Friday, November 27, 2015



Paris 13 November 2015

By Jack Random

At first we are stunned, senses deadened, mind and body paralyzed.
We see without seeing, hear without sound, absorb without taste, touch or smell.
It is not real.
It is a video game, a you-tube contrivance, a trick of the mind.
At length it seeps into our conscious minds.
We deny it as if denying can make it stop.
It does not stop.

Our senses kick in and we are overwhelmed with horror.
We fear and our fear breeds contempt and contempt yields to anger and anger becomes rage and rage cries out for revenge.
We hate because we sorrow and sorrow cannot fill the void.
We mourn not to heal but to bury the pain.
We send our soldiers off to war to make them suffer as we have suffered.
We wreak a horrible vengeance and it numbs our senses.

We are stunned, deadened, paralyzed.
It is not real.

Only time can heal the wounds of Paris. We are in mourning but our need for vengeance has not yet been fulfilled. We have arrived at the most dangerous phase of the response cycle where any actions we might take will almost certainly be unwise yet act we must. The need takes hold of our collective soul and overwhelms.

At this stage in our response to September 11 we set our sights on the Taliban and launched the Long War in Afghanistan, a war that continues to this day. Contrary to neocon mythology, a mythology perpetuated by our current president, the Taliban did not intentionally harbor international terrorists, the Taliban did not bring Al Qaeda to their country (the CIA did), the Taliban did not arm Al Qaeda (the CIA did) and the Taliban did not refuse to hand over Osama bin Laden. They offered to hand him over to an international tribunal and we refused the offer. We did not crush Al Qaida in Afghanistan. We did not kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

Our need for vengeance unfulfilled, we moved on to Iraq and launched another war that continues to this day. In a strategic blunder of epic proportions, we captured and killed Saddam Hussein (letting the Iraqis carry out the deed), destroying a delicate balance of power in the world’s most dangerous region. That our actions gave rise to the Islamic State and the chaos that reigns throughout the Middle East today is the litmus test that divides historians from propagandists.

Americans will recall that the French took the lead, standing almost alone among European nations, in opposing our march to war in Iraq. We condemned them in the strongest terms, all but accusing them of aiding the enemy, for offering truth to power. By now we should all know and accept that they were right and we were wrong. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no connection to September 11. Saddam Hussein was in fact an enemy of Al Qaeda.

Had we listened to the French then the world would look very different today. But we were in no mood to listen to anyone. The United Nations Security Council voted down our motion for war and we did not listen. Three million people took to the streets in a single day of protest, the largest demonstration in history, and we did not listen. Every foreign policy expert who did not drink from the poisoned well of the neocon imperialist vision warned us of the dangers in occupying Iraq but we did not listen.

We cannot know what follows. We can only hope that we have learned something from the past. Not the distant past, not the failures of the British and French empires, not Viet Nam or Algiers: We know we have learned little of value from these failures. We can only hope that we have learned something from the immediate past, the living past, the current nightmare born of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Among the lessons we should have learned:

That we cannot and should not invade and occupy foreign nations that pose no existential threat to us or indeed our allies without dangerous, unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences.

That we cannot and should not engage militarily in what is fundamentally a civil war, involving the powers of a foreign land.

Despite its ambition, ISIS is not a nation but it is a regional power that has engaged in the civil wars of Syria and Iraq. ISIS is not an existential threat to any nation outside the region. It is an existential threat to the governments of Iraq and Syria but neither can be considered our ally at this juncture – except perhaps in the abstract world of strategic maneuvering. It is a threat to the Kurds, a people without a nation and an enemy to Turkey, our official NATO ally.

The situation quickly escalates to the complicated level of a master chess game. The Kurds despise the Turks with their history of genocide and the Turks would like to see the Kurdish military force decimated – perhaps as much as ISIS. The Saudis, whose teachings produced Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, have their own problem with radical elements but their primary concern is the rise of Iran. Like the western world, Iran is fundamentally opposed to ISIS but unlike the western world supports Bashar al-Assad, the beleaguered president of Syria.

Enter the Russians, playing four sides against the middle to protect their own interests and the presidency of Assad. ISIS takes down a Russian passenger plane and then, in a strategic move of mind-numbing audacity, Turkey shoots down a Russian fighter jet.

It is a minefield and a very dangerous game. The potential for intended or unintended disasters are everywhere.

We are already engaged in an intensive bombing campaign. Now, in the wake of Paris, there is talk of a grand coalition to defeat and destroy ISIS by military means. All the media experts agree: It requires a large and long commitment of soldiers on the ground.

Never mind that ISIS cannot be defeated and destroyed militarily. ISIS represents a religious ideology and that ideology appeals to a significant portion of the Islamic population. An ideology representing millions of people cannot be destroyed on the battlefield. To the contrary such an effort would reinforce their belief that they are engaged in a holy war. It would increase their appeal to young devotees.

If we were to defeat ISIS on the ground, its soldiers would fold back into the population and rise again when our eyes inevitably turn elsewhere. If it sounds familiar, it should. It happened in Iraq. If we occupied the Middle East a hundred or a thousand years – something we cannot, should not and will not do – the outcome would be the same.

It is difficult and unpopular to advise caution and patience in the wake of the Paris attack. I love Paris. I love its people, its spirit and its love of art. I love a culture that embraces creative minds and makes the irreverence of Charlie Hebdo possible. I mourn the loss of innocence and the loss of lives. I mourn for who they might have been and what they might have contributed to this world had their lives not ended on a bloody Friday evening in the city of lights.

