Musings of a 30ish Midwestern Catholic Improv Guy.

Monday, February 27, 2006  

Appeal for Lent

I'd like all of you in St. Blog's and beyond to make a daily visit to the St. Blog's Prayer Network. Read. Pray. Contribute your prayer requests. Blogroll it, if you so desire. Even if you don't visit any other blog during Lent, please make an exception for this one. I'd rather get thousands of hits for the Prayer Network than one for Improvised.

Thanks, and God bless you!

posted by Dave | 7:45 PM

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  

Comrade McGee

Milwaukee alderman Michael McGee Jr. has sent a letter to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. His letter in italics, my take in normal lettering:

Fellow Revolutionary:

I am writing to first congratulate you on a job well done. I am proud to know that The Revolution is still alive and strong.

Apparently Mr. McGee approves of election fraud, stifling dissenters, and keeping power by any means..."a job well done" that has been emulated here in Milwaukee by means of election fraud (false addresses, questionable practices at the polls), stifling Republicans (raiding their HQ, slashing tires on buses), and keeping power by any means (although in fairness I can't tie McGee to County Board Chairman Lee Holloway).

Recently, a group of Afrikans in America...


...led by the Honorable Harry Belafonte...

a has-been who hasn't been taken seriously in decades...

...visited you in Caracas. When Mr. Belafonte exclaimed that President George Bush is a terrorist, and that millions of Americans support the Bolivian Revolution, he was not bluffing.

To be honest, I don't think millions of Americans know or even care about the Bolivian Revolution (although they should).

I, like you come from a strong, Revolutionary, political and social family.

McGee's father is a former alderman and talk show host whose daily rants are more racist than anything you'll ever find from Rush Limbaugh.

I currently am a City Councilman in the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I represent one of the most economically depressed areas of the city. Government policy has for decades, given special privilege to corporations over the struggling impoverished citizens of Milwaukee.

Not to mention all those social programs which have only exacerbated their poverty and broken up their families and communities. And the various agencies which take money meant to help the poor and spend it on themselves...

Here's the thing: yes, there was blatant racism in the early 1960's. And things had to change. But you also had stable black families with two parents, stable black neighborhoods with an increasing percentage of homeowners, and schools which educated children. It seems that the African-American community won the battle, but lost the war.

The disenfranchised citizens that I represent...

Disenfranchised? Mr. McGee, they voted you into office! Then again, so long as you're in office, they might as well be disenfranchised...

...experience poverty;

Mr. McGee, you're their alderman. What have you been doing to reduce crime, encourage small businesses, and ensure that children get a quality education in a safe environment? Surely there's something more you can do than just complaining about racism, vague "Respekt" campaigns, and wearing a "Stop Snitchin'" T-shirt? Wait...that would mean working hard at your job.

the dissolution of family;

AFAIK, Mr. McGee has been silent about how to resolve this issue. Suggesting that young people wait until marriage (or at least adulthood) to have sex and have children may be a rather unpopular. Or what about the grand idea of young men behaving like real men? You know, getting a good education, finding a job, getting into a stable relationship with the right woman and marrying her, being a strong father... But again, that might be a very unpopular position.

and the reverberating effects of United States neo-colonialism and expansion every day.

So kids having kids, people killing each other over trivial things, young punks roaming the streets and preying on elderly (and black) people, and the nihilism of gangsta "culture" -- IT'S ALL BUSH'S FAULT!!!

Milwaukee has one of the highest unemployment rates for Black and Latino men (59%), as well as increasingly high rates of murder; drop out rates, and drug dependency in the United States.

Again, I ask Mr. McGee: what have you done to help alleviate these problems? You're their alderman. You're supposed to be in a position to help.

As we approach the celebration of Black History Month in the United States,

I wonder what Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Charles Drew, and Dr. King would think of what has happened to their people...

I am asking for your support and unity as we are both oppressed brethren of the same corrupt system- white supremacy, and European imperialistic hegemony.

