Category Archives: Arts: Blogging

The Island Ponies & The Real Mustangs

First, from the Raleigh NC News & Observer:

A wild horse that roamed North Carolina’s Outer Banks has died, a group that manages her herd says.

The mare, nicknamed Dusty, died at age 25, the Foundation for Shackleford Horses wrote Saturday on Facebook. She was “one of the grand dames of the wild herd” that lives on the Shackleford Banks, which is the southernmost island on Cape Lookout National Seashore. . . .

“Rest well, run free, old girl,” the group said of Dusty’s death.

More than 100 wild horses live on Shackleford Banks, according to the National Park Service, which co-manages the herd with the foundation. . . . .”

I once visited another “wild” band, on Assateague Island, another link in the same outer banks chain with its own band of “wild” horses.

A “wild” pony on Assateague.

I remember it well. The horses stood around, lounged really, under the watchful gaze of uniformed park rangers. They let my kids walk up and stroke their long necks. Numerous signs told us what to do and not do around them, especially not feed them. The feds made sure they got proper nutrition. About the only thing they had to fear was hurricanes.

When we left, the kids were puzzled at my dismissive comment: “They’re not ‘wild horses,’” I snorted. “They’re Welfare Ponies.”

This disdain reflected memories of my other previous visit with such a band, which happened in 1977, almost 3000 miles west, under starkly different conditions: not the cosseted, beach-surrounded, foundation-protected eight square mile sliver of Shackleford. Instead they roamed a vast chunk of windswept & sunburnt high desert, almost 900 times as large. There was more wilderness in all directions beyond it. No upscale shorefront condos over the next rise; instead threats of death on every side.

Starvation and thirst stalk them relentlessly,  as do hunters with battered cowboy hats, well-oiled rifles, and utter contempt for any government beyond (maybe) a distant county sheriff. Most of the land is federally-owned, and land management agents were scattered across the region, but they kept a low profile, and were not from the National Park Service.

Recalling  the expedition into these other horses’ domain,  the phrase that comes to mind  is from the gospel, of John, The Wind Bloweth Where It Will.   Let me explain why. Continue reading The Island Ponies & The Real Mustangs

Biting the Bullet: Truth and Consequences

I knew it would happen, and knew I wouldn’t like it, but I did it anyway.

The third “it” above was start a Facebook group called “Quakers,” about a month ago, after a previous one abruptly folded up: some internal hassle among the admins had spun out of control.

I wasn’t involved in the hassling, and didn’t like that there was suddenly no Facebook group called just “Quakers.”  I wondered if Facebook (FB for short), in its ineffable internet majesty, would permit the name to be taken up again; surprisingly, it did.

I didn’t really want to start the group, because I knew I’d need to be the admin (aka Pope), and would have to take up “moderator” duties there (the second “it” above).

Wait– Didn’t some version of that used to belong to us??

I’d been asked a couple times to join moderator teams on other FB groups, and had declined. Too lazy, but also it seemed like a big distraction, and I already had enough of those. But whatever.

And a couple days ago, that first “it” arrived, as the predictable, inevitable outcome of the other two. It was the social media syllogism in action:

Functional FB groups need moderators;
I’m the moderator of this group; therefore,
The day will come when I have to “moderate” it, by deleting a post (or posts) and blocking somebody. Continue reading Biting the Bullet: Truth and Consequences

Stamped By A Visit to an Alternate Reality

On December 22, I posted on Facebook an article from the Washington Post:

Televangelist Pat Robertson says it’s time for Trump to accept Biden’s win and ‘move on’

Televangelist Pat Robertson, one of President Trump’s staunchest backers, on Monday (December 21, 2020) described Trump as “very erratic,” called on him to accept that President-elect Joe Biden won and said the Republican should not consider running again in 2024.


The comments marked a sharp turnaround for Robertson, who recently voiced support for Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud and declared before the election that God had told him Trump was going to win.
“I think it’s a sideshow,” Robertson said Monday on his television show, “The 700 Club,” when asked whether he thinks Trump should run again in 2024. “I think it would be a mistake. . . .

