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Trying to take care of my little piece of the planet

High Cotton Indeed

We spent last week in San Francisco, cramming in as much of that fabulous city as possible. But the main reason we were there was to take in some of the Louis Vuitton Cup, a series of races to determine who will challenge Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup next month. To that end, we rented a condo in that part of town and spent three afternoons watching the competition. But prior to that, we were fortunate enough to hook up with an old friend of old friends, who took us out for a ‘three hour tour’ of San Francisco Bay in his Swann 51 sailboat. During that afternoon, we were delighted to see three of the Cup contenders getting in some practice time, as well as see a replica of the yacht America out for a sail. Highlights of the afternoon are captured on the five minute video below.

For reference, the America’s Cup boats are 72 feet long. More on that (and race footage) to come.

The harbor tour was the start to a marvelous week; high cotton indeed.

#vaginamotorcycles – My Two Cents


Earlier today on Facebook, I made the following comment in response to this: “When our satire makes the front page on,
the NC GOP is losing the messaging war. Badly.”

My comment elicited the following response:

“A fetus at week 20 per WedMD (sic): Development at 20 Weeks. The baby weighs about 10 ounces and is a little more than 6 inches long. Your uterus should be at the level of your belly button. The baby can suck a thumb, yawn, stretch, and make faces. Soon — if you haven’t already — you’ll feel your baby move, which is called “quickening.” TO HELL with your CHOICE to rip your baby apart. You people are winning the PR war because you own the media. I will never get you people, you bend over backwards to allow people not to work but will not lift a hand to help the ones are are truly in need of help.”

That was five hours ago. Now that a previously scheduled business meeting and dinner obligations have been met, it’s time for a reply.

It is difficult to respond to individuals for whom the fetus card trumps all others in the game of life. Because, after a career of teaching young men and women whose age ranged from 15-35, I certainly regard them as individuals. Individuals who have made a space for themselves in the world, such that people depend on them, have built lives around them, would be devastated by the loss of them. (Yes, miscarriage is devastating, but that is vastly different than a deliberate termination of an unwanted pregnancy, which is the legal issue here.) For me, those young adults, with names, faces, personalities, accomplishments, and visceral connections with their loved ones based on years of shared experiences are not the same as a “ten inch, six ounce fetus”. They are so much more. A 20 week fetus, which has zero chance of survival, outside of a woman’s womb, has the potential to be a member of society. However, it is not a member, and never has been in the annals of history. Given historical levels of infant mortality, many cultures never even named infants until their first or second birthday. The idea that a fetus is on equal footing with a young woman, who our legislators want to legally mandate to carry such a fetus against her will, would have been mind boggling to our ancestors, as it is to many of us. Yes, the fetus has potential. The chance to be the next Einstein. Or the next serial killer. There is no way to determine if society will benefit or suffer by its survival, (though we can certainly agree that it has a better chance of being a contributing member of society, IF it is raised in a loving home that desires it). So it is crucial to remember that the mother has the right, so far guaranteed by law, to decide if she is prepared to assume the role of mother, and thus take on that responsibility. If she decides otherwise, then it is she alone who should make that choice. Not politicians.

Especially not politicians. Because, like my commenter above, though they call themselves ‘pro-life’, they are better described as ‘pro-birth’. (Agreed, I’m not the first to make that comparison.) But my commenter above states: ‘I will never get you people, you bend over backwards to allow people not to work but will not lift a hand to help the ones are are truly in need of help.’ (referring to the ten ounce fetus)….wow. Frankly, I would have less issue with the ‘pro-life’ crowd if they actually gave more than lip service to actual children in poverty (and their mothers). As Sheria says: ‘The same legislators have enthusiastically denied Medicaid expansion, made cuts to the food stamp program, made a 33% cut to unemployment benefits, cut the maximum number of weeks to receive those benefits from 26 to 20, and rejected, via these actions, extended federal unemployment benefits for 70,000+ North Carolinians. The message appears clear, the state is very interested in a woman and the fetus until after she actually births a baby, then like Prissy, our state legislature suddenly knows nothing about birthing babies!’

