Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Friday, August 26, 2005


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The management...

I believe Jesus would be shuned by Quakers...

I've been reading and enjoying Bruce Hilton's book, Rabbi Jesus, An Intimate Biography... I've read a lot of history of Jesus' times and a lot of commentary on the origins of the core myth of Christ. I am struck that I don't think I know more than a handful of Quakers, or Christians, who would be any of the very few followers he had in life. John Maynard, I would think, would sit with him, listen and talk and laugh. I am at a loss to name another including myself. I'd likely be put off by his aggressive direct action, and his A personality... most would be pointing to his clear psychological baggage stemming from his being mamzer, a phrase that covers a variety of states of not quiet proper birth... But, I know, with all my heart, most who seek his myth would have shunned and hurt him, as most of his contemporaries did. They did, not because they were Jews, but because HE was a Jew, just as he would have been a Quaker like Fox - ( without the tempering presence of Margaret Fell! ) Let a George Fox stand up in a Quaker meeting today and speak with the directness, and lack of thought to Quaker norms, that Fox spoke to other Churches... well, imagine... I don't know, I suppose the meaning of all this is don't seek him in myth... seek him in lives around you - those who are shunned by you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Most Wonderful Gift

Gifts... so often they are meaningless... obligatory... but, when from the heart... there are no words... A dear friend, Jane, embroidered a pillow for my birthday, with all the little things that make me me... an Edward Hicks painting, wagon wheels, boats, arrows... and thank you is just not enough to say... a friend is the greatest gift God sends us, and in the small gifts and great, we acknowledge that friendship... thank you dear friend.


Due to the huge outpouring of interest in the Epistles of the Gray Avenger ( Twyla and Mary...) There is a new link... THE EPISTLE OF THE GREY AVENGER - Book the second is now on line... and if I can keep upright in my chair for another few hours... more to come... one of these hours, days, months or so...

Monday, August 22, 2005



Thursday, August 18, 2005


Funny thing... I have been wondering why I've been feeling rather, good these days. You know, if you have a nerve triggered again and again, it just becomes numb. That's probably God's best gift... I don't know many people who have a really wonderful life, but, I do know a large number of people who achieve a splendid numbness. There isn't any sublime greatness about the difference between solitude and loneliness, that Hannah Arendt describes... rather, I think there is numbness, which is not really bad, it's just life.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Why The Roma Community Has No Dr. Martin Luther King

The recent discussion in the comments to the post of two days ago, of my frustration at the boundaries of care on the part of many Quakers, which focused on my own failings... I pose the following query about one unloved community who sought out my help ( not the other way around mind you...)

Why is there no Romany Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Certainly it is not because there is not enough oppression... who needs to say more than that Romany people exist and people know the scope of oppression faced... the first breath of a "Gypsy" child is his first crime... breathing the air of this planet is a crime in most nations for Romany people.

Certainly it is not for lack of intellect, these people who brought such invention in metallurgy, music, poetry to the nations into which they were chased...

Certainly it is not for lack of spiritual commitment... anyone who spends time with Romany people knows the depth of their faith...

Certainly it is not for lack of talented oratory... my dear friend Jack Gorman will tell you about the "gift of gab..." most every Romany person can talk like "the Great Dan" (O'Connell).

I could go on and on, but I will cut to the chase... I have known Romany Dr. Kings, great souls who spoke for their people's rights, folks like Manus Romanoff, who said to a writer, who misunderstood the meaning of his words, "Bury me standing, I have lived on my knees my whole life". And I have know Innu Dr. Martin Luther Kings... folks like Mark Volant, like Yvette Michel...

Why are these names unknown to you? Because history awards the winner and forgets the looser... and the times make the leader. Why is it that there are so few names of Black leaders during the first centuries of Slavery? The mainstream overcomes it's apathy when it is in it's own interest. Dr. King, in 1830... most likely would be a man forgotten.

So I wont ask friends to forgive my frustration. The day you listen to the voices of Romany people, of native hunters, give as many tears to the thousands we are killing and humanize them to the extent our own causalities are humanized and mourned, then I will stop saying you are apathetic.

