Category Archives: Uncategorized

War Notes: Hump Day Catchup

AP News: Detailed ‘open source’ news investigations are catching on – in Ukraine & Elsewhere

BY DAVID BAUDER – May 8, 2022
NEW YORK (AP) — One of the more striking pieces of journalism from the Ukraine war featured intercepted radio transmissions from Russian soldiers indicating an invasion in disarray, their conversations even interrupted by a hacker literally whistling “Dixie.”

It was the work of an investigations unit at The New York Times that specializes in open-source reporting, using publicly available material like satellite images, mobile phone or security camera recordings, geolocation and other internet tools to tell stories. Continue reading War Notes: Hump Day Catchup

Scooping the Times, With Grim Gratification

For a reporter, even a retired one, there’s a charge of adrenaline in a scoop — getting a story before other journalists.

And if the scooped rival is the Big Kahuna, aka the New York Times, there’s an extra kick to it.

So I’m preening this morning, after noticing that the august Times, fresh off stuffing another Pulitzer Prize into its warehouse full of such trinkets, catching up with reporting that appeared here more than five years ago.

This despite the fact that the story involved mostly delivered grim news.

Seeing the Times headline, “As a ‘Seismic Shift’ Fractures Evangelicals, an Arkansas Pastor Leaves Home,” my immediate reaction was — I admit it — “Well now, it’s about dam time.”

The point of the story was very familiar: Continue reading Scooping the Times, With Grim Gratification

Embarrassing Quaker Quote of the Week

If you were, say, the new president of a struggling small college in Flyover Carolina, you ought to be thrilled by getting a shout-out from Wendy Brown in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

I mean, The Times is, well, The Times, the national paper of record and all that. And Wendy Brown is an academic superstar (if you think I exaggerate, check out the CV & booklist on her Wikipedia page.)

Wendy Brown

She’s currently UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Previously, she was a core faculty member in The Program for Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She has guest lectured or visited just about everywhere that counts in academe, and produced weighty books exploring the galloping decline of democracy and freedom.

But maybe, if you were the new prez of a certain Friends school, such national recognition by Prof. Brown might be a wee bit, in the current campus argot, problematic. Especially if it was like this,

“On campus, for example,” Brown said in an interview for the Timesmag’s May 6 issue, “the constant harangues about cancel culture and wokeness on the left that you get from the right keep us from seeing enormous amounts of foundation money and use of the state to try to control what is taught, to build institutes and curriculums that comport with a right-wing engine.

Guilford College, this little Quaker school in North Carolina, takes half a million dollars from a foundation in love with Ayn Rand. Every econ and business major in the college for the next 10 years had to be given a copy of [Rand’s novel] “Atlas Shrugged,” and at the center of the curriculum there had to be a course in which “Atlas Shrugged” was the required textbook.5 [Emphasis added.]

[Footnote: “In 2009, Guilford accepted a 10-year $500,000 grant from the BB&T Bank’s charitable foundation, which included the stipulation that a course titled “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism” would be taught. Students majoring in business and economics were, upon beginning their junior year, given a free copy of Rand’s novel.”]

Ahem, well yes. It’s true. Guilford was facing very tough financial times. Desperate times call for desperate measures (though looking for rich donors is an every-day-of-the-week duty of all college presidents who expect to be employed for more than a few months). And the BB&T foundation was handing out buckets of cash to colleges— with conditions.

Ayn Rand.

The condition here was hooking up with a cult philosopher-novelist whose magnum opus is a libertarian pamphlet that turned into an1100-page doorstop paean to selfishness as salvation.

Atlas Shrugged’s message comes down to a main character’s vow that, “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Rand’s most famous convert was one Alan Greenspan, who proved his fanatic devotion to her creed as head of the Federal Reserve, by letting a doomed real estate bubble almost take down the whole damn world economy in 2007-8. (Way to go, Al, I’m sure Ayn was real proud.)

