Sunday, August 31, 2014


By Verne Strickland   September 1, 2014 

The first time I traveled to Egypt and spent some time with the bluebloods there, I didn't know what a Muslim was.

I just knew I liked them. They bought a hell of a lot of expensive U.S. flue-cured tobacco, which satisfied their smoking taste for the best cigarettes in the world.

And they knew how to party.  

At the time, I made my living reporting on agriculture for WRAL-TV5 in Raleigh. I was getting a reputation for covering international trade missions -- including many launched to boost exports for NC farm crops -- notably tobacco, cotton and soybeans.

Other overseas business I covered focused on "reverse investment" forays which sought to attract foreign manufacturing to North Carolina.

These missions were often high-profile trips led by our Governors. It was my privilege to promote them too -- for Bob Scott, Jim Holshouser, Jim Hunt, and Jim Martin.

But this story is about the tobacco trade, and one particular experience in Egypt -- around the 1970s -- a particular incident that I never forgot.

Traveling with the elite business kingpins of Egypt kept us on the Four-Star circuit for the most part. That was not particularly hard to bear.

On one tobacco trade mission into Egypt, my filming took me from hot, dusty cigarette manufacturing plants to the steamy streets and bazaars of Cairo to the ritzy clubs which catered to the mega elite. 

U.S. tobacco export experts were hosting a dinner for the high-flyers of Eastern Company, dominant importers of high-quality leaf for premium Egyptian cigarettes.

This was a gala affair in one of the ritziest hotels flanking the storied Nile which flowed through central Cairo.

I had been out in the city filming scenes for a documentary I was commissioned to produce about the effort. As a consequence I arrived fashionably late for the dinner, just as the evening's entertainment was to commence.

And the entertainment in this lavish club was an appearance by Egypt's most popular belly dancer. This is where plot thickens.

I sat down among the U.S. and Egyptian guests, who had obviously been imbibing with gusto -- the Egyptians moreso than our Americans.

Anyhow, as I sat down, I was introduced to the group as a "cinematographer" (aka a camera guy) who was shooting a film on the Egyptian tobacco business and the exotic sights and sounds of historic Cairo.

As I had come straight from filming to the dinner, I was carrying my portable cinema equipment -- 16-millimeter movie camera, portable hand light, and battery. The battery was strapped to my waist, and the light I held in my hand.

I could see a Testosterone light bulb turning on behind the eyes of the Egyptian tobacconist sitting across from me. He bore the unmistakable evidence of an inebriated Muslim who, true to this faith, does not imbibe.

Suddenly the lights in the club dimmed, and, to the dissonant "music" of the small club orchestra, a spotlight flashed and focused on a somewhat portly dancer who was obviously quite the rage in those parts.

As she took to the stage, I suddenly felt myself being rudely jerked from my chair and dragged through the seated audience to the edge of the stage -- my sweating captor holding the light, to which I was firmly attached. 

There was a bit of a stir in the audience at this spectacle of an American cameraman being yanked helplessly  along like a pet dog. I then understood what my friend wanted. He was out to assist me in filming this apparently arousing (to Egyptians at least) performance by a belly-dancing phenomenon. 

We knelt by the stage -- as the dancer gyrated just above us. My amateur film director picked up the bright hand lamp, attempted to point it at the gyrating midriff of the dancer, and pointed at my camera, which I took to mean "start shooting, American infidel."

I complied, of course, and could tell that the comedic commotion was becoming quite amusing to the patrons. 

It got worse in only a moment as the besotted Egyptian film director fell over face first onto the stage, the bright lamp bouncing away from him, where it lay on the stage floor shining into the eyes of front-row patrons.

By this time, members of our dinner party, and ballroom security, had rushed to my side -- and to the aid of my filming partner -- and hauled him away as gently and respectfully as possible.

Back at the table, I was the center of attention as I was congratulated for comportment becoming of an American gentleman in the midst of a damned laughable shemozzle.

I never found the film from that evening, and fancied that it had been taken from my hotel room so as not to humiliate a highly-respected Egyptian tobacco official and Muslim teetotaler. 

Just as well. I expect the creative lighting had rendered the film worthless. And without that I couldn't see what I was filming anyway. 

The only evidence I can take away is my memory. It is a treasured asset to be sure. I know now what a Muslim is, or should be. But this was long before some of their worst cases became interested in beheading Americans and other infidels. 

Now, even if I wanted to -- which I don't -- I could not get back into the once beguiling city on the Nile where I did some good work and had some great times.  Those old camel jockeys are now crazy wild. Downtown Cairo will never be the same. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

JFK stands Kruschev down in 1962 Cuba face-off. Will Obama have the guts to shut Putin up in 2014?

