This is how free speech gets shut down. #BoeingGate

Ear­li­er today Don­ald Trump tweet­ed that Boe­ing was spend­ing $4 bil­lion dol­lars to ren­o­vate Air Force One. He was off the facts by orders of mag­ni­tude but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know knew exact­ly what he was doing. It’s time we stop try­ing to read his tweets as exer­cis­es in truth find­ing. It doesn’t mat­ter if Trump didn’t know or didn’t care about his num­bers: With author­i­tar­i­ans, we must fol­low the effects, not the logic.

Trump’s tweet came less than half an hour after the Chica­go Tri­bune post­ed a few short quotes from the Boe­ing CEO say­ing they were con­cerned about the impli­ca­tions of trade with Chi­na under a Trump Admin­is­tra­tion. It was rel­a­tive­ly tame stuff and of course a multi­na­tion­al with bil­lions of dol­lars in Chi­na is going to be con­cerned. About a quar­ter of their air­crafts are built for the Chi­nese market.

But fol­low not the log­ic but the effect: if you crit­i­cize this pres­i­dent in pub­lic he will destroy your share­hold­er val­ue. Boe­ing lost half a bil­lion dol­lars in val­ue fol­low­ing Trump’s 140 char­ac­ters. Every CEO in Amer­i­ca will now have to think twice before speak­ing to the press. It would be fis­cal­ly irre­spon­si­ble to do oth­er­wise. A few quotes in a paper isn’t worth that amount of share­hold­er value.

Free speech isn’t just court cas­es or a few lines in the Con­sti­tu­tion. Even the CEOs of the largest cor­po­ra­tions in Amer­i­ca need to watch their tongues. Silenc­ing has begun.

NYTimes video remembers the 1965 Selma James Reeb attack

One of the white min­is­ters with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped pro­pel the Vot­ing Rights Act remem­bers the night.

He also reflects on the val­ue of white lives vs. black lives for nation­al atten­tion in the Civ­il Rights Move­ment. While the actu­al Sel­ma march was protest­ing the killing of black civ­il rights activist Jim­mie Lee Jack­son by a state troop­er, nation­al out­rage focused on the vis­it­ing white minister.

In 1967, Dr. King not­ed, “The fail­ure to men­tion Jim­my [sic] Jack­son only rein­forced the impres­sion that to white Amer­i­cans the life of a Negro is insignif­i­cant and meaningless.”

Don’t miss Gail Whif­f­en Coyle’s overview of con­tem­po­rary Friends Jour­nal cov­er­age of Sel­ma on our website.

Story: The teapot that survived

“What do you think of this?” It was prob­a­bly the twen­ti­eth time my broth­er or I had asked this ques­tion in the last hour. Our moth­er had down­sized to a one-bedroom apart­ment in an Alzheimer’s unit just six days ear­li­er. Vis­it­ing her there she admit­ted she couldn’t even remem­ber her old apart­ment. We were clean­ing it out.

Almost forgotten history.
Almost for­got­ten his­to­ry. by martin_kelley, on Flickr

The object of the ques­tion this time was an antique teapot. White chi­na with a blue design. It wasn’t in great shape. The top was cracked and miss­ing that han­dle that lets you take the lid off with­out burn­ing your fin­gers. It had a folksy charm, but as a teapot it was nei­ther prac­ti­cal nor aston­ish­ing­ly attrac­tive, and nei­ther of us real­ly want­ed it. It was head­ed for the over­sized trash bin out­side her room.

I turned it over in my hands. There, on the bot­tom, was a strip of dried-out and cracked mask­ing tape. On it, bare­ly leg­i­ble and in the kind of cur­sive script that is no longer taught, were the words “Recov­ered from ruins of fire 6/29/23 at 7. 1067 Haz­ard Rd.”

We scratched our heads. We didn’t know where Haz­ard Road might be (Google lat­er revealed it’s in the blink-and-you-miss-it rail­road stop of Haz­ard, Penn­syl­va­nia, a cross­roads only tech­ni­cal­ly with­in the bound­ary of our mother’s home town of Palmer­ton). The date would place the fire sev­en years before her birth.

We can only guess to fill in the details. A cat­a­stroph­ic fire must have tak­en out the fam­i­ly home. Imag­ine the grim solace of pulling out a fam­i­ly heir­loom. Per­haps some grand­par­ent had brought it care­ful­ly packed in a small suit­case on the jour­ney to Amer­i­ca. Or per­haps not. Per­haps it had no sen­ti­men­tal val­ue and it had land­ed with our moth­er because no one else cared. We’ll nev­er know. No amount of research could tell us more than that mask­ing tape. Our moth­er wasn’t the only one los­ing her mem­o­ry. We were too. We were los­ing the fam­i­ly mem­o­ry of a gen­er­a­tion that had lived, loved, and made it through a tragedy one mid-summer day.

