Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves

CAT | News commentary

Jan/17

22

Adventures in Vloging

I’ve probably lost a lot of readers due to inactivity on the blog. Partly I’ve shifted a lot of commentary over to Facebook – which is unfortunately largely ephemeral. But I’ve also branched into Vloging – video bloging.
Here is my first commentary of the recent election that now seems so far in the past. I’ll post more as I produce them.

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Mar/16

16

Free Speech

I think as I please, and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this crime I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater, to duke or dictator
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei!
Die gedanken sind Frie (“Thoughts are free”)
– Adapted from a Swiss protest song, 1810

Well, a Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11, was cancelled.

Trump cancelled over security concerns as hundreds of protestors filled sections of the arena and massed outside. Protestors were visibly elated. Supporters simmeringly angry.

This is not good – except for Trump. Some polls indicated astonishing jumps in his support after the incident. Causing some critics to cry hysterically that Trump cancelled as a calculated move.

Trump has been castigated by critics, including some in the GOP, as having incited violence at previous rallies.

I think this is not entirely fair. Protestors at these rallies attend not just to express disagreement but to shut down the speeches via the “hecklers veto.”

True, Trump has a mouth that lives its own life, wild and free. He’s shouted from the podium to throw the hecklers out and expressed a wish to punch them.

But that’s not why his opponents want to shut him down.

On February 22, conservative intellectual Ben Shapiro’s scheduled appearance at California State University LA was cancelled by university president William Covino after protests.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints,” Covino announced.

Covino’s concern for diversity of viewpoints somehow never emerged during previous appearances by radical leftists such as Cornel West, Angela Davis and Tim Wise.

Shapiro is certainly outspoken, but his speaking style is measured, rational and well thought out. Worlds apart from the Trumpster’s bluster.

Which got him no respect at all, when during an appearance on Dr. Drew On Call in February, large transgendered Zooey (nee Bob) Tur put his hand on diminutive Shapiro’s neck and said, “You’d better cut that out now or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”

Shapiro alleged Tur later said he’d meet him in the parking lot. An allegation given credence when Tur later went on record as saying he’d like to “curb stomp” Shapiro for the crime of calling him “sir.”

So let’s clear the air about what’s happening here.

Trump is no champion of free speech. He’s threatened to sue critics. He’s tried to get journalists fired for writing critical articles about him. But ironically a lot of fed-up Americans are rallying around him because he exercises his own right of free speech.

We all know there are things we can’t say in America, and we all know pretty much what they are.

The left owns academia, entertainment, and most of the broadcast media. Though there is no formal censorship in this country of the kind you’d find in North Korea or Cuba, an awful lot of people are afraid for their livelihoods and even their safety if they express certain unpopular opinions or just tell a joke someone takes offense to.

Listen, I’ve lectured in Belarus and taught in Serbia during the Milosevic regime and I said what I pleased. But I can honestly say the two places I’ve worked where I really felt I had to watch my mouth were Saudi Arabia, and an American university.

It’s been this way for decades now and we’re dangerously angry about it. It is not natural for Americans to be afraid of what we say.

I’ve always known we wouldn’t put up with it forever. I wish free speech had a better champion and I hope its enemies wake up and back off. Because if they don’t, free men who wish to speak their minds are not going to retreat to their safe spaces.

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Oct/15

1

Waiting to watch a man die

Mac3
Yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 30) I got up, packed my kids off to school and prepared to drive two hours to see a man die.

But for the second time in two weeks he didn’t die, and I’m exhausted.

I was covering the third attempt by the state of Oklahoma to execute Richard Glossip for the murder of his employer Barry Van Treese in 1997, for the online magazine Red Dirt Report.

Glossip was convicted in two trials for hiring Justin Sneed to murder Van Treese. Murder for hire is considered heinous enough to merit the death penalty, even though the actual killer got only life in a medium-security prison.

I will state up-front that I’ve mostly heard from the people who think Glossip is innocent. I have tried to look for the case for the prosecution to be fair, but I must say the level of uncertainty here is enough to make me very nervous about killing a man.