I am myself still going through the cycle of response to this tragedy but I have drawn one conclusion and it is my duty to advise France as France advised us after September 11: Vengeance is not the way.

The powers in the region must address the threat of ISIS and the problem of radical Islam. It took centuries for Christians to abandon the crusades. It seems Islam is still working on it. The Turks must decide that the threat of ISIS overrides their fear and hatred of the Kurds. The Saudis must similarly decide that ISIS is their primary threat and recognize that their own Islamic teachings are at least part of the problem.

What we should not do is what the leaders of ISIS no doubt want: Holy war in the Middle East.

Je suis Paris.



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Monday, October 26, 2015

Cigar Store Indian by Chris Mansel 

Cigar store Indian carries a gun
shoots white people and doesn't run
He's been dealing with this since Bull Run
White People come and they take his land
sit him out front and they shake his hand
Cigar store Indian carries a gun
shoots white people and doesn't run
lock his people on tiny dirty land
tell him he can't even be a man
Cigar store Indian carries a gun
protests peacefully over Leonard Peltier's
imprisonment in federal land
No one cares except for comrades
and the sympathetic woman and man

Chris Mansel



Sunday, August 23, 2015


PRESS RELEASE: August 29, 2015.

On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s arrival in New Orleans, Crow Dog Press is pleased to announce the publication of Number Nine: The Adventures of Jake Jones and Ruby Daulton by Jack Random.

Written in twenty-seven cinematic scenes, complete with its own soundtrack, Ruby Jones picks up hitchhiker Jake Jones somewhere outside of Bakersfield and together they embark on a cross-country adventure filled with intrigue, mysticism and danger. Confronting sex-crazed bikers, forces of nature, the wrath of an angry mob boss and the betrayal of friends, they survive by reading the signs and exploiting their special talents until the King of the New Orleans underground, driven by his infatuation with Ruby, captures and transports her to the Big Easy on the Mississippi Riverboat Queen, leaving Jake unconscious in a Memphis hotel.

In the mold of Billie Holiday, Ruby is in fact a singer of rare and extraordinary talent. Pale Louie keeps her in a drug-induced haze, letting her sing in his underground kingdom every night. Word gets out and Ruby captures the heart of the Easy, becoming a legend in her own time.

Jake possesses Kachina magic and employs all his skills in a concerted effort to rescue Ruby from her captivity. Armed with a bundle of cash won in a poker game, he makes allies in the underground and wins the respect of Louie’s most trusted servant. With the help of his friends he stages an improbable rescue and seeks refuge in a safe house in the lower ninth ward.

It is the summer of 2005, America is engaged in multiple wars and a storm named Katrina has her own date with destiny in New Orleans.

Rain pounding and wind howling with the rage of a hurricane, a determined Louie tracks Jake and Ruby down just as the levees give way. Pale Louie is swept away into the swampy waters of Lake Pontchartrain where dozens if not hundreds of his past victims are rumored to await him.

Jake and Ruby must finally survive the ravages of Katrina and its devastating aftermath. After all the challenges, the dangers and hardships, not only on their journey but throughout their young lives, they will not back down.

“Nothing could stop them. They had the magic of destiny and the medicine of the crow. They were a force of nature, undeniable and pure. Like Bonnie and Clyde, Cisco and Poncho, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they were bound for glory on the road of adventure and nothing but nothing could stand in their way!”

Number Nine will be available on Amazon beginning August 29.

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Monday, July 27, 2015


By Joseph M. Cachia, Malta

“If governments let themselves be fully bound by the decisions of their parliaments without protecting their own freedom to act, a breakup of Europe would be a more probable outcome than deeper integration.”

Mario Monti

Following the resounding “No” from Greek voters in a referendum on austerity, which could send the country crashing out of the Eurozone, European leaders were scrambling in total disarray and confusion.

Greece may be ‘broke’, but it surely broke the backbone of the European Union. It may have lost the economic, financial and political battle, but not the war.

Whatever the EU’s response to the courageous Greek “No”, this daring vote blasts wide open the volatility and frailty of the Union. Another bailout would shatter all propositions and self-imposed regulations of the euro-zone, while its negation would send Greece tumbling out of the euro-zone and possibly out of the EU and NATO!

Is the prophecy of the ‘The New York Times’ coming to fruition? “Economy Shows Cracks in European Union”, it had predicted. “But even many committed Europeanists believe that the alliance is failing the test…. and they have rushed to protect jobs in their home markets at the expense of those in other member countries”.

“We are in a moment of a very severe crisis,” said Joschka Fischer, a Green Party politician and former German foreign minister. “We have a traumatic lack of leadership; we are caught right in the middle by the flood.”

The strains are evident in the way countries have worked to bail out their own banks and rescue national factories of global automobile companies.

Divisions are also evident between northern Europe and southern Europe, with more fiscally responsible countries like Germany only reluctantly promising to help floundering economies like those of Spain and Greece.

There is, also, another cleavage that has to do with the nature of the policies required to end the euro crisis. This concerns the euro-zone states in particular, and is embodied in the contrast between the northern states (generally creditors) and the southern states (generally debtors).

Many have wondered if Greece's economy would get so bad that it would eventually break away from the euro zone - a move that could encourage other countries to follow and therefore splinter the currency union.

