A Friendly Letter (Chuck Fager)

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Chuck Fager -- Writer, Editor
Updated: 1 day 13 hours ago

Quaker History Roundtable — With Webcast!

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 9:53am

It’s Here!

The Quaker History Roundtable opens Thursday evening, June 8. Its focus is 20th Century American Quakerism, and it will continue through Sunday morning, June 11.

If you can’t join us in person, you can watch it online. It will be webcast online here.

Background on the Roundtable is at its own webpage, newquakerhistory.net.

The schedule is below. (Fuller descriptions are on the QHR website.)

Thursday – June 8

7:15-7:45 PM – Chuck Fager – Opening – Welcome & Overview &

Introductions

8:00-9:30 PM – Gwen Erickson: History & Historiography & Friends

Mary Craudereuff: Quaker Archives & Civil Rights &
marginalized groups

Friday – June 9

Daisy Douglas Barr of Indiana: she was a Quaker pastor, renowned for her preaching, and served at several Friends churches in the Hoosier state. She was also the head of the Ku Klux Klan’s huge women’s division during the early 1920s,, in the years that the KKK largely controlled the state.

8:00-9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR – 9:25 am Welcome by Jay Marshall, Dean of ESR

9:30-11:15 am – Betsy Cazden: Friends World Committee for Consultation & Modernism: a Critique

Guy Aiken: AFSC, Neutrality & Justice

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR

1:15-2:45 pm – Tom Hamm: U.S. Young Friends groups and their 20th century impact

Steve Angell: The Dog That didn’t Bark: The Reunification of Canadian Yearly Meetings

3:00-4:30 pm – Janet Gardner & Dick Nurse, documentarians, on their film The Quiet Revolutionaries, showing of work-in–progress, discussion

5:00-6:00 pm – Dinner – ESR

7:30-9:00 pm – Stephen McNeil: Quakers & Japanese Americans

Lonnie Valentine: Quaker Tax Resistance, 20th Century

Saturday June 10

8:00-9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR

9:30-11:15 am – Emma Lapsansky: Quakers and 20th Century Intentional Communities

Kathy Adams: Willie Frye: Controversial North Carolina Quaker Pastor & Activist [Read by Chuck Fager]

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR

1:30-3:00 pm – Greg Hinshaw: Friends United Meeting & The Mainline

Doug Gwyn: An overview of FGC’s first 20 years

3:15-4:30 pmArchivists’ panel & Tour (Tom Hamm leading):

Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library

Mary Craudereuff, Haverford Quaker Archives

Gwen Gosney Erickson, Guilford College Friends Historical Collection

Tom Hamm, Earlham College Library Quaker archives (with tour)

5:00-6:00 pm – Dinner – ESR

7:30-9:00 pm – Isaac May: Quakers, Herbert Hoover & the 1928 Election

Larry Ingle: A Quaker Elite & Whittaker Chambers

Sunday – June 11

8:00 – 9:00 am – Breakfast – ESR

9:30-11:30 amAgenda for Research & Close

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch – ESR & departure

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Categories: Blogs

A Quaker Reflection on Memorial Day

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 6:41am

I’d prefer to ignore Memorial Day; another militaristic effusion.

KIA = Killed In Action. MIA = Missing In Action. Memorial Day is every day on this road to Camp Lejeune, the Marine base on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina.

But it’s not so easy. My lifetime in the U.S. has been marked throughout by war, with intermittent periods of not-war between the big ones (mostly wth secret wars going on meantime). And even though I’ve been against war for most of it, that doesn’t really erase the memories, even if mine are from much physical distance from the battlefields. Or at least, the most visible ones.

Here are two collections of images from the perch at the edges of the killing fields. They embody memories fitting for the occasion.

The first is from the Iraq-Afghanistan war, seen from a highway that passes Camp Lejeune. I visited there many times while serving as Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville. Soon enough I began noticing these homemade banners, made by family members for Marines returning from combat. They were hung in public, on a fence next to NC Highway 24, which the troops passed by in the final moments before they arrived at the base gate.

The banners often hung there for weeks, til wind and weather knocked them down. To me they were an unheralded form of military folk art, testaments to the shared character of these wars, how their tentacles reached from a world away into the small, placid-looking houses behind the fence.

I began taking pictures of them, as documentation. By 2009, as my visiting subsided, I had dozens. I put them into a photo book, called “Priceless”– see it all hereBelow are a few more.

Two weeks: a brief homecoming, then back across the wide ocean and the big desert for more war.

Almost all the banners were made for enlisted men of the lower ranks.  They must have been so young. But not too young to be missed.

The one by an officer was among the very few that was overtly “warlike” (and religious):

Many more spoke of the urgency of clinging together to capture and preserve life.

 

 

“You and me against the world.”

“Now we can finally get hitched!”

But first . . .

And then, resuming the home work that comes with it . . .

And . . .