Alan Greenspan, housing investment specialist

Well, okay then. A college prez has gotta do what they’ve gotta do. The BB&T money was a shot in the arm, but Guilford has continued to stagger under the burdens of a big debt load and declining enrollments. Presidents were forced into several rounds of staff and faculty layoffs afterward, which torpedoed not only morale, but also, staff job numbers, and the presidents’ careers

Then COVID dang near sank the whole school; an emergency campaign raised enough last year to push the wolves back into the campus woods for the moment, and culminated in the installation of a new president, Kyle Farmbry.

Kyle Farmbry, Guilford College president

Just the other day, a thick slick college magazine from Guilford showed up in my (real, outdoors, post-in-the ground) mailbox, with Farmbry’s visage dwarfing the cover and taking up the main pages inside.

The article about him (the magazine has not yet shown up on Guilford’s website) was admiring, what you’d expect for a debut/honeymoon issue. It focused several breathless paragraphs on how much listening he’s been doing in these initial months: listening to students, staff, faculty, etc.

Farmbry said his listening stance was influenced by his being an introvert. No doubt, but given Guilford’s recent history, one suspects it also reflects the likelihood he hasn’t yet found concrete answers to two Key Questions that stumped those who occupied his office in the years since BB&T’s contractual charity coup made the college, um, unforgettable to the likes of Wendy Brown.

Those Key questions are (there will be a quiz later):

1. Where will Guilford find several hundred more students (especially those with parents who can pay its $42,000-plus annual price tag)? And

2. Where will Guilford get a bunch more new donor money? (“Bunch” here is technical shorthand for “many millions”; the other key word is “new”.)

I wish Farmbry the best in his quest; he’s running in a very crowded lane, elbowing with just about every other college prez on the continent.  Yet I think I forgot a third item in the list of key queries, namely:

3. Can he get this necessary pile of new money without again making Guilford a byword for selling out (or leasing for a decade or two) its brain and soul to cockamamie crackpots with spare cash?

This is not, pardon my platitude, an academic question. There are other rich folks circling around like vultures waiting to feast on the bones of academic roadkill. People named Koch. And Soros. And Gates. And others.

Oligarchies are like that.

But Farmbry surely knew that. He doubtless knows too that another piece of the Ayn Rand/Greenspan legacy is a baby bust that followed their big 2007 crash.  As a result, the latest reports on college enrollment are the stuff of executive acid reflux. Such as this, from the Washington Post in March:

Colleges across America face a daunting challenge: Their student head count has shrunk more than 5 percent since 2019, according to a national estimate, as debate over the value of higher education intensified during the public health crisis and economic tumult.

That’s an enrollment loss of nearly 1 million students. Some drifted out of college, while others never started. Many colleges are on an urgent quest to keep current students and recover their lost freshmen.

Continued erosion of enrollment is raising alarms
At stake are not only the education and career prospects of huge numbers of young adults, but also the financial health of regional colleges and universities. Once students leave, they often don’t return.”

So best wishes to Guilford’s new prez, and here’s hoping he can get past the ripples spreading from Wendy Brown’s untimely comment and find those well-heeled new students, plus the even some better-heeled philanthropists at loose ends.

And — come to think of it, maybe I have an idea: turns out that I actually wrote a potboiling novel too. A mystery, called Murder Among Friends. It’s available, and perhaps we could work a deal for freshmen at Guilford to get a copy and use it in a course, yes?

It’s a Quaker mystery, so the ideology it tries to peddle is one version of Friends; and it weighs in at a whole lot fewer than 1100 pages, not to mention . . . .

Oh wait. Just checked my bank statement, and I’m way short on the half mill you’d need to back it up.

Well, never mind then.

Roy Cooper for President?

I’m not in the habit of taking political advice from rightwing websites.  Never mind a site started by Tucker Carlson; or from anything else associated with the top Fox News motormouth.

But the headline below, I admit, gave me pause today. So here it is, with some comments in bold dark red.

The Daily Caller: The Democrats Only Have One Hope For 2024, And He’s Already Beaten Trump Twice
Hayden Daniel — May 3, 2022

Though it’s still over two years away, Democrats are beginning to panic over the 2024 presidential election.