Most assuredly, all know of the controversial and much-discussed possible Greek EU exit, often referred to as ‘Grexit’! But how many are conscious of the ‘PLAN Z’, the name given to a 2012 secret plan drawn up by the troika (EU/ECB/IMF) to prepare the Greek withdrawal from the euro-zone? For that matter, ‘Z’ could also be a play on alpha and omega i.e. "the end"!

When Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, was asked whether there existed any plan in case any country wants or is forced to leave the euro-zone, so that the markets don’t basically collapse, he simply replied that the question is so hypothetical that he didn’t have any answer - “No Plan B”. Well, here we are now!

A Greek exit from the euro-zone would have immense consequences for the European Union. This is why it is something that the EU wants to avoid at all costs. This is the stark truth now facing, not only the euro zone, but also the entire European Union.

A look into the dictatorial running of the European Union was grossly exposed by the reaction of Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE President) on Merkel’s remarks on Greece when he expressed his shock at the proposals of Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag on the eventual eviction of a member of the euro-zone. He stated thus: “Angela Merkel's lack of solidarity with Greece is shocking. The proposals by the German Chancellor are very disturbing. In the Bundestag, she declared that solidarity towards a country like Greece is not the right response. Her suggestion that consideration should be given to an eventual exclusion from the euro-zone is, frankly, shocking. Above all, it is incomprehensible because it is precisely a European response that is the quickest and least costly solution. If the European Commission issues a loan to Greece, it will not cost a cent for anyone. It's as simple as that. Obviously Merkel no longer wants European solutions. The summit had sent a signal to markets that no euro country risks default,” he concluded.

What is Europe doing? First it launches accusations provoking speculation against Greek debt. Then a debate on how to aid Greece ensues, during which proposals are made in every direction. And now we are at the point where some are publicly asking if we really should be helping Greece at all. Over the last few days this debate has become absurd. The EU finance ministers decided that it wanted to do something but didn't want to say exactly what. Apparently this action would take the form of a bilateral loan from the 19 euro-zone countries, that is, a single loan that is paid for by the taxpayers of the euro-zone and which will therefore increase the debt level of each member state. These are nothing but imperial politics.

Not unlike other southern EU. countries, including Malta, Greece is a small vassal state of a Greater Franco-German economic empire. The Greek people were used and tricked into joining the European Union, abused and largely left forgotten but now never to be allowed to threaten the empire builders.

Some time ago, MEP (Member European Parliament) Alfred Sant chose to address the Greek issue and titled his article as ‘The Greek Vortex’, a whirling force of suction intended on European funds. Up to there he was quite right – the whole charade centred on Greece’s insoluble debt. However, unfortunately, he failed to mention and further illustrate which banks, corporations and other creditors were siphoning off the Greek economy, including earlier bailouts. What were the final bellies of these handouts? Definitely, not the Greek people! So rich people need more money and tax cuts to ‘motivate’ them, while poor people need less money and more austerity to ‘motivate’ them.

One reason Greece has been forced to seek bailouts from its EU partners is that Greece ceded control over its currency when it joined the European Union and much of Greece’s deficit was caused by excessive military spending, as dictated by the EU, which remains among the largest in the European Union.

William Hague summed it all up when he said: “ People feel that the EU is a one-way process, a great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments to the European level until everything is decided by the EU.” How long can this remain?

So, Tsipras gave the people the choice in a referendum, even urging and spurring the people to vote ‘No’. And he got a resounding ‘No’, but then he goes to the EU. and votes ‘Yes’! Well, is Greece a country or a party? This is unconditional surrender!

International inspectors will have the power to veto Greek legislation. The Syriza government will be forced to repeal a heap of laws passed since it took power, stripping away the last fig leaf of sovereignty.

From now on the Troika will be governing Greece. There definitely is going to be a real conflict about this. There is already a strong groundswell of anger brewing and an inevitable battle is looming on the horizon. Most Greeks know that the only way out of this neo-colonial servitude is to break free of the monetary union and of the EU.

The Greek Parliament cannot override the people’s ‘NO’ vote. The agreement with the creditors is illegal! Greece should have ditched the euro and gone for the drachma, instead of this whole farce.

And finally, may I offer an honest and unpretentious advice to my friend, Tsipras?

Get back on board all the staunch members of parliament whom you ditched because of their unwavering principle based on the people’s hopeful cry. Only they can help you save your country. Then, my friend take their (EU) money (after all they had stolen it from you) and run…as fast and as far as you can away from them all: the EU, NATO and all the other whole greedy lot. After all, it’s only a sinking ship you’ll be escaping from. Nothing in the EU is what it seems. It’s a total mess!

Greece is suffering and the rest of us don’t realise that it could just as easily be us later!

Perhaps this endorses the fact that the alternative to capitalism can only be achieved through revolution!

I think you'll dream of a revolution of free people long after I'm safely dead.

“ We must break up the eurozone. We must set those Mediterranean countries free.” Nigel Farage

Joseph M. Cachia, Freelance Journalist
Email: jmcachia@maltanet.net
Vittoriosa, Malta (Europe)

July 2015

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Monday, July 13, 2015


[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Recent events in South Carolina and throughout the old South have served to remind me that even as things change they so often remain the same. This is the first story I published under the name Jack Random. Because it seems as pertinent today as it was nearly twenty years ago, I am posting it pretty much as it appeared in AIM Magazine 1996.]


By Jack Random

“It is not the temperature,” the Major said in a lazy drawl so pronounced only a fellow Southerner would lend it credibility. “It is not the temperature,” he repeated for no other reason than that he derived pleasure from the sensation as the word temperature rolled off his tongue, slow and clinging like Georgia molasses.

