This nearby shocker pretty much took over my day Wednesday. It’s still unfolding.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.]
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 violatingexisting 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:
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 . . .
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.
Teen Murders Down –And The BIG Reason Is Quite A Surprise!
George 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.”
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.
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→