I am truly at a loss to see how someone can be so determined to increase the number of babies (wanted or otherwise) that they would sneak legislation designed to close women’s heath clinics into motorcycle safety legislation, yet those same politicians (and their supporters) are simultaneously shredding the safety net on which many of those same children depend. Where is the Christianity in that? My commenter says ‘TO HELL with your CHOICE’….and there you have it. This is not a rational debate. This isn’t even a debate about Christian principles, which as a non-believer I’m largely fine with. This is about a cult of fetus worship, to the detriment of women, denying them their due as sentient beings. Because mistakes happen. Condoms fail, promises fall short, rhythms become erratic, and even ‘good’ ideas look different in the light of day. And NO child deserves to be brought to term in anything less than a home that joyously awaits their birth.

So, send me to your HELL. But in the meanwhile, let me ‘help the ones are are truly in need of help’.

Something’s Rotten in NC

To borrow a sports metaphor, we’re playing catch-up in North Carolina, after being largely blind-sided (metaphor #2) by an out-of-state money barrage by Republican money men. This power grab has been outlined in last month’s piece in Politico. Scary stuff indeed. The inside Carolina counterpart to the Koch brothers, is Art Pope, described in the intro to the video below as what happens when you cross the Koch brothers with Karl Rove. But the interview itself is with Chris Kromm, The Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies. Chris was my bench mate in the Wake County Detention Center, following our arrests for civil disobedience on week five of the NAACP’s Moral Monday protests.

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Chris’s piece on “How Art Pope Killed Clean Elections” is well worth a read.

As much as I’d rather not think about it. We have to get our game on for 2014. Now.

Moral Monday Video (6-10-13)

No, I didn’t get arrested again. That would be violating the terms of my release from jail last week. So make note: news reports of the ~390 arrests during six weeks of Moral Mondays fail to point out that this represents 390 individual choices, not the same folks again and again. As you can see from the video I took yesterday, despite a downpour during the rally, there were easily 1500+ people there to bear witness. And as you can see from the two-by-two procession near the end, a significant portion of those practicing civil disobedience were clergy. North Carolina clergy, I might add, Governor. Not ‘outsiders‘ Some six hours after the video, I personally drove several of them from the detention center following their release, to Pullen Baptist Church where food and more friends awaited them.

So, in the weeks to come, please consider lending a hand. You could send money to the NC chapter of the NAACP. (Their State Treasurer was one of the friends I made late last night, a sweet woman about my age, who clearly puts in LONG hours for the movement.) You could safely attend the next rally, as thousands have done with zero chance of arrest. Or you can deliberately make the decision to commit civil disobedience by refusing to leave the General Assembly when asked. It doesn’t involve shouting, or being dragged, on confrontation of any kind. Other than a polite ‘no’ when told to exit. All parties involved know that neither is the ‘enemy’.

Regardless, take a look at your neighbors on the video. And be proud.

What a Difference a … Couple of Decades Makes

I know that this won’t be funny to anyone else but me. But I came across this memo last week while cleaning out my office. It struck me as absurd at the time (memo is dated 1992) enough so that I pilfered a copy. But the edict was honest-to-god serious, from our department’s home office on the third floor. Not just any third floor. We’re talking about a fairly prestigious medical school, in the oldest public university in the United States.

The point is: Despite the fact that I still love teaching ‘kids’, it is SO time for me to leave that noble work to others, in this age of instant access to literally the world’s knowledge.

Given that I was forged in the age of mimeograph machines, overhead transparencies, and pencil sharpeners.


Why? Here’s Why.

As I said earlier, one of the benefits of spending more than ten hours in jail for civil disobedience, was the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals. Chris Kromm, my bench mate for several hours Monday/Tuesday, was largely quiet, but thoughtful with a sense of humor. I had no idea that he was about to publish one of the most insightful pieces on North Carolina politics I’ve ever read.
It was published moments ago.

