Category Archives: Sedition Watch

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 . . . .

Dynamite! Retired Federal Judge Eviscerates Trump/Barr Attempt to Drop Flynn Conviction

This is stunning stuff — it reads like something out of an action novel. But actually they are passages from a 30-page brief issued yesterday, by retired federal judge John Gleeson.

Gleeson Relentlessly demolishes the Trump/Barr attempt to dismiss the Perjury conviction of former General Michael Flynn.

Federal judge Emmet Sullivan

[Background: “Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before the 2016 election. Later, after cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller for nearly two years, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea and allege he was set up by the FBI and coerced into pleading guilty by rogue prosecutors.

In May, the Barr Justice Department . . . moved to dismiss the case, arguing to judge Judge Emmet Sullivan that the FBI had no legitimate reason to interrogate Flynn when Director James Comey sent two agents to the White House to discuss his conversations with Kislyak in January 2017.”

But Sullivan refused to sign the dismissal request. In this Sullivan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, lived up to what the New York Times called a renowned “independent streak.” Instead he  appointed Gleeson to challenge it and scheduled a hearing on the issue. The issue remains unresolved. Gleeson’s white-hot brief will up the ante. See for yourself: Continue reading Dynamite! Retired Federal Judge Eviscerates Trump/Barr Attempt to Drop Flynn Conviction

A Theological Emergency that’s part real & part satire. Can you tell the difference?

Operator: Hello, this is Theology 911. What is your theological emergency?

Aunt Mabel: Oh, thank heaven.  OMG it’s so awful!

Operator: Yes, ma’am. Please ma’am, are you in danger?

Aunt Mabel: I sure am, sonny. It’s the guns. And it’s not just me. Please send a SWAT team to my house right away, or it will be too late!

Operator: Right away, ma’am. Let me get some information. Did you say someone else there with you is also in danger?

Aunt Mabel: Yes! Oh, it’s so horrible. It’s God!

Operator: Ma’am, I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying God has guns?

Aunt Mabel: No, no— it’s Biden. Joe Biden.

Operator: Excuse me? Joe Biden is God? Continue reading A Theological Emergency that’s part real & part satire. Can you tell the difference?

Stick to Nonviolence: A Followup

A quick followup to the July 28th post, “Why nonviolent protests are smarter, even/especially today”.

The point, to reiterate, was that lots of academic & private polling research, plus my own movement experience, confirms the idea that nonviolent protests move public opinion in a progressive direction, while violent demonstrations nudge it toward the reactionary right, often with tragic and lasting outcomes.

I didn’t expect to have corroboration so soon. But by sundown there was a raft of it, starting with a brand new Reuters/Ipsos poll with all the data one might need.

First, the new poll. The big number in it was the trend in public support for the latest round of protests. Here’s the summary:

The poll follows a series of late-night clashes between protesters and federal police in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrators have held nightly anti-racism rallies. Trump sent federal police into the city despite the mayor’s objections to deal with what he called “anarchists and agitators,” and he has sent others to Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque.

According to the poll, 52% of American adults say they are sympathetic to those who are still gathering to protest the police treatment of minorities, especially African Americans, about 12 percentage points lower than a similar poll that ran in mid-June.[Emphasis added.]

Twelve per cent. That’s a big drop. And 52 percent is perilously close (within any reasonable margin for error) to tipping over into majority public dislike of the protests.

And there’s another drop to take note of: The percentage of those who are unhappy with Trump’s response to the recent protests has dropped from 58 per cent to 54. Ipsos puts this another way:

. . . [A] majority of Americans remain unhappy with the way [Trump] has responded. The poll showed 54% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the protests, which is only a slight improvement from a similar poll that ran in mid-June when 58% disapproved.

Another way to slice it is that Trump appears to be reclaiming some Republicans whose support he was losing as the early rounds of protests crested. There the increase Ipsos found, is substantial:

The rise in support comes primarily from Republicans who have backed the president in greater numbers as the protests rage across the country: 78% said they approved of Trump’s response to the demonstrations in the latest poll, up from 67% in mid-June. Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats say they do not like the way Trump is dealing with the protests, and that has not changed over since June.

It’s not time to panic. But what’s important here is the trend, and it’s in the direction of Trump’s strategy: paint the protests as domestic terrorism, fan the flames of hysteria, turn up the media echo chamber volume to full blast, and build the image as the savior of  [racist white] suburbia.

Wait, there’s more: Further backing up this analysis is what Trump said to Iowa voters Tuesday night in a tele-rally via Facebook Live.