Robertson said that Trump has “done a marvelous job for the economy, but at the same time he is very erratic, and he’s fired people and he’s fought people and he’s insulted people and he keeps going down the line.”


“And so, it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “And I think it would be well to say, ‘You’ve had your day and it’s time to move on.”

Robertson helped spur the rise of the religious right in the 1980s and 1990s and has been influential among religious conservatives for decades. . . . In early 2017, after Trump’s administration began, Robertson suggested that those who were revolting against the president were revolting against God.

Chris Roslan, a spokesman for the Christian Broadcasting Network, estimated that about a million people watch the 700 Club across the network’s platforms.


Robertson, a onetime GOP presidential candidate, has been generally supportive of Trump during his administration, although he criticized the president this past summer for his “law and order” response to the nationwide unrest following the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
 . . .

“You know, with all his talent and the ability to be able to raise money and grow large crowds, the president still lives in an alternate reality,” Robertson said. “He really does. People say, ‘Well, he lies about this, that and the other.’ But no, he isn’t lying; to him, that’s the truth.”


. . . “And, you know, people kept pointing to them, but because they loved him so much and he was so strong for the evangelicals — the evangelicals were with him all the way — but there was something about him that was good, that God placed him in that office for the time.”

After these excerpts were posted, my friend Dennis Lone in Seattle  commented:
If anyone knows about alternative reality, it would be Pat Robertson.

Yes I thought. Me too. In fact, I had visited it once, or maybe twice: Continue reading Stamped By A Visit to an Alternate Reality

The Good news And The Other (Paranoid) News

Readers likely already know much of what I consider Wednesday’s good news:

Covid vaccine treatments have started; “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg was tapped to be Transportation Secretary in Joe Biden’s cabinet; there are no more throw-out-the-[Democrats’]-voting-results lawsuits bouncing off the big doors at the Supreme Court; and only five more weeks til Inauguration Day.

There’s a bit more (my new book, Murder at Quaker Lake, has sold a  few copies), but you get the drift.

Now the other news. It seems the not-so-fringe elements of the GOP are keeping up the fight to overthrow either the election or the government (whichever still stands in their way). For instance,  here’s part of a  Washington Post report you might have missed:

An ex-cop held an A/C repairman at gunpoint over a false claim he had 750,000 fake ballots, police said

By Andrea Salcedo

December 16 2020 An air-conditioning repairman was driving his truck through Houston in late October when a black SUV suddenly slammed into his tail.

“Boss, it looks to me like it’s full of fake ballots. Probably headed for Philadelphia– hey, it’s only 1550 miles away. Right, I’m on it!”

When he got out, the SUV’s driver leaped out and pointed a gun at his head, police said.
When police arrived, the gunman offered an incredible tale: The driver, he said, was the face of a vast election-fraud scheme and had about 750,000 fake ballots stuffed inside his truck.

That story was totally bogus, police now say. The man’s truck was full of nothing but A/C parts, and the gunman — Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain — had been paid more than $250,000 by a right-wing organization to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain

On Tuesday [December 15 2020] Aguirre was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a “bogus voter-fraud conspiracy,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. 
“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg (D) said in a statement.

An attorney for Aguirre, 63, disputed the charges, calling the case “political.”
“I think it’s a political prosecution. I really do,” Terry Yates told KTRK. “He was working and investigating voter fraud, and there was an accident. A member of the car got out and rushed at him and that’s where the confrontation took place. It’s very different from what you’re citing in the affidavit.”

The bizarre tale of Aguirre’s alleged assault comes as President Trump and his allies continue to spread baseless claims of mass election fraud, and features a direct tie to a group of Texas Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to toss out nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots.


 . . .

Police said that Aguirre had received $266,400 from the Liberty Center for God and Country, a Houston-based organization funded by Republican megadonors. The group’s chief executive is Steven Hotze, a prominent Texas right-wing activist who joined other GOP activists in the ballot lawsuit filed in late October.
“ . . .

