Category Archives: Current Affairs

Moral Monday & Retro Nonviolence Is Back (Again)

Moral Monday & Retro Nonviolence Is Back (Again)

There’s some recent activist experience here in North Carolina that I think relevant to current discussion about protests and tactics, among Quakers and othersMoral-Monday-bust-4-text

The Moral Monday protest campaign, aimed at the reactionary NC legislature and its stick-it-to-everybody-but-the-rich program, was by many measures, quite successful in its first season of actions, in the spring and summer of 2013.

Continue reading Moral Monday & Retro Nonviolence Is Back (Again)

Cut The Badass Baloney About Baltimore

Cut The Badass Baloney About Baltimore

As reliably as dawn over Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor, after last night’s rioting in Baltimore, here comes the puffing and posturing.

The kind that galls me the most is the “leftist” cheering for those who were burning and looting, both the celebration of such as “legitimate violence” (mainly from “militant” black commentators), and from the white cheerleaders the tired “I’m too PC to tell oppressed people to be nonviolent, and besides it’s only ‘property’ [BTW none of which happens to be mine]” meme. (And, duh, it was not only “property.”) You can sometimes even hear this from Quakers, who should know better.

It’s all BS. In fact there were plenty of nonviolent black people on the Baltimore streets last night, doing their level best to protect other people of color, and black-owned (or black servicing) shops and property.

They didn’t need any tut-tut exhortations from this old white fart about the superiority of nonviolence to do it. Furthermore, in doing so they made no excuses for the violent racist system that produces such episodes as surely as cop gunshots in the back killed Walter Scott in South Carolina, and something not-yet clear broke Freddie Gray’s back in a Baltimore cop car. Not one compromising excuse.

And still, several of them gave better speeches about nonviolence than any I could have memorized from Dr. King.

They did it, also, with their butts right there on the pavement.

Not just preachers either, tho I give top props to any clergyperson or public official who was out there walking the talk.

 Like for instance City Councilman Nick Mosby, who didn’t put up with the crap of a Fox News reporter who only wanted reinforcement for the racist frames and reflexes of the Fox audience. (If you doubt this, read the comments under the clip.)

Nick-Mosby-vs-Fox-News-04-27-2015
Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby has no patience with violence — and runs out of patience for Fox News stereotyping and race-baiting.

 But the most impressive declarations I heard about nonviolence coming out of Baltimore last night were from gang members, in fact from frequently feuding groups including the Crips, Bloods, and the Black Guerilla Family.

But they were made to a local TV reporter, and aren’t getting out except via social media. (Pass it on!)

A coalition of gang members gave a stunning interview to an enterprising local news reporter, one who was willing to listen. Watch it here, white people, {about six minutes} and prepare to have thy minds blown.

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Gang members: Violence and looting only serve those who are after us and hurt our neighborhoods.

 Dig it: “I understand what’s going on (the violence), but I don’t agree with it.” “It [the violence] just confirms what they [cops, rightwingers] say about us.”

What do I have to teach them about tactics and what Dr. King said fifty years ago?? They got the key message.

Oh, wait: there is one thing: Guys, pay no attention to online poseurs urging you to tear up your neighborhoods and hurt your brothers and sisters. Whether white or black, they are peddling nothing but trouble for you and yours. And for me too.

Oh — you already knew that? Of course. Don’t mind me.

[Shout out to Guli Fager, who is doing the right indy journalistic thing, digging out and posting the unseen reports and unheard voices beyond the “establishment” media’s echo chambers.]

We leave you now with this postcard from Langston Hughes, who said it all as well more than 50 years ago.

Harlem (aka “Baltimore”, etc)

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Baltimore Baseball Boss Steps Up for Freddie Gray

Orioles Postpone Game- Owner’s Son  Tells It Like It Is  For Black & Poor & U. S. Workers

(File Under: Proud to Be  A “Bird-Brain”)

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John Angelos, Chief Operating Officer, Baltimore Orioles, takes on the elites “diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.”

 John  Angelos, son of the owner & #2 team executive, tweeting to a fan named Brett:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. . . .

Continue reading Baltimore Baseball Boss Steps Up for Freddie Gray

Made In Vietnam: My World. (Yours Too?)

Made in Vietnam: My World. (Yours Too?)

Just got a new blood pressure monitor. But this post is not about my blood pressure.