So, if you are annoyed by this, remember that a certain Rabbi called his co-religionists hypocrites, and considered himself in good standing with his faith and his God, and only lost his Jewish identity after death, when Paul the myth maker stole him away from his people he loved and for whom he died. And, yes, Quacarol... he, like many social activists, both with inspirational talents, like Dakinawidah or few social graces like my own poor self... start with their own personal issues... Jesus had a few issues over the circumstances of his birth at a time when that mattered quite a bit...

But, frankly, I like to believe that I am a social activist, not because my father abused me, the terrible legacy of being his son, but because that flawed bloke did not have a racist bone in his tormented body. I had Black friends when the schools in my town were still segregated. I remember not understanding the issue when White parents and kids were outraged at the desegregation of Jefferson School... I didn't understand, so I was really happy that my pal Charles Brookes was now in school with me... Feel free to psychoanalyze me, but frankly my frustration stems from the murder of my friends and the lack of caring from my community, and the root of my caring comes from the better part of my upbringing - I am rather sure.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

American Terrorism American Apathy

salmon I was going to write the second part of Genie and my trip journal... but I couldn't bring my self to do it. It was to be about going to a beautiful land devastated by heavy metal mining - hydro electric dams... prejudice and our apathy. Each time we flick on a light switch, we take land from the Innu and the Cree.

I sent out some emails to Friends, with personal stories of the victims of our hydro eclectic terrorism, and received a single response, one person cared enough to write back, the Friend said, of my idea of giving back an hour a month of electric, "I am not yet convinced" - so instead of the stories of friends of mine, who's lives are destroyed, I sent him some facts about the theft of Native land for our electricity, and well... the rest is silence.

There is much on Friends blogs about the "Terror" Islamic radicals brought us, more perhaps than the terror we brought them. But, you know friends... we have killed with prejudice and apathy, in the Hydro Quebec project many many more than Islamic radicals killed in Britain or the US. We kill with alcohol and drugs and cultural genocide. We kill by "educating" original people away from hunting, then discriminating against them in the work place. Oh look, I don't mean this to turn into the rant it is turning into... it is just I find myself going back to those days of going to places where the victims of our apathy live, and believing if White folks only knew, they would not keep screwing people over... but check out Richard's blog ( Brooklyn Quaker ) about the Quakers of color... most can't even take an hour a month to give back a token amount to those we rob of everything they have. I don't know, I am plumb out of ideas... anyone know how to get through to folks? What they are doing to others today, will catch up with them tomorrow... we are literally killing the planet on which we live by our lack of care for our sisters and brothers.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Normality has a good press agent...

But, that's all. Genie and I were trying this morning to think of a singe human we know who is normal. All have some deep sadness, or some fixation, or some mania, or some screw loose somewhere - the days of cultures being strongly implanted enough inside the thin little eggshell of our heads to totally cover up our unique quirk and shudder... seems to be over. But, that is not a bad thing, as long as folks don't get too judgmental (about themselves as well).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fear and War and Slight of Hand

or how our leaders use stage magic to take away our freedoms...

Pen and Teller do a bit... they do tricks facing the audience, then from another perspective, to show how magic works... simply call attention to one thing so the folks don't see you do another.

Several Quaker blogs have written about the horror of the times in which we live here in the west. Hmmm. Let me think about that. I reacted... well, with some worry. Yes, there have been a few, very few horrible crimes here in the States and England. But, criminal acts such as happened to us are not the sudden out bursts of barbarians or madmen, as our leaders and the news media would have us believe. They are the reaction to a century of killing we have brought to the homes of those who commit these crimes. Our criminals made their criminals. It does not matter who started it, but we should look at this in order to figure out how to stop it. Figure it out to see where the diversion lies.

A few facts. the US and Britain began the tensions between Iraq and Iran with the overthrow of Muhammad Mossadeq, by the CIA. A few quotes from an obituary for Kermit Roosevelt... here is the site.