But behind the passion and good humor there hovered the ghosts. They didn’t cluster along the fence; I found them at that secular temple of our times, the local Wal-Mart.

I suggest sitting with this array for a moment. By 2009, when I concluded this project, more than 300 Marines from Camp Lejeune had been killed in that dismal decade’s combat. Figures for wounded weren’t readily available; but other reports suggested the ratio of wounded to dead was about sixteen to one. Plus we as a country, and of course these unnamed families, are still, endlessly, counting the cost of PTSD and other domestic fruits of these wars.

Local memorials took other forms besides the banners. I found this one the most poignant.

A memorial fleece blanket, “unbeatable” for the unbearable, at $39.95.

After that, I picked this one as a kind of favorite, at least as a goal. It remains now, as a tattered hope. Hung on that fence almost a decade ago, it still haunts: is Iraq really in our rear view mirror?

And speaking of being haunted, the second collection of images is about ghosts: the ghosts from another war, which the U.S. entered one hundred years ago last month.  That war was largely sold as — remember from history class? — “The War That Will End War.” 

In England, by the spring of 1917, the war had been dragging on for three years. And the government , besides heavy combat casualties, also had to contend with a vocal antiwar movement, which it took numerous steps to repress.

Among some of the most persistent resisters were young British Quakers. Historians suggest that in that war, about a third of draft age British Quaker males joined the army. But two thirds refused, and of these, more than a hundred served prison terms, in aptly named penitentiaries such as Wormwood Scrubs. They were strongly backed by London Yearly Meeting, where many young women joined their activism, along with many older Friends.

One of the older supporters was Joseph Southall, a Quaker from Birmingham.

Southall was a successful painter, but he was also a staunch pacifist. He didn’t buy the “war to end war” rubbish for a minute. In 1915, he joined with a radical Member of Parliament to produce the illustrations for a vehement antiwar pamphlet, The Ghosts of the Slain.

The booklet –see it all here– locates its message in a mythological setting (likely to evade government censorship of specific criticism of the real war)

In it, evil arms merchants, corrupt politicians and compliant church leaders combine to shove millions of young men into the abyss of war, where they kill each other off en masse

When there’s been sufficient savagery, the politicians send diplomats out to make 
“peace.” But these men in their crisply-pressed suits aren’t able to carry out their task in the usual fashion. The “ghosts of the slain” descend upon them, to demand change in what might today be called this war-system.

Further, as the compliant clergy gather for pompously pious war memorials, they face a rebellion of women, who denounce not only the preachers, but also the deity whose blessing they claim to be dispensing:

The womens’ anger is given full and eloquent play here:

In the end,  the warmakers are pushed off the world stage by the triumphant figure of ‘Democracy.”

A century later, Southall’s style might seem dated or even antique, and his faith in the triumph of “Democracy” naive. His booklet, and the resistance of the young British Quakers, did not end World War One, or prevent the many which have followed. 

Even so,  I recall their aspirations and efforts with gratitude. After all, the diagnosis in this stylized jeremiad is not so far off: the cries for holy war still resound, the “military industrial complex” of today dwarfs the “arms merchants” of Southall’s time, and politicians continue to disappoint (to put it mildly).

So I bow to Southall and the Quaker resisters, even while staggering under the weight of the fluttering, often frantic banners of more recent, and vibrant Lejeune vintage. Maybe especially so this year.

 

 

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Categories: Blogs

Tell the FCC: NO To Robocall Voicemails!

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 5:29am

Sheesh. Enough is freaking enough.

Hey, FCC: Tell Robocallers to Leave My Voicemail The Heck Alone!
(If you agree, you can tell the FCC Here)

Anybody else who gets repeated cellphone robocalls and hates ’em, raise your hand . . .

I thought so. But some politicians (along with corporate telemarketer buddies) think differently. Now they want to be able to fill up the voicemail box on my cellphone (yours too) with automated robocall junk messages:

Washington Post: “The Republican National Committee (RNC) is backing a petition that would allow political campaigns and businesses to leave automated messages on your voicemail, without your phone having to ring.

Under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission, which has been asked to review ringless voicemail, the proposal would free telemarketers from restrictions that prevent them from robo-calling people’s cellphones without first getting their permission.


For the RNC, which filed comments in support of the petition to the FCC last week, regulations designed to limit straight-to-voicemail messaging would hinder free speech, and raise constitutional questions about the rights of political organizations. Supporters of so-called ringless voicemail don’t see them as robocalls or “calls” at all.

“[D]irect-to-voicemail technology permits a voice message to go directly to the intended recipient’s mobile voicemail via a server-to-server communication, without a call being made to the recipient’s telephone number and without a charge,” wrote the RNC.


And proponents argue that straight-to-voicemail messages don’t come with the same frustrating dinner-time disruptions that many associate with telemarketing calls.


But a host of consumer groups see the petition as an intrusive work-around, designed to skirt the law and the requirement to receive a consumers’ consent. “Americans are already fed up with unwanted calls to their cellphones, which have become increasingly common in recent years,” Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst for the advocacy group Consumers Union, said in a statement Thursday.