Here’s part of a stunning transcript posted today by CNN Politics reporter DJ Judd:

Trump hopes that Karen & Ken are the ones to show him the way to win the suburbs and reelection.
Cory Booker? He’s Trump’s new suburban bogeyman?? Doesn’t he live in the suburbs???

Trump: it’s ridiculous, they [Biden & Democrats] want to abolish, and really hurt the suburbs, because under their plan, they will, under a plan that’s very much agreed to by them, they want to make it worse, they don’t mind if low­ income housing is built in a neighborhood, in a beautiful suburb of Iowa, but a beautiful suburb anywhere in the country, they want low, and this has been going on for years, Obama made it much worse, and now they want Cory Booker to run that program, Cory Booker of New Jersey to run that program, and make it many times worse than it is right now.
People have gone to the suburbs, they want the beautiful homes, they don’t have to have a low income housing development built in their community, which is going to reduce, which has reduced the prices of their homes, and also increased crime substantially. [Emphasis added.]

As one analyst said, this effusion turns his racist dog whistles into train whistles. I would add, foghorns.

The Iowa rant, if typically rambling, was not at all incoherent: it aims to reassemble and harden the racist suburban base Trump plundered in 2016. And I hate to say it, but the poll suggests he’s making some headway with that. And do I think protesters need to take this into account? You bet.

One other meaningful tidbit from this busy day; The Minneapolis police department said they’re closing in on a suspect who was the “umbrella Man” who broke windows in protests there on May 27, clearly “lighting the match” of fiery protests later. The New York Times has an affidavit police filed for a search warrant:

Umbrella Man at work, Minneapolis May 27. Where else has he been since then?

“Erika Christensen, an arson investigator with the Minneapolis police, wrote in the affidavit that the vandalism ‘created an atmosphere of hostility and tension’ two days after Mr. Floyd’s death. It unleashed a chain reaction of arson and looting in the Twin Cities, she wrote, after protests had been relatively peaceful.

‘In a short time after the front windows are broken out in The AutoZone, looting started, the affidavit said, noting that the AutoZone store burned down later that day. ‘This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.’”

They allege that the suspect is associated with white supremacy groups and racist prison gangs. The Washington Post had a video clip of the suspect, showing other protesters pleading with him to stop, unsuccessfully.

Unless the Minneapolis cops are completely wrong, this disclosure cements the case that Umbrella Man was no more than a provocateur, who fully achieved his goal of undermining peaceful protests and touching off violence.

And if that happened in Minneapolis, my sense is that it has happened elsewhere.  The conclusion that strict nonviolent tactics is the best defense against such subversion is plain.

Is help on the way? There’s an outfit in DC called the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and it has published the title & an abstract of a new monograph which addresses this head on: “Agents Provocateurs, Violent Flanks, and Nonviolent Movements: A Historical and Strategic Perspective.” The abstract sounds totally on point:

“When the adversary of a civil resistance movement sends infiltrators to join the movement, what do these covert operators do, and what impact do they have? Furthermore, how can civil resistance organizers respond creatively and strategically?”

Yes how? In Minneapolis, the video shows two other protesters appealing to Umbrella Man to stop breaking windows. He ignored them, kept swinging the sledgehammer, then walked away. Peaceful protesters need help on this.

Unfortunately only the paper’s title & abstract are online; the actual paper is “forthcoming.” Better get the lead out, folks: it’s burn-the-midnight-courthouse—err, oil time.

Nevertheless. Most of the protests have been peaceful, and many have been quite imaginative.  Such creativity is an important tactical resource. (Looking at you, Wall of Moms.)

Keep it up.

If you find this post useful, please pass it on.

Why nonviolent protests are smarter, even/especially today

One of the less useful of the recent media tempests involved a report about the fate  of David Shor, a somewhat lefty data analyst.

Shor had tweeted a summary of a paper by Princeton scholar Omar Wasow.  Wasow argued that his research on 12 years of Black-led protests, particularly in election years, moved public opinion in a progressive direction, whereas those marked by violence to property and persons moved the needle toward support for reactionaries, helping bring Nixon, Reagan et al to power. In his own words:

Evaluating black-led protests between 1960 and 1972, I find nonviolent activism, particularly when met with state or vigilante repression, drove media coverage, framing, Congressional speech and public opinion on civil rights. Counties proximate to nonviolent protests saw presidential Democratic vote share among whites increase 1.3-1.6%.