Aguirre told an officer that he and his “friends,” were “investigating a voter fraud conspiracy” operated by the man at his home and inside a backyard shed.

Aguirre added that his group had been surveilling the man’s home for four days, and said that he “knew” the man had hundreds of thousands of “fraudulent ballots in his truck and his home,” according to the affidavit. He claimed he was “using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”

“I just hope you’re a patriot,” Aguirre told the officer interviewing him, the affidavit said.

Aguirre later took police to the air-conditioning repairman’s home and showed an officer where he had parked to surveil him, according to the affidavit.

But police said that Aguirre’s allegations didn’t check out. Police found “no evidence of voter fraud or ballot harvesting” after the technician allowed them to check his property.
“There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools,” Ogg’s office said in the release. . . .

Somewhat farther south, my adopted home state is not covering itself in glory either. According to WRAL TV News yesterday:

NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat

Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan
NC State Senator Bob Steinburg

— A North Carolina senator suggested Tuesday that the president might suspend basic liberties to overturn an election that he believes, without evidence, was stolen.

Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, paraphrased on his Facebook page comments that retired Gen. Thomas McInerney made earlier this month on a conservative talk show. Among other things, McInerney suggested President Donald Trump declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act and suspend habeas corpus.

Steinburg told WRAL News on Tuesday evening that he wasn’t endorsing the idea, just “putting out there options that others say still remain on the table,” though he later said he’d be on board with it.

In an extended harangue, Steinburg also made it clear he believes the recent presidential election was stolen and that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy to which multiple countries, the media, U.S. government agencies, officials and judges are either a part or turning a blind eye.

“There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” he said. “I’m not nuts. … I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”

Steinburg then offered, unprompted, to take a psychiatric evaluation. He said the CIA and FBI both know there’s a coup d’etat going on in the country but won’t do anything about it.

“They think we’re just bunch of boobs out here in the hinterland,” he said. “Well, these boobs are waking up.”

Facebook post from NC Sen. Bob Steinburg, December 15, 2020.

Steinburg offered no evidence for his claims, which are a rehash of conspiracy theories racing around the internet and conservative media in the wake of Trump’s re-election loss.

Asked why so many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rejected lawsuits intended to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November election, Steinburg said, “let’s take a look at Justice John Roberts.”

He then suggested “somebody’s got something” on the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and, as evidence, said a lot of retired FBI and CIA agents live in his district and have told him so.

“I hear this all the time,” Steinburg said. “All the time.”

Asked about his habeas corpus post, Steinburg said he was “merely quoting what the general said,” but he also said it should be an option if the president feels there was foreign intervention in the election, as Steinburg himself certainly believes.

Chris Krebs, head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said last month that there is no evidence of any foreign country changing vote tallies or preventing Americans from voting. The president then fired him.

Steinburg struggled to define habeas corpus in any way, replying to questions on the topic at one point with, “I’m not an attorney.” Suspending habeas corpus would let authorities detain people indefinitely without bringing them before a judge.

That explained, Steinburg replied: “If that’s what needs to be done, if there are people who have been identified as folks who are suspected of high crimes and misdemeanors, who are threatening the very security and foundation of our nation … for whatever period of time it takes to round them up, then yes.”

The Insurrection Act, also mentioned in Steinburg’s post, allows the president to deploy the military on U.S. soil.

The post also notes that presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt suspended habeas corpus. Lincoln did so during the Civil War, Roosevelt during World War II. During WWII the U.S. government held Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

Steinburg, 72, won re-election last month and will return to the state Senate next year for his second term. He served three terms previously in the state House. The Facebook post appeared on his personal Facebook page, but it would not be out of character on his official page, where he frequently posts conspiracy theories from conservative media outlets. . . .


A sign from Blackwater’s good old days, during the Iraq war, near Moyock, on the northeast NC border with southeast Virginia.