The case for the prosecution appears to consist of the testimony of a meth head petty thief, plus Glossip’s highly suspicious actions following the murder. Glossip did not report the murder immediately and locked the motel room where the body was.

However, there are other explanations for this behavior – the obvious one being panic.

The prosecution’s theory of motive seems very far-fetched to me. That Glossip hoped after the murder of his employer that his widow would just give him both of Van Treese’s motels (in Oklahoma City and Tulsa) to manage.

Come on! How likely is that?

Neither jury saw a video of Sneed’s interrogation where he changed his story multiple times, and only implicated Glossip when the detectives suggested Glossip put him up to the murder.

The defense team is not stressing this, but Glossip is certainly guilty of being an accessory AFTER the fact. For which he would have quite deservedly gotten some time, but likely been out by now.

I got into this riding on the coat tails of Tim Farley, who has followed this story from the beginning. He’s done all the work and I stepped into it just because I’m doing some casual free lancing for The Red Dirt Report and have the time to travel.

So there I was, preparing to go to join the press pool at the media center of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, popularly known to us Okies as “Big Mac.”

I told my son, 14, and my daughter, nine, where I was going and what I was going to do. I told them there were corn dogs in the freezer and that I’d likely be home late if the execution went through.

“Then I hope you come home early Daddy,” my daughter said.

I told her they had cookies at the media center.

“Ohhh, can you bring me some?” she pleaded.

“No!” surprising myself a little with how vehemently I said it.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because Daddy is a superstitious Celt at heart and I’m not going to bring my baby girl cookies from an execution party,” I explained.

“You’re mean,” she said.

You can follow the link to the story I wrote for the Red Dirt Report. I’m rather proud of it, considering I wrote it late at night, dead tired, after I’d driven home, fed my kids, did the eye exercises for my girl’s ambliopia, and put them to bed.

I’m still processing this experience, and it’s not over yet. I want it to mean something because a man I think is probably innocent, and certainly hasn’t been convicted with enough certainty to warrant death, may yet die in another 37 days.

Like a lot of people I’m conflicted about the death penalty. I’m terrified of mistakes, and since the death penalty was reinstated more than a hundred people have been released from death row in America, 10 of them in Oklahoma alone.

Worse, the guilt of some who have been executed has been called into question.

But, I’m glad Roger Dale Stafford and Sean Sellars were executed. I’m glad because they scared me. Like a lot of people, I want to have my cake and eat it too.

And I want this to mean something to my children, because the world is a dangerous place, especially for those who don’t know how dangerous it can be.

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Flag

The picture here is from Tunisia. A man is stepping on an Israeli flag. A young lady in Tunisia posted it on a Facebook page called PMWB “People who Want to Make the World Better.” Somebody recently made me an administrator on the page. I have no idea who it was or why they did.

The young lady said it was in solidarity with the Palestinians after an attack on a Palestinian home by suspected Jewish radicals resulted in a toddler burned to death.

(Note the co-authors MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH and TIA GOLDENBERG, Associated Press. Good for AP!)

I asked the lady, “So are you going to post a pic of stepping on a Palestinian flag the next time one of them blows up an Israeli school bus?”

She replied with a terse, “No,” and I set out to write this article.

Then after a few minutes she posted, “I was kidding, of course I will do it! It’s all about humanity,” and the article took another turn.

Kidding? I don’t think so. I think what happened was anger answered first, then reason gained the upper hand. And I give full credit to the lady for forcing reason to control passion.

What I did was to post two of my articles on the Itamar massacre in 2011 here and here.

We’ll see how folks there react. I have a certain jaundiced cynicism about people who proclaim they are out to “make the world a better place.” Bless them, if we didn’t have some of them around perhaps nothing would ever improve, but experience seems to show they generally see things in black and white with sharp outlines and little appreciation for moral ambiguity.

Heavy sigh. Every culture has certain blind spots that place limits on their thinking that can only be overcome with great courage and heroic effort. I believe a big blind spot in American culture is the notion that all problems have solutions and all situations can be improved. We believe this so implicitly that we never even consider whether it is true or not, we simply assume it is.

One consequence of this is our belief that everybody can share a world in peace with enough good will and sweet reason.

There is not a shred of evidence to support this.