By Verne Strickland, August 31, 2014

My wife Durrene and I remember vividly the day that President John Kennedy drew a line in the sand and stared down Soviet dictator Kruschev, who had serious weaponry en route to Cuba in 1962.

I was a young father working as information director at the N.C. Farm Bureau in Raleigh. Durrene stood in the screen doorway of our small apartment as we said our goodbyes and turned to a sunny afternoon that might be totally uneventful. But we knew and feared that it might be a date that would live in infamy.

The president, certainly not a brash and foolhardy leader, had dug his heels in, so to speak, and made it known that Soviet cargo ships were closing on Cuba, laden with powerful long-range missiles that could reign destruction on the U.S., just 90 miles away -- if Kruschev stuck by his belligerent boast to continue toward the Cuban coast.

We had been glued to the little black-an-white television set in our living room, watching whenever we could, to follow the scary international drama that was building just off Florida's coast.

On that day, only one who was totally disconnected from the realities of the world could have been unaware of the threat that loomed, and might erupt any moment -- a nuclear exchange that could decimate American cities, and cause countless deaths in the span of a heartbeat.

I looked back at my wife, who held our first son Byron in her arms, and appeared shaken by the news. What had me stricken was the realization that, whatever happened, I would be unable to protect and help her and our wonderful child. I turned toward my car, waved, and drove off to work in downtown  Raleigh.

For thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited—seemingly on the brink of nuclear war—and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba. President Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to know that he had discovered the missiles. He met in secret with his advisors for several days to discuss the problem.

After many long and difficult meetings, Kennedy decided to place a naval blockade, or a ring of ships, around Cuba. The aim of this "quarantine," as he called it, was to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more military supplies. He demanded the removal of the missiles already there and the destruction of the sites. On October 22, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about the crisis in a televised address.

No one was sure how Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would respond to the naval blockade and U.S. demands. But the leaders of both superpowers recognized the devastating possibility of a nuclear war and publicly agreed to a deal in which the Soviets would dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba.

In a separate deal, which remained secret for more than twenty-five years, the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey. Although the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba, they escalated the building of their military arsenal; the missile crisis was over, the arms race was not.

In 1963, there were signs of a lessening of tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. In his commencement address at American University, President Kennedy urged Americans to reexamine Cold War stereotypes and myths and called for a strategy of peace that would make the world safe for diversity.

Two actions also signaled a warming in relations between the superpowers: the establishment of a teletype "Hotline" between the Kremlin and the White House and the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on July 25, 1963.

In language very different from his inaugural address, President Kennedy told Americans in June 1963, "For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

Visit our online exhibit: World on the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile 
There were no missile exchanges, of course. Durrene and I, and our young son Byron, had an uneventful afternoon. We could say "crisis averted" -- but was that really the truth?

Fast forward to the last days of August, 2014. Barack Obama is in the White House. Like his predecessor, John Kennedy, American's 44th president faces his own problems with a Russian dictator -- in this instance, Vladimir Putin, leader not of an imposing Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -- but of a scaled-down nation now known only as Russia -- smaller, perhaps, but still lethal as a snake.

And Putin, who longed to return to his "glory days" as a feared and respected strongman and bully who enjoyed being photographed riding horses while stripped to the waist (and other such smarmy acts of faux bravado) -- well, he just seems to like where he is.

But many things are different. Obama, who has drifted aimlessly about as he toyed with shaping some sort of cohesive foreign policy, is now an easy mark for Putin, having squandered any chance of being respected in the global arena.

This is not only emasculating for Obama, but also opens the gate for his Russian rival to solidify his hold not only on Ukraine, but on Crimea as well. And where will it stop?

It's a scary time for America, again facing real threats from Russia, where Putin proclaims that his country is a nuclear power, while warning -- you better not mess with Russia.

To put it all in perspective -- Obama isn't John F. Kennedy. And Putin isn't isn't Nikita Kruschev. And this isn't a game at all. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Boston Massacre: Is American history doomed to repeat itself?

Verne Strickland August 30, 2014

Most of us have heard about The Boston Massacre. This is a brief account from an excellent historical source.

But does anyone else see in this "incident" a flashpoint which seems destined to be repeated in America today?

All of the elements for this are present and in place in 2014. 

I, for one, bristle at how, instead of moving forward, we find ourselves -- free and proud Americans, inching back in time to an era in which we are vulnerable to "government" powers that pay us no heed, and move as bullies to bring us to heel.

