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Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 08:56 AM PDT

Oklahoma Fallout

by Jilly W

In the wake of yesterday's uproar following the release of a video showing the despicable behavior of SAE fraternity members singing a racist chant on a "party bus" and the subsequent closing of the fraternity on campus and removal of its charter by the national organization, I think the following stories might be relevant and of interest.

First of all, the following video of the housemother has come to light. It appears to have been taken at a party, and whether she was "just playing around" or something else was going on, it seems consistent with the behavior of the fraternity brothers. That link and story are here:

But there are some other stories that have a little more positive spin. One started out not to. The closing of the SAE house left a man without his job--Chef Howard, who cooked meals for these little jerks. An SAE alum has started a fundraiser for him. I learned about it via Rocky Mountain Mike's page on Facebook (Those of you who listen to Stephanie Miller will know Mike well). You can find the fundraiser here:

The other story might hit Oklahomans a little harder. Seems a 4-star football recruit (who happens to be African-American) has decided he doesn't want to be a Sooner after all. Too bad, so sad. You can find that story here:
Anybody wanna guess what his "personal reasons" might be?


Until this year, I was unaware that there was such a thing as "Religious Freedom Day". However, it was that very thing that brought at least one of my ancestors to this country and may have been at least partly instrumental in the choice others made to leave their native lands and come here. More below the orange baroque.

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My son is an Iraq War veteran with two tours under his belt. When he signed on to the National Guard as a mechanic, I don't think he ever thought he'd end up in a shooting war. After all, the National Guard is supposed to protect the home front and help out in case of disasters, not serve as a back door draft.....or at least that's the way it used to be before George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld (aka the Asses of Evil) got hold of it. So off he went to Iraq in 2004, luckily to a little outpost in Kurd country where the most exciting thing, to hear him tell it, was going out every morning to disentangle the local sheep from the perimeter fence. Of course I did hear rumors of other happenings, because one guy in his company encountered an IED and was flown out to Germany, where he was hospitalized for a long time before he came home permanently disabled. Anything else that happened was kept from us and we only heard the "good" stories, like the time Charlie Daniels visited on his tour of all the places "his" Tennessee soldiers were stationed. But my son seemed to be pretty much okay when he came back and he settled back into his regular full-time job with the Guard and into his regular family life with his wife and son. The second deployment in 2009 was a different matter entirely. He went long stretches without being able to communicate, and when he could (Yahoo Messenger, or rarely, Skype) he just didn't sound like himself, although he tried to. We never found out where he was; the story he told when he came back was that he was co-opted by the Navy SEALs and was at a classified base. That just didn't jibe with the way he acted, and he got worse. Since then, his son has gone back to live with his mother, and his wife has divorced him. He has lost his job with the Guard, plus another job, and he's been hospitalized twice, once on a 72-hour psych hold, and last year with a combination of physical ailments including a severe eye infection and some mobility problems that I don't understand which he relates to something that happened in Iraq but won't talk about. He hides in his apartment and doesn't talk to anyone, doesn't answer his phone, and I suspect doesn't see another human being for days sometimes. My daughter and her husband do the best they can to look after him, take him food and generally look out for him, but they have a family too. At least my daughter knows her way around the VA from dealing with her dad. We all had hopes for the passage of the Clay Hunt Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. You see, my son suffers from PTSD and depression, complicated by alcohol abuse. The reason he ended up on that psych hold was that after a guy who'd been in his outfit and served with him on his last tour committed suicide, my son locked himself in his basement with a gun. Fortunately one of his buddies was able to talk him down and get him to agree to go to the hospital, but a 72-hour hold was the best they could do for him. There isn't a good program for him there. There might be if they had the money, they said. So we hoped. The Clay Hunt bill passed the House unanimously. Then last night, Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican (and lame duck) of Oklahoma, single-handedly blocked that bill from even coming to a vote in the Senate. In a floor speech Monday night, he defended his actions, saying the bill would not accomplish its stated goal and duplicates programs that already exist.