This conflict is not going away anytime soon, and like it or not we’re going to be involved in it.

Some of my questions, observations and opinions are:

*I don’t buy a prior claim of European Jews to the land of their ancestors. As I said in Reflections on Itamar, “By those lights all of us of Goidelic Celtic descent could demand the right to settle in Spain, the jumping off point for the colonization of Ireland and Scotland. Hell, we could make a case for the reconquista of most of Western Europe.”

*Nevertheless Palestinians resident in Israel are freer, richer, and materially better off than those living under the thugocracy of the Palestinian Authority, or citizens of any majority-Muslim country. This appears to matter to them not at all.

*Yes, there are atrocities committed by Israelis against Palestinians. All such cases are illegal and condemned by the majority of Jewish Israelis. The perpetrators are prosecuted when caught.
Atrocities against innocents committed by Palestinians have the covert support of the PA and are celebrated by Palestinians in the street like a carnival. The perpetrators are feted like heroes.

*Yes, when the conflict breaks out in violence Palestinian casualties exceed Israeli casualties.
The Palestinians boast they can take a casualty ratio of 15 to 1 and still win.
An Israeli girl once remarked that their Palestinian neighbors shoot from their neighborhood through the picture windows of their Jewish neighbors. “So excuse us for our superior fire power.”

*Israel is our ally, the only sincere one we have in the region. Our other Middle Eastern allies are fence-sitters who at times support terrorists at war with us. Israel’s motivation may be self-interest, but it’s pure self-interest. They stand or fall with the U.S.

*Israel is our civilizational kin, they share the heritage that binds Western Civilization. Indeed, the twin roots of Western Civilization are in ancient Greece and Israel. What will be the fate of our civilization if we abandon our kin?

*One way to illustrate the stark difference between Western and Islamic civilization: The Israeli High Court released accused war criminal John Demjanjuk because the evidence that he was one particular concentration camp guard did not rise to the bar of proof demanded by law. Compare this with the custom of “honor killings,” the strong social pressure on the family of a woman who is raped, or just gets uppity, to murder her.
Does anyone think in the long run we can share a world in peace with people who hold these values? Can we even ignore them indefinitely?

*Does anyone seriously doubt the contention that if the Arab states and resident Palestinians stopped attacking Israel there would be peace, but if Israel laid down their arms there would be about 6 million fewer Jews in short order? Is you deny this, why do you think so?

*Has anyone noticed the schizophrenic nature of the anti-Israel rantings from places like Iran? They deny the Holocaust, then boast they’ll do it right next time. They decry the plight of the Palestinians under Israeli rule, then boast how they’ll annihilate Israel with nuclear fire in due time. Do they think Palestinians are immune to nukes?

*Does anyone doubt the problems of the Palestinians in Israel are largely self-inflicted? If not, why?

*Where does your self-interest lie in this?
Where is a cure for cancer more likely to come from, six million Jewish Israels or 600 million Arabs? How about a cheap renewable energy source? New agro-tech to feed the world? Great literature?

*If the situation of the Israelis looks long-term untenable, should we invite them all to evacuate the country and move to America?

“I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.” – Eric Hoffer, 1968

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Aug/15

5

Robert Conquest R.I.P.

He is gone where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his heart. Go traveler, imitate him if you can. He served liberty.
(Rather free translation from Latin of Jonathan Swift’s epitaph.)

George Robert Acworth Conquest, CMG, OBE, FBA, FAAAS, FRSL, FBIS (15 July 1917 – 3 August 2015) has gone, and with him much savage indignation. He was 98.

I urge you to read his Wikipedia entry. Conquest was in his youth a communist, back when it was still excusable. He changed his mind after seeing communism close up and dedicated his professional career to exposing the greatest crimes of the 20th century.

He wrote about Stalin’s Great Purge; estimated murders as high as 20 million. He wrote about the planned famine in Ukraine, the holodomor; deaths somewhere between 2.4 to 7.5 million. He poured well-deserved scorn on Western intellectuals who denied, excused, or actively justified a world-wide holocaust that murdered as many as 100 million people.