"'I OWE my throne to God, my people, my army - and to you,' sobbed a grateful Shah of Iran to Kermit Roosevelt in August 1953, after the CIA-backed coup which overthrew the country's independently-minded Prime Minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and restored the Shah to the Peacock Throne. ... When British Intelligence approached the CIA about the possibility of toppling him, it found a ready ear, and a plan - Operation Ajax - was formulated with remarkably little discussion of the ethics of removing the legitimate government of a foreign country. It was the precursor of several such infamous actions by the CIA.

Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt and the head of the CIA's Middle East division, was the man for the job. A man of languid coolness, he was dispatched to Iran where, on August 3, 1953, he confronted the Shah and bluntly told him that there would have to be an insurrectionary solution to the Mossadeq problem, with the support of the army absolutely vital to success.

But the frightened monarch havered, and it was for Roosevelt to "help" key members of the armed forces to realize where their loyalties lay and physically to assist them to carry out their "duties". In particular he arranged for the influential army commander, General Fazlolah Zahedi, to make an address to the country over the radio, which was to prove important to the Shah's cause.

In spite of all these precautions, the success of the coup was in its early days far from a foregone conclusion. There was widespread rioting from crowds who remained loyal to Mossadeq, and for several days it was difficult to tell whether Roosevelt's tactics were succeeding or not. The Shah himself so doubted the outcome that on August 16 he fled the country and took refuge in Baghdad.

But CIA money was lavished on officials and police. Mossadeq supporters were quietly done away with. Roosevelt gradually persuaded the wavering commanders of army units to show themselves on the streets at the head of their units and to face down the pro-Mossadeq mobs. Mossadeq and ministers and officers loyal to him were arrested, and on August 19, just three days after his flight, the Shah was able to return in triumph to his capital, where he later expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his savior.

Mossadeq was more fortunate than many of his officers and his Foreign Minister, who were shot. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.

As the years rolled by, and the oppressive rule of the Shah gave way in 1979 to the even more iron grip of Ayatollah Khomeini, it became difficult to recall why this relatively moderate secular nationalist should have been seen as such a bogeyman by the West. For many Iranians suffering under the Islamic fundamentalist state, Mossadeq became the symbol of all that Iran might have been without American intervention: a modern, progressive state, yet one independent of the West. "

So there we are, with Khomenini in power we build up Saddam, give him poison gas to use on the Iranians, look the other way while he uses it on the Kurds... all about control of oil in the region, sometimes to bring it to England and the US, now to keep it from going to China. I can't even guess at the death toll, as the US takes part in war after war in the region, bombarding Lebanon from the sea, one of the few times in history this is done, as it is the most likely way of killing civilians... missiles, bombs... assignations, and we in the west listen with straight faces as politicians and newsmen tell us "they hate us for our way of life..."

No... They hate us because we have taken part in killing them for generations.

Now Mr. Blair tells his people, yesterday, that this is a war against those who support terror by making speeches and disseminating information. Remember the Butler Laws in Canada? They were laws against porn that were immediately used to curtail speech about the rights of gay people, close down leftist free speech... look over here as I take your freedoms over there...

Many, most will, in their fear applaud Blair, saying "Yes... shut those Imams up!" And then, when those of us who say... stop spending 900 billion on war, when 30% of it will solve all the reasons for war and save humanity from extinction by neglect of the environment... we will be shut up, shut down... and locked away...

Oh, dear Friends. I feel like my great grandmother, a great preacher, but... well, just a little beyond frustration as she would point to the heavens and shout... " I told ye about the Kaiser, and did ye listen to me? NO! Now, I am telling ye about Mr. Hitler! He is cut from the same cloth!" God did not listen to my great granny. I don't expect the people of the US and Britain will listen to me either. I don't relish the times granny and I got to say, "I told you so..." But we did. I warned my poly sci teacher, a friend and fan of Katherine McKinnon, about the dangers of the Butler laws, and she told me I was a guy. After I pointed out to her, a year latter, the loss of freedom of speech for gay people in Canada, she told me I was talking like a lawyer. Well, I don't think I will have to say I told you so... because if Blair and Bush have their way with us... I wont get to talk much at all... so, as Phil Ochs sang, "I'll just have to say while I'm here... "

Further reading ... ( and do follow the link and read the whole thing... )

One day, quite a few years ago, I was having lunch with my Iranian friend, Rudy Alam, who was attending the University of Pennsylvania, and who was the daughter of the then Prime Minster of Iran. It was a student hangout, and a waitress recognized her.