“It is not the temperature, it is the viscosity.”

He puffed what remained of his Cuban cigar and blew the smoke in concentric circles that hovered in the hot, viscous air. It was a vile habit and one that he embraced with all his southern pride. Hot. Damnably hot. But from where he sat on the porch of a century old cabin overlooking the Great Smokey Mountains, it might have been heaven. You could tell by the way he fidgeted in his rocker that the Major was feeling frisky.

Cousin Billy Bob, a young man of the transitional age when it was only slightly impolite to address him as a boy, stood in camouflage khakis bearing a message of good news. He could only smile in appreciation of the Major’s witticism. It was only slightly over his head.

Billy Bob was what the culture made of William Robert Moss. He was not the Major’s cousin but, then, the Major was not a Major. It was a term of endearment more or less. He was here to deliver a progress report on the organization’s master plan. His report was primarily responsible for the Major’s good humor.

The organization was neither the Klan nor Klan related. The Klan was old news, forever grounded in the past. Theirs was an organization with its eyes set dead ahead. They were well-respected men at the top of their games, collecting converts more rapidly than collecting Baptist missionaries in the Congo. They were businessmen, politicians, lawyers, civil servants, artists, artisans, writers, musicians, clerks, accountants, sportsmen, hikers, survivalists, religious zealots and atheists. In short, they were every mother’s son with one distinction: They were all white.


“We are all God’s children!” the preacher cried out in the distinctive cadence made famous by the likes of Reverend Ike, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King. “We are all God’s children – black, white, brown, yellow and red – united as one people in the eyes of our Lord and comforted in the hands of our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.”

The Reverend William James Jackson was known as Willie Jay to his congregation of just under one hundred in one of the better sections of the small town of Waynesborough, North Carolina. They were the more fortunate of the greater community of African Americans, well respected, socially involved, and financially secure if not truly affluent. Several decades removed from the direct effects of racial discrimination, they had grounded their economic well-being in the black community and conscientiously repaid the community with job development, charitable contributions, rehabilitation centers, and active participation in the schools, local government and churches.

They were not surprised by the subject of the good Reverend’s sermon. For months it had been a dominant theme: The burning of churches with predominantly or exclusively black congregations. The latest count was in the eighties nation wide, but the vast majority were south of the Mason-Dixon line. They had established a relief fund and some of their members had traveled hundreds of miles to assist in rebuilding not only churches but also faith in the greater society of human kind.

They were not surprised but they did not expect the hateful phenomenon – a legacy of racial violence, intolerance and bigotry – to come home.


The Major was spearheading a special project for an organization that, for all practical purposes, did not exist. They had no official meetings. They elected no officers. They collected no dues. They did not publish a newsletter and their business was rarely conducted over any medium. When it was it was carefully coded. Anonymity and secrecy were of paramount concern.

It all began in the smoking room at one of the many black tie gala events to which his wife was devoted. He adored his wife and, after the expected period of pleading and protestation, he always consented to attend. The truth was his social life was severely limited since his retirement from the army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He enjoyed these formal gatherings almost as much as she did.

On this particular occasion, a very distinguished gentleman – a former District Attorney – was commenting on the crime situation, with the not so subtle implication that those of darker complexion were responsible for making the streets unsafe. He lamented at some length the exorbitant costs of adequate security – an absolute necessity even and especially in the finest of neighborhoods.

“It is unfortunate,” the Major finally replied, “that the race war of the late sixties never fully materialized. We might have exterminated half of them and sent the other half back to the Dark Continent.”

It was a shocking comment and an almost unforgivable breech of etiquette at a social affair – even when confined to the smoking room. Within minutes, of course, it circulated throughout the gathering and within days, naturally, it had permeated much of the state, giving the Major and indelible reputation as a man of integrity.

Owing partly to his virtue of drinking to excess at such affairs, he was forgiven by his social peers and he had made his first converts. In the coming months, he discovered that he had made many more. The secret society grew and prospered. It seemed the mood of the country and the south was at last ripe.


The Reverend cast his line, set his jig, and settled back on his haunches, letting the boat drift slowly in the shallows of the pond. It was well stocked with catfish and smallmouth bass, but it was not the fishing that kept Willie Jay coming back to the pond like clockwork every Monday morning. It was the time with his trusted companion, friend and the sole employee of the Missionary Baptist Church, which he valued.

Jackie Robinson Brown was a former prizefighter, a Golden Glove champion, who had once contended for the bantamweight crown. He still carried the 1949 Ring Magazine that listed his name among the top ten contenders and showed it to anyone who politely expressed an interest.

Jackie, himself, had lost interest in almost everything after the death of his wife and only child in a freak automobile accident. He was wandering the streets, begging for loose change (not acceptable behavior in Waynesborough, North Carolina), when the Reverend took him under his wing. In his younger days, Willie Jay was both a fight fan and a gambling man. He had won a fair amount of pocket money betting on the local pugilistic hero and he considered it the work of God that he was in a position to repay him with an honest job and shelter.

For the past twelve years, Jackie had been the janitor at the finest African American church in Waynesborough. He was proud of his position, proud of his relationship with the Reverend Willie Jay, and he took pride in his work. Many were the nights he would sleep on a cot in the church loft, too tired to make the trek home. Or maybe he just liked being close to God.

“Got me a nibbler,” Jackie whispered, one eye on his jig and the other on Willie Jay. He was a fine fisherman and he was proud of that too. He enjoyed Monday mornings as much as the Reverend did.