By rights the crimes of communism should have had at least as much attention paid to them as the crimes of Nazism. And yet, how many people really know what happened in that “Ravaged Century” Conquest wrote about in such detail?

We live in a world in which any academic who denied or excused the Nazi holocaust would quite rightly have his career destroyed. Yet it is acceptable to deny or excuse the communist holocaust which was at least 10 times greater.

Why? For God’s sake why?

“The dead remember our silence.”

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Jun/15

16

The sad story of Rachel Dolezal

The head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal has resigned amid allegations she’s been “passing” for years.

For people with a sense of irony, this has been the gift that keeps on giving.

“Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It’s about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum,” she said on the chapter’s Facebook post.

Oh “allegations” pfui! The lady’s parents blew the whistle on her, and they’re white. When confronted with the “allegations” Dolezal went all deer in the headlights and started blathering about how we’re all from Africa.

Well yes, Africa is the original home of humanity. But the term “black” or “African-American” has a specific meaning associated with ancestry from a specific part of Africa where slaves were captured, sold, and transported to the New World.

(A history which ironically, our first black president does not share. Barack Obama Sr. came from Kenya, on the other side of the African continent.)

In America, unlike France or parts of South America, society adopted the “one known drop” rule. ANY known African ancestry made you “black.” No qualifications, no gradiations of color that mattered.

In France with some African ancestry you could be the Chavalier du St. George, master swordsman. Or Alexandre Dumas pere et fils, popular authors.

In America you could be Frederick Douglas, but it was a lot tougher row to hoe.

Mark Twain wrote a whole novel, “Puddinhead Wilson” in which two children, a slave and the child of that slave’s master, are switched at birth. Since the blood quantum is so small, no one can tell the difference.

But Dolezal evidently does not have even that one drop. Photos of her as a teen show a blond light-eyed girl who needed hair dye and frizz plus what appears to be a spray tan to pass.

(Full disclosure, I have that one drop. It recently caused much hilarity in my family when my father contacted a distant relative revealed by the genetic testing service Ancestry.com. She’s an African-American lady whose privacy we will respect. She was evidently mortified by the connection and refused to talk to him.)

NAACP officials have put on the best face they can, correctly pointing out that the organization was never limited to persons of color and has always had white members.

Oh pfui!

Dolezal passed for black not only in the NAACP, but in the city of Spokane where she served as Chairman of the Spokane’s Police Ombudsman Commission, and at Eastern Washington University where she’s an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies program , teaching African and African American Art History, African History, African American Culture, The Black Woman’s Struggle and Intro to Africana Studies.

Dolezal coached her adopted African-America siblings not to “blow her cover.” She constructed an absurd back story of living in a tipi in Montana where her parents hunted for food with bows and arrows. She claimed to have lived in South Africa.

And she claimed abuse by her parents and her ex-husband. This is not a harmless thing.

The weird thing about all this is not just that it happened. We live in a historically odd time when the privileged desire to identify with the oppressed, and they’ll by God do it if they have to manufacture some of that oppression to do so!

It’s a nice, safe way to pat yourself on the back for your courage that involves no sacrifice of comfort or even popularity. Unlike say, speaking out about the ongoing slow-motion genocide of white farmers in South Africa or Christians in Africa and the Middle East. That could get you dropped from fashionable circles – or killed.

No, the strange this about this is how she got away with it for so long when the simplest background check, the kind you and I go through every time we apply for a job or a loan, would have blown her story into the stratosphere.

For heaven’s sake, this lady looks like a kid in a wig going trick or treating!

Why were people so easy to fool? Why did they take an absurd story on face value, told by a woman is so obviously a seriously disturbed person?

The only answer I can come up with is, because they wanted to be fooled.

And why? That’s the conversation we ought to be having.

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Feb/15

28

Beam him up, he’s leaving Earth

Spock

Well another piece of my childhood is gone. Leonard Nimoy died Friday at the age of 83. While not quite the age of a mature Vulcan, he did indeed live long and prosper.

Forever associated with the half-human Vulcan Science Officer of the Enterprise, Nimoy’s TV career began the year I was born with an appearance on “Queen for a Day.” A show I barely remember but which might be counted as a proto-reality show.