"Well, I guess you’ll be going home to Iraq for summer vacation," she said amiably.

"Iran," Rudy said.

To which the waitress replied: "Oh well, whatever."

Oh well, indeed. Rudy’s father was prime minister of Iran because the Shah was on the Peacock throne thanks to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA station chief in Teheran, who engineered the coup that deposed Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadegh, who had headed a secular, fledgling democracy that had the temerity to nationalize the oil fields that, up to that point, had been exploited by BP. Having sued in the World Court and lost, the UK turned to its ally, Uncle Sam, to get the oil fields back. Rent-a-Mobs appeared, the CIA paid off the military, and Mossadegh fled in his pajamas. Once in power, the Shah stifled all dissent, using the notorious SAVAK, his intelligence service, to torture his political opponents, all under the watchful and approving eye of the United States government.

This was the first great "regime change," which ultimately begat the fundamentalist Islamic revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who promptly re-nationalized the oil fields and took a whole bunch of Americans hostage. To free them, Jimmy Carter sent in troops in a stupid action that failed and which led Cyrus Vance to resign as Secretary of State, one of the few noble acts by an American cabinet member in the nation’s history.
Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan (I used to have dinner, when the Afghan royal family still ruled, at the Afghan embassy in London, with the son of the ambassador and an Englishman who was a descendant of Lord North, the first architect of stupid colonial escapades), where the Evil Empire had installed a secular puppet regime that let girls go to school. The US of A unleashed the fundamentalist Moslem mujahadeen from Pakistan to drive out the infidels, after a pep talk by Zbignew Brezinski, who, with a towel wrapped around his head, yelled at them to launch a "Jihad," a term Moslems had not used for centuries. But, boy, do they remember how to use it now.

A young, enormously wealthy religious zealot from Saudi Arabia, who is inspired by the Iranian fundamentalist revolution, funds a good part of this operation with his own money. (The CIA under Allen Dulles and William Casey always found private money for their covert operations.) He arms the volunteer fighters and takes down their names, addresses, phone numbers, and if available, e-mail addresses, and writes them in a schoolboy’s notebook, calling the whole business "Al Queda," or "The Base." Which is what it is, just over the border in Pakistan. His name is Osama bin Laden (Oh well, whatever.)

And after we win and allow the Taliban to take power because they approve of the big pipeline project, Sheik Omar welcomes bin Laden and his army as honored guests in Afghanistan. When the US of A decides to keep its troops in Saudi Arabia, the Moslem Holy Land, he declares war on the United States from a cave in Afghanistan. (Oh well, whatever.) Asleep at the switch, the CIA and FBI, at constant war with each other over bureaucratic turf, allow the worse to happen, 9/11. Bush declares war back. The Taliban are toast. He argues for a preemptive strike against Iraq, which must certainly be called "Dessert Storm."

So now, eminent Arabist, Bernard Lewis, says the problem with Islam is a lack of democracy. His solution? A regime change in Iraq and Iran. Iran? That’s where it all started, with a regime change by the CIA that set off the entire chain of events. And oh, yes, do remember that it was that regime change that overthrew a democracy and installed a dictator. I guess you can say that this bunch is like the Bourbons of France, of whom it was said, "They learned nothing and they forgot nothing." Oh, well, whatever.

Richard Cummings taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author The Pied Piper – Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell, and the forthcoming novel, The Immortalists. He holds a PhD in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Trip part one...