"Oppressed"? Let's is a freely elected local official, and the other is a career military officer and President of a good sized country. How is that "oppressed", exactly?

Similar to the oppressed people of Venezuela; Black People have made significant contributions by way of inventions and free slave labor that make Western culture, and imperial expansion the economic success it is today.

Inventions...I don't think that the innovations of Elijah McCoy, George Washington Carver, and Charles Drew were meant to foment Western imperial expansion. I do believe they were meant to help make people's lives better, regardless of their race.

And as far as "free slave labor" goes, perhaps Mr. McGee ought to focus his interest on what's going on in the Sudan right now.

We must unite and we must be compensated!

Compensated for events that took place nearly 150 years ago? If that's the case, I should be asking compensation from Russia and Germany for oppressing my Polish ancestors...or maybe I can follow my ancestors' example by building a better life for myself and leaving all that oppression behind...

We will be working diligently with your Honorable Ambassador, Mr. Bernardo Herrara and Consular General,Martin Sanchez regarding forming a Sister City relationship between Milwaukee and Caracas in the near future.

Now we have the solution to Milwaukee's problems! A "sister-city relationship"! It might not improve education, create new jobs, reduce crime, and solidify families, but hey, you can't have everything!

I close by repeating a pledge that Simon Bolivar made on the slopes of Monte Sacro in Rome in 1805, words every Revolutionary should live by, “I swear before you, and I swear before the God of my fathers, that I will not allow my arm to relax, nor my soul to rest, until I have broken the chains that oppress us…”

I wonder if Mr. McGee knows much about Simon Bolivar, and how much the liberator of South America had in common with all those "dead white European males"...

posted by Dave | 9:27 PM

Sunday, February 19, 2006  

The Blog Ate My Post...

I'm trying to figure out what happened to my "I'm So Lonely I could Cry" entry. I know I didn't delete it...

posted by Dave | 8:29 AM

Saturday, February 18, 2006  

Not Crying Yet....

...but it's very quiet and very lonely right now.

Lyle asked for a raincheck on dinner. He takes the bus as well, and had been out earlier. So I went on my own to Han Kuk Kwan. The bulgolgi was excellent, as were the banchan (side dishes) of cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, spinach drizzled with sesame oil, and tofu. I finished with barley tea (first time I've drunk it in years) and mochi ice cream. Then I went home.

So quiet here...normally Amy is watching TV or on the computer. I'll be reading something or watching TV with her, or thinking about hitting the hay. But tonight it's just me, blogging away, not in a mood to read (tried it) or play computer games (tried that too), or do anything, really. I'm just waiting for my Beloved to come back home tomorrow.

Speaking of which, she's enjoying herself mightily. She called me around 9 pm. The gang was head to a movie. She hopes to be home tomorrow around 2 pm. We'll go to Mass together, have a nice dinner, and get ready for the workweek. Then to bed, next to my wife, warm and comfortable and grateful to have her back with me...

posted by Dave | 10:04 PM

Tuesday, February 14, 2006  

Valentine's Day 2006

This is my first as a married man. It's wonderful.

In my pre-Amy days, I had two different ways of keeping the holiday. If I wasn't dating someone at the time, I'd do nothing in particular (naturally). If I was dating somebody, there'd be dinner, flowers (not red roses), and maybe a movie.

Then my One True Love came along. Our first Valentine's Day weekend was celebrated in a rather unique fashion. We spent Friday evening and all day Saturday bailing out the mess my psychotic ex-roommate made of my apartment. We filled sixteen trash bags. Her (the ex-roomie's) former room required gloves to pick up some of the trash. While I worked at ComedySportz, Amy spent Saturday evening washing lots of nasty dishes and cleaning out a refrigerator in which life had evolved to the point of launching miniature nuclear missiles. Truly she performed an heroic act of love that first time.

Last year was more conventional. I took her to dinner at a top-notch restaurant, got cards and flowers, and talked of the Wedding Plans (capitalized because they were all-consuming).