He played Indians, cowboys, soldiers, sailors and cops. Though he reprized his Spock role throughout the rest of his life in Star Trek movies, an animated TV show, and self-referenced it on many guest spots on other geek series such as the Big Bang Theory, it was never set in stone. He created any number of other roles such as Paris on “Mission Impossible,” and Theo Van Gogh in the one-man stage play and TV movie “Vincent.”

He created the Vulcan nerve pinch, the envy of generations of martial artists who secretly believe if we could just get it right…

The story has it that Nimoy loathed having to do fight scenes and one day on set said, “Couldn’t I just pinch him on the neck or something?”

He also created, or rather popularized the ‘V’ shaped Vulcan greeting that goes with “Live long, and prosper.”

Nimoy was the child of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who grew up bi-lingual, speaking both English and Yiddish. The hand gesture is a rabbinical blessing he explained. The shape of the hand resembles the Hebrew letter ‘Shin’ which is the first letter of several sacred words: Shaddai (one of the names of God), Shalom (a greeting which means “peace”) and Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God created to live among men).

In later years Nimoy was active in the movement to preserve and pass on the Yiddish language.

But of course, he will always be Spock to those of us who loved him.

This is what Spock means to me, and how he helped shape my image of the man I wanted to be growing up.

Spock of course was highly intelligent. What was revealed as the character developed over the course of the series was that he was also extremely passionate, as apparently were all Vulcans not just half-humans. Spock mentioned Vulcan once had “an aggressive colonizing period, brutal even by human standards.” One colony became the warrior culture of the Romulan Empire.

This and his half-human heritage created tensions that made Spock pretty miserable. After one adventure on a planet full of hallucinogenic spores inhabited by blissed-out colonists he commented, “For the first time in my life, I was happy.”

The way Spock dealt with it, was self-control, duty, a wry sense of humor, and philosophy.

The code for self-control in the series, was “logic.” Spock evaluated situations in terms of logical or illogical. But you never saw him construct a syllogism or draw a Venn diagram. Spock expected the default behavior of rational beings to be self-control. Not letting the passions get the upper hand when their self-interest was at stake. Spock got flummoxed when sentient beings acted irrationally when it would better serve them to exercise a little self-control.

Duty, Spock was Science Officer of the Starship Enterprise, a position corresponding to Executive Officer on a Navy ship. Along with the captain, and often as acting captain he was responsible for the lives of hundreds of people. To fail in his duty could mean their deaths, or the deaths of innocent sapients of other species – or war.

Spock’s sense of humor was wonderful and oddly, rarely noted. He was the master of the dry rejoinder and the uplifted eyebrow, an expression that spoke volumes.

Once when Leonard “Doc” McCoy was searching for a cure for a malady that struck some of the crew, including himself, he utters in frustration, “I’m just an old country doctor.”

Spock, raised eyebrow, “As I always suspected.”

Philosophy, never explicitly expressed but shown in action as the best of philosophy always is.

Spock was not exactly a pacifist but committed to exhausting all non-violent, or at least non-lethal alternatives first. But he could argue for warlike action as in the first encounter with the Romulans, his ethnic kin.

Spock displayed real objectivity, not the counterfeit of non-evaluation so popular in academia today.

On one planet where wars were waged with computers, the ruler explained that those declared casualties were expected to report to be killed for real, and rationalized that this was how they avoided a potentially world-destroying conflict. And oh by the way, the Enterprise had been declared a casualty so would the crew please report to the killing booths?

“I understand,” Spock said.

“Ah you approve Mr. Spock!” the ruler said.

“No,” Spock replied. “I understand. I do not approve.”

Spock’s humor, sense of duty, and philosophical objectivity might have been summed up in one scene in the first season.

When parting with a woman he loved but could not be with, he told her, “If we all have our private purgatories, surely mine can be no worse than anyone else’s.”

“Mr. Spock,” she said, “I never even knew your first name.”

Spock smiles, “You couldn’t pronounce it.”

Beam him up Scotty.

“May his memory be a blessing.”

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Feb/15

12

Pants on fire!

Well big shot NBC anchor Brian Williams got caught in a lie.