Can’t argue with that.

A humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan,

— “humiliating” is YOUR word, Dude. I still give Biden points for biting that awful bullet.  Yeah, the execution sucked, and there’s other fair criticisms to be made, but Biden had the stones to do  what should have been done years ago– Continue reading Roy Cooper for President?

Florida vs Black Voters: an Evil Tradition Endures

Hard Truth-telling in a federal court— But likely soon to be Quashed

WashIngton Post, Ruth Marcus, April 3 2022:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proclaimed himself unfazed by a federal judge’s opinion declaring provisions of the state’s new voting law unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. As a matter of raw judicial vote-counting, DeSantis is probably right.

“It’s just a matter of how quickly it’s going to get reversed,” DeSantis said of the ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, an Obama appointee.

The numbers back up the Republican governor’s bluster. Seven of the 11 active judges on the 11th Circuit, where Walker’s decision will be appealed, are Republican nominees, including a solid phalanx of six Trump appointees.

The Supreme Court, if the dispute gets that far, isn’t apt to be any more attentive to voting rights claims.

As Walker noted at the start of his 288-page opinion, voting rights “are under siege” — and here he blamed not states such as Florida but the Supreme Court itself, pointedly citing its spate of recent rulings eviscerating the Voting Rights Act and refusing to block racial gerrymandering.
Still, the very prospect that this ruling is evanescent is what calls for paying attention to it now. Continue reading Florida vs Black Voters: an Evil Tradition Endures

The Culture Wars Are Coming for Mickey

As a tween in the 1950s, I had a long fixation on all things Disney: seeing the first Disneyland theme park take shape,  being glued to the Mickey Mouse Club (where my first TV crush was on the late Mouseketeer Annette Funicello), etc., etc.

Even last year, it was a peak pandemic survival session when I showed  “Old Yeller” to grandson Calvin; the 1957 film creaked and rattled some, but the venerable boy-meets-dog, boy-loves-dog, boy-loses-dog tale still wagged.

Long since, though, I got over the Magic Kingdom. Way over it. The later movies, especially the animated ones, became too schlocky and plastic-looking; the values oppressively commercialized; blech.

I won’t do a big rant here; to die-hard Disney fans, I say wiggle your ears & go in peace. But the last time I was near Orlando, I sometimes spotted the spires of Disney World off amid the swamps, and the area tourist gewgaw emporia overflowed with knockoffs — I was relieved that no grandkids were along, because the only way I’d go through those gates was under arrest. Continue reading The Culture Wars Are Coming for Mickey

Quaker Simplicity Rises Again; But This Time, It’s Complicated

Friends,

Here is a paper I wrote in 1970 about “The Quaker Testimony of Simplicity.” It was  published in 1972; fifty years ago. It’s about 10500 words; not a quickie.

Simplicity-1970-QRT-corrected-03-25-2022

When I wrote it, I had been among Friends for about four years, and had not yet turned 30. In my heart, it was still The Sixties.

So I knew everything about Quaker Simplicity, right?

Everything important, that is. More than enough to take a few whacks at all the OFFS (Old Friendly Farts) who had made such a mess of things, and tell them how to get it right.

The journal Quaker Religious Thought decided to publish it. Their issue came out, a couple pf comments came in, the world wasn’t thereby changed much, and life went on.

And over the decades since, I have noticed a few things.

For one, while Quakers occasionally referred to a Simplicity Testimony, there wasn’t much else written about it, except in the books of Faith &  Practice, where the tradition of passing down barely tweaked versions of texts that had come before continued, as it did for most other topics, except those that were up-to-the-minute & hot (which it wasn’t).

Then I also noticed that in my own life, in the situations where “Simplicity” might become an issue, things got complicated. Stuff such as marriage, family, work, and a few other minor items.

These days, when my status as an unwillingly–but ineluctably — inducted life member of the OFF fraternity has been certified and re-certified, my mind has occasionally wandered back to that article. I wondered if, on a second look, I would be completely exposed as not having a real clue about the subject I had once written about so confidently.