Is open, armed rebellion our only option to put a stop to this?

After the Massacre, Five Dead Three Wounded
                      The Boston Massacre
In the mid 1700’s opposition to     taxation without representation brought the colonies to the point of open resistance. 

On March 5, 1770 a boy, pointing to a British officer walking along the street, called out that he was too mean to pay his barber for cutting his hair. A sentinel standing near the Customs House overheard the insult and knocked the boy down with the butt of his musket. The boy yelled for help which quickly attracted a crowd to the spot. An alarm bell was rung and the excitement spread. The boy pointed out the soldier who had struck him, and the crowd began pelting the soldier with snowballs and lumps of ice. The soldier raised his musket but the weapon misfired. The crowd rushed at him and he ran to the Customs House nearby.
Captain Preston, the officer of the day, sent out eight soldiers with unloaded muskets with ball cartridges. As the detachment approached, the citizens hurled snow and ice at them, shouting insults. The soldiers, seeing that a fight was imminent, began loading their guns. Capt. Preston begged the mob to refrain but his appeal was in vain.
Crispus Attucks, a Nantucket Indian sailor, aimed a blow at Preston’s head with his club. The club missed its target, instead striking a soldier’s musket which fell to the ground. Both Attucks and the soldier wrestled violently for the musket. The soldier twisted the weapon from the hands of Attucks and shot him dead. At that point a half-dozen soldiers fired their guns into the crowd.
As the frightened mob scattered, eight men were on the ground, while three others were slightly hurt. Three were dead. Of the five remaining, two were mortally wounded.
News of the tragedy spread like wild fire from one end of Boston to the other. Alarm bells were ringing, drums beating, and men swarmed to the scene. Capt. Preston and eight soldiers were arrested, and the next day were charged with murder. That autumn the accused stood trial before a court in Boston. Capt. Preston and six of the soldiers were declared not guilty. The others were convicted of manslaughter, branded with a hot iron on the hand in open court, and discharged.

Verne Strickland: The punishment did not fit the crime. Revenge seemed inevitable. And, in time, it came, changing the course of our Nation forever. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


August 27, 2014         Verne Strickland

Verne StricklandGot to take a brief break from the frenetic, dizzying machinations in the Middle East. So I scrounged back into the Verne Vault for some stuff I was writing in recent years. I came upon this -- a study of the liberal assault on Joe McCarthy. I was really bitter about that. Still am. I posted this in 2010. I think it still has shelf life. Let me know what you think. Verne.

Joseph McCarthy got what pompous demagogue Woodrow Wilson deserved . . .

I bought a copy of “The Great Influenza” Penguin Books 2004 by John M. Barry, to get the inside story of “The Deadliest Plague in History”. I got that. Frightening. Overwhelming. Singular. Sobering. A dance of deadly microbes, rampant strangulation, courageous researchers, helpless victims by the millions.

There was an unexpected bonus. The lavishly descriptive historic document, describing the scientific and social upheaval which surrounded the global 1917-18 mega-event, exposed the political scandal of the Democrats’ own Joseph McCarthy – one Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States.

What a joy it was to read the insane (read “insane”) demagoguery of this strange, callous human being, whose ventures into censorship, fanaticism, domestic spying, scandal-mongering, and intimidation of American citizens, are enough to absolve the patriotic Joseph McCarthy of his so-called “excesses” (so-called by Democrats of the liberal persuasion) in flushing out communists and pseudo-communists during the 1950s.

All of those accused of selling out America during the McCarthyite “witch hunts” were, needless to say, not Communists. But, for me, just lighting a fire on the tail feathers of U.S. intellectuals, Hollywood cynics, left-wing radicals, and Communist sympathizers of the time, was cathartic, rewarding, satisfying.

I don’t hate Joseph McCarthy. I never did. While he might have thrown a few wild pitches, he also threw a hell of a lot of strikes, and for that I give him a whole chorus of atta-boys.

What I did hate, and do yet, is treacherous, lying, deceitful, America-hating God-awful communism – scourge of freedom everywhere, and murderer of the masses in the millions. The only thing that stopped its excesses at our shores were the so-called “excesses” of patriots like Joe McCarthy. And there were none like him.

Senator McCarthy had a lot going against him before he even launched his bid to thwart communist leanings in the United States. For one thing, the man looked evil. That was not his own failing.

Everyone is answerable to one’s own DNA, which apportions appearance, temperament, talent, intelligence (or lack thereof), longevity, vulnerability to one disease or another, and preference of a political party. (No, strike that last. It is suspected but not proven.)