And this time, newlywed and childless, we stretched the celebration out over the weekend. Friday was flowers, dinner at an Asian restaurant, and a movie. Saturday was archery practice and a nice evening home. Sunday was Mass and an excellent brunch. Yesterday was low-key. Today she gave me a sweater and two very nice cards, and a sweater. And the day is not yet over...

Thank God for my wife, a wonderful woman whom I love like no one else alive....

posted by Dave | 7:54 PM

Thursday, February 09, 2006  

0 Dead, 1 Lightly Wounded

Such were the casualties after my first archery lesson Wedensday night. I didn't kill anyone, and the instructor allowed the bowstring to hit his arm during a demonstration (the welt was impressive).

Why did I decide to take up archery this late in life? Because I wanted to. Simple as that. I've always wanted to try it, and I decided now was as good a time as any.

However, I was glad Amy decided to take lessons with me, since all the other students were children (more adults will be joining us next lesson). One young lady of about 9 years was barely bigger than her bow.

The instructor mostly talked and demonstrated during the bulk of the 90-minute session. We went over terminology, safety, and technique. He also determined our drawing side (it has to do with the dominant eye rather than handedness), and got us into the proper stance.

And then...I fit an arrow to the string. I held the nock, index finger above, middle and ring fingers below, thumb and pinky joined. I drew back the string, and let fly.

It was beautiful.

No, I didn't hit the target. But I'll get there. Today (Saturday) I'll be going to the range for an hour's practice.

posted by Dave | 9:49 PM

Thursday, February 02, 2006  

About School Choice Part II

I was going to write a more detailed entry about school choice, arguments against it, and refutations of those arguments; but others (including my wife) have covered it better than I can. Please do read them, especially Amy's comments on Fraley's Dailytakes.

I'll focus on three other agruments against school choice:

If other places can't have it, Milwaukee shouldn't have it either.

I've heard something to this effect within my own family. My niece, after moving to Milwaukee, was enrolled at St. Augustine Grade School. She's very bright, and got excellent grades. However, her mother (and grandparents) could not afford either Pius XI or Thomas More. And since she lived in West Allis, she didn't qualify for choice or other financial aid. Therefore, there is some resentment that Milwaukee students can get this opportunity, but others can't

Two replies to this:

1) The solution is not to take it away from one place because others don't have it; but rather to universalize it, so that any family in need can take advantage of it. There are a lot of poor and working-class families in West Allis, Cudahy, Greenfield, and West Milwaukee who could use this opportunity. Granted, the school systems are not anywhere as messed up as MPS, but the choice should still be available.

2) Milwaukee's situation is dire. None of the suburban schools have anything close to MPS's problems. It makes sense that the program begins first where the need is greatest, and grow from there.

The parochial schools impose their religion on the children.

Yes. People actually use this argument.

1) Parents are usually fully aware of a school's religious heritage; and if they're not, they find out soon enough. If they're OK with it, they enroll their children there. If not, they don't. When they do choose to enroll their children in a religious school, they understand that there will be concepts, customs, and rituals particular to that religion. For example, if a Gentile were to enroll his child in a Yeshiva, he would know that the school would spend half the day on Torah studies, and that he shouldn't make a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. If a Protestant parent chooses a Catholic school, he would know that his child might be taught about the Immacualte Conception, Purgatory, and papal infallibility; and also have to go to Mass on certain days.

2) It is also quite possible that parents enroll their children in religious schools because they want a religious environment, even if they're not part of that faith. Radical concept, isn't it?

3) Parents are also free to help form schools according to their own beliefs. Several Protestant churches have done so, as has the Islamic community.

4) This is not an issue in the mostly Latino and Catholic South Side, where most of the choice schools are Catholic.

Accepting government money means that the government will interfere more, especially in religious schools.

I must admit: this one has some validity.

