News story noted that it was a record breaking 120 degrees in Las Vegas, “sin city,” the meteorologist added. A ‘warm up’ for people who are buying into this ‘sin’ paradigm, not just in Vegas, but all across the country these days? During our earlier campaign travels, we came across a marquee in front of a Baptist Church in Alabama, in August. It read: “You think it’s hot here…”

…to shelter the homeless

photo by Joe

Fascinating. I recently wrote a newspaper article about this cabin. It sits on skids in the backyard of a local couple’s place. They live in a modest, two-bedroom house about 25 yards from the cabin. They use it for “staycations.” That is, if they want to “get away,” they head out to the cabin for a day, or two, or more… They watch TV, read books, relax on the porch… The cabin was built in Amish country in Indiana, then trucked here. Because it is not hooked into water (they simply use the house for water, although they are about to put a free-standing chemical toilet in), and just, again, sits on skids, its zoned the same way a shed would be, including no additional taxes, or zoning requirements, and such. What’s more, when people visit, it’s turned into a relatively cute B&B. The cabin cost $10,000, delivered. Note: I couldn’t help but think that, social justice wise, something like this could be a great, temporary place for, say, immigrants trying to get a foothold in this country — as a temporary, transition place, or longer. We could get a lot more creative in this country, helping people trying to flee extreme poverty, violence, and so on, in other countries. The Beatitudes: “…shelter the homeless.” Our position paper on foreign relations is replete with creative ways to tangibly help “foreigners.”

Juneteeth; good team players; breezy days

Michael Zone Center, Cleveland (coach Joe)

It’s “Juneteenth.” A holiday to commemorate the emancipation from slavery. Yet slavery persists, to this day. For instance, many Black youth are ‘slaves’ to transgenerational poverty loops in our inner cities. Our family moved to a hardscrabble area of Cleveland (just adjacent to the inner city) to do outreach into the neighborhood with a group of Catholic Workers. We saw the poverty first-hand. We saw how kids are trapped down there. My wife and I coached some Rec. Center teams made up of, primarily, “latch key kids.” We helped with a community garden for neighborhood kids. We volunteered at a Drop-In Center for kids, and adults, alike. Our position paper on “Black Amends,” calls for, among other things, a Marshall Plan to rebuild our urban cores and inspire others more well off to move back into these inner cities to live in solidarity with the poor, helping them to get a leg up on the slavery of poverty… In the last couple weeks: I covered a graduation ceremony where a coach, who was the keynote speaker, told the graduates that it was “extremely important” to be good team players in life… I also covered a local council meeting where there was discussion about adding a couple more tornado sirens (there’s just one currently) to the town — because residents were complaining that on “breezy days,” it was hard to hear the current one on the outskirts of town. “Breezy days.” Uh… I love small town council meetings.

Common [carbon] sense…

Nov. 2023 edition

In my ongoing research on the environment, I was just reading part of an article in this National Geographic Magazine edition on various strategies to curb global warming. Klaus Lackner is a physicist with the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. He’s experimenting with “…three story tall, carbon sucking, filtering and storing devices.” He colloquially calls them: “mechanical trees.” He says they work, and Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (signed in 2022) provides billions of dollars, potentially, to companies working on “…direct air [carbon] capture technology.” Lackner noted that, recently, some $1.2 billion from this federal fund was awarded to plants in Texas and Louisiana, which are building “direct air [carbon] capture plants.” I couldn’t help thinking, yeah, okay… but what about planting more non-mechanical trees, too? And what about, collectively, as a nation, developing much more of a [carbon] conservation mind-set, and…? Common [carbon] sense. Note: For more on our campaign’s take on energy/global warming/et. Al…, *see.

God smiling down… and: “How about them apples?”

High School Baccalaureate …photo by Joe

The other night, our village high school held their Baccalaureate. It was small town (spiritual) Americana at its finest. Some students gave their testimonies, thanking God, their parents, their classmates… for help along their walk all these years in the village. Part of the high school choir led a number of modern Christian songs (*see photo), as they stood on the sidewalk in front of the Youth For Christ campus, which is just across the street from the high school. (*What a blessing that place had been in many of their walks.) It was a tremendously moving event, and I had to believe God was smiling down on it all that night. And speaking of spirituality… I wrote a newspaper article recently about the opening of a Johnny Appleseed Museum/Education Center in nearby Urbana College. They have more Johnny Appleseed memorabilia there, than anywhere else in the country — including his Bible. You see, Johnny was planting two kinds of seeds. Apple seeds. Faith seeds. Besides his strong environmental stewardship bent, he was also a Christian evangelist in general, who regularly talked and passed out literature along the way. This year marks the 250th year since his birth. Note: For more on our take on the environment, see…

painting and politics

outskirts of Bluffton …photo by Joe (…the painter)

