Category Archives: Current Affairs

3 NC Muslim Students Murdered


3 Muslim Students Murdered–Over Parking?

This nearby shocker pretty much took over my day Wednesday. It’s still unfolding.


Muslim-Victims-NC Muslim-Victims-NC

And without drawing any final conclusions, here’s how it stands, as far as I can see now:

The victims were all students: Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha.

The accused shooter, Craig Hicks, is a very odd duck: reviewing his Facebook page shows him to be a dogged liberal Democrat, pro-gay rights, abortion and all the rest, who is also a militant atheist — fervently anti-religion but not apparently any more anti-Islam than anti-all the rest; there are more blasts against Christianity on his page than against Islam, if that means anything.

Yet at the same time, he’s a gun rights zealot (there’s a semi-erotic closeup photo of his snubnose .38 on the page, likely the murder weapon). He’s not a southern redneck tho. Plus he had a longstanding (with witnesses) angry obsession about — parking squabbles in his apartment/condo complex.

So go figure: a politically liberal, equal-opportunity anti-religious gun-toting atheist, for whom road rage turns to parking rage turns deadly. There was a whisper in his wife’s brief statement about mental health issues, but the lawyers instantly shut it down (probably because it will figure in his upcoming trial; an insanity defense may be his only hope).



I watched a video of a brief statement by Suzanne Barakat, the sister of one of the victims: a woman in hospital greens (she’s a doc) and the Muslim headscarf. Infinitely poised and calm, considering the circumstances; quite impressive. She asked that the killlings be investigated as a hate crime, but said no more. We’re advised that the Justice Department is “monitoring” the case.

And there it is, friends.
Ain’t that America.
You and me.


Quakers, Nonviolence & ISIS

Quakers, Nonviolence & ISIS: A Dead End?

A Quaker married to a non-Friend pleaded for help the other day, because her husband was very skeptical that any non-warlike response to the brutal conquests of ISIS in the the Middle East would have any chances of success.

She couldn’t think of any adequate peaceful response, but didn’t want to give up. Did anyone have any advice, she asked?

There were lots of responses. Here’s mine, since the question is an old one, recurring pretty regularly with each new war the U.S. gets involved in, which is several in my adult lifetime, and many more before that . . . .

If you look in the early Quaker books of Discipline (a useful summary is here) and search for the “Peace Testimony,” you won’t find it, because it is NOT there. Nope. No such thing.

Instead, you’ll find a testimony insisting that Friends stay out of wars and preparation for wars,  on pain of disownment. It says nothing about how to resolve or prevent war; that idea was, to borrow a modern phrase, “way above the early Friends’ pay grade.” The idea behind this “old-time” Testimony is that Friends were supposed to be living under the spirit of peace, and so they “don’t learn (or do) war anymore” (to borrow from the Bible).

“The Peaceable Kingdom,” by Edward Hicks. This is one of dozens of similar paintings by this Quaker artist. It is based on a biblical image of a kind of heaven on earth, but includes a tableau of William Penn making peace with the Pennsylvania Indians — a wonderful deed, but not in the Bible.

  Continue reading Quakers, Nonviolence & ISIS

Harper Lee’s “new” Novel: Mayhem or Must-Read??

Harper Lee’s “new” Novel: Mayhem or Must-Read??

So “Go Set A Watchman,” has just appeared on the horizon, and already the media are going nuts. It’s some kind of terrible plot, shout some, intended to [gasp!] make money for publishers. NO, says the publisher, Harper Lee is fine with it, and it’ll be great. And methinks they’re just tuning up for a full philharmonic atonal blast.

Harper Lee's "new" Novel: Mayhem or Must-Read??
Harper Lee swings Mary Badham, who played Scout in the movie of TKAM

Hmmmm. No doubt this IS “exploitive,” in the sense that it’s intended to sell books and make money.  And yet Something says to me, “Hold on a minute.”
After all — book publishers wanting to make profits? Hello– is this a new idea for anybody here??
And next, from repeated earlier reports, it seems close to clear
that Harper Lee herself is pretty deep into the last lap; cocooned in her old age and steep decline: described by some as non communicative, with at least short term memory all but gone, doesn’t travel, doesn’t do interviews. The Birmingham News, which runs the best news site in Alabama, just reinforced this impression with a visit. But their story also confirms that the lawyer who handled the deal had legal authority to do so. And eminent Alabama historian Wayne Flynt says he talked to her this week, and she’s lucid and it’s fine.

Continue reading Harper Lee’s “new” Novel: Mayhem or Must-Read??

Jeb Bush & The Terri Schiavo Case: A Terrifying Story

Jeb Bush & The Terri Schiavo Case: A Terrifying True Story


NOTE: This is a bombshell report from the respected Politico website. As the 2016 presidential campaign swings into high gear, the prospect of Jeb Bush as a serious candidate deserves careful scrutiny. His shocking performance in the Terri Schiavo case, carefully reviewed here by the site’s senior writer Michael Kruse, is loaded with ominous significance. These are excerpts; read the whole piece.]