I knew that I wasn’t up to the task of explaining why this time was different, why it forced my hand.
I knew I’d fall short if I tried to lay out why I felt that this time our legislators’ actions were outrageous enough for us to get arrested just to call attention to them.

After reading the article by Chris in The American Prospect, now I realize that sometimes you should just leave it to the pros.
Well done, sir. Thank you.

Am I Happy? It Depends on Your Definition.

I’m sure you’ve never wondered, but this is what I look like at 3:30AM.


No. I’m not proud of the look.
Nor of the fact that it’s from the Wake County Detention Center.
But as my only arrest in 58 years, I’m not ashamed of it either.

So far, I’ve heard two public complaints about Mega Moral Monday, the occasion of my intentional arrest.
One, that we’re wasting the taxpayers’ money by tying up the law enforcement officers and the court system in getting ourselves arrested by committing civil disobedience.
Two, that we’re obviously not serious, because some of those arrested have been singing and laughing during the process.

Both are fair questions.

Are we costing Wake County money? Yes. In the short run. But we minimize this impact by being 100% cooperative (other than the initial order to disperse). The 151 of us who were arrested on Monday night said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ because there was zero reason not to. The officers from the General Assembly, the City of Raleigh and the Wake County Sheriff’s and Detention Center were professional and polite, without exception. And our issue had nothing to do with them. So we tried to expedite the process, costing no more overtime than needed.
More importantly, in the long run our protest is focused on getting local agencies the resources they need – a concept the General Assembly seems to have missed. Deliberately.

Second, how can we be serious if we sometimes laugh, applaud our fellow arrestees, and sing spirituals? While that’s hard to see from the other side, the answer seems obvious to me. It is an expression of joy in taking action, by the only means left to us. Are we partying? Look at my picture. No. I am tired. I am moderately uncomfortable after ten hours on steel benches, with zip-tie handcuffs for the first couple. No, I am not scared. I am well protected by professionals from the sad cases they deal with night after night. And I am secure in the knowledge that I will sleep in my own bed, even though it won’t be until after sunrise. But I’m not enjoying the physical experience. But I have to confess that I did enjoy the opportunity to meet dozens of like-minded individuals, who believe, like me, that this step was the only semi-rational option we had to call attention to the impending train wreck that is the result of the GOP’s agenda: a regressive tax structure, a denial of voting rights, cuts in unemployment and Medicaid, trashing of environmental protections, the list goes on.

So, we’re not ‘happy’. But we are taking strength by actually DOING something. And sometimes, that calls for a song.

Mega Moral Monday

Still clearing the cobwebs after a nap, following yesterday’s arrest and detention at the NAACP’s Mega Moral Monday. I met some amazing people; at one point about nine hours into the detention I noted that I was the only one in my group of six men remaining to be processed that was NOT a man of the cloth. Their level of commitment, most being from several hours away in western NC, was impressive. So a few photos from the day; courtesy of the News and Observer, which had a good summary.



My friend, Dr. Charles Van der Horst, arrested at an earlier Moral Monday rally.




Yeah, I had to sneak in one of me.



This is why we do this. They deserve a North Carolina that speaks for them.


Home earlier this morning after being released from the Wake County Detention Center at 4:30AM. Too tired to write coherently after ten hours in jail, but happy.

Yeah. Happy. A memorable evening with phenomenal people; 150 fellow arrestees, along with good friends like Tom High (in the video on the left) who waited outside all night to greet us on our release, and good public servants, the officers who largely treated us with respect, and always with dignity.

If you care for proof, I’m the shaggy-haired guy getting led away in cuffs in the lead-off footage.

Meanwhile, I need some sleep.

And So It Begins

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here in rural Chatham County.

Since I started kindergarten in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1960, Sunday was the last day of the week to squeeze in the things I wanted or needed to do, before Monday morning.
And Monday was when the world outside called the shots, for at least five days. Week after week.
Until today. Because I retired on Friday.

So here are a few shots from my brief stroll around this morning, some wild roses, some primrose and some peas.
Because my thoughts about this new reality aren’t well-formed enough for words just yet.

Wild roses