Well actually he got caught telling a lie over and over again for many years and now network execs are looking into a whole series of possible fabrications and his expense account to boot, while he cools his heels for six months without pay.

That six months pay is reportedly in the $5 million range.

We’ll see if Williams is ever welcome back in the chair. Rumor has it there are other journos like Katie Couric who are eyeing it and that Tom Brokaw has wanted him gone for a while now.

I’ve got two observations about this. One is that Williams is not exactly a journalist, he’s a news reader.

The paradox of broadcast journalism is that once you get to the coveted top spots you’re not collecting news you’re presenting news collected by others. Often as sort of an MC of news where you introduce someone reporting from the field. It used to be that you worked your way into that comfortable position with your reporting creds, but more and more it’s all about being good-looking, having a nice speaking voice, and being able to radiate sincerity. All of those things Williams has in spades.

They are also the characteristics of a good serial liar.

But face it, it’s not likely anyone is ever going to come to broadcast journalism with the cred of Walter Cronkeit, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, or Paul Harvey again. Maybe it was a case of envy, of wanting so much to be like those giants of yesteryear that his fantasy life became more real than his real life.

And maybe there’s something else as well.

We live in a world today where sober academics proclaim that there is no absolute truth, only “social constructs.” And this has filtered down to the street as well.

I remember a few decades ago when a particularly vindictive ex was going around telling people (including calling up my mother) that I’d “beaten her up twice.” I had not, and in fact nobody among our circle of friends and acquaintances believed her. Among other reasons, she had no bruises to show and by that time her manifest charm was beginning to slip and she was alienating a lot of other people.

One friend of hers however said I was harsh to call her a liar.

“How so?” I asked. “She told a lie, and not a harmless one.”

“Well maybe it was true for her,” she replied.

“It – did – not- happen,” I said. “It’s a lie.”

“Well maybe it’s true for her,” she repeated.

Understand, she was not claiming I was the liar and my ex wasn’t. She was saying we each had our own contradictory version of the truth – and they were in some sense both true. I don’t know about you, but the idea of this concept permeating our courts and newsrooms gives me cold chills. I think it’s already permeated our politics.

Hillary Clinton did not run through sniper fire at the Tuzla airport in 2008. Barack Obama’s mother was not denied reimbursement for insurance claims in 1995.

But I think the difference between some of the lies told by public figures these days, and good old-fashioned lying to cover up something wrong, illegal or embarrassing, is these are not self-conscious lies but self-aggrandizing stories told by people who do not believe there is such a thing as objective truth.

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Feb/15

10

In the sick house

We are now ensconced in our new home, mostly unpacked and semi-organized. I also have two sick kids and I’m not feeling tip-top myself.

My daughter came home from school with a scratchy throat. Took her to a nearby walk-in clinic and the nice PA said, “You have strep young lady.”

Oh boy, I have what amounts to a hereditary weakness to strep which used to regularly knock me flat on my back for a week once a year. However in adulthood it doesn’t seem to bother me as much and I haven’t experienced that feeling of gargling with napalm it used to bring. I’m told it’s not that my immune system has gotten stronger, it’s that strep has evolved into a less malign form. Even among microorganisms it’s considered rude to murder your host.

So of course my son and I both got it. What’s odd is how the symptoms and recovery differ. My little girl is still active and energetic, but lost her voice and can only speak in a scratchy whisper. She communicates with gestures and a stack of notes she wrote: “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t care” etc.

My son however has a slightly ulcerated sore throat.

I myself was knocked flat and though my throat wasn’t noticeably painful it was a tremendous effort just to stand up. A friend reported the same feeling.

One to two days sleeping around the clock and I was up and on the mend (knock wood!) without the aid of antibiotics. My children’s illness however still lingers even with strong doses of antibiotics.

It was about this time I became vaguely aware that Rush Limbaugh had said something-or-other about illegal immigrants bringing measles or something into this country and was getting excoriated for it. Well that’s Rush, he enjoys irritating people.

I do not. I would rather start a discussion that makes people think.

However thought being an often painful exercise, one often precedes the other.

So with some trepidation I’m going to have to say, Rush’s central point is correct. And I know this because I asked them at the local office of the Department of Health as I was getting my kids vaccinations for school.