Protester-initiated violence, by contrast, helped move news agendas, frames, elite discourse and public concern toward “social control.” In 1968 . . . I find violent protests likely caused a 1.6-7.9% shift among whites towards Republicans and tipped the election.

Shor’s tweet provoked a storm of online denunciation of its purported racism, and in a few days Shor was fired from his job at Civis Analytics, a Chicago-based “data science software and consultancy company,“ for somewhat lefty clients.

The incident was cited by writer Jonathan Chait as an example of the illiberal tendencies of some left-liberals, and fodder for his article, “The Still-Vital Case for Liberalism in a Radical Age.”

I mention it not to rehash the cliched debate about cancel culture. Instead, I want to say a few things about Omar Wasow’s overall thesis, that violence in protests helps reactionary politics, while nonviolent direct action boosts progressives.

First, I strongly agree with Wasow’s main point. My conviction is not based on academic research, though; it comes out of fifty-plus years of surviving the ’60s and their aftermath, under the heels of Nixon, Reagan, two Bushes, and the Orange Menace.

Oh—and second, if it’s not permitted for a lefty progressive to say such a thing, so shoot me. Though that would be a waste of ammunition, given my age and retired status.

Third, and most important, there are others who also agree with Wasow, and are acting vigorously on that conviction, but with very different and anti-progressive ends in view. Also with far more clout than I’ll ever have.

A vivid glimpse of that reality is what moved me to write this post. It came in the latest edition of “The Righting,” an email newsletter that brings “Top news headlines from the Far Right for the rest of us.”

The rightwing media this letter aggregates rant about many issues and topics.

Yet the current issue is essentially focused on just one: how violent protests are terrorism unleashed, that are burning up the cities, threatening the country. They must be stopped, and only harsh repression by their preferred leader can save us.

Looking this over, and remembering the Shor & Wasow hoo-haw, it suddenly hit me: the far right totally believes both of them: they’re convinced violent protests can move the needle.

And they’re desperate to move the needle. All the credible polls are showing Trump lagging Biden, many by huge numbers. Some foolish pundits are already announcing that it’s all over, and trotting out their pet names for a Biden cabinet.

But it’s not over yet. And every urban nightscape that is lit up with flames and resounds with gunfire presents a chance for them to stop the Trumpist slide. Maybe their only chance. Will the violent protests give it to them?

Americans are not overall a radical, or even radical-leaning people. They want some peace, quiet, a real crusade against the pandemic, a way for families out of the new depression, open and SAFE schools, and action on police misconduct and the racism behind it.

Violence in the cities threatens the positive momentum that has been built up on all these matters since George Floyd’s murder. And putting up with or excusing it is no better. Here I am following the words and example of those who have been most honored this month: C. T. Vivian, John Lewis, and both Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.

This appeal is particularly aimed at “my people,” the liberal Quakers and those of similar outlook, who have largely stuck with this heritage during my lifetime, I know it’s tempting to rationalize or give into the rage that’s loose. The sight of unidentified federal stormtroopers snatching mostly peaceful protesters off the streets is enough to send most of us over the edge.

But resist that impulse, Friends. As the old freedom song says, “keep your eyes on the prize.” Advocate for, plan, and carry out protests and actions that are strictly nonviolent.

It’s not only safer. It’s both strategically and tactically smarter. And the stakes could hardly be higher. If Americans become desperate for safety, many can be persuaded they will only get that from the right, and they can and will turn that way — it’s happened often before.

The far right knows this. So they are all out for the opposite to happen. Don’t fall into the trap.

If you approve of this post, please pass it on.

Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

The work of bringing down Calhoun took all one night and most of the next day.

So– the City of Charleston South Carolina wasted no time. After the City Council voted unanimously on June 23, 2020 to take down its landmark monument to John C. Calhoun, a crew swung into action, starting at near midnight.

It was no small task to pluck the figure from its 100-foot pedestal. It took the workers until late the next day to bring  Calhoun floating back down to earth, and ship him off to a future of obscurity.

I was as pleased as anyone to see Calhoun disappear, at  least from that exalted place of honor; but I hope he lives on as a shameful memory, for a sadder-but-wiser nation that let him look down on all since 1896, as what one historian called “the Marx of the master class.” Continue reading Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

The Hungarian Religious Resistance: a Mirror & a Beacon to Our Own

A report in The Guardian on December 28 compellingly describes the small, marginalized religious resistance to the self-described ”Christian” authoritarianism of the current Hungarian regime. In this sketch there is much to learn and reflect on for those Americans who feel called to a similar path.