“The FCC shouldn’t make this problem even worse by weakening consumer protections and opening the door to unwanted voicemail messages from telemarketers and debt collectors.”



Roughly 2.4 billion robocalls are placed every month, according to the FCC, making them the top consumer complaint the agency receives. . . .”

[Emphasis added.]
Full article here. 

Let me repeat: Hey, FCC: Tell Robocallers to Leave My Voicemail The Heck Alone!  (If you agree, you can tell the FCC Here)

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Categories: Blogs

William Penn & the Fruits of Technological Solitude

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 8:40pm

Last First Day I needed a brief reading to open Meeting. Feeling reflective, a little book by William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude came to mind.  

Some Fruits was first published, anonymously, in 1693, and has been in print most of the 320-plus years since. A copy of it has sat on my bookshelf for a few decades. 

Some Fruits came to be written because Penn was obliged to disappear for a couple of years. He had to beat it because of his longtime friendship with King James II.

This was an odd friendship, for many reasons: For one, Penn was prominent, yet not part of the nobility; but James had known and liked Penn’s father, an admiral in the Royal Navy. It was also odd because, as a Quaker, Penn was poles apart from James religiously, as the king had become Catholic. Nonetheless, James kept calling Penn in to chat and hang out, while leaving his royal councillors, with lots of actual state business for the monarch to conduct, waiting and fuming. 

Penn was not there just to schmooze. He had an agenda, namely nudging James toward issuing a royal declaration of religious toleration, one broad enough to end all persecution of both Quakers and Catholics, both of which were opposed by the Anglican establishment.

Penn felt he was making progress with James; but then in June 1688 his Queen, Mary of Modena, had a son, also named James, who  became his heir, the Prince of Wales, destined to become a legitimate Catholic king of England.

This prospect horrified the Anglican church and most of the British establishment, which had been increasingly Protestant since Henry VIII’s reign 150 years earlier. They decided that the new Catholic prince could not be allowed to succeed. So they hatched a plot.

James also had a daughter Mary, who had been raised Protestant and lived in Holland with her Protestant Dutch husband, William of Orange. British plotters soon came to call and invited them to become joint British monarchs in place of her father.

To cut to the chase, William and Mary accepted. Then James, his Queen and the infant prince were tossed out in an essentially bloodless coup, known to British historians as the Glorious Revolution.

James first went more or less quietly into exile; but soon decided to raise an army and try to retake the crown. He failed, but the fighting put everyone who had been Friendly to James under suspicion of joining plots against William and Mary.

And “everyone” included William Penn, never mind his Quaker protestations of nonviolence.  For awhile he stood up for himself and his reputation, even braving a couple of stints locked up in the Tower of London. Finally, though, he decided it was more prudent to slip away into the country, far from London. He stayed out of sight until the wave of suspicion receded, and he was ultimately cleared of any treasonous schemes.

In the meantime, far from the madding crowd, the bustle of the city and the hazardous whirl of its politics, Penn had time to think, and write.  He had published many essays and books, most of which connected his Quaker convert’s religious fervor to heated issues of the day.  But now, out of the swim, he reflected on more general matters of life.

It is from this time of retreat and reappraisal that his thoughts were refined and compressed into a collection of maxims and advices, that became Some Fruits of Solitude.

I didn’t turn to it because of the turbulent history surrounding its composition, though the contours of it were familiar enough; rather I hoped to find and be able to share a glimpse of this broader, deeper perspective, refracted through three centuries, beyond the tumults of the present.

And so I did. Its Preface struck just the right note for me, and I decided its opening paragraphs would serve for a reading.  And if it proved useful to Friends, I also hoped to find a version of it, online, and likely available there for free.

The Harvard Classics colophon

And sure enough, I found one, in rather distinguished company, part of a set, “The Harvard Classics,” issued a century ago. These are described as a “five foot shelf” of the cream of fiction and nonfiction, as selected by the male mandarins of New England. And Penn was not just on the list with with such worthies as Plutarch and Homer, but at the head of their number, in the first of its volumes.

My research  complete, I read over the passage from the Preface again online, as a hedge against typos and other errors. 

It was grammatically correct; but reading the digital Harvard version was a totally different and jarring experience than seeing it on the printed page. So much so, it seemed to me the disjuncture ought to be shared.

So to open worship, I read the brief passage twice: first, as it was presented in the book.  Next, as it appeared online.

I’d like to do that here, only visually. You’ll see the difference shortly. So let’s hear from William Penn, in seclusion:

Some Fruits of Solitude, from the printed Preface:

READER—This Enchiridion [or collection] I present thee with, is the Fruit of Solitude: A School few care to learn in, tho’ None instructs us better. Some Parts of it are the Result of serious Reflection: Others the Flashings of Lucid Intervals: Writ for private Satisfaction, and now publish’d for an Help to Human Conduct.  