Keeping up my populist image, not to mention having to pay for rent, food, gas… I was doing some exterior painting recently at an artist studio on the outskirts of Bluffton, adjacent to the Bluffton University Nature Preserve. Scenic setting. On my coffee breaks, I read a National Geographic article on “Conservation in America.” One of the statements that most stood out: “…some people have attempted to reconcile conservation with capitalism.” For instance, the Cumberland Forest Project, with only moderate, targeted logging, would never make enough money for investors — *unless, of course, you also sold credits on the carbon market around the trees that weren’t logged. And speaking of economic things… While I don’t have access to Janet Yellen, I did have access to Laurence Lutvak today. He is visiting the area from Massachusetts, is a financial advisor, and stopped in the office for a chat. (*I try to stay accessible to the public as possible. Wink.) It turns out, when he was younger, Mr. Lutvak worked on the Fred Harris campaign. Harris was a Democrat Senator from Oklahoma and vied for the Democratic Presidential nomination in both 1972 and ’76. Mr. Lutvak came across as quite knowledgeable about the economy, government, and a combination thereof. He said, for instance, that Social Security is, indeed, in jeopardy, and perhaps — as just one approach — there should be an income ceiling on who could draw from the SS Fund, in order to help keep it buoyant for the next generation. Our campaign has a similar stance. But the $64,000 question on this one would be: “What would, say, a yearly income cutoff point be?” Mr. Lutvak said he is also an advocate for continuing to fund Ukraine, in regard to the war. He said the money we are sending (last allotment was $60 billion) is a “…drop in the bucket,” in regard to the U.S. budget. But more importantly, he (anecdotally) said that this is an existential struggle “…of the good guys against the bad guys.”

“…demands our respect.” Memorial Day 2024

Leading the way for Bluffton, Ohio’s 2024 Memorial Day Parade…

That’s right, while I wasn’t at Arlington Cemetery for Memorial Day, I was at Bluffton, Ohio’s Memorial Day Parade today. Pictured here are some of our local Military Veterans leading the way in the parade. It was, as it has been in years past, tremendously poignant — with people along the route take their caps off, saluting, putting their hands over their hearts. Our military position paper, based on a good deal of research, spells out how our administration would step up even more help for these veterans, across the board. I mean, they were willing to sacrifice their lives for their fellow Americans. That demands, not only our respect, but it demands we make every effort to help them throughout their lives.

mock prom crash… and a broader lesson

mock-prom-crash scene

Students at a nearby high school were treated to, perhaps, the most elaborate Mock-Prom-Crash-Scene of anywhere in the country. Seriously! *Local college theatre make-up artists made the crash victims look realistic. There were two totaled cars face to face in the parking lot, as EMS, police and firefighting vehicles successively showed up. Firefighters cut the kids out with Jaws of Life. A Life Flight helicopter then showed up. A volunteer parent, playing the role of the mother of one of the kids that were supposedly hurt, showed up and started screaming at the driver. I wrote a newspaper article about it all, explaining how realistic, and how poignant, it all had been. And yeah, drunk driving, distracted driving… can, indeed, lead to some extreme tragedies. But what about the ‘tragedy’ of setting up a transportation infra-structure that is tremendously dangerous in the first place. What’s more, we then condition our kids to assimilate into it. Some 33,000 people die on American roads every year now. That would be like a half-full airliner going down every day in America! We’d close the skies. Yet we drive on, and on, and… Our position paper on transportation is a look at a much safer, and saner, transportation infra-structure, which we should shift to, quick!

A “Catch-22” in Cuba

Cuban flag

Cuba continues to be a Communist country, ruled by an iron-fisted government. It has a reputation of being replete with human rights abuses. Concurrently, the U.S. Trade Embargo with Cuba has recently passed the 50-year mark. However, Obama did loosen restrictions on Cuban/American travel, and some business ventures. Trump, however, rolled that all back. Recently, the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister was interviewed by network news here. Another issue between the countries is Cuban refugees continuing to come to this country, fleeing poverty and the oppressive Cuban government practices. Cuba currently allows one plane load a month of refugees to be sent back to Cuba from the U.S.. And the Foreign Minister, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, said his country might consider taking back more refugees. But here’s the rub… Given the Cuban government’s “iron-fisted-ways,” and its record for mis-treating so-called dissidents, and such, one would have to wonder how these fleeing refugees will be treated after they are sent back? Note: Our administration would put in place a comprehensive re-settlement program, across the board, for refugees fleeing poverty, war, oppressive governments… And parts of our, for instance, Hispanic immigration position paper reflects that, in spades.

Carrying our cross, worldwide

Good Friday 2024 …photo by Joe

And a little child will lead them… This was a scene from a few weeks back in my hometown. Each year, there is a Good Friday “Crosswalk.” People, including children, take turns carrying this heavy, rough-hewn wooden cross from church to church in the downtown area (there are six churches). At each of the churches, a pastor gives a “Reflection.” For example, Presbyterian Pastor Bill Carr said that “…the way of the cross is a way of suffering.” He noted that Christ was flogged/scourged, but steadfastly kept going on the way to His crucifixion. Likewise, the pastor continued, Christians are called to carry their own crosses, metaphorically. [*And what’s more, Christians are called to help others carry their crosses as well, whether that’s helping people in Haiti, Gaza, Ukraine… or America’s inner cities for that matter. For our Foreign Policy position paper, which is heavy on all this, and a good deal different in its intensity and scope than most American politician’s stances, see…]