My friend Patrick O’Neill is serving a year in a federal prison, for attacking a replica of a nuclear missile at a south Georgia navy base in April of 2018. (A post with more about that protest is here.) It’s part of his peace witness as a member of the Catholic Worker movement.
Most of us don’t think about the missiles a lot. But there are enough just at that one Georgia base to kill pretty much everyone in the world, on fifteen minutes’ notice.
Yeah, the risk of nuclear Armageddon did not disappear with the fall of Soviet communism.
Patrick and several others did think about the missiles, tho, and it led to Patrick reporting to the federal prison in Elkton, Ohio just about when Joe Biden was being inaugurated.
Doing time is tough. And nobody can do it for him. Patrick has a good deal of jail experience; and one lesson is that it doesn’t get much easier. There are a few ways to be supportive from outside. Mine is to send Patrick reading matter. Reading can dull some moments in the overwhelming tedium of confinement. So I have sent him a few of my books. (Hey — a captive audience; the best kind.)
It can help a little. Patrick said so, in a note that arrived this week:
‘Let all you do be done in love’— St. Paul
Good Friday [04/02/2021] Day 18 in the SHU (solitary)
Hi Chuck— My Lenten Journey will take me past Easter — I’ve done a lot of time (20+ jails, 6 prisons), but this has been the worst. Before the SHU [NOTE: SHU = Special Housing Unit] I spent 4 days in a hospital with 2 armed guards with me at all times who kept me in leg irons, and my left hand attached by chains to the bed, one chain attaching my leg irons to the bed . . . . I had to pee in a plastic bottle while chained.
When I asked one guard to use the bathroom he said, “Do you have to do Number Two?” He would not have unchained me otherwise. And the leg irons never came off except for 15 minutes when I took a stress test on a treadmill. And now I’m in the hole for Covid quarantine.
[Note: It’s no surprise that Patrick came down with Covid. Since March 2020, The New York Times has tracked every known coronavirus case in every correctional setting in the United States. . . .
A year later, reporters found that one in three inmates in state prisons are known to have had the virus. In federal facilities, at least 39 percent of prisoners are known to have been infected. The true count is most likely higher because of a dearth of testing, but the findings align with reports from The Marshall Project, The Associated Press, U.C.L.A. Law and The Covid Prison Project that track Covid-19 in prisons.
The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 people have died in custody, where access to quality health care is poor.
The deaths, and many of the more than 525,000 reported infections so far among the incarcerated, could have been prevented, public health and criminal justice experts say.] Back to Patrick:
If there’s ever a historic marker put up in Burr’s memory, the curious will have to search for it, and it will have plentiful blank space.
But despite all my “elite” blogger’s disdain, I have now been shown up as having grossly underestimated Burr’s legislative work ethic and its impact. The crushing exposé came in a report in the New York Times on March 22, 2021.
It turns out that Burr is quite capable of working like a dog, by golly a determined attack dog at that. The Times even has the paperwork covered with bite marks to prove it.
I apologize for the error.
Of course, it had to be just the right burning, moral, lives-are-at-stake issue to get Burr to jump the leash and put down the stock market reports.
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).
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:
Apropos of Dr. King’s birthday, and looking toward Black History Month, an email came In Monday telling me the New Yorker magazine had posted on its website an article from the April 10, 1965 issue called, “Letter from Selma,” about the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
And I was mentioned in it.
Sure enough; it’s the only time I have appeared in the magazine.
I barely remember what was in that “Letter,” though I can still see the writer, Renata Adler, appearing by the edge of U.S. Highway 80.
I do recall how strikingly out of place she seemed, on its rough and rocky shoulder, crowded with disheveled marchers, and lined with armed troops eyeing the nearby scrub forests for snipers.
Adler looked as if she had been plucked from a stroll on Fifth Avenue and teleported to Alabama, in a colorful and almost slinky sheath dress, with a broad voguish hat bending under the stray breezes, notebook in hand.
We talked for just a few minutes. It’s a good article. Only time my name ever appeared in the New Yorker, as far as I know.
I think you can read it for free.
And there’s more: on Jan. 18 I was asked to speak to the good people of Life’s Journey UCC Church in Burlington NC, and tell them the title story from my memoir, “Eating Dr. King’s Dinner.”
Of course, I didn’t get to go to Burl-Ing ton, which is about 40 miles west of Durham. Instead, I ZOOMed in from home in Durham; that’s This American (Pandemic) Life, 2021.
and explain how for a long time after that year in Selma, it had a happy ending. But then, in 2013, that ending was erased, and the story of fighting for voting resumed.
Only this time, the wear and tear of age had me on the sidelines, but still connected, reminding the young that this continuing story is now theirs too, and it was their turn, not yet to tell it but to write the decisive next chapters with their lives.
Mark Schwartz is a civil rights attorney and a friend of this blog. He was the attorney for two women teachers at Friends Central School, who were fired in 2017 after inviting a Palestinian-Quaker pacifist professor from Swarthmore College to speak at the school — a case reported on in depth here.
Now Schwartz has issued an open letter to the federal attorney for Washington DC, in the matter of potential charges in the wake of the U.S. Capitol invasion of January 6.
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.
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.
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.
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. . . .
NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.”
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 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”.
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.
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.”
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.
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. . . .
“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.
In mid-2014, a blast of church schism fever blew into the three-century old North Carolina Quaker community like a line of summer tornadoes.
At its annual conference, a purge was suddenly demanded to “purify” their ranks of meetings deemed theologically “liberal” or friendly to LGBTQ persons. The same wave had already shattered Quaker groups in Indiana, and would soon roll west into Oregon and Washington state.
But the targeted groups in Carolina stood up eloquently in their own defense. They issued cogent rebuttals to the doctrinal charges, and stood firmly for the integrity of recognized Quaker decision making. The purge attempts repeatedly stalled.
Yet they continued. For two years the question was, how far would the crusaders go? Were they, like U.S. troops in Vietnam, ready to destroy their Quaker “village” in order to “save” it?
”A house divided against itself cannot stand!” was the insurgents’ refrain, citing the gospels and Abraham Lincoln. Something would have to give.
And ultimately, it did.
Murder at Quaker Lake unpacks this dead-serious true story. It is now available, in paperback & e-book form. Since the turn of the 21st century, five U. S. Quaker Yearly Meetings have become battlefields, truly making the opening decades of the 21st Century as The Separation Generation.
If you drove west on the Chapel Hill-Greensboro Road through Snow Camp, North Carolina on Sunday, November 1, 2020, at about eleven AM, you would have passed a white chapel-looking building on your left. A few cars were parked outside, on the grass under the big old trees, which are shedding their wrinkled brown leaves after a hot green summer.
That was Spring Friends Meeting. From the outside, it looked quiet, secluded, and almost deserted. Easy to miss amid the wooded stretches and dairy farms of southern Alamance county.
But inside, it was none of those. Yes, just a handful of Quakers, or Friends, were sitting, widely-spaced and mostly masked, on its long benches. And they weren’t loud. But a lot was going on.