The present system allows sectarian schools to keep and assert their identities. However, if school choice becomes the norm, it is a very real possibility that they could be pressured into downplaying or suppressing their beliefs, either for fear of offending someone, or even out of hatred of those beliefs.

This has happened in Canada, which funds both state and religious schools. A few years ago, at a Catholic high school, a gay student sued for the right to bring his partner to the prom, and won. The judge even forbade the school to cancel the prom. Apparently, the right of the student to violate Catholic teaching trumped his school's right to uphold it.

And I can imagine the same thing happening here. Religious schools may be told to implement sex-education programs which run contrary to their beliefs, or else lose their funding. They may be required to hire and benefit teachers who have chosen an unacceptable "lifestyle" of either orientation. Religious instruction will be watered down, or else dropped altogether. The schools will be Catholic, Lutheran, or Evangelical in name only, a meaningless appellation.

Some Catholic schools have already done some or all of the above, either because of the large presence of non-Catholics, or because they no longer consider authentic Catholicism to be important. Those schools which hold dear their beliefs will be faced with a choice: either give in and give up their reason for being, or drop out and face a drop in enrollment.

I've been assured that none of this will happen soon, but I'm still not too sure. Even a provision safeguarding the right of a school to assert and maintain its beliefs can be thrown out or, even worse, "re-interpreted" by a court or the DPI. It is my hope and prayer that faith-based schools will continue to be allowed to operate according to their core beliefs.

posted by Dave | 9:31 PM

Wednesday, February 01, 2006  

About School Choice

We're in the midst of Catholic Schools Week. By now, most of the kids and teachers have attended the Special Mass, made all sorts of posters, and maybe they'll be holding some Open Houses -- the usual drill.

Here in the Milwaukee area, we've got contrasting trends.

My old grade school, St. Augustine's in West Allis, is no more. The parish is small and graying, and the costs were too much. Now there's Mary, Queen of Saints Academy. Eight parishes, two campuses, and about 500 students K4-8. That's less than a third of the students enrolled in West Allis Catholic schools in 1983 (when I graduated).

Meanwhile, certain schools in the City of Milwaukee are thriving. On the largely Latino South Side, St. Anthony's School requires two campuses as well, but they have 850 students. Neighboring St. Adalbert's now has over 400. Prince of Peace is also doing very well for itself.

On the most African-American North Side, St. Leo's Catholic Urban Academy has outlasted its parish namesake (closed 1994) . St. Rose's serves a mix of different ethnicities, and Messmer High School, left for dead by Archbishop Weakland in 1984, has not only flourished, but now operates its own elementary school.

What makes these school thrive?

Commitment from parents, certainly. A dedicated staff teaching an excellent curriculum also helps. And motivated children are also an important factor.

Most importantly, the parents were able to choose these schools for their children with the help of vouchers. Instead of the academic, social, and moral mess that is the Milwaukee Public School System, these working-class, mostly minority families are able to give their children a chance to succeed in a disciplined and demanding environment. The bright students are challenged; the students who need help get it; and most go on to better things.

Unfortunately, there are only so many spots available. As part of a compromise, an arbitrary cap was placed on the number of eligible children. You see, the public school machine doesn't like this, since it takes children away from them. So they have done everything in their power to restrict and constrict this program.

And now it could get worse.

Governor Jim Doyle is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Teacher's Union (among other groups, but that's fodder for another entry). He and the GOP-dominated Legislature could not agree to eliminate or raise the cap. So now these spots must be rationed, which means thousands of children would be taken out of their schools and thrown into the maelstrom that is MPS. A good number of schools would become unsustainable, and be forced to close. The hard work of 15 years would be undone.

Please pray for the Milwaukee Catholic Schools. And if you can find it in your heart, pray also for the fine Lutheran, COGIC, and nonsectarian schools which will also be affected by this unjust policy.

Gotta go work on the More Important Blog. If I have time tomorrow, I'll write more about school choice, objections raised to it, and answers to those objections.

posted by Dave | 8:07 PM