I stood there and looked at the teapot once again. It had sur­vived a fire nine­ty years ago. I would give it a reprieve from our snap judge­ment and the dump. Stripped of all mean­ing save three inch­es of mask­ing tape, it now sits on a top shelf of my cup­board. It will rest there, gath­er­ing back the dust I just cleaned off, until some spring after­noon forty years from now, when one of my kids will turn to anoth­er. “What do you think of this?”

Update March 2017

Prob­a­bly the old­est pic­ture of Liz I have, from 1931. Eliz­a­beth “Lizzie” “Gram­my” Williams Noll, Eliz­a­beth Klein­top, Puerette “Puri” “Pap­py” Noll. On porch of Colum­bia Ave. home, Palmerton.

Beyond all odds, there’s actu­al­ly more infor­ma­tion. Some­one has put up obit­u­ar­ies from the Morn­ing Call news­pa­per. It includes the May 1922 notice for Alvin H. Noll, my mother’s great grandfather.

Alvin H. Noll, a well known res­i­dent of Palmer­ton, died at his home, at that place, on Sun­day morn­ing, aged 66 years. He was a mem­ber of St. John’s church, Towa­mensing, and also a promi­nent mem­ber of Lodge, No. 440, I.O. of A., Bow­manstown. He is sur­vived by two daugh­ters, Mrs. Lewis Sauer­wine, Slat­ing­ton, and Mrs. Fred Par­ry, this city; three sons, Puri­et­ta Noll, Samuel Noll and Thomas Noll, Palmer­ton. Two sis­ters, Mrs. Mary Schultz, Lehigh­ton; Miss Aman­da Noll, Bow­manstown; two broth­ers, Aaron Noll, Bow­manstown, and William Noll, Lehigh­ton. Ten grand­chil­dren also sur­vive. Funer­al ser­vices will be held at the home of his son, Puri­et­ta (sic) Noll, 1067 Haz­ard Road, Palmer­ton, on Wednes­day at 1.30 p.m., day­light sav­ing time. Fur­ther ser­vices will be held in St. John’s church, Towa­mensing. Inter­ment will be made in Towa­mensing cemetery.

And there it is: 1067 Haz­ard Road, home of my mother’s grand­fa­ther Puri­ette Franklin Noll one year before the fire. So I’ll add a pic­ture of Puri­ette and his wife Eliz­a­beth with my Mom eighter years after the fire, at what the pho­to says is their Colum­bia Avenue home. Wow!

Kindley Law

John Kind­ley is a lawyer in a solo prac­tice in South Bend, Indi­ana. He came to me want­i­ng a web design make-over for his self-designed Word­Press site, along with some SEO advice and help with a form. John’s a bit of a tin­ker­er so he’s already moved on to a new design!

Vis­it: Kind­ley Law in South Bend Indiana

Client Testimonial:

“Mar­tin pro­vid­ed great val­ue in design­ing a web­site for my law
. He was acces­si­ble and facil­i­tat­ed the process, despite our
geo­graph­i­cal dis­tance, through email and tele­phone con­sul­ta­tions. He
was flex­i­ble in work­ing with me to achieve what I was look­ing for
with­in my bud­get.” May 1, 2009

John Kind­ley, Lawyer.
Hired Mar­tin as a Graphic/Web Design­er in 2008
Top qual­i­ties: Per­son­able, Good Val­ue, High Integrity

Conferences and videos

Church­es Retool Mis­sion Trips — wash​ing​ton​post​.com

A grow­ing body of research ques­tions the val­ue of the trips abroad, which are sup­posed to bring hope and Chris­tian­i­ty to the needy of the world, while offer­ing Amer­i­can par­tic­i­pants an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, devel­op rela­tion­ships and charge up their faith. Crit­ics scorn­ful­ly call such trips “reli­gious tourism” under­tak­en by “vaca­tion­ar­ies.”

My brand of reli­gious don’t do this kind of mis­sion work but we are more and more enchant­ed with long-distance con­fer­ences. We now address every issue with a con­fer­ence but do we ask any “research ques­tions” about their effec­tive­ness? The web is a great tool to extend the con­fer­ence out­ward and yet, despite all the con­tent that could be eas­i­ly port­ed to the web, most con­fer­ences, con­sul­ta­tions and gath­er­ings bare­ly exist online. 

I know that real life has it’s own val­ue – I was hap­py to have a vis­it from indi­vid­ual trav­el­er Mic­ah Bales this week­end, a Friend with a great tal­ent for the good ques­tion that stays with you long after his bus departs. I just wish I saw more media com­ing out of these big events, more ways to boot­strap the vol­umes of con­tent pro­duced at these events into some­thing we can use for outreach. 

If anec­do­tal evi­dence is an indi­ca­tion, most of the peo­ple who have come to Friends in the last half-decade first encoun­tered us on Beliefnet, a for-profit dot-com with no con­nec­tion to any Friends body. It’s def­i­n­i­tions of “Lib­er­al Quak­ers” and “Ortho­dox Quak­ers” have become more impor­tant (de fac­to) than all of our books of Faith and Prac­tice. Beliefnet, Wikipedia and a site called Reli­gious Tol­er­ance have become the defin­ers of our faith to mil­lions of seek­ers. Noth­ing we’re doing comes close to Beliefnet.