When we moved from Wyoming to Oklahoma in between semesters I found there were a few more vaccinations required here, measles among them. Furthermore there is no grace period. In Wyoming I believe it was three weeks to get your kids the jabs, after they started classes. Here, no jab no school.

So I asked, “Is that because there are lots of students here from places with different vaccination protocols?”

“Yes,” the nice nurse said.

See? Simple question. No politics, no problem.

Every parent knows schools may be fine institutions for preparing our kids for the future, and getting them out of our hair for a few blessed hours a day, but they are also gigantic petri dishes swarming with disease cultures.

That’s just the way it is. Deal with it, don’t shout about it. My voice is to weak to shout anyway.

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Many years ago I had a vindictive ex.

I believe I can sense the rolling eyes and hear the impatient groans among male readers.

“Oh you think you had it bad!”

Bear with me please, it gets better. I hadn’t seen anything of my ex for a while and I first found out exactly how vindictive she was when two police detectives showed up at my front door.

“Is there a problem officers?” I said, or something equally witty.

It’s unnerving at best when detectives show up at your door, no matter how clear your conscience is.

“We had a report that someone answering your description robbed (the local strip joint) and shot the bartender in the knee,” said one. “You know anything about this?”

My jaw literally dropped open.

“Well is that a yes or are you catching flies?” he asked.

I have to say, under most circumstances I admire the ability to banter like this, in classic tough-cop style. I briefly considered bantering back about how this was typical ethnic stereotyping on my Irish heritage. Why does everyone assume when someone gets knee-capped there must be an Irishman behind it? But it didn’t seem like a good idea at the time.

“I guess I’m catching flies,” I said (which was pretty good you must admit). “I’ve never been in the place.”

So they asked, did I know anyone who worked there?

As it happened I did, and as I was going down the (short) list it broke on me like a flash.

“Oh,” I said. “I have an ex who makes rounds there selling flowers, and she’s just crazy and vindictive enough to say something like this.”

I will never forget to my dying day the look of disgust on the face of that cop as he actually managed to slam his notebook shut.

I offered to come downtown for a lineup but they obviously felt they’d wasted enough time on this lead.

Reaction around town was universally sympathetic, and the proprietors of the strip joint I believe made it plain to my ex she wasn’t welcome to vend in their establishment anymore.

Thank God it wasn’t a rape accusation!

Last month Rolling Stone magazine published a truly horrifying description of one young lady’s gang rape at the hands of a group of fraternity boys at a frat party at the University of
Virginia. I defy anyone to read it without being overcome with a sick feeling of horror, and rage.

And immediately after that, if one has a brain in their head, the thought of, “Wait a minute, this is bogus!”

To summarize, Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdely wrote a story using precisely one source. Moreover she was deliberately misleading as to whether she was quoting the alleged victim or her friends.

She made no attempt to contact any of the five or seven alleged rapists “at Jackie’s request”, even though details the alleged victim “Jackie” supplied should have made it easy. When other journalists tried to, they could find no members of the fraternity that matched the details she supplied. Nor was there a party at the fraternity on that date.

Being gang-raped on shards of broken glass should have left trauma enough for a visit to the emergency room. Erdely evidently couldn’t be bothered to check, or even ask.

Jackie’s friends are now walking back from their previous support of her after reading unflattering details about themselves that in no way match their memory of conversations with Jackie.

Erdely admitted in an interview that she went shopping for a spectacular rape story on several university campuses, but most were too “prosaic” for her purposes.

Bottom line, not a single detail could be corroborated. Rolling Stone apologized – and has since revised their apology. They at first said their trust in Jackie was “misplaced,” then backtracked and said it was entirely their fault.

No, it’s their fault for believing a serial fabricator. But Jackie, whoever she is, has to take some of the responsibility too.

This was not a harmless thing. Campus fraternities were suspended and the fraternity in question’s building has been vandalized.

And yet there are those who are defending this as a good thing because it draws attention to the “rape culture on campus.”

So referring to my story above, how do you think they’d like it if any accusation against them, however improbably, was given the same kind of credence in a major publication as this?

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