Category Archives: Uncategorized

How I Got so Lucky – A True Christmas Story



Brooklyn, December 1967

I knew it was going to be another tough day at the Welfare Department when I saw the woman having an epileptic seizure in the Intake room. She was on her back, eyes rolling, jerking and thrashing, head thumping on the cement floor.

A security guard ran over and straddled her, trying to hold her down. Her arm whipped up and knocked off his black billed hat. Reaching back, he pulled out his billy club.

God, I thought, I hope he’s not going to hit her!

He wasn’t, but it was almost as bad. He tried to push the club between her teeth, to keep her from biting off her tongue, which could kill her. The jerking and thumping of her head made this almost impossible, though, and the club whacked repeatedly against her chin and face. Finally he got the club between her lips, and her movements seemed to slow down.

I couldn’t watch anymore. I turned back to the doorway and headed upstairs to the unit, where my desk sat in the second row from the back, the fourth desk over.

It was a freezing cold December in 1967, and there was no doubt about what I wanted for Christmas: Two things: a revolution; and then, a telephone for Mrs. Lee.

Actually, the telephone would probably have to come first, but that’s not how I felt–and I’m getting ahead of myself.


Every day in my job at the New York City Welfare Department, I saw dozens of good reasons for revolution: sad and desperate people trooping in and out of the Intake room, looking for help, begging for help, screaming for help. And every day, I watched the system fail them, giving them no help, or the wrong kind of help, or help that just wasn’t enough. Continue reading How I Got so Lucky – A True Christmas Story

The Nashville Declaration Is a Hoot

Many friends of mine are upset about a recent anti-LGBT screed called the Nashville Declaration. I don’t begrudge their anger; yet I wish they would take a break from the issuance of indignant counter-screeds to ponder some of the upside resources offered by this piece.

I urge this because the “Declaration,” and its sponsor, the “Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” (the Bibs, for short), look way overdue for a new approach: lampooning.

I mean, at the least, the Bibs deserve a Career Achievement Award from LGBT groups.

Continue reading The Nashville Declaration Is a Hoot

Memorandum from NCYM Trustees to Representative Session


TO: NCYM Membership

FROM: Thomas E. Terrell, Jr., Chair, NCYM Trustees DATE: November 2, 2016

RE: Status of NCYM Reorganization of Assets


I write to provide (I) a status report, in advance of the Representative Body Meeting on November 5, of the Committee’s discussions of the reorganization of NCYM assets; and (2) a brief history of the decisions that form the context of the Committee’s creation and the contours of the Committee’s charge.

The Committee

The Committee has no official name. It is comprised of the NCYM Trustees, the Trustees of NCYM Trust Funds, and the Stewardship-Finance Committee. Don Farlow serves ex-officio, and David Hobson, NCYM Treasurer, serves as recording clerk. We asked Heather Varner, Quaker Lake Director, and Tyler Surratt, Chairperson of the Quaker Lake Board, to attend our meetings because of Quaker Lake’s centrality to our discussions.


The full Committee has met three times. Each time close to 100% of members attended. Meetings have been long, focused, respectful, and goal-oriented. Smaller sub-groups have met or discussed matters as needed to prepare for full Committee meetings and to gather large quantities of information.


The Committee made several commitments at the outset to guide its decision-making process and recommendation to the Representative Body.

First, we committed to an outcome that is equitable, acknowledging that equity is difficult  to define  and  elusive.  Second,  we decided  that we have a moral  commitment  to the

NCYM Membership November 2, 2016

Page 2

Pastor’s Pension Fund that overrides our legal flexibility to do otherwise. Third, we made a commitment to the long-term success and survival of Quaker Lake. Fourth, we committed to transparency. And fifth, we committed to a schedule of review and discussion that is deliberate and practical and not hindered by artificial and unworkable deadlines.

We hope that the process will be trusted by all and the recommendations we make will be accepted by most. The Committee graciously acknowledges that some individuals and some meetings are impatient and want immediate decisions and recommendations . I ask you to recognize that the Committee is working as rapidly as possible to get its arms around millions of dollars of assets and liabilities. The questions we must answer aren’t fully known. Answers to many of the known questions are not easy or clear. But know that we will get there.

Short History of Committee’s Creation/Mission

The Committee’s understanding of its mission is briefly outlined below . I repeat it here only because questions have been asked and alternative understandings have been expressed.

At the June 4, 2016 Representative Body meeting, the Executive Committee acknowledged “the differences among Friends in the North Carolina Yearly Meeting that are continuous and unabating,” and recommended “that the member meetings of North Carolina Yearly Meeting patiently commit to an orderly, deliberate, compassionate, and mutually respectful plan of separation into two yearly meetings  ….”