Supplemental Blog Entry

7/28/05 Three days into our trip... a few minor injuries and lots of good stuff. We set out for Canada at 8 am on Tuesday, got an hour into the drive north and realized that with all the instruments, etc. I had forgotten the bag with all my clothes. So, we turned around, lost a few hours and got to the Canadian boarder by 4 pm and Orleans by 7. The first night I played some songs for the house, a wonderful BB "Le Tour de L'ile" run by a wonderful fellow Denis Huard - 211 CH Royal, St. Jean Ile D'Orleans P.Q. GOA3WO. His place is on a hill, with a lovely small garden and a Jacuzzi, We had stayed there three years ago and he remembered us. We had a wonderful dinner at Le Moulin - venison with some wonderful sauce.

7\27 The next morning the car battery was dead... had turned the headlights to parking lights in stead of off, I think... Denis charged the batteries, while I continued last night's concert for the other guests... gave them all copies of the rough tracks of the new CD. We had a great talk about US and Canadian politics with Christen and Yvan, to math teachers staying at the B&B.
We spent a while in Quebec city looking for Raymond, a disc jocky on Laval's radio Station, who plays my music, to give him some of the new stuff. Found where to find him... We stopped at our favorite bar in the Frontnac Hotel, a round room in one of the turrets, for a glass of wine before birthday dinner at les Ancient Canadians ( fifty... ouch ). And speaking of ouch, one of the small injuries. I picked up a wine glass and it exploded in my hand, cutting three fingers on my right hand. Great dinner, pheasant in cream of oyster and mushroom sauce with smoked buffalo. It was good enough to forget the painful fingers. It was nice that a lot of folks remember us, from our trips to Quebec every year and remember my music. Tonight, we are staying at our favorite B&B, one we have stayed at for over ten years, almost every year. Rita and Gregoire Roux, who run the Gite du Quai, in St. Jean. 1686 Ch. Royal, St. Jean, I'le d' Orleans, (QC) GOA 3W0 They are right on the town pier, and have humming birds visiting the front porch most mornings. They always have me play for the other guests. Rita Roux makes one of the best breakfasts in Quebec, eggs, fresh fruit, pan cakes, french toast, patte, oatmeal, tomato, and I know I am leaving much out... There were two couples there with us, a retired lawyer and his new wife ( 5 days ) and a woman involved in food science and her husband, a draftsman.

7/28 We drove up to Baie-comeau - stopping at the museum for Goelettes at St. Joseph de le Rive to pick up a book for our dear friend from Orleans Captain Michel Pouliot, a Canadian harbor pilot, many generations of harbor pilots in his family, his brother and kids harbor pilots as well - should do a post about him one day soon...

7/29 Baie-comeau... awoke with the usual pains in the joints, chronic pain in the throat, new pains in the torn up fingers... but happy. Lovely hot shower... watching the news of the raids in London - the news caster in London quotes "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance". What a vile misuse of that quote, which meant, in its day, that we need to be watchful that our government does to take away our hard won rights... they have and we let them do it out of fear.
Wonderful to see the signs saying Kwai on the way into Innu country, and lovely cool weather here.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Proposal and the cost of your electricity in New England... (NYC as well...)

sun rise
Dawn on the Moise River... 4 am last Seventh Day...

More on this soon...

Here is the Moise River. It is the life line of the Mistashipu Innu of Northern Quebec and Labrador. They are hunter gatherers and fisherfolk. Hydro Quebec is damming rivers through out their hunting lands, as well as the land of the Cree... the impact on their environment and the world's environment is extraordinary. On a perfectly selfish note, they are the canary at the bottom of the mine, as we destroy their land, the next impact is on the rest of the planet. The first effect is to destroy their fishing and hunting, the secondary effect is greenhouse gases that endanger human existence.
After the last Band Council election, the pro dam leader was returned to power, and five Innu committed suicide... they have the highest teen suicide rate of any human population as they see their future destroyed...
SO, in solidarity, why don't we all pledge, as a symbolic token, a start, one hour a month, to turn off as much electric as we can, say an evening, after dinner is cooked, turn off the TV, the Lights, turn off the air conditioning, unplug the ice box (it will keep for an hour...) and light a candle or two, and think of the price of the power. Your suggestions as to when, should we do it at the same time? are appreciated.