The old monitor gave out after several years: nothing but error messages. Amazon was ready with a new one, delivered the next day. Dropped from a drone?Drones-vs-storks I was running errands when it landed, so can’t be sure.
The new one’s highly rated, and from the same company as the old one.
Out of the box yesterday morning. First step, put in the batteries.
Flipped it over, popped the cover open. Then I noticed this label, just below it:
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Nothing remarkable. Except for this statement In tiny letters in the lower right corner:
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That set me off. Not a flashback, exactly, but off on a (not uncommon) ADHD tangent:
I was born during a big war, World War Two. I have no real-time memories of it, but my childhood through the 1950s, in a military family, was saturated with its imagery: pictures, comics, books, movies, and then TV shows.
My father had flown bombers over Europe, barely escaped death many times, won medals, but didn’t talk about it. Still, the war, my “birth war,” was always there: fascinating, glorified, ubiquitous, and somber in ways I was too young to begin to grasp.
But it sank in. I expected, in high school, to follow my father into the Air Force.
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A glimpse down the road not taken: me in 1961, the year I won the “Outstanding AFROTC Cadet” medal.
Then, the Sixties brought Vietnam. And life, in the form of the civil rights movement and exposure to active nonviolence, took me away from the military, to the anti-war side, and among Quakers.
But that’s another story.
I didn’t start hating  the military. But I soon began to learn, even from a “safe” distance, about the human costs of war.
The Vietnam lessons went on for about ten years, and yes, they were traumatic for me personally, even 8000 miles from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.
I’m not comparing myself to the millions of Vietnam veterans who never recovered from their firsthand war. But it undeniably had vast impact inside the U.S. Too, impact which continues, though I can’t even begin to fathom or chart the ways here.
Vietnam-wall
The impact was general. It was also, I see clearly now, very personal.
One personal impact was on my spiritual life: I learned that the biblical adage about how we reap what we sow wasn’t just an old saying: it was a Truth.
That learning didn’t make me a “Bible believer.” It did make me a “Take-a-Second-Look-Maybe-There’s-Something-Useful-Here-After-All” Bible reader.
In that second look I uncovered another truth, in Psalm 146: “Put not your trust in princes” (or, in a modern rendering, presidents who promise not to get into a big Vietnam War during a campaign, only to do exactly that three months after winning the election.)
This piece of Truth I’ve had to re-learn several times since; and now that it’s already 2016 everywhere but the calendar, here comes another marathon refresher course.
Yippee.
If World War Two was my father’s war and the frame of my childhood, Vietnam was my coming of age war. And besides being haunted by the living testimonies of veterans and others at home, there are several numbers from it that also continue to haunt:
1-million plus, the estimated total Vietnamese, mostly civilians, killed in it. Two, or thee million more in a sideshow war launched on Cambodia, which loosed a genocide as “collateral damage.”  And the unnumbered children and grandchildren of Vietnam disfigured by ongoing pieces of our war such as Agent Orange.
 (There are many photos of some of them on the net, casualties of our war who were not even born til a generation after it supposedly “ended”; but don’t look at them if you are weak of heart or stomach.)
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
Enlarge these images at your own risk. And know that there are American children and adults living with similar effects, who never went near Vietnam.
Thinking of that war, I often ponder some of what happened next: we were repeatedly told by our “Princes” of the day that we had to win it, because otherwise “Godless Communists” would take over, and impose an economic/political system that wouldn’t, couldn’t work.
The Hawks and wise Persons were right about that much: we lost the war, and after defeating the U.S., the Communists did impose their system; and behold, that system, especially the economic part, didn’t work.
So after running the Vietnamese economy into the ground, the rulers changed course and became, like the Chinese, a variety of authoritarian/corrupt crony capitalists. (Turns out they weren’t so “godless” after all; they shared the worship of Mammon with many of us.)
Now their economy works much “better.” Even the U.S. Government agrees, and we are now “friends” with Vietnam; many of our corporations are doing big business there. Like Amazon, for instance.  Starbucks and KFC too. And yes, McDonalds. (Turns out the franchise is –surprise, surprise — owned by the son of a high government official; he also has degrees from elite U.S. universities. “Would you like fries and an Ivy-League PhD with that, sir?”)
Mickey-Dees-VN
Had to be Ronald. And how do you say “Super-Size me” in Vietnamese? But seriously — it beats 5 million dead in war, yes?
But all this does not get to the bottom of my pondering. I keep asking, mostly silently but sometimes aloud: couldn’t we have figured out a way to just back off and leave Vietnam alone? Let the Communists, if they won their internal war, try out their dingbat system, let it fail, and then skip ahead to the post-Communist part?
The part where they make inexpensive blood pressure monitors?
If we had, several million deaths there could have been spared. Many hundreds of thousands of American lives would have been spared too. Not to mention all the hundreds of billions of debt that financed this bloody foolishness, left for us and our grandchildren to pay, in declining schools, failing bridges, roads, etc., etc.
But of course, we didn’t back off. And since my coming of age war, there have been numerous other U.S. wars, the ones of my middle age and senescence, which are ongoing. It’s likely some will still be underway when I meet my maker, even tho I’m hoping to live a good many more years.
So for almost half a century, promoting & working for “peace” has been an active goal for me. But as an American in my time, it is war, big and “small,” overt and secret, that has enveloped and shaped my life.
I didn’t want it that way. They say the Vietnam War ended 40 years ago this week. But I haven’t been able to escape it, or its spawn. Ignore it briefly, now and then; escape it, no.
All this tumbled through my mind as I slid the batteries into my new monitor, and got ready for its initial reading.
“Made in Vietnam.”
Maybe this post is about my blood pressure after all.
blood-pressure-reading-sketch

The Supreme Court: Lighting the Fuse of Revolution?