Willie Jay watched him grasp his rod with delicate touch of a surgeon. The jig darted in the still water and Jackie jerked his rod back and reeled it in with the smile of a seven-year-old who just hit a home run in little league baseball. He admired his catch briefly. It was a keeper – a fourteen-inch cat – but he released it back into the pond as was his habit. Willie Jay accused him of catching the same fish over and over but he could never prove it. In all these many years, he had kept only a handful and those he gave away to people “less fortunate than myself.”

“You haven’t mentioned the sermon.” The Reverend waited before breaching the subject. They always touched on the Sunday sermon as a starting point to general discussions on the meaning of life and the state of human affairs. It was traditional for Jackie to initiate the discussion but on this Monday morning, he fell silent.

“Not much to say,” he replied after a time to punctuate his consternation. “You been givin’ that same sermon for five weeks now.”

“They’re burning churches, Jackie! Our churches!”

They had been through this before but the Reverend never gave up trying to bend Jackie to his views, despite the immutable fact that Jackie’s opinions were set in something more solid than granite – namely, true conviction. The only individual in the county more obstinate than Jackie was the Reverend Willie Jay, himself.

“The Lord don’t see it that way.”

“You got a pipeline to the Lord, do you?”

The Reverend knew it was a mistake as soon as he said it. Jackie would not respond to the semantic traps Willie Jay so often set. He would just roll his eyes as he was doing now.

“Don’t do no good stirring up trouble,” Jackie said finally, putting a cap on their discussion of the Sunday sermon. As it turned out, it was a good day for fishing – just fishing.


The Major was preparing for a reunion of Army buddies in Detroit. As a matter of policy, he always arranged a social engagement during an operation – especially one in his region of the country.

It was carefully planned to appear unplanned: The reckless, drunken act of a couple of kids. A generous amount of whiskey would be found on the premises. None would be hurt. It was not their intention to kill. They only wanted to stir things up, to ignite the racial tension that was as much southern heritage as Old Hickory and Robert E. Lee. If it spread to the rest of the country so much the better. Unlike previous periods of unrest, this time they would be prepared for what followed.

The days of affirmative action were graciously coming to a close. The welfare nation would soon be history. Poverty was an indelible fact. That it affected more black Americans than white was a fact open to interpretation. When the proverbial crap hit the fan, two communities would be armed and ready: the drug pushers and the survivalists. Handcuffed though they might be, the Major figured he could count on the government to enter the fray on their side. It was his job to make sure his people were better armed than the enemy was.

He provided cousin Billy Bob with the names and addresses of two local boys and a map of Waynesborough. It would take place between two and three in the morning – just after the Major checked in to a Detroit hotel.


Monday was Jackie’s day off. On occasion, however, when he was feeling restless, after fishing and an afternoon nap, he would put in a few hours of work to take the edge off whatever was troubling him. On this particular Monday, he was feeling restless. Fishing could be hard time when it was just fishing. He could not quite get a grip on it – which was why it would not leave him in peace. Of course, he wanted to help. Who wouldn’t? It was something else: a sense of foreboding, unease, maybe a premonition. It was as if he had been through this before.

He was three generations removed from the scourge of slavery. He had spent his share of time in the cotton fields, on the backs of busses, and in the shantytowns of the segregated South. He had gone from colored to Negro to black to Afro to African American. He had lived through the civil rights movement, the assassinations, black pride, the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers and the first race war. He was boxing out of Chicago when the streets went up in flames and all hell broke loose. He was not then politically aware but he was caught in the crossfire and neither the police nor the National Guard was asking which side you were on. If you were on the streets and you were black, you were the enemy.

He survived but not without casualty. He spent three days in the hospital and three years paying for it. At the time, he considered himself fortunate because, if he had still been standing, they would have taken him to jail. As it was, his boxing career was over and with it his dream of a better life for his children all but died. His life was turned head over feet.

Now Jackie smelled trouble. Big trouble. The same kind of trouble he sensed way back when in Chicago. The last thing he wanted was another race war. Nothing good would come of it. He did not know, however, how to deal with the sort of people who made sport of burning churches.

It was late in the evening by the time he glanced at his watch. His mind had been racing so swiftly he did not notice the time until he realized he had waxed and polished every bench in the worship hall. He was suddenly drained and took only a moment to decide: he would not make the walk home. He turned out the lights, climbed the stairs to the loft, and quickly fell asleep.


Jimmy and Braden were the sons of good old boys. They shared a lot in life. They played sports, liked pretty girls, cold beer, hot cars and country music. They graduated from high school with mediocre grades and virtually no job skills – unless you counted auto mechanics, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the high school curriculum.

They were both well trained in the ways of good old boys by the examples of their fathers – an amazing feat when you consider their fathers were gone by the time they were seven years old. They were best friends, roommates, and they knew exactly what life had in store for them. So when they were offered an opportunity for a little off-the-road excitement, while serving a cause they vaguely believed in, forging a connection with what they considered the power source, and picking up some serious spending money, they jumped on it like fleas on a sleeping dog.

They were the grunts of the organization and it did not bother them. They were well groomed. They knew no names, no faces, and no phone numbers. They were contacted through a vendor at a traveling gun show. They knew only to expect a man wearing a Confederate ball cap near the witching hour.