The Executive Committee also noted : “We further recognize that, if the Committee’s recommendation is approved by the Representative Body, a carefully structured discussion must occur that would consider matters of (1) faith, (2) organization , (3) property, and (4) law, and that this discussion must include multiple voices and viewpoints within the Yearly Meeting.”

It was approved that representatives should report to their respective monthly meetings and come to Annual Sessions in August prepared to respond to the Executive Committee ‘s recommendation.

Representative Body also decided on June 4 to charge the Executive Committee with “the limited task of identifying and organizing the components of the deliberate discussion … and to return to Annual Sessions with recommendations for consideration by the Yearly Meeting that pertain to process only ….” A “Draft Procedural Plan for Separation into Two Yearly Meetings”

NCYM Membership November 2, 2016

Page 3

was distributed  to Ministry  and Counsel Clerks, Monthly  Meeting  Clerks and Pastors on   July


As Annual Session approached, the Executive Committee decided that hearing and listening were critical to this process, and we acknowledged that attempting all discussions in the context of the general assembly was limiting and imperfect. Accordingly, we held smaller breakout groups to provide more effective forums for full expression by more people of their questions, concerns, fears, ideas and expectations. Your feedback was written onto large tablets which were attached to the walls where the Executive Committee met during lunch. They were studied and considered by the full committee.

The consensus of all expressions was that a separation into two yearly meetings was not the sense of the Yearly Meeting. Based upon the Executive Committee ‘s review of your input, a “Minute of Reorganization” was quickly prepared to more accurately reflect members’ positions.

The “Minute of Reorganization” was approved in the afternoon business session on August 13. The “Minute of Reorganization” was distributed on August 15, and a revised “Procedural Plan for Reorganization into Two Groups” with a “Letter of Implementation” was forwarded the week of September 19.

Committee Discussions

Since September 19, the Committee has reviewed several asset division options and, of equal importance, the consequences of each. Although the Pastors’ Pension Fund and Quaker Lake Camp are being treated as priority assets, we are also mindful of the many ministries and missions supported by North Carolina Yearly Meeting.

We continue to explore options for ownership of trust funds and to seek ways to redirect certain funds when legally able. Among other things, we are learning that division and  separation will have consequences , and the loss of some ministries may be among them . At this point the details are not known.

Our second meeting was devoted entirely to Quaker Lake. Heather Varner and Tyler Surratt gave a detailed overview of Quaker Lake’s ministry, capital needs, cash flow, challenges, potential, and the dangers posed by a previously discussed shared use option. After hours of comment and discussion, the Committee unanimously expressed support for proceeding towards

NCYM Membership November 2, 2016

Page 4

independent control. Each member was polled and the results ranged from somewhat supportive to strongly supportive, finding that this option gave us the best opportunity to protect Quaker Lake’s ministry, enable it to continue its amazing growth, and set it on a path of self-sufficiency. No one opposed this option.

It is not known what independent control would look like or how it would work. These are details for future Committee meetings. There are numerous details to consider, and the Committee is committed to working with those who know Quaker Lake’s operations to find the most workable solution(s). In the meantime, your input is always welcome.

Effect  of Alignments/Realignments

Realignments of meetings and quarters will not affect the Committee’s discussions or recommendations except as to equity.

Requests for Approval

The Committee will ask the Representative Body for approval of four items.

  1. Allocation of Funds for Legal, Accounting and Actuarial Services

The Committee’s work will not be inexpensive. Future tasks will require that we consult with actuaries for the Pastor’s Pension Fund, and accountants, appraisers and legal counsel for select matters affecting ownership, division and repurposing of trust funds, real estate sales, and other general matters. Our actuaries have given us a general (not binding) estimate of $33,000 to assist with the Pastor’s Pension Fund. We do not know how much it will cost to hire legal counsel, real estate appraisers and accountants.

We will ask the Representative Body to approve the expenditure of funds for these purposes, looking first at investment accounts and only secondarily to trust funds. There is insufficient income from askings to use askings as a funding source.

Except for actuaries, we have not selected any of the necessary consultants, but we will likely interview several candidates. We have decided only to hire professionals who are not affiliated with the NC Yearly Meeting.

NCYM Membership November 2, 2016

Page 5

  1. Authority to Sell Property

Spring Garden Meeting and the Hilltop Road offices are the most obvious sources of funds for Quaker Lake and the Pastor’s Pension Fund. The market is strong at the moment, and waiting to sell carries risks.

