Frankly, I think that Chinese spy/weather balloon was filming background shots for a reality TV show

Status of Balloon: In the Atlantic Ocean

Destination of Balloon: Davy Jones’ Locker

Alternative Destination: Coast Guard Cutter Recovery.

Dinah Shore

Assuming the balloon is sent to Quantico for analysis, lab technicians will discover it was shooting background footage for a new Chinese reality show to be called “See the USA in your Dongfeng (东风汽车公司) Venuci e30 electric car.” Initially,  Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd executives wanted to use a copycat version of Diana Shore’s: “See The U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet,” but re-thought the matter when contacted by General Motors’ legal department.

Episodes in pre-production centered around the Chén family visiting iconic American tourist destinations in between stops to take selfies at missile installations and other sensitive sites. To meet sponsor requirements, the e30 would appear in many of these selfies.

Chinese officials said that while the balloon was programmed to monitor the weather and U.S. Navy ships in the South China Sea,  once it went off course, the footage shot in the U. S. wasn’t any different than “scenes Americans see every day without even thinking about them.”

According to spokesmen who were later thrown in prison, the show to be released internationally during the year of the Rabbit was intended to humanize Chinese tourists as “just regular folks inasmuch as only 18% of them are spies.”

Plans to include a walk-on appearance by President Biden have been denied by the White House.


If you like satire, you’ll find plenty of it in Malcolm R. Campbell’s “Special Investigative Reporter.”


A few things

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while, know that I think the Supreme Court made a horrid decision in overturning Roe v Wade and further that that decision was fueled by party politics and religious beliefs rather than a serious and objective analysis of the laws and Constitution.

This decision will unleash a firestorm of tyranny tantamount to the subjugation of women to the point that they will become second-class citizens in more ways than they already are. If the Justices had considered the entire scope of problems that can and will stem from their decision, they could have easily modified Roe within the scope of women’s liberty rights and equality rights and in a way that would block the following:

  • Contraception methods that can be construed as harming a real or imagined fetus will be banned, including the morning-after pill, if the law states that life begins at conception even though science cannot pinpoint when that moment is until long after the fact.
  • Pregnancies will be registered and tracked to ensure that if they aren’t carried full term to a viable birth, women will face prosecution for miscarriages, or activities that could have harmed the fetus.
  • Doctors will be supplied with a list of medications and procedures that might remotely jeopardize a fetus and will be admonished under the threat of sanctions to withhold these from pregnant or potentially pregnant women.
  • The birth rate will go down as more and more women balk at the government oversite into their lives and medical care.
  • Suicides and illegal abortions will rise when women have no alternative, due to the law, to carrying pregnancies caused by rape and incest to term and further allowing, by law,  the rapists’ parental rights.
  • Freedom of speech will be curtailed on subjects related to the above because those speaking out will be considered to be advocating ways around these draconian results.
  • Needless to say, the poor will suffer the greatest injustice because they will not be able to afford to travel to alternative jurisdictions, especially if pregnant women are prohibited from traveling either because such travel might harm a fetus and/or end up in a state allowing abortions.

Some of these things have already happened.


P.S. This will be my last post about this subject because people whom I love and respect are on the other side of the debate. I cannot in good conscience oppose them in public forums.