Cousin Billy Bob arrived exactly at two o’clock, shook hands, and laid out the plan. Everything they needed – gloves, ski masks, two bottles of whiskey, six Molotov cocktails – were in the back of his truck. There were windows on both sides of the building. The boys would hit each side with two cocktails apiece, while he took care of the front. The structure was constructed of bricks but the interior and roofing was all wood. It would go up like a bed of dry pine boughs.

“It’s hit and run, boys. We don’t stand around to admire the work.”

The last thing Billy Bob told them was what to say in the event they were caught: They were drinking and they did it on a dare. The cocktails were kerosene with white rags, torn from tee shirts and dipped in kerosene. They learned how to make them from a TV show. The kerosene was already in the house for camping supplies. If Billy Bob was caught with them, he was just someone they met at the Sunday flea market who stayed over. If not, he did not exist. Anything else they could not remember or did not know.

When everything seemed clear enough they each took a hit of whiskey and got under way, like three secret agents on a mission in Moscow, too young, too ignorant or too dazed to see the folly of their own footsteps.


“Doggone kids!” Jackie said as he sat up, flipped on the lam glanced at the clock, and wondered if it was worth the effort.

It was unusual in this part of town but, during the summer months, an occasional act of youthful vandalism was not unexpected. He had been through it before. They’ll be long gone by the time I … That’s when he smelled burning wax and kerosene and fear gripped his gut.

He heard the front door being kicked in as he coaxed his legs to the door of the loft. He knew from the sound of erupting fire what he would see when he opened it. There was no way out. The small window in the loft was barred for security. He opened the door and confirmed the nightmare. The fresh wax acted as tinder. The entire church was filled from floor to rafters with the flames of racial hatred.

The sound of a man’s screams when his body is engulfed in flames is terrifying. It touches a raw nerve. It sends a chill down the spine and sets hair on end. What begins as horror is soon supplanted by a sickening feeling, bone deep, that makes a man want to cry and regurgitate at the same time.

Jimmy did neither. He stopped on a dime and tore off his ski mask. Braden made it almost to the truck when Jimmy cried out.

“Shit! That’s Jackie, man!”

Cousin Billy Bob was enraged, his face beet red beneath his mask. He was pissed that they had miscalculated, pissed that there was a man in the church, pissed that the Major would surely blame this on him, pissed that they had set him up with a couple of losers, but mostly he was pissed that they were still there.

“Get in the damned truck!”

Jimmy looked straight into Braden’s eyes. “It’s Jackie!” he repeated.

Jackie Robinson Brown was more than a local sports hero to the boys of Waynesborough. In a series of community outreach programs, he had taught many of them how to box. Jimmy and Braden were among them. Jackie was the one African American they liked and respected. Even their fathers had called him “a credit to his race.”

Jimmy delayed no longer. He dashed into the burning church, his tears clouding his vision and his judgment almost as much as the smoke and fire. Braden waited a few moments longer.

“Get in the goddamned truck!”

By the time Braden reached the front doors of the church, the fire and heat were so intense it nearly knocked him to the ground. It was too late. His best friend and the town’s hero were both surely dead. The truck was gone. He heard Jimmy’s scream just as they had heard Jackie’s before. He stumbled to the lawn of the church, collapsed, and wept as a baby plucked from his mama’s breast, until the firemen and police arrived.


Braden still wept when the Reverend Willie Jay arrived. When he the story and learned of his friend’s horrible death, he wanted to relinquish his theological oath and batter this boy to submission. But one look at the sobbing, stuttering youth and his tears were joined to the offender’s.
He realized that God’s punishment was swift, indeed, and that the survivor of this tragedy was the most unfortunate of all. In all the years of his still young life, he would never recover from the tormenting, haunting stain of his unwitting part in this drama.

No threats, no deals, no lengthy interrogation was required. Braden opened like a field of wildflowers in morning light and all he knew came spilling forth. He provided an accurate description of cousin Billy Bob and the Chevy pickup truck he drove. He identified the gun dealer and remembered just enough of the Chevy’s license number to track down its owner.

Billy Bob was stopped at a gas station before he could get home where one the Major’s cleanup agents was waiting. They had heard the news and they would take no chances on Billy Bob ending up in the hands of the law. They had not misjudged the extent of his loyalty but they never expected him to face a charge of murder.

After two days of questioning, two days of dealing with an unsympathetic public defender, and not a word from the Major, Billy Bob gave it up. The Major would take the fall.

The last rites of Jackie Robinson Brown were a fitting tribute to a great man who had accepted a modest role in life. It was one of the best-attended funerals in the county’s history. People from all over the country – including the families of two misguided youths – came to pay their respects to the roughhewn man who had touched so many hearts. The Reverend Willie Jay reflected that it was little compensation for the absence he felt and would always feel in the pit of his soul – but it was at least some consolation and it would have to do.

The Major took the honorable way out. His veiled wife and two members of the immediate family attended his funeral.


Sunday, July 05, 2015



By Jack Random

One of the questions consuming the meditation of philosophers through the ages: What is the nature of evil? Some suggest that greed is at its core and center. Others suggest it is vengeance. Still others propose that evil lacks a moral core. It is violence, death and destruction without external motive. It is essentially masochism. It enjoys the suffering of others for its own sake.

We like to believe we know evil when we see it. As Americans we recognize evil in others far more often than we see it in ourselves. We see evil whenever our leaders proclaim it and we sanction the full force of the most awesome military machine the world has ever known. When Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush proclaimed evil in the person of Saddam Hussein, we sanctioned a series of military actions culminating in the most disastrous strategic blunder in modern history.

