Monday, August 25, 2008

Panther Pride

It is almost funny.
The gold and black sign reads,

Panther Pride
In Our Neighborhood
Respect All

The lawn is weedy. The shrubs are untrimmed. One day there was the remains of a Bud Lite twelve-pack at the porch steps. Today there is a four-foot-high pile of broken furniture at the curb.

If UWM president Carlos Santiago has any Panther pride, it is preserved by avoiding the two blocks immediately south of campus on Farwell Avenue.

Maryland Avenue is even worse.

Of course, there is no direct evidence that students are responsible for the discarded beer and liquor bottles, broken furniture, and vandalized street signs. (Yes, all this has been observed on a single walk within two blocks of UWM.)

It is possible that the residences of the owner-occupied properties are vandalizing the properties of the absentee landlords because they think it makes their places look better. It is possible that roving bands of malicious alcoholic homeless men are attacking the East Side in a jealous rage against the fate that has scorned their desire to be scholars and gentlemen with diplomas from our city’s august university.

It is not probable.

It is probable that the bottles, furniture, and sundry debris that routinely adorn the neighborhood are the product of irresponsible transient students and negligent absentee landlords. (Note: there are numerous conscientious absentee landlords. Mine, for example, is an exceedingly considerate gentleman with a fine discriminating taste in selecting tenants.)

There has been some improvement in UWM neighborhood relations. The efforts of former alderman Michael D’Amato have borne fruit. Students and neighborhood liaison officials patrol the East Side. There has been a decrease of large groups of rowdy students returning from closing the North Avenue bars. The university now has the COAST program, Community Outreach and Assistance for Student Tenants. COAST publishes a newsletter that contains articles about student tenant rights and responsibilities. COAST leaders have made visits to all residents to address concerns. Numerous other efforts have been made, to be sure.

Nevertheless, UWM is still far from being a good neighbor. Chapters 17 and 18 governing student behavior still do not address off-campus civil infractions. The rubbish of prideful Panthers has never abated. Just this morning, on my relatively quiet block, tickets were issued for a noisy party. Four o’clock this morning. And the fall semester has not started.

More needs to be done.

The community outreach efforts should be augmented by having off-campus misbehavior addressed by University discipline. Fair due process will insure that students’ rights are preserved.

University growth should not proceed unchecked. The parking on the East Side is not limitless. Therefore, the number of commuter students should be limited. Limited university growth is also in the best interest of students. It is easy for the university to accept tuition. It is difficult to provide the right classes at the right time over four years for an unlimited number of students. Easy enrollment is one factor leading to the five-year bachelor degree.

Future university housing should be selected with regard to larger community concerns. The propensity of students to toss their trash just anywhere certainly does not bode well for housing along Milwaukee’s developing riverfront. Housing that is in a developed urban area can be monitored and regulated for all concerned. The location at 1755 N. Farwell would mean that more than one Milwaukee alderman would be concerned with regulating university matters.

Milwaukee’s East Side is a wonderful place to live and UWM is a great asset to all of Milwaukee. Nevertheless, preserving and improving urban life requires vigilance and the cultivation of civility. We need to work for the day when all Milwaukee can have a bit of Panther pride.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Redux

The Cream City Foundation wants you to know that gay families are no different from heterosexual families. Moreover, they are probably living next door.

Thus, Lisa Kaiser reports in the Wednesday, August 13, issue of Shepherd Express, “Same-sex couples are registered in 98 of 100 southeastern Wisconsin Zip codes” Her source is Denise Cawley, a media consultant for the Cream City Foundation.

According to Susan Bence, reporter for WUWM, Ms. Cawley “helped the advocacy group come up with its billboard campaign.” On Thursday, August 14, Ms. Bence on NPR Morning Edition reported, “Cawley says in the last census gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender families registered in every Zip code across the nation.”

Also on Thursday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a laudatory article by Georgia Pabst about the Cream City Foundation campaign to battle “stereotypes.” Ms. Pabst did not include any “Zip code” statistics.

The Zip code statistic broadcast by WUWM is significantly different from the one published in Shepherd Express. Ms. Bence reported that there are LGBT “families” “in every Zip code across the nation.” Ms. Kaiser reports only on same-sex couples – thereby relieving us of trying to figure out what a “bisexual family” is – and finds them “in 98 of 100 southeastern Wisconsin Zip codes.” Neither Ms. Bence nor Ms. Kaiser explains with whom these “families” are “registered” or why. Ms. Bence makes a passing reference to “the last census.”

In email correspondence both Ms. Bence and Ms. Kaiser confirmed that their source was media consultant Denise Cawley. Subsequently, Ms. Cawley owned up to only the 98 of 100 statement. The basis is not the 2000 U.S. Census, as implied by WUWM’s Susan Bence, but that census interpreted by UCLA’s Williams Institute. The Williams Institute is also a gay advocacy organization.

Both Zip code statistics are false and appear to be the invention of Ms. Cawley and the Cream City Foundation.

Neither the U. S. Census nor the Williams Institute reports their findings by Zip code.

The reason Zip codes are not used in demographic reports is most likely that the United States Postal Service does not assign Zip codes by geographical area. Zip codes are assigned to facilitate mail volume.

For example, the city of Milwaukee alone has 43 Zip codes. Ten of these are “unique.” Unique Zip codes are given to corporations and other entities that receive a high volume of mail. There are no families of any kind receiving mail at these Zip codes.