Want to spread out the wings of this little flight of fantasy? Many look evil. Maybe I do as well. Dark eyes, black hair (okay, that was 30 years ago), scowling, but with a certain beguiling devil-may-care expression one might even call handsome. Hey, where did all this go off the rails?

But Joe McCarthy? He was easy to dislike. Especially if you were a little sensitive about someone flaring off about communists to begin with. So the intellectuals, “las artistas favoritas”, the union shills, the darlings of Hollywood, the Woody Guthries, the Walter Reuthers, they really got their butts in a snit over anyone who in the press even suggested that communists weren’t good for Amerika. Me? I was lonely back then, and am even more lonely today. From an idealogical perspective, anyway.

But let’s turn back the clock to the days of Woodrow Wilson’s smothering attack on freedom in the United States, when no excuse could make up for his insufferable assaults on the rights of the average citizens of this country.

You must ask yourself – have you ever read about these despotic campaigns put in motion by President Woodrow Wilson? Not me. I was ignorant of this whole revolting period of executive excesses until I undertook to learn about influenza. Thank God I did. Because I intend to use this chance encounter with truth to hold the heads of the great Democratic liberals of the World War I era underwater until Nancy Pelosi cries, “Will you dammit quit waterboarding already?”

I don’t know all there is to know about this strange interlude of U.S. history, which is buried beneath the shame and treachery of liberal America when the media (as they do now) give a pass to leftist causes.

But I will learn. In the meantime, I will share with you information exposed by John M. Barry of the rampant, rabid despotism of the dour Mr. Woody Wilson, president of the United States 1913-21, who held his own nation captive in his steely, top-hatted, frosty grip for years, then ducked into the history books with not a whimper about his disgraceful antics for which to apologize.

I was born in 1937. Not a year eliciting universal excitement and ardor for its historic importance, would you say? But I can hardly be blamed for that. I couldn’t talk intelligibly at the time, have made some tenuous improvement in that department since, didn’t have a clue about how to write, and political parties were as strange to me as pasteurized milk. But the war to end all wars, while it was kaput, was only a precursor to the wars to end all worlds. So in some sense this was a pivotal time – if not for mankind, at least for me.

Here are some of the thunderclap revelations that John M. Barry, brilliant author of “The Great Influenza”, gives us based on his research into the life and times of Woodrow, who went in a chameleonic transformation from isolationist to liberal internationalist to global interventionalist, forging swords from ploughshares and inserting the United States into the bloody, ravenous, unforgiving trenches of Europe.

In his zeal, Wilson portrayed his fellow Americans as traitors, protestors as enemies, and bewildered citizens as onerous miscreants. In his transformation from spineless caterpillar to flitting butterfly, he left no doubt that he wanted war, and proclaimed that those who disagreed would be ground under his heel.

Author John Barry writes:

“The hard line was designed to intimidate those reluctant to support the war into doing so, and to crush or eliminate those would not. Even before entering the war, Wilson had warned Congress, 'There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit . . . who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life . . . Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out.’”

Mr. Barry’s stunning revelations continue:

“The government compelled conformity, controlled speech in ways, frightening ways, not known in America before or since. Soon after the declaration of war, Wilson pushed the Espionage Act through a cooperative Congress, which balked only at legalizing outright press censorship – despite Wilson’s calling it 'an imperative necessity.'"

And this – an outrageous, in-your-face capitulation to federal government thuggery “justified” by presidential fiat:

“Thousands of government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone ‘who spreads pessimistic stories, divulges – or seeks – confidential military information, cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.’ Wilson himself began speaking of the ‘sinister intrigue’ in America carried on ‘high and low’ by agents and dupes.”

There’s more – much more. Not Hitler, not Stalin not Mussolini exceeded the iron grip of our own homegrown despot, President Woodrow Wilson, in wresting the will of the nation from its own citizens. But this shameful chapter is purged from the history books, hid from prying eyes, and left to fester in the archives of the Democratic Party of yesteryear.

McCarthyism? An instant, iconic catchphrase, capable of evoking visions of sinister clandestine warfare against – what? Innocent, decent Americans? Or scurrilous cells of Communist conspirators? And Wilsonism? Why what is that? Sounds vaguely familiar, yet benign, and totally innocuous. The difference is that the president, the press and the denizens of the left conspired to demonize the one and market the other.

The story presented here, from the pages of author John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza”: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plaque in History – A New York Times Bestseller—reveals itself to be not only a fearsome tale of pandemic ferocity, but an expose as well of the untold story of the Democratic Party’s scandalous precursor to McCarthyism, which would not emerge on the American scene until almost 40 years later. Truth is stranger than fiction. And sometimes late in arriving. But thank God – here it is.