A couple footnotes:

Steinburg is not exaggerating about retired intelligence agents being located in is area. His district covers Chowan County in northeast coastal North Carolina. It is close to Harvey Point, a semi-secret CIA training facility specializing in explosives training  and other clandestine activities. Another nearby landmark is the vast site of the former Blackwater private paramilitary training center (now renamed Academi & still in business), near the Virginia line.

For that matter, a couple hours north in Virginia, across  from the entrance to Colonial Williamsburg, is Camp Peary, home of the CIA’s “secret” (but well-known to spy thriller buffs) training base dubbed “The Farm”.

And as the Washington Post noted,

Steinburg wasn’t alone among GOP lawmakers in suggesting that Trump suspend civil liberties, even after the electoral college finalized Biden’s win on Monday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly acknowledged the Democrat’s victory on Tuesday. Virginia state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R) on Tuesday also called for martial law, echoing a suggestion floated by [ex-General] Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser pardoned by the president last month.

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase; running for governor in the GOP primary for its 2021 election.

In another article, The Post noted Chase, who is running for governor in the upcoming Virginia primary (calling herself “Trump in heels,”)

said she was holding out hope that Trump somehow would be declared the winner when the electoral college ballots are formally counted during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 — an all-but-impossible outcome, especially as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday publicly acknowledged Biden’s victory for the first time since the election. Barring that extremely unlikely turn of events, Chase thinks martial law is in order.

Under martial law, she said, troops would “go and seize these [voting] machines and voting equipment to find the voter fraud. There needs to be a national audit.”

The beginning section of the full page call for martial law published in the daily the Washington Times on December 12.

This call echoes a similar declaration from an Ohio-based group, “We The People Convention” (WTPC), described as a rightward spinoff of the Tea party movement. QTPC bought a full-page ad in the rightist daily The Washington Times of December 12, to showcase their demands.

Tom Zawistowski: martial law, now!

WTPC is headed by Tom Zawistowski, President of the TEA Party affiliated We the People Convention (WTPC) and Executive Director of the Portage County Ohio TEA Party. Zawistowski is a longtime Trump supporter.The Washington Times ad (full text here) was written in near-apocalyptic terms:

Exercising Extraordinary Authority in Defense of Our Vote
May be Required because Martial Law is better than Civil War!

In the months following the start of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve the Union. Many objected to Lincoln’s extraordinary use of Presidential authority, in particular his suspension of the right of “Habeas Corpus”.

On June 12, 1863 Lincoln defended his extreme measures in a letter published in the New York Times. Citing Article I of the Constitution he argued: “Ours is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion; and the provision of the Constitution that ‘the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it’, is the provision which specifically applies to our present case.” Lincoln used the same reasoning in justifying a series of extraordinary Presidential Orders:

• Lincoln ordered hundreds of Northern newspapers that spoke against him to be shut down and their owners and editors arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham for the crime of speaking out against him.
• Chief Justice of the US Roger Taney ruled that Lincoln had violated the US Constitution when he illegally suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus. After hearing this Lincoln signed an arrest warrant to have the Chief Justice of the U.S. arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of thousands in Maryland for the crime of “suspected Southern sympathies” including ordering the arrest of US Congressman Henry May from Maryland. These people were arrested and held in military prisons, without trial, some of them for years.

While some debate these measures still today, no one disagrees that Lincoln and his use of Presidential power were responsible for saving the Republic. While History, and even former President Obama, has judged Lincoln as perhaps our greatest President, few would have agreed at the time he took those actions.

Then, as now, a President with courage and determination was needed to preserve the Union. Today, the current threat to our United States by the international and domestic socialist/communist left is much more serious than anything Lincoln or our nation has faced in its history – including the civil war.

We have well-funded, armed and trained marxists in ANTIFA and BLM strategically positioned in our major cities acting openly with violence to silence opposition to their anti-American agenda. . . .The results being massive increases in violent crime and deaths in our cities and the destruction of small businesses orchestrated by those politicians and leftist groups, many funded by domestic and international communists. We are literally under attack from within!