Twenty-two veterans commit suicide or attempt it every day. This bill would address the problem by among other things, creating a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers as well as a one-stop, interactive website of available resources. It would start a pilot program to repay the loan debt of students in psychiatry so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA and boost the accountability of mental health care by requiring an annual evaluation of DoD and VA suicide-prevention practices and programs. This is what Coburn in his infinite wisdom decided would not accomplish its stated goal and duplicated programs that already exist, so he single-handedly blocked a vote on it and delayed it for at least 100 days.....during each of which another 22 veterans could commit or attempt suicide. My son could be one of them.

Every morning I wake up and wonder whether my son is still alive. I wonder if it's the day he might decide to reach out for help and it wouldn't be there.....or there would be a busy signal on the line, or a psychiatrist who couldn't see him, or a program that's full. And you wonder why I am so angry that I am ready to personally go after Tom Coburn and commit a felony on him?

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Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 11:33 AM PDT

Zero Tolerance = Zero Sense

by Jilly W

My late ex was fond of saying that, and it appears more and more to be true. It just seems like a week can't go by without some utterly idiotic example appearing in the newspapers of what "zero tolerance" policies have brought us to.

Now I think we all will agree that we don't want kids bringing real weapons to school with the intent to shoot other people. That's a given. But I think adults--and presumably teachers and school administrators are adults, although some cases leave me in doubt at times--need to use their educations and their powers of reason to determine what is and is not a genuine threat to others, and what might be just childish behavior or even real forgetfulness on the part of a student or even a parent, and any punishments, if merited, should be applied accordingly or even not at all. Further discussion below the flourish.

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Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 03:20 PM PDT

My Grandfather, Guns, and Kids

by Jilly W

"A gun is a tool. It's as good or as bad as the person using it." My grandfather didn't say that, but he might well have. It's actually a line from the movie "Shane", but it pretty much sums up my grandfather's attitude towards firearms. I've mentioned him and his attitudes about gun safety and what he taught us in comments on other diaries, and in light of recent discussions about such things I thought I might elaborate on it a bit. (below the orange swirly)

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I'll probably take a bunch of flak for this, so let me state right off that it's a purely subjective commentary from an opinionated old broad. I will also freely admit that I have grown wussy in my old age and hate cold weather, but the political climate in most of the warmer states is such that I really don't want to move to any of them either. I currently live in rural northern Virginia, outside of a small city in which there are both a fairly large state university and a smallish Mennonite university. It's located in the Shenandoah Valley, between the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is very beautiful. We have a decent climate weather wise, although the winters are colder and snowier than I prefer, but the political climate frankly sucks. Our congressional delegate is disgustingly smarmy and rightist, a complete tool of the poultry producers who seem to dominate the area economically, and the few Democrats in the area can't seem to mount a credible challenge to him. Why do I live here? Well, because several years ago, a charming gentleman who had been courting me for awhile managed to convince me…..and the rest is history! I packed up and moved from Richmond, where I thought I  had permanently relocated myself, and which I liked for a whole number of reasons, and moved up here, and despite occasional grumbles about weather and amenities, I've been quite happy since…..which proves (to me, at least) that happiness is a subjective thing.

So the other day I came across this article on HuffPo entitled "The 10 Cities With The Highest Quality Of Life". I couldn't resist reading it, of course; I had to know what cities these were, who thought so, and why. Turns out it was a study by Nerdwallet, and according to the article, it was based on a variety of factors, including the median price of rent (as a percentage of median income), the average number of hours residents spend commuting to work and working, the percentage of residents with health care coverage and the unemployment rate for the 100 largest U.S. cities. Results, with my comments, below the orange squiggly.

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Well, of course they do. It's disturbing their petty private white fiefdom, all this demonstrating, reporters everywhere, people in the streets, cops everywhere, state troopers even, politicians from who knows where, and the PUBLICITY! Lord, it's enough to ruin a perfectly good summer! It wasn't enough that some black kid had to go and disobey a police order and get himself killed, but then people just had to go and make some kind of federal case out of it.

So now, Ferguson's white mayor and City Council are asking people to stay home and stop the demonstrating. According to a statement released today, the mayor, City Council, and "other employees" (who are not named) have been exploring "how to increase the number of African American applicants to the law enforcement academy, develop incentive programs to encourage city residency for police officers and raise funds for cameras that would be attached to patrol car dashboards and officers' vests." Well, pardon my skepticism, but I wonder just how long that exploration has been going on! (Continued below the orange squiggle.)