The anti-democratic drive of the Viktor Orban government to undermine Hungary’s independent courts, media and other democratic processes is well-known. So is its unremitting hostility to the homeless poor, refugees, immigrants & LGBT persons, and incitement of anti-semitism.

What was less known, at least to me, is how much this burgeoning tyranny has been wrapped and sanctified in religious terms, as an expression of “Christian liberty,” intended to protect a version of “Christian culture.”  Also new to me is how similar its rationale is to reactionary evangelical/fundamentalist movements in other countries.

The Advent Statement logo.

Early in December a band of Hungarian religious dissenters responded by issuing what they call “The Advent Statement.” As I read it I noted that, if one replaced “Hungary” with the “US administration” & its cronies, much or most of its text could be an “American Advent Statement.” See if you agree:

We are calling,” it says, “for resistance to an arrogance of power that makes the concept of “Christian Liberty” a slogan for exclusionary, hate-filled and corrosive policy; a power that destroys the social fabric and eliminates useful social institutions; a power that systematically threatens democracy and the rule of law. We are concerned about the arrogance of power that mixes the language of national identity with the language of Christian identity in a manipulative way. We cannot let our freedom, given to us by grace in baptism, be taken away.

We are concerned by the narrow political usage of the concept of “Christian Liberty”. Our goal is to restore the dignity of this biblical and theological concept. Christian liberty includes freedom from causing harm to the other person and to ourselves, freedom from abuse, exploitation, ignorance and freedom for protecting the other person’s dignity and rights, as well as our own. In this light, we cannot be indifferent to the current state of affairs we experience in Hungarian society. . . .”

Their bill of particulars should also sound familiar to American ears:

Orban & the flag.

The authoritarian exercise of power is spreading around the world but especially before our eyes in Hungary. We are witnessing manipulation of electoral law and the use oflegislative and executive power in order to provide legislative protection for the corruption inspired by the state. This is a strategy of power that deliberately eliminates political differences of opinion through the eradication of independent media, spreading fake news, discrediting and character assassination, and harassment by authorities.
Because of this, in the name of Christian liberty we would like to be prepared to speak up and act unambiguously. . . . ”

One major difference between the two countries is that in Hungary (as in some other European nations), many churches are subsidized by the government, through allocations from taxes. These payments become an ongoing form of hush money:

Alexander Faludy, a vicar who spent years in forced exile during the time of Communist rule, acknowledges that “The state funding is important of course, acting as both a carrot and a stick” . . . . [Something like that is happening here too, see: “How Mike Pence’s Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Groups,”  For that matter, both Barack Obama and George W. Bush pushed through increases in federal aid to churches.]

But as a beleaguered Job noted in the Bible, “the Lord giveth & the Lord taketh away” (Job 1:21). He wasn’t talking about government funding, but the sentiment applies: the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, whose President, Pastor Gábor Iványi was instrumental in drafting The Advent Statement, saw its state funding withdrawn after the Orban regime consolidated its power. And maybe that’s why the larger Protestant groups in Hungary have not signed on to it.

Beyond direct funding, Vicar Faludy added, “there has also been a  comprehensive instrumentalisation of the churches [by Orban] through the power of prestige. The idea of participation in public life, for people who grew up under communism, when churches were systematically placed at a civil disadvantage, was very tempting. I think that in 2010 [when Orbán was re-elected prime minister] there was a sense of hope in the churches. Church leaders thought: ‘This government may be far from perfect but it’s a way of getting things done, for example of making sure there’s a Christian ethos in the schools.’ From speaking to people in the churches, I think they thought they could ride the tiger.”

Pastor Ivanyi speaks out in Hungary.

After 10 years in which Orbán’s grip on civil society has been relentlessly strengthened, Faludy says: “At best, the churches have chosen quietism rather than prophetic vocation.”

Of course, In the U. S., many prominent evangelical leaders are definitely not “quietist.” Rather, they clearly ARE “riding the tiger,” galloping, they believe, straight toward a promised land where their kind of “religious liberty” will be exercised to ban abortion, roll back LGBT rights, gain government support for their “Christian” schools & much more, so (with the rare exception of, say, editors of Christianity Today magazine), they show no inclination to get off.