Then there are admitted Democrat/Socialist federal officials plotting to finish gutting the US Constitution after 100 years of trying. . . .

The Socialist Left has been openly working to destroy the United States since Obama promised and tried to “transform” America in 2008-16 . . . Culminating in this corrupt and provably fraudulent current election planned to illegally and un-constitutionally deny the American people their most sacred honor, right and privilege – which is the right to elect their Representatives!

How can we have a Representative Republic if we cannot hold fair elections to elect our Representatives? There is no doubt that this attempted stealing of these elections again “is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion” that requires exercising extraordinary authority to preserve our Union. . . .

The enemies are within our gates and our Constitution and Nation are in real risk of being lost to this socialist/communist invasion unless you act decisively.

At least half of all Americans do not and will not accept this fraudulent election because of the eyewitness testimony, and the material, statistical and mathematical evidence of OVERWHELMING fraud. . . .

We the People must not and WILL NOT cede our exclusive Constitutional right to elect our Representatives to judges, lawyers, courts, Governors, Secretary’s of State, Congress, corrupt election officials and local politicians, the corrupt media – or Leftist threats of violence! It is OUR EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to decide our Representatives not theirs! Therefore, We the People MUST demand a NEW and fair national vote, a vote that all Americans can trust and live by regardless of the winner!

Without a fair vote, we fear, with good reason, the threat of a shooting civil war is imminent. Gun sales are at an all time high and 40% are first time gun owners looking to defend themselves, their property, and their rights. Therefore, Mr. President you must act now before there is no peaceful way left to preserve our Union.

When the legislators, courts and/or Congress fail to do their duty under the 12th Amendment, you must be ready Mr. President to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.

A vote that assures a fair election in every jurisdiction and reflects the true will of the people. Federal candidates only. Paper ballots. No computers. Hand-counted with both parties watching every vote. Only registered voters. Photo ID to prove residence. Conducted safely with everyone wearing masks and six feet apart, just like we did in Ohio.

Only then can the winning candidate be accepted as legitimate by a true majority of We the People who must give our consent to be justly governed! Unfortunately we are at a point where we can only trust our military to do this because our corrupt political class and courts have proven their inability to act fairly and within the law.

You must also act, like Lincoln did, to silence the destructive media’s one-sided propaganda designed and proven to influence the election outcome, and end the unlawful censorship of Big Tech, to restore the confidence of the American People in our electoral process or we cannot continue as a nation. Failure to do so could result in massive violence and destruction on a level not seen since the Civil War. Limited Martial Law is clearly a better option than Civil War!

Many will object to these actions, as they did in Lincoln’s day, but we assure you that We the People understand that no less action will suffice to prevent the loss of our Constitutional right to vote and preserve our Republic. . . .


So. That’s the other news, aka the paranoia report, for today. What are the chances that Trump will try for martial law? I don’t know the future. But in October, Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said flatly that

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Zero chance.”

“There’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there,” he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

“We have established a very long 240-year tradition of an apolitical military that does not get involved in domestic politics,” Milley said.

He added that he is confident the courts, Congress and local authorities are prepared to handle a contested election outcome in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Of all the countries in the world, I think that we are the only one or at least one of the very few that swears an oath of allegiance to an idea that’s embedded in a document called the U.S. Constitution,” Milley said. “We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to an individual, a king, a queen, a president or anything else. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a country, for that matter. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a flag, a tribe, a religion or any of that [but rather to a cherished set of ideas].”

Does that settle it? Seems like it.

But here’s what I wonder about: have any other short-term  plans, traditional “norms” and venerable traditions been upended by the events of 2020?

Yeah, just a few.

Who am I kidding? In fact, if I had to make a top Ten list of any of those, I’d soon have to give up and make it the Top Twenty. Or 30.

Or . . . .

Intelligence Update [Unredacted Version]

MEMO: From my sources deep in the MAGA HQ, some fresh hot data:

The voting is finished. The incumbent appears to be losing. Will he resist defeat? Issue a call to arms? Seek mayhem in the streets?