Jeb Put Me Through Hell”

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Continue reading Jeb Bush & The Terri Schiavo Case: A Terrifying Story

Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou Is Out of Jail!

 Three Pictures for Today: First, John Kiriakou, CIA whistleblower who confirmed the existence of the CIA’s illegal torture program, just got out of jail, after serving two years in a federal penitentiary. This twitter photo says it all:


 Well, not QUITE all. Kiriakou still has a million-dollar legal bill, five kids, one in college, no pension and no job. And he has one other major distinction: of those government officials who planned the illegal [as in violating existing U.S. federal criminal law] CIA torture program, organized it, carried it out, shilled for it, covered it up, lied and obstructed justice for it, the only one who has faced charges is Kiriakou, whose “crime” was confirming its existence to a reporter. More on John and his background  here.

Now, to the second photo of the day:


Departing U.S. Attorney General  Eric Holder was the federal officer ultimately responsible for the prosecution of Kiriakou and other whistleblowers about torture, government spying on citizens, and more. His record in this record is usefully , shockingly summarized here.

No doubt Holder did some good work in his tenure; but the record on civil liberties is going to make a rough chapter in the history books; and it ought to give him nightmares.

So Welcome home, John Kiriakou. And Eric Holder: here’s the third photo, a sign for you:


Have a nice day.


Robots Writing News Stories?? You Mean You Hadn’t Noticed??

It Had to Happen: the AP Is Using Robots to Write Thousands of Routine Business Stories.
Now all we Need Is Some Robots to READ Them . . .

typing-robot Philana Patterson, an assistant business editor at the AP tasked with implementing the system, tells us there was some skepticism from the staff at first. “I wouldn’t expect a good journalist to not be skeptical,” she said. Patterson tells us that when the program first began in July, every automated story had a human touch, with errors logged and sent to Automated Insights to make the necessary tweaks.

Continue reading Robots Writing News Stories?? You Mean You Hadn’t Noticed??

Teen Murders In Los Angeles Are Way Down

Teen Murders Down –And The BIG Reason Is Quite A Surprise!

Teenage-Murders-in-LA-ChartGeorge Tita, a criminologist at UC Irvine who studies homicide, said the increase in age is consistent with the changing nature of gang violence and the sharp decrease in killings throughout the county.

Others say that the trauma of losing brothers, cousins and fathers to street violence may make gang life less appealing to younger people. “It’s the little brother looking at what happened to the big brother and saying, ‘I don’t want to go that way,’” said Elliott Currie, another UC Irvine criminologist. “It’s something I think we criminologists don’t talk about enough.”

Continue reading Teen Murders In Los Angeles Are Way Down

“Mapping The Left” In Carolina

The image below was abstracted from a new website, “Mapping The [North Carolina] Left”, just unveiled by the folks at our local rightwing “think” tank, the Civitas Institute. It purports to unmask, name and chart the “vast leftwing conspiracy” that it insists has been running the state, notwithstanding the huge rightwing majority in the legislature. Its database names many hundreds of people, groups, and funders.Leftist-Map - Civitas

And despite a lengthy spell of scrolling, I am abashed and embarrassed to report that my name didn’t turn up anywhere on it. Nor did those of the two activist groups I have worked with, one full-time and one part-time, for most of the 13 years I’ve been in Carolina. And dammit, it wasn’t for lack of trying! In fact, I thought they’ve been pretty doggone effective, given that they were devoted to pretty much hopeless causes. But what do I know?? Continue reading “Mapping The Left” In Carolina

Same Sex Marriage Comes to Fayetteville-Fort Bragg, North Carolina

They Vowed It Would NEVER Happen!  But It DID —

Alishia-Shelbie-Before-SMWhile I lived in Fayetteville, as Director of the longtime peace project Quaker House, we worked hard for change and justice, including for LGBT folks.

It was an uphill slog, with many difficult moments. Here’s one, a video we made in response to an ugly campaign to put a ban on same sex marriage in the NC constitution

Continue reading Same Sex Marriage Comes to Fayetteville-Fort Bragg, North Carolina

“Survival & Resistance” A Message from 2006 That is Timely Again

they thought they were free

[Note: This essay was originally published in Friends Journal; but it’s now behind their paywall. It still seems timely today; maybe more so.]

Quakerism was born in a time of revolutionary upheaval. Yet it learned how to survive when the revolution failed and was followed by decades of persecution.

I sometimes hear Quakers waxing nostalgic about recovering the fire and fervor of “early Friends.”

Continue reading “Survival & Resistance” A Message from 2006 That is Timely Again