“The timing was unfortunate” huh? How about this way of saying it: Everything about the raid in Mississippi was an outrageous national disgrace. What state is next? Will every state have surprise raids soon? What will raiders look for after that? Do we really believe that our adversaries are the ones being targeted, not some maniacs flying airplanes into towers? If we choose enemies so arbitrarily, then will the Statue of Liberty’ plaque be revised or deleted?

Millions, including some of my friends, strongly believe I’m exactly wrong. Many of them cite other priorities e.g., we should take care of our veterans. My mid-2010 post clearly says that section of their reasoning is right but that doesn’t exclude anyone else; this isn’t either/or. I don’t advocate the other extreme (budget everything until we go bankrupt) either; there are (or at least were) ways to budget responsibly.

So let’s try for a responsible reaction:
* Examine your mind about this latest raid and see whether you or I (due to accidental fortune to be born in the U.S.) seem superior to those detained
* If so, recall the classic example of “superiority” of nationality or race: Hitler led his country to ruin, then killed himself
* Try to remember when the U.S. was the country of the Marshall Plan
* Try to see the Mississippi raid through the eyes of a little kid who might never see his or her family again, for no reason that makes any sense.

Normally I’m proud of my country. Not this time.


This is one of many tributes-from-a-friend, offered for Susan White Bowden on her birthday. A highly respected WMAR-2 News reporter who died on April 26 of this year, Susan matched the description of a life-giving individual, the kind of woman everyone likes. In addition to being competent and widely known, she was exceptionally kind. My first interaction with her was at rehearsal for a play Harvey at the Hunt Valley Inn. Almost everyone else in the cast was a celebrity (I wasn’t) but they treated me as an equal, consistently giving me reassurance and encouragement. That same kindness was again ever-present in another play Gypsy where she and Jack Bowden were both in the cast.

Twenty-five years ago she gave me a signed copy of her book Moonbeams Come At Dark Times which describes the trials and tragedies of her life, but also her triumphs — and she did triumph, very courageous like a champ. Another entry on her Facebook timeline said it this way: “Happy heavenly birthday” — Let me echo that perfect way to say it.

2019 Tony Awards

Sunday night after 60 Minutes I left the TV on to watch the Tony Awards. My days of theatre involvement are long gone and much lower level (i.e., not Broadway but just local dinner theatre and community theatre) but still, like barbershop quartets, that experience is an important part of my background.  Many parts of Sunday night’s awards presentation were uplifting. A ton of intricate choreography, super-difficult but performed with precision. A couple of additional examples:
* The first one, a Best Featured Actress award, is from To Kill a Mockingbird.
* Baltimore’s André De Shields “Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be”
Amen to that latter observation. Overall, the level of talent keeps rising.

News coverage during the past week about John McCain has given the impression of a nation drawn together more than usual. Importance of that is especially evident during these days of conflict. Turmoil among leadership in my country — and now also in my Christian denomination — forces me to depend on my own judgment even more than before, and therefore less on customary sources.

Fortunately I can draw on massive amounts of guidance and direction from those customary sources in the past. With all their imperfections, past guidelines at least weren’t weighed down by the extreme disarray just cited. It is now fitting the way we focus on a product of those past guidelines: John McCain, whose example of selflessness and sacrifice provides much needed inspiration. How many would have suffered years more as a captive rather than accept a privileged offer to leave — one in a million — or less?

The overwhelming majority of us, not destined for even a slight fraction of his achievements, must settle for a far smaller legacy. Speaking for myself, if success of all my efforts suddenly changed from very limited results to spectacular triumphs, maybe that would advance me to one per cent of one per cent as high. That would be more than satisfying enough. Many of us almost never call someone an inspiration. John McCain was an inspiration.

For several years I’ve expressed, on this website or another, objections to many conditions (deportations of innocents, defense budget exploitation, some aspects of air traffic management, failure to capitalize on opportunities for advanced warning of earthquakes or infrastructure failure, high-level misrepresentation of satellite navigation, … ). August 2018 news has produced a whole new level. This will focus on church crime.

I’m proud to be a Christian. In the past I was proud to be a Catholic. My reason for remaining “RC” now is historical: a timeline reaching all the way back to year one AD. Crises have occurred along the way (with the Inquisition usually cited as “exhibit A”) but modern times bring a much bigger calamity.

Page 30 of a 2005 book “Nuts & Bolts of Christianity” included this excerpt:
I frankly question the judgment — and competence — of the whole hierarchy. My denomination lost a giant amount of credibility in the Christian community. How many centuries it would take to regain that is anyone’s guess.”  That was thirteen years before the full extent of corruption became clear.