From six confidential messages, electronically intercepted, rerouted to my email inbox, then painstakingly decrypted, I can report that one central strategic theme leaps out again & again:

His loyalist followers are now being told not to tolerate the current trend. And so they must now reach into their holsters, lock & load, and prepare to pull the trigger and empty their — wallets.

Yes, behind the bluster & the threats, at the heart of the response is what has always been there, The Holy Grift.

Yes, cabinet secretaries may come and go; pandemics will “turn the corner” and disappear on command; the Superspreader rallies may be paused.

Yet, one things abides through it all and reigns supreme: Continue reading Intelligence Update [Unredacted Version]

A Whole Year In One Stroke

A year ago, on October 10, 2019, I had a stroke. And I saw a vision of my future.

It started in the living room, about 7AM. I was in my battered recliner, reading newspapers on an Ipad. Across from me, on our long couch, grandson Calvin was stirring. His mom worked nights at Waffle House, so he often stayed over. It would soon be time for him to head out for the school bus.

I glanced up at him, and then something else stirred to my left: A bright metallic blue curtain had appeared, and seemed as if it was being drawn to the right, across my field of vision.

There was no pain, in fact no unusual sensation at all. But clearly something was wrong. I called out to Wendy, asleep in our bedroom. “I think I’m having a stroke!”

Calvin had to get himself up and out that morning. Shortly I was walking into the Duke ER, which is barely a mile away. And immediately I discovered one of the upsides of my condition. Having spent many bleak and painful hours in that ER waiting room, when I calmly answered the reception nurse’s “May I help you?” with, “I think I’m having a stroke,” it was like waving Harry Potter’s most potent magic wand.
Continue reading A Whole Year In One Stroke

Quaker House 50: Helping End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

In 2010, after eight years as Director at Quaker House, I couldn’t recall ever seeing an article in our local paper, the Fayetteville Observer, that was affirmative of GLBT issues, or in particular, supported the repeal of the military’s repressive “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which since 1994 had pushed gay troops into the closet or out of the services..

This doesn’t mean the paper was a font of homophobic verbiage; but when anti-gay articles did appear, they usually went unanswered.

That silence was consistent with the general atmosphere of the community. Racial integration has been the policy of the military for sixty years, and federal law for almost fifty; racism still exists here, but it skulks in corners and speaks publicly in code. Mixed families in mixed neighborhoods are everyday.

Homophobia was another matter. I was acquainted with a number of gays and lesbians there, some who were quite active in the community. But there was no visible gay presence in the city. No “Gay Pride Day,” no vocal organizations, and the gay bars kept a very low profile. It was the most closeted city I had lived in.

Hence when a homophobic Op-Ed appeared in the Observer in the Spring of 2010, praising “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,”  the chances were that it too would go unanswered. That commentary, by retired Chaplain Ronald Crews, is excerpted below, for context.

This communal closeting had long been a burden to me, and after reading Crews, I decided to speak up for my own convictions, and perhaps those of some others who did not feel safe to speak.

Retired evangelical chaplain, Ronald Crews

My Op-Ed response was published in the Observer on June 3.
As advocacy goes, it was pretty mild. That reflected an effort to take the immediate audience into account.

So first, here is part of the original piece, by retired chaplain Ronald Crews: Continue reading Quaker House 50: Helping End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

Camp stories – 2018: One: “Talking With The Trees”

Last Friday, July 20th, 2018 I read original stories to the talented youth at Friends Music Camp, at Earlham College. I’ve been doing this for 28 years (or maybe only 27; starting to get fuzzy). Many of the stories are about Quakers, with bits of history and witness; others are  autobiographical, from my pre-Quaker youth; some are strictly fiction.

I read four stories this time, and as we’re on the brink of the Dog Days of late summer, I’m going to offer these stories here, in the same sequence as at Camp.