And this is part fo the rea­son I’ve been fas­ci­nat­ed by a Youtube video that was made this week­end. It’s an intro­duc­tion to “lib­er­al Quak­ers” by some­one who’s nev­er been to Quak­er wor­ship. While this might sound pre­sump­tu­ous, the real crime is that hers is the only Amer­i­can lib­er­al Quak­er intro­duc­tion on Youtube. What the hell are we doing, Friends? I’ve been cor­re­spond­ing with the Youtu­ber. She’s 22, a spir­i­tu­al seek­er who cob­bled togeth­er a spir­i­tu­al­i­ty after fol­low­ing a cou­ple of dead-end spir­i­tu­al paths. She came across the Beliefnet quiz, came out a “lib­er­al Quak­er” and start­ed look­ing for real world Friends. She tried the meet­ing in her home town but it looked desert­ed (!) and so start­ed an email cor­re­spon­dence with a Friend she found on anoth­er meeting’s web­site. She did the Youtube video because she couldn’t find any Amer­i­can intro­duc­tions and want­ed to give back, espe­cial­ly to younger seek­ers that might not respond to a British Youtube series. Yes her video is awk­ward and a lit­tle sketchy on some points of lib­er­al Quak­er the­ol­o­gy, but it’s hon­est and doesn’t con­tain any view­points you won’t hear around most meetinghouses.

PS: Since writ­ing this I’ve come across the first video from the just-concluded FGC Gath­er­ing. I don’t know if it’ll help with out­reach but it is real­ly fun­ny. Thanks Skip, I feel like I was there! 

Quaker books and self-defeating bargain hunting

Got an email in the book­store today from a poten­tial cus­tomer who chose Ama­zon over my employ­er Quaker­books, a niche inde­pen­dent book­store, because of their cheap cheap prices. I got a bit inspired by my reply, includ­ed here.

Sub­ject: book prices

I real­ly want­ed to buy the below book [Why Grace is True], but I checked ama­zon. com. Their prices: new is $16.07, or used from $5.94. Your price is $22.95.

I know how hard it is to be com­pet­i­tive, but I want­ed to let you know that peo­ple do com­par­i­son shop.

Bless­ings, C. 

Dear Friend,

Yes, Ama­zon, Wal­mart and the rest of the glob­al media/distribution jug­ger­naut will always be able to under­price us on the main­stream books.

What we offer is a much wider selec­tion of Quak­er books than any­one else. We don’t just have the more watered-down books aimed at the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion (most­ly with the unsaid premise “what you can learn from those folksy Quak­ers”), but a whole list of books about Quak­er reli­gious edu­ca­tion, Quak­er vision, Quak­er belief, Quak­er his­to­ry and what it means to be a Quak­er today. We don’t just have the Harper­Collins titles, but those from Quak­er pub­lish­ers that Amazon’s nev­er heard of. We eas­i­ly beat Ama­zon in selec­tion and we cer­tain­ly match them in speed and cus­tomer service.

We give a more ground­ed con­text to what these books mean to Friends – the reviews on our site’s If Grace is True are writ­ten by Friends for Friends. We try to know our books. When peo­ple call us up we’ll help with their selec­tion. When they’re try­ing to decide, we’ll read the table of con­tents to them. Quak­er pub­lish­ers and book­sellers talk about the “min­istry of the writ­ten word,” which means remem­ber­ing that there’s a pur­pose behind this book­selling. These books aren’t com­modi­ties, they aren’t units, they’re not ISBN num­bers to be packed and shipped. We’d rather not sell a book than sell a book some­one wouldn’t val­ue (which is why we’ll include neg­a­tive book descrip­tions & comments).

Pay­ing a few extra dol­lars to sup­port us means your also sup­port­ing the out­reach and Quak­er self-identity our cat­a­log pro­vides for many Friends. Plus you can be assured our employ­ees get liv­ing wages and health care (for which I’m per­son­al­ly thankful).

So yes, cus­tomers can save a few bucks at Ama­zon. Always will be able to. But your pur­chas­ing deci­sions are also deci­sions about who you sup­port and what you val­ue. There’s a price to dis­tinc­tive­ness, whether it’s cul­tur­al, reli­gious, region­al, or culi­nary. By buy­ing from Ama­zon you’re financ­ing a Wall Street-run com­mod­i­ty sell­er that doesn’t give a jot about Quak­erism or even whether grace might be true. If enough Friends choose price over con­tent, then Quak­er book­stores and pub­lish­ers will dis­ap­pear, our only rep­re­sen­ta­tion being main­stream books sold at gener­ic shops. That will cost us a lot more than sev­en bucks.

Well, I hope you enjoy the book. I’m sure Ama­zon appre­ci­ates your patronage.

In friend­ship,
Mar­tin Kelley