Outrageous insanity connected with abuse of children and adolescents defies attempts to explain or even describe it. Instead I recently suggested this: Let the Catholic church divest all financial assets, give proceeds to victims of abuse, and declare bankruptcy. Seeking advice from others I was cautioned: Creating that vacuum could enable even worse control. OK, granted — but the suggestion at least highlights the severity. Only extreme action can begin to exorcise this critically wounded institution. Moral authority, shattered over decades, is now nowhere in sight.

Authority also betrayed elsewhere (public schools, University coaches, movie moguls, gymnasts’ doctors, … ), though very real, won’t reduce the severity here. Restoration will require something akin to breaking down and starting over from scratch — followed by flawless performance over a very long time. Anything that drastic will produce a ton of objections (e.g., “it’ll destroy the church”). No, it won’t. Christianity began from square one, surviving with benevolent people coming out-of-the-woodwork from all directions, lifted up by Divine power. Not by money, which appears to have been a destructive influence; funds urgently needed for helping the destitute are now targeted by lawyers. Deny those lawyers access to the funds; steer payments to victims instead. At least something can then be salvaged from this disaster.

Thousands of innocents contributing to constructive church efforts justifiably found a way of life within. Their stable world was unfortunately invaded by monsters from a hideous swampland. No doghouse is too small for them; let civil authorities decide their fate. Suffering of innocents along with the guilty is of course regrettable, even tragic, but also inescapable; it happens no matter what is decided.

With no easy ways past this man-made ruin, I can say only that restoration will demand a clear drastic beginning followed by slow consistent progress. Apologies for not knowing a more definitive answer.

With this text I’m raising a subject that’s unusual for this site. It’s not an easy topic. For about a year now we’ve all seen disagreements that have strained relationships everywhere. Just about all of us have friends and/or family members on opposite sides of the political divide — no matter which side we favor. No need to go into detail or try being preachy at this point; what I want to describe now is a year-long series of meetings that included fourteen people, seven at each end of the divide.

The first thing to notice is that the meetings took place at all and, in fact, they’ve continued for a year. Immediately that proves the possibility of real communication between people with opposite beliefs, even exceptionally strong beliefs. The next revelation is that, gradually over time, cross-currents of genuine respect and trust evolved within the group. No one convinced anyone of opposite persuasion to change views, but understanding was developed.

The example worth deriving from those gatherings is the process being used to extract order from apparent disorder. Rather than insisting on only one way to see everything (“my-way-or-the-highway”), individuals expressed reasons for their positions. Instantly that brings in categories and priorities; instead of one isolated issue there are multiple classes of issues. All of a sudden a question emerges about what’s most important. That at least paves the way toward exchanging opinions that can differ without seeming insane.

There’s nothing new about conflict resolution. For eons it’s been recognized that (1) most arguments (some escalating into fights or even wars) begin as misunderstandings and (2) drawing out reasons can prevent chaos. OK, it’s time to identify the source of that information about the group-of-fourteen. 60 Minutes on 2/25/18 showed one of the meetings. The discussion moderator for that one was Oprah. I’m not an Oprah follower (no discredit to her; with no football now, 60 Minutes is the only thing I watch at all) but I gotta sayit — her management of those conversations was flawless.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Trump fan. In keeping with the example just cited I’ll note just one of my reasons. The image of a toddler having to say goodbye to her dad (deported despite having no police record at all) is something I’ll never be able to dismiss.

Regardless of our feelings we need to get a grip on them. Divisions within the past year have risen to an alarming level. Allowing the damage to be permanent is to be avoided at all costs.

This is a complex subject that can’t be resolved by a short blog. My reason for bringing it up here is the way it has divided family member against family member, friend against friend, etc. across the entire nation. I raise it with no illusions about convincing others and changing the political landscape; the purpose is to explain, in a calm voice of reason, the basis for my beliefs.

Families are being separated by deporting fathers who have been here for many years with no criminal record. Defenders of that process cite the law as justification. All of us realize that the legislative process has produced a set of laws containing imperfections. Some laws are outdated. Some have been traced, frankly, to very narrow interests (serving a few overprivileged to the detriment of the vast majority). Our immigration laws have a different trait: inconsistency. Native Americans were displaced through a process that began about 500 years age by settlers from Europe. Should the millions of their descendants be deported? If not then a strong precedent, one that has lasted 500 years, has been set. The legal process depends heavily on precedents to establish order through consistency. Deportation of residents with no record of offenses is not in compliance with that principle. I would extend that to residents with a record of only parking tickets or other minor violations; the “practical” effect of breaking a family is known to be extremely impractical.