Each year I aim to bring a new story for our session. That’s what we’ll start with. This story, like many, is essentially true. The second story will be up tomorrow (Friday, July 27).

                            Talking with the Trees

It was the fall of 1966, I was a teacher at a new experimental Quaker school, called Friends World College. We were based on Long Island, east of New York City, in a cluster of converted houses on an abandoned Air Force base.

The College founder believed in studying problems, like poverty and the environment, rather than traditional subjects like math and biology. He also believed in study travel, going to places where problems and subjects of current importance were alive and vivid.

I was new and young in this educational world, not long out of college, coming to it after work in the southern civil rights movement, knowing basically nothing about teaching college. But I knew how to drive, and that was enough at that point.

One exception to our trek through a basic set of worldly “problems” like war, was a presentation on the much more conventional young adult “problem” of finding some sense of direction and meaning in life. It was by an elder Quaker writer named Milton Mayer.

The morning he came, our Dean, a retired English professor named Norman Whitney, after silence and a brief introduction, turned to him and said, “Milton, Mayer why don’t thee tell us what is on thy heart, and what is on thy mind.”

Mayer looked us over, and we looked at him. Unusually for our proto-hippie setting, he was in a suit: gray, with a starched white shirt and bow tie. I now think he must have stopped with us while headed somewhere else, perhaps to a meeting at a foundation or to make a formal speech before a group of well-heeled big city liberals.

But he was in no hurry. Surveying us from under his heavy black brows and receding hair, his expression grew somber and finally he said:

“Well, Norman, as I sit here with all of you, I find that what is on my heart is different from what is on my mind.”

He rubbed his chin. “So I believe I’m going to tell you what is on my heart.”

Continue reading Camp stories – 2018: One: “Talking With The Trees”

250,000 Hits Later: Taking Stock of a Quaker Blog

Yesterday I spent a few hours hunched over my laptop screen, waiting for a number to arrive: the 250,000th hit on this  blog.

250,000: A quarter of a million. Imagine.

The hit counter said that number was near, and it felt like a major milestone for me. Sure, I realize that big time blogs can get close to that many hits in a day or two; but a Quaker blog speaks to what they call a “niche market.” And the blogging here, active and archived goes back to 1998,  but has been significantly active since 2009.

I started out in February 1998, with one of the shortest posts, one which noted some, um, uncertainty. Here’s the whole thing:

  I need a blog like I need a hole in the head.

But it’s clear that these days, it’s an increasingly important way of getting one’s views and convictions into the broader public discussion and debate.  And before it is too late, there are some things I’d like to get into circulation.

My overriding concern now is the mad course down which my country’s rulers are headed, and what faith groups can do about it.   My perspective is “sectarian,” rooted in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers.)  As the saying goes, I’m proud to be a humble Quaker.

But my sense is that people from other faith groups, or none, can learn things from our experience and discussions — and we can learn from others.

So let’s do it.

This hesitant opening was soon followed by what is beyond challenge  the longest post ever: 45800 words, with several thousand more added in followups. It was a nearly-book-length investigative report called “Fleecing The Faithful.”

In the late ’90s, two major church frauds stole tens of millions from Evangelical Friends. It could happen again. (It has, to others.) This shocking report, which took four months of intensive research & writing, showed how.

Not long after that, blogging lagged behind outward events, particularly September 11, 2001, which jolted  me out of my routine in central Pennsylvania, and saw me shipped off to be Director at Quaker House, the peace project next door to FortBragg in North Carolina.

With two big wars getting underway, I was  pretty  busy for several years. But the net kept developing, and by late 2009, the pace picked up.

Since then, along with the hits I’ve accumulated 626 “items” on the blog.

In this outpouring, topics varied, though religion was often nearby. In fact, it was the focus of what is undoubtedly the very shortest post of all 626, from May 21, 2011, Here it is, in full:

Since the world seemed likely to persist for awhile, I went ahead and retired from Quaker House in late 2012. Meantime, the blog had had its share of scoops;  it unearthed two official letters from Kenyan Quaker officials endorsing brutal treatment for LGBTs in its country and region; internal budget documents from Philadelphia YM detailing its budget struggles; breaking the news of appointments to various major Quaker positions; etc.