  The Author blesseth God for his Retirement, and kisses that Gentle Hand which led him into it: For though it should prove Barren to the World, it can never do so to him.  

  He has now had some Time he could call his own; a Property he was never so much Master of before: In which he has taken a View of himself and the World; and observed wherein he hath hit and mist the Mark; What might have been done, what mended, and what avoided in his Human Conduct: Together with the Omissions and Excesses of others, as well Societies and Governments, as private Families, and Persons.

And he verily thinks, were he to live over his Life again, he could not only, with God’s Grace, serve Him, but his Neighbor and himself, better than he hath done, and have Seven Years of his Time to spare. And yet perhaps he hath not been the Worst or the Idlest Man in the World; nor is he the Oldest. And this is the rather said, that it might quicken, Thee, Reader, to lose none of the Time that is yet thine.

  There is nothing of which we are apt to be so lavish as of Time, and about which we ought to be more solicitous; since without it we can do nothing in this World. Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst; and for which God will certainly most strictly reckon with us, when Time shall be no more. . . .

Now, the ONLINE version:

READER—This Enchiridion [or collection] I present thee with, is the Fruit of Solitude: A School few care to learn in, tho’ None instructs us better.

Some Parts of it are the Result of serious Reflection: Others the Flashings of Lucid Intervals: Writ for private Satisfaction, and now publish’d for an Help to Human Conduct.

  The Author blesseth God for his Retirement, and kisses that Gentle Hand which led him into it: For though it should prove Barren to the World, it can never do so to him.

  He has now had some Time he could call his own; a Property he was never so much Master of before: In which he has taken a View of himself and the World;

and observed wherein he hath hit and mist the Mark; What might have been done, what mended, and what avoided in his Human Conduct:

Together with the Omissions and Excesses of others, as well Societies and Governments, as private Families, and Persons.

And he verily thinks, were he to live over his Life again, he could not only, with God’s Grace, serve Him, but his Neighbor and himself, better than he hath done, and have Seven Years of his Time to spare.

And yet perhaps he hath not been the Worst or the Idlest Man in the World; nor is he the Oldest.

And this is the rather said, that it might quicken, Thee, Reader, to lose none of the Time that is yet thine.

  There is nothing of which we are apt to be so lavish as of Time, and about which we ought to be more solicitous; since without it we can do nothing in this World.

Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst; and for which God will certainly most strictly reckon with us, when Time shall be no more . . . .

 

So, you get the idea. All these popup ads appeared on the page  I was looking at, one after another. I guess one could say that, the FRUITS are still there, I think. But the Solitude is definitely gone.

Fortunately for readers seeking the fruits online, there are other versions of this text, into which the popups have not (yet) seeped.  Which was a relief.  I’m hopeful there will be such an alternative to be found for the volume right next to Penn in the venerable Harvard “canon,” which I could not bear to look at.

Yes, it’s the Journal of John Woolman (with doubtless no extra charge for the free credit report, and plenty of big little lies, and maybe even another toilet lawsuit . . . .)

 

 

 

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Categories: Blogs

The Art of Fearlessness! Many Events Planned – Including on May 27 at Spring Friends Meeting NC

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 7:41pm

Saturday May 27 at Spring Friends Meeting in Snow Camp NC (Details below).

It’s a “campaign” of Quaker events linked by a common theme, under the umbrella of the Fellowship of Quakers In the Arts:

Here are some visuals from local “fearlessness” events . . .

Kalamazoo, Michigan was on it . . .

Right behind them, down in Florida, Gainesville Friends had theirs on May 13 . . .

 

And then another Michigan Meeting, in Ann Arbor, kicked one off on May 16, going to May 20. And that’s not all . . . 

But down near DC, a few miles outside the Beltway, is Sandy Spring Meeting, which is gearing up for May 20 . . .

Still, I have to admit my bias here — I think the best of all will be the one at Spring Friends Meeting in snow Camp NC on Saturday May 27. Not that I’m biased,  or just because  I’m helping organize it and will have some stuff in the exhibits, — but never mind that:  just join in!

There’s more information about  Spring’s program at the Facebook page for Spring;  and about the whole project, including other “Art of Fearlessness” events at the FQA page for the project.

And watch this blog for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Blogs

Update: Friends Central School Fires Teachers Who Invited Palestinian Speaker; Invites Him Back

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:05pm

Earlier this year I posted about a controversy at Friends Central School in Philadelphia, where a Palestinian Quaker, Sa’ed Atshan, was invited to visit and speak, then abruptly disinvited & the two teachers who invited him, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa,  were suspended.  

The previous posts are  (here,  here ,  here & here).  

The news site philly.com reported on May 10 that the two teachers have now been terminated effective June 30. Along with that decision came an invitation from the school to Sa’ed Atshan to speak at Friends Central sometime in the future, on “his personal experiences and path to peace education.”