We will ask the Representative Body for a three-part approval: (1) to initiate the process of selling Spring Garden and the Hilltop Road offices; (2) to delegate to the Executive Committee the authority to negotiate with purchasers, accept commercially acceptable offers, and bind the NCYM in sales to third parties ; and (3) to place the proceeds from sales into temporary accounts until recommendations for their use can been made.

A formal statement of authorization will be presented for approval,

  1. Pastor’s Pension Fund

To protect pastors who are vested under this plan, we join the Benefits and Insurance Committee and Executive Committee in asking the Representative Body for approval to terminate the plan, authorize the Committee to find sufficient sources to make the pension fund whole, and to buy out each vested member at present value.

Terminating the plan in 2017 requires that we start the process now. A detailed statement of authorization will be presented Saturday.

  1. Trust Funds

We will ask the Representative Body for approval to begin the process of reviewing all trust funds and determining where we have authority to repurpose certain trusts and to return to this body with recommendations for uses that are generally consistent with donors’ wishes yet more appropriate to the ministries of a reorganized NCYM . The Committee’s authority to do this was likely implied at its creation, but we will request that the authority be made clear.


I will make periodic reports so that NCYM members know the status of our discussions.

Ifyou have technical questions, Don Farlow has an outstanding grasp of NCYM finances, and he

NCYM Membership November 2, 2016

Page 6

is the best person to contact. I am also pleased to discuss matters with you. Email is my  preferred form of communication. You can reach me at My direct office line is 336-378-5412. You may also wish to contact Dick Coe (Trustee of Trust Funds) or Gwen Taylor, Chair, Stewardship-Finance.

Next Meeting

Our next meeting is November 21.

Oops! Standing Rock “Facebook Check-Ins” Are Another Internet Legend

Oops! Standing Rock “Facebook Check-Ins” Are Another Internet Legend

Chuck Fager is at SNOPES.COM, standing in solidarity with the small and  scorned remnant who check such things before helping spread viral baloney. Snopes has debunked the viral rumor that faking “check-ins” on Facebook will somehow protect protesters at Standing Rock from police surveillance.


Yes, another feelgood fake bites the dust. As Snopes put it: Continue reading Oops! Standing Rock “Facebook Check-Ins” Are Another Internet Legend

Senator Richard Burr, Sex talk, and Sex Torture

Senator Richard Burr, Sex talk, and Sex Torture

North  Carolina Senator Richard Burr initially denounced Donald trump’s talk of groping and sexually assaulting women. NBC News quoted Burr tweeting that Trump’s statements were “inappropriate and completely unacceptable.”

burr-hatThat’s good, and he was right. But Sen. Burr’s tweet left me feeling surprised and unsatisfied.

Surprised because it was so quick.

But unsatisfied because there are many more sexual assaults that I’ve been expecting Burr to denounce, but he hasn’t. Continue reading Senator Richard Burr, Sex talk, and Sex Torture

The A-Team: Pundits Who DID See Trump Coming

The A-Team: Pundits Who DID SEE Trump Coming

Sure, it’s Fun To Beat Up On the Pundits Who Totally Missed Trump. (They Richly Deserve It.)

That even includes the smarmy Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who is trying to spin his promise to eat the column he said he’d eat if Trump won the nod into what he clearly hopes will be a huuuuge  social media media event. He’s even put out a made-for-Facebook video.


Continue reading The A-Team: Pundits Who DID See Trump Coming

It’s Time (Again) for Doug Gwyn’s Book, “Words In Time”

It’s Time (Again) for Doug Gwyn’s Book, Words In Time

Doug Gwyn’s Book, Words In Time is NOW available, to read or download: FREE!
Yes, FREE. Click here to read or download it.

Or if you want to copy and paste the link, here it is again:–RV-12-2015.pdf


Continue reading It’s Time (Again) for Doug Gwyn’s Book, “Words In Time”

George-Washington & His Slaves: Some Mercy For them? Any Mercy for Him?

George-Washington & His Slaves: Some Mercy For them? Any Mercy for Him?

Along with William Penn, the name of George Washington was mentioned in the discussion of my post yesterday about renaming Pennsylvania due to William Penn’s shameless slaveholding.

Washington also owned numerous slaves, for many decades, and his wife inherited many more. My recollection is that there were more than 300 slaves laboring to maintain Washington’s 8000 acre estate at Mt. Vernon, on the green banks of the Potomac River south of the city that now bears his name. Further, he owned the surviving slaves, about 123, until his dying day, December 14, 1799.