Lighting the Fuse of Revolution?

There’s a grimly fascinating update from “Rightwing Watch” (RW) detailing how the harder core of the religious right is throwing down the gauntlet to the U.S. Supreme Court, to wit:
Legalize same sex marriage nationwide, and you’ll face an armed insurrection. A new Civil War. A Boom-Boom-Bonhoeffer Moment.
Your Honors, You Have Been Warned.”
(RW is an ongoing project of People for the American Way.)

JudgeRoyMoore
Irony Alert: the artist may believe the text in this image. This blogger does not.

Continue reading The Supreme Court: Lighting the Fuse of Revolution?

O.M.G. –Wal-Freaking-Mart??

O.M.G. —Wal-Freaking-Mart?? In Arkansas??

The Arkansas legislature has passed a religious-based antigay law, HB 1228, that is a near-clone of the controversial Indiana law. It now goes to the governor.

But Attention Wal-Mart shoppers!

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Let me repeat that, after picking my jaw up off the floor:

<< “Every day in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers an communities we serve,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual. Today’s passage of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.” >>

[NOTE: as far as I can tell, this story is NOT an “April Fool.”]

 Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has previously said he would sign the bill. Will Wal-Mart’s opposition change his mind?

Stay tuned.

A View of Vegas: the Beast & 7 Deadlies

Vegas: the Beast & 7 Deadlies

I admit that the tourist spectacle of Las Vegas, the very shamelessness of its gilt-edged tawdriness, stirs a certain repulsive fascination for me.

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But that aside, my sense of the city is that it combines a manifestation of the Beast of the Apocalypse with a showcase for the Seven Deadly Sins.

The photo below shows Lust, but even greater is greed (primarily on the part of the hordes clustered around the gambling, including me mthe other night for $2 worth)

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Then there are legendary buffets that cater to gluttony (I went for a very Chocolate French pastry by the Eiffel Tower.)

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Pride, in the form of hubris,  pervades everything. It shows above all in the confidence this endlessly lavish, spectacle of pointless, metastasizing consumption can be plopped down & maintained in the middle of a desert.

image This hotel has it right: it’s a mirage. And the Mexican section of “The  World’s Largest Gift Shop” jauntily shoves at customers the underlying reality of it all: memento mori! Eat drink & be merry, suckers, because tomorrow. . .

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I photobombed this advance guard for El Dia de Los Muertos. Can you tell?

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. . . Oh, but there is no tomorrow in Vegas.

Only one of the Seven Deadlies eluded my prying gaze here: sloth, acedia. Every where I turned, people were working hard, from the pimps on the corners, to scurrying hotel clerks,  the dealers at the craps tables,–even most of the revelers crowding the Saturday night street appeared diligent to the point of obsession in their-pleasure seeking; I certainly was.

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But what about the culminating deadly sin of Anger/Wrath? Seemingly it doesn’t fit the city’s painstakingly maintained image of naughty fun.

But fear not: it’s right offstage, just up U.S. 95 at what is reputed to be the biggest U.S. Killer drone facility, Creech Air Force Base.  (There was a round of little-noted anti-drone protests there early this month, and a “Sacred Peace Walk” from Vegas to  Creech is underway this week.)

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A drone at Creech AFB. The biggest gamble of all?

Think these two places aren’t connected?

That’s exactly what they want you to believe.

You can bet on it.

 

Vote To Put A Friendly Woman On The $20!

Put A Friendly Woman on the $20

I like this.  An online  campaign has taken off to bounce old Andy Jackson off the $20 bill and replace him with  a woman.

“Women on 20s”

mott-n-truth-for-authority
I admit it: here’s my true #1 favorite. She’s not on the finalists’ list, alas. But there are plenty of Quakes & Quake-ish faces there anyway.

Continue reading Vote To Put A Friendly Woman On The $20!

A Quaker Story of Remembrance — and Maybe Prophecy

A Quaker Story of Remembrance –and Maybe Prophecy

Pirates Six, Cubs Three

Sometime in the 1980s.

I wasn’t having a good night. And I hadn’t had a good day. Needleman in the Washington office had called just after lunch. He said they wanted me there, right away. I had to help the boss get ready for a big hearing before the Defense Systems Commission tomorrow. I told him I’d promised to take the kids to a ballgame.

3-Rivers-Stadium

Needleman wasn’t impressed. “They play ballgames in Pittsburgh every night, Nelson,” he said. “We get a chance at a hundred million dollar contract once every ten years, if we’re lucky. This hearing could win it for us. The boss needs your data, and he needs you here to explain it to him. Tonight.”

Continue reading A Quaker Story of Remembrance — and Maybe Prophecy