Similarly, there’s as yet been no stampede among Hungarian churchgoers to join the Advent Declaration’s public dissent. And this should be no surprise to its authors:

“[Orban] is turning the Christian message on its head,” says Iványi. “Is there any other Christian country in the world where it is written in the constitution that you can be jailed for being homeless? Is it a Christian country where asylum seekers are not given the basic resources they need to survive? Is it Christian to use power to abolish media freedoms, the independence of judges and academic autonomy?

“In ancient Israel, the prophets spoke out against corruption and wickedness. We are now compelled to speak out. We might not be Isaiahs or Jeremiahs. But we take courage from their example.”

Yes, courage. Iványi and his cohorts will need it. The prophets they cite may now loom large in the Bible and the gospels. But in life, theirs was a lonely and frequently fatal career path.

It was also the path Jesus took, frequently denouncing the tiger-riding religious bigwigs of his day as the spawn of those who killed the prophets. And you see where that message got him.

I salute Pastor Iványi and The Advent Statement. And beyond courage, I wish them (& their American counterparts) stamina and determination:  the stories of the prophets also show that it took time, often lifetimes, of endurance, protest and lamentation for their prophecies of greater justice even to begin to come to pass.

Quaker Theology at 20: People, Witness, and Ideas

Much of what we’ve published in the journal Quaker Theology has been about people, mostly Quakers, past and present. This may be unusual in theological journals, but Quakerism is very much a lived religion, embodied in people, their witness, and their thought.

[The first 32 issues of Quaker Theology are all online here [www.quakertheology.org], available to all in searchable form. The 20th Anniversary issue, #33, is now ready at Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/y26gmlbj ), and will be on the web soon. ]

Theology is about more than persons, though; it also deals with ideas. And while theological notions are often arcane and tedious, some can be startling, even shocking. At least several times in this effort they have shocked this editor. Many of these shocks came from reading and reviewing books. (It does help if a theologian is something of a book nerd.) 

For instance, the most acute critique of the reigning ideology of permanent war that has possessed America’s rulers since at least 2001came to my desk not from a liberal or left-winger, but from their polar opposite, a strict evangelical-fundamentalist and libertarian named Laurence M. Vance.

His book, Christianity and War, and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, was miles ahead of most other antiwar screeds I have read (or written); it was reviewed and excerpted in QT #20.  Continue reading Quaker Theology at 20: People, Witness, and Ideas

Trauma & Triggers: Coping With Campaign Overload

I don’t know about you, but late last week I hit the wall about the midterm election: the swirl of attack ads, the endless urgent fund appeal emails, the feverish palaver about polls. Not to mention the shocks of the Khashoggi assassination, the mail bombs, and the massacre in Pittsburgh. When the funerals there were basically crashed by the uninvited  ghoul, my internal needle bounced into the red “zone marked “Overload.”

I’m not dropping out: already voted (first day of early voting); urged all & sundry to do likewise; sent several hundred dollars to a list of pleading, promising candidates. And I’ve been reading & listening to the nonstop chatter & prognosticating. 

Then finally it became too much. It was driving me nuts. Had to get away.

Continue reading Trauma & Triggers: Coping With Campaign Overload

Dog Days Reading: A Tale of Two Nightmares: One Asleep, One Wide Awake

Nightmare Number one, wide awake: In the summer of 1959, my father, an Air Force bomber pilot, was transferred to a base near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Peace Is Our Profession” said the billboard by the base gate.

There my mother sent me and several of my siblings to St. Mary’s, the Catholic school downtown. It was across the street from the state Capitol. St. Mary’s was run by Dominican nuns, whose convent was next door.

I could have objected, but thought better of it.  Although I had become more or less an atheist, I was also a senior: one year left. I figured to keep my head down, get through it, then escape to college somewhere.

Far away in Rome, a new pope was settling in, replacing the late Pius XII. Pius had taken over in 1939, three years before I was born. When I thought about Pius, which was rarely, he had seemed like a permanent fixture, as solid as the thick stone walls of the old church in Kansas  where I was baptized, as unmoving as the statues there, their arms outstretched, frozen in yearning toward their timeless crucified Christ.

But no, Pius was a mere mortal, and his successor, John XXIII, was quietly preparing to shake up the church’s seemingly impregnable  status quo. I mention these items, not because anything about them had penetrated my teenage male brain, but rather because I realize now that our nuns, an educated and alert group, were no doubt keenly aware of them. In fact, this must have been a very exciting year for them: not only was there a new pope, but Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy was making a serious run at becoming the first Catholic U. S. President in 1960. Continue reading Dog Days Reading: A Tale of Two Nightmares: One Asleep, One Wide Awake