Soon I began foraging for new blogging subject matter. By late summer, 2014, a dominant new subject dropped into my lap:

The Quaker trouble in North Carolina lasted three full years, and I ended up covering it in three ways: in print and online in the journal Quaker Theology, and through the blog as both a reporter and an engaged member of one of the monthly meetings targeted to be purged. There are too many of these posts to list here, and I won’t try to summarize their many twists and turns.  (A summary/review is here.) It ended in August 2017 with the body involved, North Carolina YM-FUM, committing corporate suicide and going out of business after 320 years. At the same time, purge fever spread to two other yearly meetings, with new splits beginning to boil over.

Some readers who were intrepid enough to keep up with this reporting might think I’m something of Quaker conflict junkie, and I can understand how that impression develops. But just this morning after worship at my meeting, I was prompted to mention to one of our stalwart members that in only a few weeks it will be a full year since all that agony in North Carolina YM-FUM finally went up (literally) in smoke. She and I were both overcome with relief.

Besides, in this struggle’s last year, the catastrophe of Eleventh Month 2016 pushed most of our intramural Quaker squabbling to the margins. (Not entirely; because Quaker divisions here in NC mirror many of those in the larger culture; we still have our discernment and work to do among Friends in this new and very gloomy context.

The evolution of technology also made it possible to be “active” in struggles physically located elsewhere. Say, for example, Standing Rock. I cheered on the pipeline protesters there, but had no leading to join them.

Then, just a few weeks after the 2016 election, I read that the paramilitary contractor TigerSwan, based near Fort Bragg and run by veterans of secret military units, was doing “security services” for the pipeline backers and possibly various police agencies. Beyond the name, few in the outside media knew anything about it.

I knew of it from my time at Quaker House, and dug up a batch of background on the company from public sources, then put up a substantial post on November 26. In 24 hours it drew more than a thousand hits, which is a lot for me — but such independent remote exposure could also be vulnerable to electronic pushback: suddenly, the post and my whole blog disappeared.It took a week of insistent appeals to the host to get the blog back up — and when it reappeared, the TigerSwan post was still gone, completely scrubbed from its files.

Fortunately, with the help of readers who had saved copies, we reconstructed the suppressed post, and uploaded it again; it is still there.  

Yesterday, the “All time” counter, which updated fitfully, abruptly jumped ahead a dozen or so, and flipped right past the number I was waiting to see. Whatever.

I’m still busy, as way opens, keeping up with more recent stories I broke in the “blogosphere,” about the two teachers at Friends Central School in Philadelphia who were fired for inviting a Palestinian pacifist Quaker speaker. That, plus the resistance, the resurgence of racism, and other topics, yield a continuing stream of blogging subject matter, some not so controversial. I’m hoping the blog can still build its readership and that I’ll last until the next big milestone (500,000) is reached.

 

If this post is of interest, pleased pass it on.

 

 

My Dark Reflection: Guest Post by Judith Dancy

Judith Dancy from Facebook:
It may have happened while Emma was sleeping so soundly last night, for surely she would have sounded the alarm as the Abyss, with its tank loaded with the fuel of Despair crept through the crack under the front door… the one I keep meaning to put another rubber strip on to keep out the cold wind. I’ve been meaning to do that for years, and now I wish it were only cold wind that crept through.

It’s not that it’s a gray and rainy day. It’s not the death of another precious friend. It’s not the pain that seems unwilling to leave. It’s a sensation I don’t remember ever experiencing ,even in the midst of long periods of deep depression.

I want to apologize, I think, for not recognizing the death of hope. Here I’ve been reassuring you that this is just a birthing process and that something beautiful will be born…not soon enough for some of us, but good will come of what seems like no-good. I’m pretty sure that is not true.

Continue reading My Dark Reflection: Guest Post by Judith Dancy