The report added that

[The suspended teachers] were offered severance pay of $5,500, but that is contingent on their dropping a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, said Mark Schwartz, their lawyer.

“This is a ridiculous offer,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they took it. Unlike the school, these two have some principles.”

School representatives on Tuesday declined to give a reason for the terminations.

 

 

 

The school set up a task force to consider how to handle issues around invitations to speakers. This task force has recommended  that a nearby university Dialogue Institute be “invited to work with students and teachers to promote ‘intrareligious, interreligious, and intercultural dialogue.’”

A couple thoughts: The great Yogi Berra once said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” But I’ll go out on a limb here, and predict that while I have not met Sa’ed Atshan and am unfamiliar with his scholarly or activist work, that he’ll be slow to accept such an invitation, especially in the wake of the teacher firings.

Another thought: I wonder what Friends Central students are thinking about this whole matter?

And a third: I posted an open letter to FCS students, much of which still seems pertinent as a comment. So I’ve updated it a bit, and reposted it here. (They tell me repetition is good for learning.)

A Message to students at Friends Central School:

From Chuck Fager

In late January, I visited Friends Central School (FCS) and shared a story with you, about getting arrested in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and spending the night in jail with Dr. King.

I told you that for almost 50 years, that true story had a happy ending: from the black struggle in Selma came the Voting Rights Act, which had advanced freedom, elected presidents, and made America better.

But then starting a few years back, that happy ending was snatched away. In its place came massive vote suppression, and following that,  continuing attacks on the other freedoms that democracy protects. So my story about a fight for freedom was not over after all.

At my age, I said, passing on these stories is my main contribution. It’s a passing of the torch. As for the real activism, as for the new leadership demanded by our times, — and these were my final words:
“It’s your turn.”

Now it looks as if your turn has come already.

I don’t know Sa’ed Atshan; but people I respect (like former FCS teacher Max Carter) say he’s well-informed & reasonable. Yet I gather some of his views are controversial.

I’m no expert on his views, or those issues. So maybe Atshad’s views are right, or maybe they’re mistaken; that’s not for me to say.

Instead, that’s for you to say, by hearing his views, and those of others, studying & debating them & making up your own minds.

That’s what we call education. In FCS fundraising materials, like for the “Vision2020,” it’s called “Educating for Excellence.”
We also call it freedom.


But somebody doesn’t seem to want you to exercise that freedom, or get that education.

So now the line is drawn: not only in Alabama, but right there in Wynnewood, on your campus. Not just for students, but for the two teachers who were suspended, and have now lost their jobs because of it. 

So the question now becomes: are you ready to claim and defend your freedom, as part of your education?

Or will you let an unnamed few chop off this piece of it– this important piece?

The message being sent is clear:  you may not hear these views here. That topic is verboten on this campus. Teachers who stood up for that have now paid the price: not just wth their jobs, but possibly wth their careers.

Just so you know, all this makes a mockery of the claims about  educational “excellence.” And if you accept this, there are more pieces of freedom waiting to be chopped off, like limbs from a tree, and others ready to give similar orders. 

But here’s something I learned in Selma, and not only from Dr. King:
You don’t have to comply.

An order not to hear, not to consider, not to think and debate or push back about matters of this importance –such an order may be technically legal, but it defies the higher law that we were all given minds to be used, freely and fully, for knowledge, and for seeking justice.

 One of my Quaker heroes, Philadelphia’s own Lucretia Mott, put it as well as anyone: “Truth for Authority, not Authority for Truth.” For her this was a Quaker Testimony, a central one.

Dr. King put it another way:

But you don’t have to be silenced.

In 2017, it’s easy to imagine alternatives: check your social media, you’ll see that similar attacks, — and resistance to them —  is rising all around you.

Some of the 50000+ close friends I joined with at the Resistance rally in Raleigh NC last weekend. It’s their turn too.

Spring has now come and almost gone. I read that Sa’ed Atshan has been invited to speak at FCS, sometime in the future, on a carefully limited topic. I wonder if that will really happen, under the present circumstances. i also wonder if FCS students are satisfied with this outcome. And if not, how you will respond?

But, some may say, what if we protest, and get in trouble? Look what happened to the teachers: will it cut our chances of getting into an elite college? Affect our career chances?

Who knows? Freedom, as they say in the army, isn’t free. The same often goes for achieving “excellence” in education: it’s not just book work; it can mean struggle. It takes organization, and it takes courage. In Selma it led Dr. King and me to jail; a few years later it led him to a bullet in Memphis.

But chill: chances are no one will be in mortal danger insisting on real educational excellence and freedom at FCS. If you haven’t noticed, it’s a pretty cushioned, advantaged place.

So I ask that you think about how to put these advantages to work, for your benefit now, and as training in “education for excellence” in the not-so advantaged world that awaits beyond the campus.

That’s a world in which just in the past few months since I visited FCS, the struggles for freedom have heated up on every side. Looks like they won’t leave you alone even now.