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Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 08:03 PM PDT

My daughter is getting an education

by Jilly W

Fifty years ago I was a young student getting my political feet wet in civil rights protests. At the University of Wisconsin, these were still kind of low-key, but I remember the first time I picketed anything--an appearance by George Wallace at the Loraine Hotel. Just a couple of years later I would be right slap in the middle of the first big sit-in on campus, when students occupied the administration building over the release of male students' grades to local draft boards. (That's where I got my FBI file, of which I'm quite proud, thank you very much!) I continued actively involved in non-violent protests up until I got pregnant in 1970 and my husband made me stop for fear of danger to the baby. I missed the famous "Dow War" only because I had to work that day, and I was involved in the welfare rights protest in 1969 where we marched into the Capitol building with Fr. Groppi. That one did turn nasty, but like many of them, and just like Ferguson, it was a police riot. We had a police chief in Madison back then who was bad enough….his name was Wilbur Emery and I remember him well…but the sheriff of Dane County in those days would stand right next to Chief Jackson of Ferguson and call him "brother".  His name was Jack Leslie and I really kind of hate to say too much about him for fear of libel laws, but anyone who was on the protest scene in Madison in the late 60s and early 70s will remember him a little too well. He was the first to militarize his department, and the welfare rights demonstration, IIRC, was the first appearance of that department in their brand-new spiffy black nylon "riot suits". I remember looking down the line of them standing outside the Capitol building; I happened to have a profile view, and all I could see was bellies in these  tight-fitting, uncomfortable looking one-piece black suits. I started to giggle and nudged my neighbor, and before too long our whole section was laughing, which did not make the deputies happy at all. Later on it did turn nasty and people were hit with nightsticks and dragged for no reason and tear gassed and arrested. Then, in 1970, came the Sterling Hall bombing, and later some violent anti-war demonstrations, but by that time I was occupied with marriage, the birth and subsequent death of my firstborn, and later my second pregnancy and birth. And then we moved to Tennessee, where things were different. But all of this is prelude, and there is more below the orange thingy.

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Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 03:01 PM PDT

Forty Years Ago Today

by Jilly W

Forty years ago today, August 8, 1974: I was a young mother living on the outskirts of a small town in east Tennessee, having uprooted myself, along with my husband and young son, from my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin a year previously. I was still in severe culture shock, getting used to the ways and the speech of my neighbors, learning to eat things like soup beans and cornbread that was white and salty and not yellow and sweet like I was used to, and coping with my husband's weird, mostly night shift schedule. I didn't have many friends yet, and being home with a toddler, my television was my companion. For months I'd been glued to what was better than a soap opera, first the Watergate hearings, then the impeachment hearings. The faces and voices of Sam Ervin, Howard Baker, Daniel Inouye, and later on various House members, most memorably the inimitable Barbara Jordan, had become almost as familiar to me as those of favorite actors, and each day I could hardly wait to get my coffee and turn on the TV to see what would happen next. But that seemed to be over and I wasn't sure what would happen next. All that day, August 8, there were rumblings that something was going on, and we heard on the evening news, as I recall, that President Nixon was going to address the nation later. I didn't expect much, probably more denial and dissembling, so I went about my usual routine, but I kept the television on just in case he said something important.

And he did. After a fairly brief preamble, "Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow." My husband and I stared at each other, speechless, neither of us daring to believe it, both of us wanting to cheer and both of us feeling, as we admitted later, that cheering would be the wrong response. I wouldn't really believe it until the next day, when I saw Nixon get on the helicopter (who else remembers that ridiculous double peace sign business?) and fly off. My husband broke into a chorus of "Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone" at that point, which made me giggle hysterically. It was his birthday, and he said he couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.

I feel a little less vindictive towards Nixon now than I did in 1974. Maybe it's a function of getting older. Maybe it's seeing what several presidents and their underlings have done since, and looking at what the Kochs and their ilk are trying to do to the country now. Nixon was just another guy trying to steal the Constitution. He happened to get caught. Of course, back then we had a Senate, a House, and a Supreme Court that were worth something. Now, as a Chinese friend is wont to say, "I not so sure."


Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 08:40 PM PDT

Don't say gay!

by Jilly W

This will be very short. Just thought you would all like to know that Stacey Campfield, the Tennessee state senator who authored the "don't say gay" bill which forbade teachers from discussing homosexuality in sex education classes (and several other goofy time-wasting bills), lost his primary to a respected surgeon, Dr. Richard Briggs. I know Dr. Briggs, having worked with him at one time in one of the hospitals in Knoxville, and he's quite a decent guy despite being a Republican. Stacey-boy may now return to his normal profession, whatever that is. I'm not sure he's ever held a real job.


Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 04:04 PM PDT


by Jilly W

In recent months there have been two trials involving the killing of black teenagers by scared white men. Renisha McBride was shot in the face by Theodore Wafer when she pounded on his door in the wee hours of the morning, looking for help after a car accident. Mr. Wafer has been found guilty of second degree murder. Jordan Davis was shot by Michael Dunn, who was upset because a car full of black teens had their audio system turned up too loud for his taste. Jordan was sitting in the back seat, nowhere near the volume controls, but he was the one who was killed. Dunn's trial ended with a hung jury and he will probably be retried sometime in the future.

In both cases, the mainstream media consistently ignored the names of the victims, referring to the trials instead by other names. The trial of Wafer for the murder of Renisha McBride was referred to in almost all headlines as the "porch shooting" trial, making it sound like Wafer had shot a porch instead of a human being. Dunn's trial for the killing of Jordan Davis was billed, almost every single day, by every network, as the "loud music" trial. In neither case, by any mainstream network, was either victim's name ever mentioned in a headline; most of the time it only appeared farther down in the story. And most of the time, all the pictures were of the defendant, with none of the victim. Now I could be unduly sensitive, and I may be totally off the mark, but this seems to me a deliberate attempt on the part of the media to deny the humanity of the victims. Or maybe it's just thoughtless sensationalism, but I don't think that's it. I think the fact that both victims were African-American teenagers led directly to the media considering them somehow of less consequence than if they had been, perhaps, older, or of a different background. All the talk about "victims' rights" is just so much noise if the humanity of those victims is denied. That means all victims, not just the ones of a certain age or color or background. It means we must speak up and name those victims when the mainstream media insists on calling it a "porch shooting" or "loud music" trial and asking them to call it the Renisha McBride or Jordan Davis murder trial. Respect for the humanity of the victims, that's what it's about. Not the porch, or the loud music.


Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 03:56 PM PDT

Please stop the scaremongering!

by Jilly W

I am really sick and tired of the scaremongering about the two Ebola patients who are coming back to the US. One's already here. I've seen the pics of the isolation units they'll be flown back in, and I know pretty much what the isolation rooms in the hospitals are like. They are negative pressure rooms like they use for TB patients, and very secure. They look pretty much like space capsules, and the docs and nurses who tend to the patients will be garbed in something like space suits. Ebola is transmitted primarily via direct contact with blood and bodily fluids, and the patients who are being flown back may have got it by something as small as a tear in a glove that went unnoticed, or by contact outside the hospital with someone who had the virus, which would be easy enough in West Africa…not here.

There's a lot of misunderstanding too about a doctor who was flown back to Tennessee and was told to stay at home because he worked with these folks. He has been on virtual house arrest…well, quarantined to his house…since July 19, but is completely asymptomatic and in my understanding has tested negative for the virus. Quarantine will be lifted after 21 days. I know this doctor pretty well. He used to be my kids' pediatrician, and later on I worked with him. Since he retired he's been a volunteer with Medical Teams International and I admire him a lot. He'll go where he's needed. Anyway, he's not dangerous and people need to stop freaking out and also stop treating his daughter, who picked him up at the airport, like some kind of leper.

Please, folks, be reasonable and listen. Stop freaking, okay? You are in a lot more danger of getting hit by a truck than you are from two people who got very sick while trying to help others and who are going to be in very secure isolation, let alone from someone who worked there and has shown no signs of the disease since he got home, or from his daughter who picked him up at the airport. You have far more serious things to worry about.

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