The warlords in Washington are undaunted. They look at the disintegration of the Middle East, the chaos, destruction and perpetual dysfunction that we ourselves have wrought, and they see opportunity. They see a new personification of evil on earth and they will not rest until they have stirred the American people into yet another irrational cry for war.

They know how it ends. They know the price to be paid will be bloody and pointless yet they do not seem to care. They are the paper generals who sit on the mountaintop and watch the battle unfold below. They will never be called upon to sacrifice. Their children will not be pulled into the fight. They will issue the call for more soldiers and mightier weapons and they will call it patriotism. They will invent victories out of mirages that vanish as quickly as they appear. They will hold parades in their own honor. The will hold press conferences and make television appearances to congratulate themselves. They will reap the benefits of war in political success.

What is evil? Have we not been here before? Have we not seen this movie? Do we not know how it ends or rather how it does not end?

Our Supreme Court has proclaimed that it is not unconstitutional to execute individuals by a means that may and has produced twenty, thirty minutes, even hours of unspeakable suffering before death claims an end. Such executions are beyond doubt cruel but by no means are they unusual. Why? By the time the case reached the ultimate arbiter of constitutional judgment, botched executions had become commonplace. Cruel but not unusual.

What is evil? We have witnessed the beheading of individuals and we are rightfully repulsed but would we not experience the same revulsion if we were compelled to view the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, an ordeal so horrific that those in charge of the procedure closed the curtains so that the media could not show the world the torture they inflicted? Should we feel differently now that the court has delivered its stamp of approval?

I abhor virtually everything the Islamic State (by any other name) represents. I detest any individual or organization that condones violence in the name of their God, their prophet, their religion or their code of conduct and belief. I am repulsed by the violent and depraved acts they have committed in the name of Islam. I would be no less repulsed if their religion was Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Atheism, Gnosticism, Agnosticism or any other system of belief.

But are the adherents to this particular sect of Islam the embodiment of evil on earth or are they rather the unfortunate products of their culture, upbringing and education? In a very real sense, the soldiers of jihad are the victims of a convergence of historical circumstance: The rise of the radical Saudi-sponsored Madrassas and their prevalence throughout much of the Sunni world combined with the western wars on the sacred grounds of Islam.

The horrendous acts the soldiers of ISIS have committed can only be committed when the enemy has been dehumanized. The leaders of this movement have dehumanized their enemies just as our leaders have dehumanized them.

I suspect that if the followers of Christianity were raised from a tender age to believe in holy war against the followers of rival religions, a significant portion of them would be prepared for the next crusade. Who is more culpable: the brainwashed or those who brainwash? Who is more responsible for the implosion of the Middle East: the soldiers who committed atrocious acts at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah or Cheney, Bush and the Neocon war machine?

The ongoing wars in the Middle East are not a contest of good versus evil. Try as we may the only cause that can claim moral grounding in the regional conflicts is that of the Kurds. They are fighting for their land, their nation and their right to exist as a people. The reason we are not providing the assistance they deserve is that our long-standing ally, the Turks, are vehemently opposed to Kurdish autonomy. The Turks are the traditional oppressors of the Kurdish people and the perpetrators of a genocide that the entire world acknowledges save the Turkish government and us.

As for all the other parties at war throughout the region, none can stand on virtue’s ground. They are flawed human beings led by men exploiting twisted ideologies with unspoken self-interests. The Turks want the Islamic State to crush the Kurds before being contained. The Saudis want to placate the radical jihadists within their borders by continued support of the Madrassas while confining the threat of the Islamic State to nations outside their borders. For this they want the ongoing assistance of the American military in exchange for preferential access to Saudi oil. The military leaders of the Islamic State, many of whom were exiled from the army of Saddam Hussein, want power and territory. The Shias and Sunnis in Iraq continue to want control of their government or at least their regions. The Iranians and the Americans want influence.

The central lesson we should have learned from a history that reaches into the distant past all the way to the present chaos is that we cannot enforce our will on the people of the Middle East by military means. We can stay another decade, spend another three trillion dollars, prop up one party and another, destroy institutions and kill as many soldiers and civilians as we will but in the end we will not prevail. Indeed we will continue to lose ground on all fronts. Our very presence there is the reason ISIS took root and grows to this very day.

We must yield this ground.

The only reason our leaders, the warlords still holding sway in our government, are able to continue this path of endless war is that they are adept at persuading the people that we are fighting evil. Once the American people recognized that we are fighting human beings, not monsters, and we are fighting them on their own land, our part in these futile wars will finally end. It will not require a presidential decree or an act of congress. It only requires the people to stand up and say: No! Enough is enough!

Let the Saudis clean up their own mess. Let the Turks accept their own crimes against humanity and finally leave the Kurds alone. Let the men and women of the region determine their own destinies.

History informs us that in time the will of the people will prevail. The roots of the many conflicts in the region date back centuries but they were exponentially magnified by western interference from the creation of Israel and the British Mandate to the deposing of an elected leader in Iran to a succession of wars for control of Iraqi oil.

The one thing certain is that whatever form and shape the Middle East takes on in the coming years we will not determine it. We can and should help the Kurds in their effort to establish and defend Kurdistan as an independent state. Beyond that we can only do harm.



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Sunday, January 11, 2015



In the Spirit of Charlie Hebdo

By Jack Random

The son of a spirit guide (what the white eyes call a medicine man), a young Crazy Horse went alone into the sacred mountains (perhaps the very spot where the Great White Fathers were later carved in stone) to cry for a vision. He was blessed with seven visions, among them: He would accept no rewards, no acknowledgement and no tribute for his deeds and accomplishments. On the one occasion he violated the dictum of that vision he was shot in the head by a jealous warrior.