Which means, my parting words to you last month weren’t a prophecy, and not even a prediction, but simply an announcement, even more accurate now. Brothers & sisters:
“It’s your turn.”

This is the Selma, Alabama jail cell Dr. King and I were put in. It was still there in 2015, fifty years later. But this time, I wasn’t in it.

Please share this post.

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Categories: Blogs

Watergate Reruns, Richard Burr & Other Pipe Dreams

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 7:25am

Many Americans of a certain age– who watched the unfolding of the Watergate scandal after the 1972 election, recall it, rightly, as a heroic and spellbinding drama.
In it, unexpected & unlikely champions stepped forth in Washington to snatch truth and the Constitution from the hands of a crooked president and his minions. Two southern Senators, Tennessee Republican Howard Baker and North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin, aided by dogged special prosecutors, led this successful rescue mission.

In a fitting and unforgettable climax, the villains were sent packing: Nixon into ignominy and oblivion, many of his henchmen into prison, and the heroes to a secure place in history.

Senators Howard Baker (left) &  Sam Ervin (right).

Today, after the Comey firing & many other shocks, some of us are hoping to see this story re-enacted in and around today’s Senate. (I even thought I saw Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman skulking in the background, scribbling notes.)
Unfortunately, one of our wiser peers, retired editor & columnist Edwin Yoder, just threw a big bucket of ice water on these nostalgic fantasies. In the Raleigh NC News & Observer, he lays out the more realistic, gloomy scenarios:

“Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been touted by some admirers as a potential reincarnation of the late Sen. Sam Ervin. Ervin’s Senate select committee on campaign abuses began the unwinding of the Watergate scandal.

Its most consequential discovery was that Nixon had taped his Oval Office conversations, some of which proved to be incriminating.
Burr is no Ervin, to say the least. He is a Republican rubber stamp with a record of partisan concealment – as, for instance, keeping secret his committee’s full report on the CIA’s torture practices.

Ervin was a protector of civil liberties and a distinguished defender of public integrity: As a young legislator in the 1920s, he fought off the potential disgrace of a state “monkey law”; he served with distinction on the state Supreme Court; and as a freshman U.S. senator, he helped rid the country of McCarthyism. Before Watergate, he single-handedly defeated Nixon’s design for so-called “preventive detention” – or, in plainer words, imprisonment without trial.
A standing committee chaired by Burr and under the thumb of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would – and could – do nothing useful. Burr is not only no Ervin; he isn’t even a Howard Baker.
A more plausible idea is that of a special counsel or special prosecutor. Unfortunately, such an appointment would require the wholesale erasure of historical memory. Special prosecutors tend to spend gobs of public money – $60 million by Kenneth Starr in his priggish pursuit of President Bill Clinton, to no avail but a failed impeachment. They often come up with flimsy charges and insinuations that hang in the air and are never adjudicated . . . and they typically drag out their costly inquiries for years, without salient result.
The failure to renew the special prosecutor law was universally regarded in Washington and elsewhere as good riddance. Maybe a special prosecutor (of whom?) in the Comey matter would improve on the dismal record. The historical odds are against it.
So far, then, we must cope with a president unlike any before him, in act and attitude – certainly the most unschooled, impulsive and secretive in our history. If he is to be regulated, we need to forget precedents and think anew.”

“Forget precedents and think anew.”  Yoder is right. Binge-watching “All the President’s Men” and Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” may be a comforting diversion. But if there are real heroes in today’s tawdry melodrama, they have yet to arrive.

Maybe, good grief, this time it’s up to us.

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Breaking: Barber Goes National – Updated

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:37pm

Rev. Dr. William Barber to transition from North Carolina NAACP to join the leadership of the “New Poor People’s Campaign” [Update below.]

The Kairos Center [an organization created by Union Theological Seminary inNew York City] is excited to announce that the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II will be transitioning out of his role as the president of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP in June, in order to join the growing leadership of the New Poor People’s Campaign. [The New PPC is a project of the Kairos Center.] The North Carolina NAACP announced the news in a press release this morning . . .

“Rev. Barber will focus attention on the new Poor People’s Campaign co-led by the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary, where Rev. Barber is a distinguished professor of public theology. Throughout 2017 and early 2018 he will lead trainings and organize alongside moral leaders, including poor black, brown and white communities.

The forthcoming report, ‘The Souls of Poor Folk,’ co-developed by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Barber, and noted economists, historians and public policy experts, will explore why issues of poverty have changed or remained the same since the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68.

In early 2018, moral activists will lead 40 days of simultaneous direct action and civil disobedience in state capitols, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress.

‘Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a radical ‘revolution of values’ inviting a divided nation to stand against the evils of militarism, racism, and economic injustice. In the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, we are calling for a national moral revival and for fusion coalitions in every state to come together and advance a moral agenda,’ said the Rev. Dr. Barber.

