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Editor's Notebook

There but for the grace of . . .

 

11921740 10207892909307373 3257786281326176434 nOnce when I was investigating a politician in Laredo, Texas my wife and I had to spend the night at the county clerk’s home after someone shot up our house.

I never found out if the two activities were related, or whether I was the victim of a random drive-by shooting.

In San Antonio while spending the night in a low-income housing project someone shot at his uncle just outside the window of the house I was staying in – apparently upset his uncle had taken the last beer out of a six pack. The bloody knee-cap on the ground was a mute witness to the shooting.

People threatened to shoot me once while covering a miner’s strike in Kentucky. In Texas, while covering gang violence some of the gang members waved loaded guns at me. Another time shots rang out in my general vicinity and I took cover.

When I was at America’s Most Wanted we all lived with a general threat against our life, and I had a couple of convicted killers specifically threaten me.

While in the Persian Gulf area during the first Gulf War I was shot at several times, though I doubt any of it was personal.

I say all of this without pride. It’s part of the job sometimes. We all accept it.

But what happened to a reporter and a photographer in Virginia this week is something that’s very hard to understand and accept.

Apparently – and as I write this information is still being gathered – a disgruntled former employee took his own first-person video of shooting a young woman reporter and her young male photographer.

It occurred on live-television.

The immediate knee-jerk reactions from the peanut gallery mentioned race since the disgruntled employee was black and his victims white.

Others discussed mental illness and still others opined that we have far too many shootings in this country and insufficient gun laws.

I am still numb.

I have seen people killed. I have seen the aftermath. I have been threatened, jailed, fired, physically threatened and struck in the attempts to do my job.

People have followed me home, written me nasty letters, and once a company I investigated produced a 5-minute video denouncing my investigative report while defending their pesticide which the federal government banned because it allegedly caused chemical lupus.

I’ve been called a “flaming” liberal and accused of being a “pinko faggot” and I’ve had liberals call me a “Tea Bagger.”

Once I had a rich rancher tell me – as he ate powdered coffee creamer with a spoon from a big, round shaker – there were places on his ranch no one but the pigs would ever find me.

I still am unsure of what he meant though he assured me through a snarl he wasn’t talking about his daughters – when I asked him.

Yes, I have pushed boundaries.

Yes, I have covered my fair share of hate, death and destruction – details at 11.

Then, to think your life will end while doing a live-shot on a morning show with a member of the chamber of commerce on a story that ultimately means little or nothing is not only hard to swallow but a scathing indictment of the miserable culture of the United States.

Not a day seems to go by without someone gunning someone down for the thinnest of reasons.

Terror is our daily distraction and lack of reason seems to be our daily companion.

People will rationalize what has happened and continue the same arguments and go over the same old ground, grinding logic into the dust and ignoring the fundamental truth we all must face: attitudes must change.

You want stricter gun laws? Fine. You want fewer? Fine.

Either will work as long as people change.

When our culture no longer accepts violence as an alternative and when we embrace logic and compassion instead of bitterness and retribution then it won’t much matter what the law says.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own lives.

Each day we make ourselves victims. Due to mental illness, anger, criminal behavior, passion and evil intent we can with the aid of a piece of lead and metal make others suffer too.

As Gandhi said – an eye for an eye makes the world blind.

Welcome to a dark world.

 

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Hate, Death and Destruction

 

BillHicks“The day will come – and it is not far off – when the legacy of Lincoln will finally be fulfilled at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when a black man or woman will sit in the Oval Office. When that day comes, the most remarkable thing about it will be how naturally it occurs.” – George H.W. Bush, 1990.

“They are demons set loose on earth to lower the standards . . . make no mistake about it.” – Comedian Bill Hicks, 1991

Yesterday, I heard someone disparaging President Obama in a manner inconsistent with good manners. So, I thought about the first time I heard our President spoken of this way - during his first inauguration - and I confess I don’t think anything has changed:
I spent inauguration day at the dentist – numb and having my teeth drilled. No metaphor is intended, but you can take one with you if you so desire. All I know is this decay I’ve suffered for the last eight years is finally gone.
Oh yeah, and my cavity got filled and my teeth are cleaner too.

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And the car hit me hard

 

carpedConsider this an open letter - a sincere “Thank You,” from me to the woman who inadvertently nearly ended my life Tuesday afternoon.
While some of this will appear sarcastic, please discount this to my continued shock and amazement I am still alive.
As I crossed the street from the CVS to the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department near Hungerford Drive that afternoon I noticed the small beige two-door attempting to turn right. The woman inside first looked left for oncoming traffic and then right. I had the white light indicating it was safe to cross and began to do so.
As I’m always careful because I don’t trust people will actually see a six foot, two-inch tall man in black hair and sunglasses crossing the street, I made sure I had eye contact with the driver of the car before I crossed.
I mistook her nodding as an indication she’d seen me and would stop. When the opposite occurred and I suddenly found myself on the hood of her car banging and screaming for her to stop before she turned me into road kill or tried to re-enact a scene from any number of action adventure movies, well needless to say I was shocked.