In keeping with his vision of modesty, Crazy Horse did not consent to be photographed and did not wish to be depicted in any form. While he lived his wish was honored.

There is no one more revered in Lakota and perhaps all of Native American history than Crazy Horse. It is ironic that more than a century after his death in 1877, the elders of the Lakota chose to immortalize the same man who explicitly decried any such honor by having his likeness carved into the granite of the sacred Black Hills of North Dakota.

Like Crazy Horse the Prophet Muhammad of the Islamic religion did not wish his likeness to be rendered in any form. Like Crazy Horse he did not wish to become the object of adulation. He did not wish his image to become a symbol of religious or spiritual reverence. He wanted all glory to be directed at his God.

If I were a member of the Lakota tribe I would wonder at the selection of Crazy Horse for the monument that is now being carved into the Black Hills only miles from the more famous Mount Rushmore. But even the most fervent followers of Crazy Horse would not wish to kill the elders who selected him or the artists who carve the mountain even as I write these words. I am certain beyond certain that Crazy Horse would not wish such a murder to be committed in his name.

As a member of civilization and one who respects Native American heritage, I object to the image of the Great White Fathers carved into the Black Hills, a site the Lakota hold sacred. But I would not wish to kill those who disagree with me.

I am not a scholar of Islam. I have not studied the life of its prophet. I have no desire to insult or demean anyone for his or her sincere religious beliefs. But I refused to believe that any messenger of God would want his followers centuries later to kill in his name those who violate his expression of modesty.

When Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper in Denmark, published a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, protests broke out around the world. Some of them erupted into violence. Despite my firm belief in freedom of speech and freedom of the press I took the stance then that it was an unnecessary provocation, not unlike crying fire in a theater. I was wrong.

Now we are compelled to revisit the issue under the most horrifying circumstance. When crazed gunmen in the name of the Prophet Muhammad attacked the offices of the Parisian publication Charlie Hebdo, they attacked members of my tribe. Not the tribe of Christians. I have no idea if any of the victims were or were not Christians or Jews, Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims or Zarathustrans, Gnostics or agnostics, deists or atheists. I have no wish to know. They were members of the tribe of artists. I choose to create in words. They choose to create in words and drawings.

I lament the loss of treasure in war for it could have been used to save lives and alleviate suffering. I despise the loss of lives, the loss of limbs and the suffering that spreads like a vicious cancer from acts of mass violence. It poisons the spirit and leads inevitably to more violence and suffering. But more than any other loss or sacrifice I mourn the loss of art and the loss of artists for it deprives all humanity for all time the creations that were and might have been the legacy of our tenure on earth.

We are now in a war against an enemy for whom I can have little sympathy. I understand we are all products of our upbringing, our culture and environment. I know my country and much of the western world has engaged in crimes against humanity, including the most horrendous crime of all: unnecessary war. I know that every action has a reaction. I understand that acts of mindless violence and terror do not occur in a vacuum.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan created blowback that will outlast every man, woman and child now walking the earth. The drones we send to attack our enemies wherever they may be exact an unconscionable cost in innocent lives and propel the cycle of perpetual violence forward.

Now is not the time to recount our crimes except to say this: Satiric cartoons were not among them. This cannot stand.

We have heard a great deal of discussion concerning the balance of a free press against the responsibility of religious sensitivity but there can be no free press if it must assuage the sensitivities of any religion, political interest or culture. In a free society we criticize the content, not the right to express it.

We have heard our leaders refer to the terrorists as cowards when in fact what they have done is despicable, horrific, bloodthirsty, vicious, vengeful and even evil, but fails miserably to meet any reasonable definition of cowardice. It would do well for us to remember that in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack, professors and comedians alike lost their jobs for speaking uncomfortable truths.

Back then our entire nation suffered under a cloud of self-censorship. We would not allow dissenting voices to be heard. We silenced or attempted to silence those who protested our government’s misguided response until our numbers became too large to ignore. We condemned France for standing up at the United Nations Security Council to say: No, this is not a compelling case for war! No, there is no proof of weapons of mass destruction! And no, we cannot agree to a war for vengeance against a nation that did not attack you or anyone else!

Our leaders and most of our people decried the French as cowards then. Now we cry for them. Now we cry with them.

But it is not enough to cry and mourn. We must stand with them. We must defend our convictions, our values and our sacred principles. Those in positions to act should do more than express condolences. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and every major newspaper in America should join with Le Monde, the London Times and every major newspaper across Europe in saying: No, we will not yield freedom of the press to the sensitivities of religion! No, we will not legitimate censorship in the name of the Prophet! We stand with the French! We stand with Paris! We stand with Charlie!

Every publication across Europe and America should designate one day for a declaration of unity and freedom of the press. On that day a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad should appear on the front page above the fold.

Some say it will provoke the radicals. Of course it will. A free press is always provocative. Some say they will declare war on all western media. I say: They already have. But there is a curious sense of safety in numbers. If all media are targets then none will feel the debilitating effect of intimidation.

I know: The moment will pass. We will forget. We will move on with our lives until another artist is targeted. Then we will mourn and debate again. But if we all stand together now in a display of unity, freedom and defiance, it would create a monument that will last the ages.

We are Charlie! Charlie is one of us. And though we may be afraid we will not yield.



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