Mt-Vernon-around 1840
Mt Vernon, around 1840.

Continue reading George-Washington & His Slaves: Some Mercy For them? Any Mercy for Him?

Exclusive Interview With CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou — Part Two

Exclusive Interview With CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou — Part Two

[The Prelude to the interview is here.]
[Part One is here. ]

AFL: In your book you describe how you learned that the decision to invade Iraq had been made a year ahead of time, when it was still super-top secret, and the public was being told otherwise. Did that plan sound strange or even crazy to you then? What’s your take on that now? Does it seem as bizarre (& yet predictable) as it does to my cynical layman’s ear?

CIA-SealJohn Kiriakou: The Iraq War was another abomination. The battle lines were very clearly drawn at the time. Those opposed to the war were CIA, State, and Joint Chiefs.  The driving force was the Office of the Vice President, with the strongest support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council. We all thought the idea of war with Iraq was insane. We hadn’t yet caught bin Laden, and the Iraqis were no direct threat to us. I felt strongly at the time–and I still do–that the war was payback for the 1993 Iraqi attempt to assassinate George H. W. Bush.

AFL: One more from the book: in it you seemed to accept the initial round of what turned out to be torture as perhaps regrettable but understandable, given the panic & fear that followed 9-11. And you wrote approvingly of Obama’s pledge not to prosecute anybody for it, and to “look ahead” instead of “back” toward any investigation or accountability. 
First, is that impression of the book correct? And if so, can you say something about when & how your view on this began to change?

Before leaving for federal prison, Kiriakou says goodbye to the younger of his five children.

John Kiriakou: My views on the CIA torture program have clearly evolved. I believed it was torture from the beginning, of course, but I thought I could draw a line between two questions: Was it right? And did it work? As it turned out, the entire system was built on a lie. It never worked. Ever. The CIA lied to us from the beginning. But the more important issue is that officers went above and beyond what had been authorized by the Justice Department. Atrocities were committed. How can officers commit cold-blooded murder and get away with it? 

What about sexual assault? I can understand a policy decision to not prosecute officers who were told they were acting within the law. But murder and sexual assault were not within the confines of the law. Where is the prosecution? My views on the program began to change dramatically in 2009 when the CIA Inspector General’s report was released, and we learned that everything we thought we knew was a lie.

obama-tortureAFL: And while we’re on Obama, from what you’ve heard & studied, how effective do you think Obama’s ban on torture has really been? You were an outsider when it was issued, but do you think the CIA and the other clandestine units are actually sticking to it? Given the cult of secrecy and deception in these units, how would the White House ever know if they weren’t?  Do you know of anyone in the intelligence agencies or military who has been disciplined or cashiered for violating it? Are there even any rumors?

John Kiriakou: I WANT to believe that Obama’s ban on torture is real. But everything the CIA has said about torture since 2002 has been a lie. And Obama has lied consistently on the issue as well. Why should we believe them? I don’t. We know that extraordinary renditions continue. So why should we conclude that torture has ended. I don’t believe it has. Meanwhile, absolutely nobody has been punished for anything related to torture.

AFL: Also, in our work when I was at Quaker House, we dealt with many troops who returned from the “war on terror” with serious cases of PTSD and what is now being called “moral injury.” By rights there should have been cases of something liked that among CIA veterans of these assignments. What was your observation? What have you heard? Is this something the agency would want to keep under wraps?

John Kiriakou:  Yes, I can tell you from first-hand experience that PTSD is a very real thing at the CIA.  There are many cases of severe depression, aggression, and other manifestations of PTSD. I prefer to speak with you privately about this. Please remind me when we get together.

AFL: It appears that when you talked to reporters about the waterboarding in 2007, you didn’t seem to think it was a big step, or something personally risky– is that right? And you told ABC that you thought the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah probably had produced some good information which saved lives. When did you begin to question what you’d been told about that? 
And when did you actually begin to feel as if you were in personal jeopardy because of it?

Kiriakou-ABC-NewsJohn Kiriakou: I didn’t believe that I had said anything groundbreaking in that ABC News interview. Indeed, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Red Cross had all published reports saying that the U.S. was torturing prisoners. It wasn’t until the next day, when the CIA filed a “crimes report” against me with the Justice Department, that I realized, “Uh, oh. This is going to be big.”  I just didn’t have an appreciation for it at first. And then the death threats began. With that said, I believed what the CIA had said internally about torture until 2009.

AFL:  I’m told that your plea deal was structured in part to avoid implicating other journalists, and putting them at risk of jail, as well as to minimize your own jail time. Is that correct? Are the dangers to reporters on this beat increasing? How do you see them fighting back?