‘There is a need for moral analysis, articulation of a moral agenda, and moral activism that fuses the critique of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and national morality in a way that enables organizing among black, brown, and white people, especially in regions where great efforts have been made to keep them from forming alliances and standing together to change the political and social calculus ,’ he said.”

The story has already broken in several mainstream media sources, including ABC News and the Winston-Salem Chronicle. ABC reports [And this blog].

“Barber also leads a nonprofit called Repairers of the Breach and said that group, along with the Kairos Center, Union Theological Seminary and others will lead a movement that will concentrate on 25 states and the nation’s capital where voter suppression, poverty and other problems are prevalent. The groups plan major actions next summer, which would mark the 50th anniversary of the start of King’s campaign in 1968.”

UPDATE:

Late on May 11, Barber sent out a letter. Here are excerpts:

I write with gratitude for each of you who have entrusted me to serve in leadership and with appreciation for the broad coalition of black, white, and brown; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and those who believe in a moral arc of the universe; young and old; gay and straight; Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated who have joined our work over the past 12 years.

I am writing to let you know that I am stepping down from leadership of the NC NAACP in order to accept an invitation from moral leaders across the nation to serve and help lead a new Poor People’s Campaign & National Call for A Moral Revival. I feel this is a deeply spiritual call in this moment, so I’m stepping down but not stepping away from our work together in this movement.

When I first ran for State Conference President on the platform of moving “From Banquets to Battle,” my family, church and I committed to this work. In our first eight years together we were able to build a people’s coalition with strength to push reluctant Democrats to raise the minimum wage, win same day registration and voting, push back against re-segregation of schools in one of our largest districts, and free innocent black men from prison.

As a result of the work we were able to do together in that time, a foundation was laid for “Moral Mondays,” which emerged in the spring of 2013. Through sustained moral fusion organizing, with a race and class critique rooted in our deepest moral values, we pushed back against extremism for four long years to see the defeat of an extremist Republican governor, the election of more progressive members to the state Supreme Court, and the overturning of the monster voter suppression law that targeted African-Americans, according to a federal court, “with almost surgical precision.”

Our work is not over here in North Carolina. But, as you know, extremism is at work in other states and has gained power in all three branches of our federal government, much as it did here four years ago. This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic racism, poverty, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable.

This is why in this moment I am entrusting the NC NAACP to other strong leaders who can continue its work; I am not stepping away from the NAACP or from you, my NC NAACP Moral Movement family. I will continue to pastor Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro [NC], to support the NAACP’s work here in North Carolina and to serve on the national board of the NAACP. As we expand our moral fusion coalition model to over 20 other states as well as the nation’s Capitol, I am committed, as ever, to moving forward together, not one step back. . . .

Visit www.breachrepairers.org and learn more about how you can be involved in the Poor People Campaign’s National Call for a Moral Revival.

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Categories: Blogs

Never Mind Armageddon: World War III Is Coming First — I’ve Seen the Secret Plan

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 7:18pm

No, really: Just today I found an unimpeachable source, shown below. I saw the outline of the plan sitting there, exposed & unguarded — and, once an investigative reporter, always an investigative reporter — scooped it up.

Opening it, in an out-of-the-way corner of the undisclosed location (disguised as the checkout line of a certain big-box retailer), I whipped out my hidden camera and snapped the key pages, which are about to be revealed here, regardless of the risks.  .  .  . 

[The undisclosed location]

(And sorry, but for now you’ll just have to live without knowing the details of how Kelly Busted John, who maybe was cheating with another man.  And I didn’t check to see what the “It” is that Richard Simmons just can’t take anymore.)  After all, “War is hell.” 

Perhaps you’re tempted to snicker, or even guffaw at all this, especially considering the source.

Well, laugh if you want, but be careful, because maybe the joke is on you.

After all, this blogger is rather late to the party when it comes to exploring the ties between this paper and the Oval Office guy.  Much bigger, weightier media types have been all over it for quite awhile.

Take for instance, Bloomberg, the 800-pound gorilla of business news.  This graphic is from a 2016 cover story by Felix Gillette in a pre-election issue of its Business Week :

“In 2011, shortly after Trump announced he would not run for the Republican nomination for president, the Enquirer published an article headlined, “Millions Implore Donald Trump to Reconsider New Presidential Run.” Eventually, Trump obliged. And soon after he declared his candidacy last summer, he gave Enquirer readers a world exclusive, in which he explained why he was running. “I am the only one who can make America great again!” he wrote.

More first-person essays from Trump followed. So did a flurry of articles from the Enquirer’s staff knocking his Republican primary opponents: Ben Carson was a “bungling surgeon,” Jeb Bush had “sleazy cheating scandals,” Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (Each of the candidates, or their surrogates, quickly disputed the Enquirer’s reporting.) In March, the Enquirer endorsed Trump for president—its first endorsement in its 90-year history.”

[NOTE: When the Enquirer threw itself a 90th birthday party [in September of 2016, it did so at — wait for it — the Trump SoHo Hotel in Manhattan.]