This, then, is what history tells us about the despotic, even demonic tyrant Woodrow Wilson.

Then along came Barack Hussein Obama.

Friday, August 22, 2014



VERNE STRICKLAND Wilmington NC  August 22, 2014
When I first heard this electrifying black minister – James David Manning -- I was astounded. Never before have I witnessed a man of the cloth, an African-American trailblazer, speak with such power, using such candid terms as this, regarding  the failures and lassitude of his own people.

There is no guile here. No bitterness. I sense only a deep disappointment as he tries to shame black people in the world to get the hell going. It is a stunning lament that he shares. I don’t see a hateful man maligning his own people. He is speaking words with great shock value. I marvel at his strength and courage. He holds nothing back. I want to hear more  of his sermons and learn more about him.
·        James David Manning is chief pastor at the ATLAH World Missionary Church on 123rd Street in New York City, NY. Rev. Manning grew up in Red Springs, North Carolina, born to an African American family, and has been at ATLAH since 1981. ATLAH is an acronym which stands for All The Land Anointed Holy, which is Manning's name for Harlem 
        Biographical information provided courtesy of Dale Dutcher of Cary NC.

Transcript of Rev. James David Manning’s sermon and commentary on the African American culture:

“What’s wrong with you? You’re crazy – crazy! Black people – let me tell you something. If you never hear me again, they can kill me tomorrow. But let me tell you something. You need to look into the mind of a black man. I don’t  care who he is – he could be a doctor, he could be a great scientist – but he got no sense! You talk to him. You talk to a black man. He doesn’t  understand the world. He’s never built anything.
“The most the black people have ever done – they did it here in America but with white people’s help. When they were in Africa, they didn’t do nothing. When black people had Africa – that big continent over there – they never built one boat that was seaworthy – not one. There is not one monument in all of Africa. I know you’re talking about Africa. Egypt is not Africa.
“There were no great cities that were built – even before the first colonization of white people. Coming to the shores of Africa on the slave ships, black men did nothing – no sewer facilities, no houses above one level, and none of them made of stone, all of them were made out of grass and wood.
Before the white man ever got to Africa, the worst thing that could happen to South Africa was they gave it to Nelson Mandela and black folk. That was a great nation, not withstanding Apartheid. It was wrong, we all knew it was wrong. I’m against it, there should have been some other revolution though to get over Nelson Mandela.

Disease and crime is running wild in Johannesburg, killing one another over there. They are dying of sickness, the government is mismanaged, the people who ran it are now leaving because black folks don’t know how to run no nation. They don’t know how. And we have to admit it. I know you don’t like it. But you have to stop shucking and jiving. We got a problem!
"Nigeria is producing oil every year – yet the children over there are hungry and pot-bellied and walking barefoot. We have a problem! You talk about the Hutus and the Tutsis – look what’s going on in Zimbabwe now with Mugabi. We got a problem, black folk. Forget about Zimbabwe and South Africa and Nigeria – look at what you people have done in Harlem – you can’t even hold on to Harlem!
"We got a problem – black people don’t understand the world. What’s wrong with the black man’s mind? There’s something wrong with his mind.  You can get mad with me all you want, you can say what you want to, but you can’t prove me wrong. I don’t say this because I hate black folk, I say it because I love you enough to tell the truth. Now the only thing that is going to help us get out of this fix is going to be God."


Sunday, August 17, 2014

ONCE A POET You Better Bury Me or Have Me Smoked to Cinders

Verne Strickland
Verne Strickland

ONCE A POET  August 18, 2014

You better bury me or have

me  smoked to cinders

in some gutbucket crematorium

because when you leave

this earth I don’t want to be

around to see it

I would be socked and stoned and busted up

To hear the echoes of  your singin

And be grievin deep

Oh world without end


So hang in there and

outlast me I beg of you

and live a good life long enuf

to see me gone

I have checked your holy tracks

From  boyhood in the South


Where you said you

Could be yourself and were

And made me proud

So thence and hence

To Monet’s gardens

Where God spoke to you

Now in sweet slumberin hills you

Grow in grace and

Keep your little flock with love

And play your steel for God

And Mr. Graham

Attaboy my son

For that is how I’d have you be and best

Of all I know God feels the same

Talk the talk and walk  the walk

And run the run

And feed on grits and caviar

Make a joyful noise and

Come unto His gates with thanksgiving and

Into His courts with praise

While stickin always with the KJV