None of this implies permissiveness toward violent offenders; send `em away of course. It doesn’t imply that letter-of-the-law is the only issue either. Spirit-of-the-law commonly takes precedence — and it’s hard to invoke that to justify what’s happening. OK, enough about legalities; many would base their arguments on other considerations. For that I’ll have to admit being affected by pictures of wives or children at the scene of departure (struggling now to keep this discussion low key). If broaching that topic doesn’t stimulate some thought-generating activity, there’s another item to offer. Before putting it here let me note that I’m not an Evangelical (in fact, as a Christian I disagree with Evangelicals’ preoccupation with material wealth). Here’s the Scriptural passage from Deut 27:19 — “Cursed be he that violates the rights of the alien, the orphan, or the widow.”

Just about all who agree with my reasoning have relatives and/or friends who disagree. Don’t “un-friend” them; that would only increase the divisions that are tearing this country apart. Our nation needs healing, not more division. There are always areas where opposites can agree. Continue dialogue, starting with those.

A common argument urges support for veterans instead of immigrants. Much better support for veterans is something I’ve advocated for many years  — that doesn’t have to exclude accommodating law-abiding working fathers with young children. This isn’t a mutually exclusive (“either-or”) choice. Anyone who is worried about taxpayers’ dollars might consider (1) defense spending described in the link just cited and (2) family breakups are costly in the long run.

Punish the Innocent?

Last night I read how the ordeal experienced by Connecticut’s Colindres family is being repeated. To make a long story short: immigrant husband of a citizen wife and father of little children citizens, is scheduled for deportation — again. This follows an earlier pause, granted by a Circuit Court less than an hour before a mid-August deportation flight, giving the family a few months of hope mixed with uncertainty. Now the sword hangs over their heads again.
A related case in Indiana involves deported restauranteur (employer of about twenty) Roberto Beristain. Like Joel Colindres he is innocent. Technically, to those relying on lawyerly logic, being undocumented contradicts innocence. Here’s my reaction to that: If rules must reign supreme then they need to be consistent. Over 500 years ago those who came before us started a sequence of events eventually seizing all of continental United States from the native Americans. Should all of us be deported?
These things don’t happen in a vacuum. A new film The Other Side of Hope depicts the life of a MidEast refugee who, after losing most of his family in an explosion caused by a missile from an unknown source, lands in Finland. There, as anywhere, he’s regarded with suspicion and treated as an intruder.
It isn’t only the bureaucracy that makes migrants’ lives miserable. Too many among us actually approve of sending these innocents away, breaking up their families. I don’t claim that we have to turn off the music or give up moderate amounts of legitimate pleasure. But to remain unconcerned about the plight of millions in continuous misery?!? Nero fiddling as Rome burns? No, hell no.
We lack the power to make this all better but we can at least refrain from making it any worse. Fortunately there are some who really can introduce change. From a mid-December 2017 60 Minutes program: A former neo-Nazi skinhead became co-founder of the nonprofit organization Life After Hate. What convinced him to change? Someone he was attacking made eye contact; for the first time, he realized the hurt he was causing. `Nuff said?


Just a quick note: the spammers have “won” — I deleted all comments and will block all future ones. Unfortunately that blocks the good along with the bad, but there are too many people who have nothing better to do than propagate material that is useless or worse. The truth is that I never did find enough time to follow comments and, recently, the amount of time available for moderating those has contracted even further.

I know a compliment when I get one. This is about two of those.

At  Jim Murray’s Saturday night Karaoke, after I sang an old Whitney Houston number, two young black guys made it a point to find me and shake my hand.

Not just young, but decades younger than I am. I’m gratified.

Probably most of the people there didn’t notice that because my experience was not at all exceptional; the place was alive beyond description. With ages ranging from 20-somethings to old duffers (like me); male and female; and — straight to the point of this: about half white and half not white, together in song. Together is no exaggeration; I gotta emphasize it again: Those guys-&-girls/blacks-&-whites/hipsters-&-duffers were together. That’s why the place could be so alive.

It’s not unique. That same description fits the tennis courts where I try to hold my own against better players.

It just doesn’t matter who’s white and who isn’t. The same is true, by the way, at the gym where I work out. The subject came up at the Karaoke bar in a conversation with the wife of one of the other singers — what a contrast from TV scenes close to here. WHY is the news from Baltimore so disastrous ??

An engineer/wannabe-singer can’t know what the answer is — but I’ll venture to say what the answer isn’t:

It definitely isn’t because members of different reces can’t get along. It isn’t because Baltimore is hopeless. Our city is clearly in big trouble; we can’t pretend otherwise. At the same time we need to recognize an old statistic: a small percent of the people cause a huge percent of the major problems. Better minds than mine have struggled with that irony for ages. I’ll leave it to those heads-higher-than-mine to apply that now.

SO: The only thing offered here is a reminder of observations just stated.  That’s about one percent of one percent of one percent of what’s needed to fix our city. But the importance of it prompted me to add this third blog, after five years, to this site.