Someone recently heard that I had published about the testimony, and asked if I could,  you know,  explain it, say, in a message at Spring Meeting. I said, “Sure.”

But then The doubts arose. So I dug up the article from its now electronic cemetery, and got it scanned and edited enough to read carefully.

Well, it wasn’t a complete mess. I had turned up a few useful bits of fact, and a couple not entirely off-the-wall interpretations.

But not all that much. So if any readers are interested in actually looking it over, I need to offer a preliminary critique, to preserve the few grains of wheat in it from the bushel of chaff that was also emitted.

Here’s the good news: I think I got the main point right: Continue reading Quaker Simplicity Rises Again; But This Time, It’s Complicated

Whittier: “In War Time”

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).

 

“In War Time”

Anniversary Poem

Somewhat revised

               Read before the Alumni of the Friends’ Yearly Meeting School, at the Annual Meeting at Newport, R. I., 15th 6th mo., 1863. [Written during another war, it resonates with a current one, and is edited here to highlight those echoes.]

 

ONCE more, dear friends, you meet beneath
A clouded sky:       

Not yet the sword has found its sheath,
And on the sweet spring airs the breath
Of war floats by.

 Yet trouble springs not from the ground,     Nor pain from chance;      

The Eternal order circles round,
And wave and storm find mete and bound
In Providence.

 Full long our feet the flowery ways
Of peace have trod,           

Content with creed and garb and phrase:
A harder path in earlier days
Led up to God. Continue reading Whittier: “In War Time”

Cats, Too?? Now It’s Getting Serious

You may have seen that a Russian oligarch’s superyacht was seized in Germany.

And reports are bubbling about Putinish vodka being dumped down many drains.

But here’s the real kicker, the disclosure that the mobilization now includes even the Crazy Catpersons Caucus:

From the Washington Post, March 3:

By Jennifer Hassan

The International Cat Federation says it has banned Russian cats from its international competitions in the latest rebuke to Russia since it invaded Ukraine last week.

The federation, which considers itself “the United Nations of Cat Federations,” said in a statement that it was “shocked and horrified” that Russian forces had invaded Ukraine and “started a war.” Known as FIFe (for its French name, Fédération Internationale Féline), it said that the measures were decided Tuesday and that officials could not “witness these atrocities and do nothing.”

The Dusky Calico Champion of the Durham Feline Elite shows her solidarity.

It said the rule would remain in place until the end of May and would then be reviewed.
“No cat belonging to exhibitors living in Russia may be entered at any FIFe show outside Russia, regardless of which organization these exhibitors hold their membership in,” said the organization, which spans almost 40 countries. . . .

[Note: This is not a spoof.]

 

Behold: the USA Truckers Caravan Cometh

I wonder how many temporarily “Canadian” truckers, recently evicted from the bridge at Windsor/Detroit, are now chugging their way west across the windswept snowy plains, aiming for the desert around Coachella, near Palm Springs California?

Arrests, begin in Ottawa. About time, eh?

It’s not just the weather (weekend forecast sunny, dry & high 70s) that’s drawing them. Or the three local Indian casinos. Coachella is the announced starting point for a trucker insurgency which reportedly means to barnstorm its way across the continent, converge on Washington DC, and paralyze it a la Ottawa, for
— Well, for something.

The Gone-viral Facebook announcement of the U.S. convoy.

I’ve been watching the mess in Canada for weeks, and I’m not yet sure what they want, except maybe for the pandemic to go away without vaccines, masks, or anything else, and to take Justin Trudeau with them. Oh, and free gas.

Yesterday I read that one “occupier” repurposed a red MAGA cap to say, “Make CANADA Great Again.”

Poutine, classic: fries, cheese buds, brown gravy. Lots of other stuff can be added, but this is the basic patriotic Canadian staple. I like it.

Really? From my vantage point, Canada never stopped being great; but I’m an outsider, though I still like poutine.