And then there’s the Washington Post,  which has been singing the same song, about “The very cozy relationship between Donald Trump and the National Enquirer”, as their reporter Callum Borchers  put it:

Trump and Enquirer chief executive David Pecker are reportedly palsy — “very close,” according to the New York Daily News, and “friends for years,” according to New York magazine. Conservative radio host Michael Savage, a Trump backer, told listeners last week that “David Pecker flies to Florida from New York on Trump’s private jet.” In 2013, Trump even suggested Pecker ought to take over Time magazine. 

The apparent coziness has spawned the #TrumpLovesPecker hashtag. A representative sample from Twitter: 

[Note: this blog decided to skip the “representative sample” here; some of it may be NSFW. But determined searchers can follow the hashtag.]

So  no matter how unlikely it may seem, the Enquirer looks like about as good a showcase for this administration’s war plans as any; personally, I’d say it beats the White House press briefings all hollow. 

And you’d better read fast, because the story says that the “Go Hour” for what the paper dubs “the Mother of All Wars,” but is more formally called “Operation Clean Sweep” is expected to be given at 1500 hours (3 PM for civilians) Central Daylight Time, sometime in early May.

“History,” says their source, “will long remember this day.” (In fact, this post is being written on a day in early May, and 1500 hours has passed; so maybe today was not this extra “Mother’s Day.  Maybe.)

But enough of all that. What about “Operation Clean Sweep”?  Where will its bunched bombs & bullets take their supposedly cleansing and righteous aim?

Well, the above map makes it look like those bloody bristles will be scouring many clogged corners simultaneously. “The [South American] drug cartels,” says the Enquirer source, “Boko Haram, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un, the evil ayatollahs, Operation Clean Sweep has plans for them all.” And more . . . .

Speaking of the “evil ayatollahs,” The Broom’s bristles, says the paper, will mean “sweeping sanctions across all economic sectors to bring the regime to its knees. ‘We’re done fooling around with Iran,’ said our Pentagon source.”

Moving to Syria, the stakes are being raised several notches higher: the “source” claims, “in an extraordinary move, President Trump has  authorized the use of a nuclear weapon for only the third time  in world history — and the first since World War II — to take out Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, if needed.” And once it is dropped, major military maneuvers will then be staged with other NATO allies in the Baltics, says the source, “to discourage” an expected hostile response from Russia to a nuke exploding near its border. 

“America will drop a single B61 Model 12 nuclear weapon on [Assad’s heavily shielded underground] bunker. It’s the most advanced nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal, and is known as ‘Nuclear Tsunami.'”

[The B61 nuclear bomb]

Then in two other areas the plan involves newer high-tech warfare:  For ISIS, “the ENQUIRER can report American intelligence has located  [the] ISIS mastermind, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, [they say he’s hiding in Yemen, but don’t tell anybody] and he will soon meet his maker in a “surgical strike” drone attack directed by Special Forces.”

Several thousand miles away, North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons will all be grounded and neutralized by “cyber-warriors from U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, MD, [who will] initiate a massive assault on North Korea’s radar and surface-to-air defense systems,” followed by a missiles shot by “Stingray” drones from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

“The drones will act in concert with intelligence assets [i.e., spies] within Kim Jong Un’s regime, which America has long cultivated. These agents will reveal Kim’s location for targeting by the drone-launched missile assault.”

[MQ25 “Stingray” carrier-launched drone]

For Europe, plans are also being readied for simultaneous raids to “swoop down” on what a CIA source told the Enquirer are ISIS-connected safe houses in “Madrid, Nice, Hamburg and Rome.”

And in Latin America, “Amphibious units from the U.S. 4th Fleet will hit narcotics production facilities throughout Mexico and South America — dealing a devastating blow to the bloodthirsty drug cartels.”

All in all, the Enquirer insists, the White House is 

marshaling and mobilizing America’s military might around the globe in preparation for giving the ‘go order’ to launch a coordinated campaign across five continents that will wipe out America’s enemies in one fell swoop!

Is this all a fever dream? Campaign rhetoric taken flight? “Alternative facts” with no more substance than the Bowling Green Massacre?

Maybe. Military experts might question the practicality of some or most of these plans. Even so, there they are, laid out at length for an audience that’s been solidly in the president’s corner for years, in a journal he has communicated with directly and in detail many times.

And Enquirer Editor-in-Chief Dylan Howard is firm in his avowal of the paper’s “standards of truth”:
“What we do, that the mainstream media doesn’t do, is that we put people through lie-detector tests to prove the validity of their information,” said Howard.  (He didn’t say the sources for this story had been thus  subjected to this “enhanced interrogation,” but the implication is plain. . . .

But polygraphs aside, given the president’s well-established track record, announcing actual military plans for an imminent new version of “World War Three” in what has been his “newspaper of record” could make as much sense as floating them anywhere else. Or maybe more. 

And ignoring or scoffing at them because of where they surfaced could make even less.

 

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Categories: Blogs