The only way one can have 98 of 100 Zip codes in southeastern Wisconsin with gay families is to cherry-pick the 100. Such cherry-picking, however, would invalidate the gay neighbor claim of the Cream City Foundation.

What has been done here is not mere advocacy, but propaganda. False information, disguised as quantifiably verifiable fact, is being used to argue that same-sex families are the same as heterosexual families.

It may seem a small matter. However, if the Cream City Foundation is false in this small matter, how can they be trusted concerning the larger question?

WUWM, Shepherd Express, and even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are all complicit in promoting Cream City’s propaganda. True, MJS did not report the Zip code statistic, but neither did it expose the falsehood of what is obviously part of Cream City’s press release. All three “news” organizations merely passed on what was fed to them – without the least concern for veracity.

In 2006, a clear majority of Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional amendment supporting marriage as the union between a man and a woman. At the time, the proponents of gay marriage denounced the vote as bigoted and based on ignorance. The Cream City Foundation has launched a campaign to combat this “ignorance” with falsehood. And they have willing confederates in a significant portion of the Milwaukee media.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rich in Grace

(My dear wife has published her first book of poetry. Yes, that does mean that she has another book ready for publication. What follows here, however, is something of the story of her first book. It can be ordered at the Web page of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.)

It was just a line with an internal rhyme, but since she rose from bed, she could not shake it from her head. “Eve took the bait – she did not wait to weigh the consequences.”

So, Kathryn Ann Hill took her muse for a walk to nearby University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library, thinking that a change of scene and a little time might give her respite – or a few more lines.

That was in November 2003. Kathryn had been writing poetry regularly for the past year. Occasionally her verse was published in small journals like Gottesdienst: A Quarterly Journal of the Evangelical-Lutheran Liturgy, for which she is copyeditor, and The Bride of Christ. She was encouraged by appreciative responses from readers.

On this foggy Sunday afternoon in November, Kathryn headed for a table in the library lounge and wrote down the line that kept looping through her brain.

“As I left the library I saw a flyer for an upcoming lecture. It reproduced a medieval woodcut. There was an image of Eve grasping a couple pieces of fruit. A wickedly grinning serpent faced her. A figure resembling Jesus looked on from a tree in the background. Here was a picture that illustrated the line that had been haunting me. I knew I had to attend the lecture this flyer announced. It was a lecture on Biblia Pauperum.”

The lecture was sponsored by the rare books department of UWM library. “Before the lecture was over, I was hooked,” Kathryn recounted.

Biblia Pauperum translates ‘Bible of the Poor.’ It is a book of triptychs portraying stories from the Old and New Testaments. It was intended to teach the Christian faith to the poor who could not read. It was produced by an order of begging friars.”

Kathryn had some familiarity with medieval literature from her undergraduate studies at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Her interest in Christian texts was nurtured by her father, a Lutheran pastor, and her husband Michael, who also became a Lutheran pastor.

During the cold, dark months that followed the lecture, Kathryn adopted a regimen of study and meditation. “Max Yela, the Special Collections Librarian at UWM, was helpful. His staff made photocopies of pages from a facsimile edition of Biblia Pauperum by Avril Henry, a book that is now out of print. Each weekend I would study the scholarly notes and the pictures from the Henry edition as well as the Bible texts that matched the triptychs. Then, walking to and from my job as secretary at Luther Memorial Chapel in Shorewood each weekday, I would meditate on the Bible lessons and ponder lines of poetry. Usually by the end of the week I had a finished poem.”

“Volumes from my husband’s library, especially the literal translations of Genesis by Richard Alter, and The Five Books of Moses by Everett Fox, aided my studies of the Bible narratives. Michael was my severest critic, but he helped me to be faithful to the Bible texts.”

“The images of Biblia Pauperum were fascinating because they showed again and again how Christ is prefigured in the Old Testament. Martin Luther called the Old Testament Scriptures ‘the cradle of Christ.’ This book by Roman Catholic friars literally shows Christ at the center of Holy Scripture. In the central panel of each triptych is a scene from the life of Christ. Usually the panels on either side depict an Old Testament story which points to a promise that Christ would fulfill.”

After a year of studying, meditating, and writing on the images of Biblia Pauperum, Kathryn had a collection of 38 poems. The poems combined with 38 pictures from the medieval book became Rich in Grace: The Bible of the Poor for 21st-Century Christians. This month Rich in Grace was published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.

A pre-publication review was enthusiastic. Dr. Francis C. Rossow, Professor Emeritus, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, wrote: “Repeatedly in her poems Kathryn Hill takes the jewels mined by the medieval authors and gives them the kind of setting that enhances their worth and splendor…. Her poems are not only an orthodox and devout witness to the Gospel – they are an artistic witness to that Gospel.”

This is Kathryn’s first published book of poetry. A second book is waiting in the wings. “I found a book of wood engravings by Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais on the parables of Jesus. To accompany these beautiful pictures I have written 44 poems interpreting the parables. Michael’s library again provided invaluable help, with studies on the parables by C. H. Dodd and Jeremias Joachim.” This collection of verse has not been published yet.

“I am encouraged by the publication of Rich in Grace. The ALPB worked hard to produce an attractive book of picture and verse.”

This first book begins with a catchy first line: “Eve took the bait – she did not wait to weigh the consequences.”