John Kiriakou:  YES! I believe strongly in the Constitution’s right to freedom of speech. I did not want to put journalists in jeopardy. That was a real consideration for me. Journalists will tell you that their sources are drying up because of the Justice Department’s crackdown on leaks. Journalists are now being referred to as “unindicted coconspirators.” This is unprecedented, and we need to take a stand against it. Re the second part of your question, the plea deal wasn’t tied to journalists testifying, although the offer came at the same time as the subpoenas would have been issued.

AFL: Once in jail, what routines or practice helped you cope with the 22 months and its stresses? And what were some of the worst things about it for you there?

John Kiriakou:  My third book, after Letters from Loretto, will be Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison. I expect that it’ll come out in a year. There were 20 “life lessons” that the CIA taught me that I used to remain at the top of the heap in prison. Most importantly was that I formed “strategic alliances,” mainly with the Italians. I was also friendly with the Aryans and the black gangs. That ensured my own safety and ability to operate in prison. The worst things in prison were the monotony and the loneliness. I missed my family terrible. The rest was relatively easy.  Writing (letters and books) kept me busy and helped me pass the time quickly.  I received nearly 7,000 letters from more than 650 people.  And that support gave me great strength.Kiriakou-Letter-From-Loretto

AFL: Were you able to do much reading inside? Was it hard to get books? What kind of reading was most helpful or interesting? What about Internet access? Were you able to keep up with outside news, or was it better to shut it all out sometimes? What about staying in touch with your family?

John Kiriakou: I received a LOT of books, and I read more than 200 over the course of my 23 months there. I read fiction for the first time in my life, and I really appreciated the escapism. Biographies were also important to me, and I read a lot of government exposes, too. There was no internet access at all. I was able to call my wife and kids every other day for 15 minutes. Otherwise, I relied on the mail. Keeping up with the news was very difficult. Nobody watches the news on TV in prison, so I relied on a subscription to the New York Times, which came four days late.

A book Kiriakou read about imprisoned draft resisters during the Vietnam War, by a psychiatrist who did in-depth interviews with them. I know John read it: I sent it to him.

AFL: Tell us something about the outside support you got while you were in prison. Was it mostly letters, or were there other things? Do you have any feedback for those readers who may be drawn to prisoner support efforts?

John Kiriakou: My support wasn’t just the letters. I was constantly amazed at the public expressions of support from people like Yoko Ono, Mia Farrow, John Cusack (who called my wife every month to ask about me), Rosie O’Donnell, Roseanne Barr, Daniel Ellsberg, and others. Jesselyn Radack at the Government Accountability Project made sure to keep me relevant in the press. I gave testimony in writing to the European Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights, and “Silenced,” the documentary about my case and the cases of Jesselyn Radack and Tom Drake, was released at the Tribeca Film Festival while I was inside.

In the final installment, John talks about:

— CIA leadership, past and present
— How his views have changed about torture and the need for accountability
— The 2016 presidential candidates
–And more.

Read Part 3 here.

NC Visit Schedule details here:

Tues., Oct. 27, 2015

  • Noon:  The State of Things, WUNC Radio
  • 2:00 pm talk, Great Hall, North Carolina Central University Law School, Turner Law Bldg, 640 Nelson Street, Durham. Free and open to the public; more info at 919-599-1963.
  • 7:15 pm talk- “Keeping Government Honest: Whistleblowers, Torture, and America’s War on Terror.” Freedom Forum Room, 2nd floor of Carroll Hall, School of Media & Journalism, UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Wed., Oct. 28, 2015

• 11:00 AM- Guilford College, Greensboro. Luncheon (buy your own) with informal discussion, gather at 11:00 a.m. in the Atrium of Founders Hall; followed at

• 1:30 pm by a talk in the Moon Room of Dana Auditorium. Free and open to the public. Sponsor: Guilford College Friends Center.

  • 7:00 pm talk, “Blowing the Whistle on CIA Torture,” at Quaker House, 223 Hillside Ave., Fayetteville.  Sponsor: Quaker House.

Thurs., Oct. 29, 2015

  • 1:10-2:10 pm talk- NCSU Peace & Justice Forum, Talley Student Union, Room 3285, NCSU. Sponsor: Presbyterian Campus Ministry of Raleigh. All welcome.
  • 7:00 pm talk, “The American Legacy of Torture,” NCSU, Park Shops 210 (2310 Stinson Drive, Raleigh). 

More schedule details here.