And Coachella is certified as a great spot for a music festival (it now hosts several per year), so there’s plenty of parking, so why not borrow it to kick off an 18-wheeler apocalypse?

Coachella, at work.

Of course, gas prices are a bother (pushing $4.40 for regular). But heck, sounds like there’s plenty of rightwing dark money pouring in to fuel it.

There better be: those rigs average 6 [= six] mpg, or about 400 gallons, which is close to $1600, for the 2545 mile hike to DC, one-way, not including, food, tolls, bail and lawyer’s fees.

The gas & mileage is likely a low estimate: after all, how can the convoy resist taking the long way east, with stops for rallies in places like Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis or Atlanta?

Almost holy water . . .

The free media would be worth a fortune, and they can almost be guaranteed at some point to get a slow drive-by baptism from the Orange Pope of Mar-a-Lago Himself, sprinkling Diet Coke from the owner’s box and sanctifying them, “In the Name of Let’s Go Brandon, the Junior & the Javanka.”

For that matter, the route almost has to join eventually with that main eastern artery of flyover country, Interstate 40, across North Carolina towards its Rendezvous With Destiny, at Interstate 95, where one left turn will aim them straight at the nation’s capitol.

I-40 meets I-95: Left past Rocky Mount, Washington is straight ahead. Right, I-40 to Raleigh for work, or Wilmington NC, to the Atlantic beaches.

Among the many benefits of that leg, besides the best barbecue, cheese grits and hot Krispy Kremes, I-40 takes them past a crucial pit stop in the historic town of Mebane, where they can refresh their most treasured supplies.

I speak, of course, of guns, and that central Carolina landmark, Mace Sports.

Even the rankest newcomer can’t miss it, with its huge electrified billboard of solidarity flashing Big Go Brandon love day and night right next to one of the busiest roadways in the region, showing its political vision for 2024 every minute, and highlighting the basics of tactical support, such as:

This Taurus snub-nosed pistol is made to be easily and fully hidden inside the waistband. It is not for hunting deer.

— this pistol, which is made for concealment. They also sell a mini-holster for keeping them at one’s side and out of the sight of snooping cops and troops, not to mention all kinds of ammo).

The .223 REM and 300BLK bullets are specially designed for use in such guns as AR-15s, AK-47s, and other rapid fire weapons used bu U.S. Special Forces in secret missions. (Not for deer hunting.)

Of course, this is America, not lily-livered socialistic Canada, so many (most?) of the convoy truckers will likely be packing their own heat. And who knows, maybe this time they’ll get to use it.

I’m trying to imagine the triumphal arrival scene:

The lead truck will be hauling a float, carrying MTG, firing her AR-15 into the air (or at liberals), flanked by Cawthorn, Hawley, & Boebert, who will each get a turn with a trigger, while behind them Paul Gosar slashes the throats of a pile of AOC dolls, and tosses them to the gleeful crowd.

And what will be the official response? Does anyone recall how many National Guard troops were surrounding the inauguration last year?

I didn’t notice them, myself. I figured they were all hidden somewhere behind Bernie Sanders and his mittens. And were they packing?

But now, how can any regular Fox news viewer believe that Sleepy Joe Biden would put up any kind of serious cordon like that?

More likely he’ll resign first, take Kamala Harris with him, both wearing masks, and leave Nancy Pelosi to deal with the convoy, armed only with her ceremonial gavel. Right?

I’m sure a second truck will showcase an electrified cross, and a gallows — but hey, that will just be for old times sake. I mean, like the RNC says, “legitimate political discourse,” and Mace Sports underlines that It’s all in  good fun.

From the Mace Sports website.

Yeah, the convoy is coming. Watch for the Signs of the Times gathering in Coachella, and then follow them rolling east like an inland Tsunami.

Unless your name is Mike Pence. Then I’d suggest checking into Dick Cheney’s old “undisclosed  location,” right quick.

As for me, if I had my druthers, about that time I’d be ordering an extra-sized serving of poutine.

Oh, but Don’t call DoorDash, eh?

I’ll come pick it up.