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The Razor's ultimate edge

 

razorHe was obviously a rather pelagic fellow, smelling not only of the sea but of the blue crabs which have helped to insure the popularity of the Chesapeake waters.
Throw some Old Bay on him and the metaphor would be complete.
He walked stoically toward the Starbucks on the curious pavement made of stones that have been replaced more than a half-a-dozen times already since the Rockville Town Square has opened.
In his right hand he carried a razor blade –

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Once more into the breach

 

IMG 1443Nothing has filled our in-basket during the last few weeks as much as the story of the Confederate Cavalry statue in Rockville. Most of the letters are respectful though some have accused us both of being “Confederate sympathizers” and “Union apologists,” for reasons which quite frankly escape us.
Meanwhile, this week local denizens found the statue defaced with graffiti which in part reads “Black Lives Matter.”
While many have argued for the statue’s removal, no one – according to our mail so far - is supporting the defacement of public property. So now there are folks up in arms about the vandalism of a statue they want removed from the public square anyway.
Three council members from Rockville have apparently signed a letter in support of County Executive Ike Leggett’s intention to move the statue and put it in storage.

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A Monumental Concern

 

url“I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it” - often attributed to Voltaire is a sentiment dead on arrival in today’s world.
This week County Executive Ike Leggett unilaterally decided to remove the Confederate Statue from the old Red Brick Courthouse.
This comes after two weeks of teeth gnashing in the wake of a shooting in South Carolina and the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the statehouse there.
While we agree with Leggett on many things, and understand he probably has deep feelings on this, we will respectfully disagree on the statue’s removal and we will also disagree with Rockville City Councilman Tom Moore’s assessment of Leggett’s move as a “bold” one.
It wasn’t. While the statue is offensive, it was largely ignored by politicians and the public - even those now most angrily denouncing its existence - until the national sport of knee-jerk reacting took over.
Certainly no one in local politics took on this issue until everyone across the country began looking at Confederate symbols in the wake of the South Carolina shooting. That wasn’t a bold move by leaders. It is a move by pandering followers.

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Honor meeting honor and the Confederate statue in Rockville

 

Josh-1Nestled behind a large Holly tree near the old Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville is a statue which faces south and commemorates those soldiers from Montgomery County who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
This week someone deposited some roses at the foot of the statue and someone also posted a sign denouncing the monument with the words “Treason” and “Slavery.”
The county council, the Rockville city council and at least one state legislator have contacted Peerless Rockville directly or indirectly about the monument and there is now talk of moving and/or removing the monument.
While removing a confederate battle flag that has become a rallying point for hate groups is one issue, the eradication of a historical monument is entirely different.

 

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Rockville Transparency

newspapersThe Rockville City Council found itself debating something of interest last week when it took up the issue of candidate transparency.
This year the state legislature contemplated a bill which would relax some of the standards for those running for office. The bill didn’t move beyond the first reading and committee hearing in the Senate while in the House the bill received an unfavorable report from the committee.
The Maryland Municipal League, and by extension one of the speakers at the general assembly hearing, Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton, was for relaxing standards because, according to the league, the submission of some financial disclosure forms could deter new capable candidates from seeking office.

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About The Governor

 

HoganIt’s the type of news that, if you’re at all human, floors you.
Governor Larry Hogan found a lump in his throat while shaving. A quick trip to the doctor and dozens of lumps later, the governor is diagnosed with a “very aggressive” form of lymphoma.
I’m sure I’m not the only middle-aged man who went home and checked his body four or five times for lumps and then decided to see his doctor.
Down at my favorite caffeine watering hole, where during these Dog Days of June most people seem to be ordering anything but coffee, I overheard a disturbing conversation.
To be honest I often overhear disturbing conversations there, but this particular conversation didn’t have anything to do with comp and class studies, or lack of raises or nine people being killed in a South Carolina church. This conversation centered on who will be governor now that our governor is dead.
Not only isn’t Larry Hogan dead, but his upbeat news conference wherein he was told his odds of beating cancer were better than beating his democratic opponent in the recent gubernatorial election, gave me a bit of hope for the man sticking around for awhile.
Those involved in this Frappucino-waiting conversation could not name the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland nor were they sure who would take over for Hogan should he fall victim to his illness – a matter of which they were convinced was not only preordained but had actually already occurred.
I didn’t want to intrude and so I didn’t lean in and say “The Lieutenant Governor is Boyd K. Rutherford,” or mention his age, 58, or that he and I are both parents of three adult children.
I didn’t mention he was educated at Howard and had little experience running for public office, but had a deep background in law, was originally from Washington D.C. and served with distinction at various governmental posts.

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Why was I crying?

 

profile 400x400At first I didn’t know why I was crying.
I opened up the driver’s side door of the truck and hopped inside.
Pammy, sitting in the passenger seat, turned to me and asked if I was okay.
“There’s blood on your pants,” she said.
I looked down. She was right.
Ten minutes earlier we were driving north in rural Maryland when I noticed two trucks collide on the road ahead of us. We pulled over.
Since I have some first aid training and with no one on the scene, I thought I could help.
“Go,” she said. “I’ll be okay.”
I sprinted to the crash.
The first person I came across was a woman in her late 50s or early 60s trapped inside a small pickup truck. The engine was off. She had on her seatbelt and her airbags had deployed. She appeared calm.
“Are you all right?” I asked.

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