Points not worth pondering

  • I’ve learned my lesson. I should have included J. K. Rowling in the title of my post about reading another Galbraith novel. As it was, nobody knew who I was talking about.
  • It didn’t take long for me to get really tired of people saying the weather is “Chili Today, Hot Tamale.” Thank goodness most of them didn’t know it was a song and had lyrics, &c. Actually, we’re having chili tonight and it’s raining tomorrow.
  • Would most people have forgotten Carly Simon long before they did if she hadn’t written ‘You’re So Vain’? I never thought the song was about me. Always thought it was probably Lorne Greene. Or, maybe Dan Blocker.
  • The Big Mac has left Russia.
  • The Supreme Court should replace Roe V. Wade with a stronger decision that states abortion is not the business of any level of government. Okay, you can ponder this point.
  • According to CNN, the Senate has announced a bipartisan agreement on guns. Strong legislation seemed like a no-brainer to me, but then we are talking about Congress.
  • If your parents forced you to listen to or (worse yet) to sing along with anyone singing “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” there’s nothing any of us can do to help you.
  • It’s always a bad idea to ask for whom the bell tolls.
  • If “paper boy” isn’t the first job on your resume, you’re not management material. By the way, that’s not me in the picture.
  • If you still remember the “Hut-Sut” song, you’re really old and should check with the authorities at your nursing home to see if it’s okay for you to be reading this blog. Or singing, “Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit.”
  • If you’re still reading this post, you might want to check yourself into an asylum or a home or whatever to make sure you’re still sane. If you’re insane, this blog is the place for you.


The question we didn’t ask Salvador Rolando Ramos or anyone else

According to police, Ramos bought his guns legally. That means completing the six-page ATF Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record. The form appears thorough, though opinions about its scope vary. However, it’s missing the first question that must be asked: What well-regulated Militia do you belong to?

That’s what the Second Amendment requires even though many groups from the National Rifle Association to the U.S. Supreme Court would have you believe otherwise. And so, this form is mute about the first thing it should ask.

Some have said that membership in the state’s national guard should suffice even though historians say that a national guard is a form of militia that the founding fathers didn’t like.  Immaterial, inasmuch as there are many things in today’s laws and court decisions that the founding fathers wouldn’t like: their real or suspected opinions are not part of what constitutes legality other than the Constitution itself which, on this matter, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That seems clear to me.

But the government, in its misguided view, believes we can ignore one-half of the amendment.  If membership in a legally constituted, government approved and recognized milia, including the national guard, were required to purchase a gun, would the mass shootings stop? Probably not. But I think there would be fewer of them. And that would be the beginning of a real solution.

According to CNN, citing the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 213 mass shootings this year so far. CNN’s tally says that Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, represents the 30th K-12 shooting in 2022 and that it is the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

We lead the developed countries of the world in these shootings. Perhaps we should consult the wisdom of other countries. Or, correctly interpret and mandate our own Bill of Rights.


Putin thinks he’s shooting fish in a barrel

While the war’s not going the way Putin thought it would, which the world salutes with praise of the Ukrainian people and President Zelenskyy, the end seems sadly predestined.

And the world watches without doing anything to stop the carnage. If Russia weren’t a nuclear power whose mad leader hadn’t threatened to rain ICBMs down on any country that intervened militarily, would anyone have sent in troops backed by air strikes?

I assume so. Logically, nobody wants a nuclear war in response to knocking out Russian tanks, artillary, and planes with conventional weapons. To risk that, seems immoral.

But watching Ukraine being destroyed also seems immoral. I suppose most of us check the news in hopes that Ukraine has somehow prevailed only to find out that, say, a hospital has been destroyed and that–slowed down or not–the Russian advance is continuing.

So, we’re immoral no matter what we do. Not that that makes Putin anything other than a war criminal. But how do we sleep at night?

I don’t think we can.

I suppose the President has asked: (1) Can we kill/capture Putin with a black ops team? (2) Do we know where all of Russian’s missles are and, if so, can we take them out?

If he asked these questions, the answers were probably not to Biden’s liking. So, of course we did nothing. According to the latest poll I saw, most Americans agree with this. As far as I can tell, Europeans also agree with confining our efforts to diplomacy.

So far, I think we’re worrying more about rising gasoline prices than the number of Ukrainians killed daily by the Russians. Some speculate that if Russian isn’t stopped in Ukraine, it will move on to Moldova and Poland. This makes me wonder if doing nothing is really the best option.

What do you think?


Holocaust novel ‘Maus’ banned in Tennessee school district 

ATHENS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee school district has voted to ban a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman, according to minutes from a board meeting.

Source: Holocaust novel ‘Maus’ banned in Tennessee school district | AP News

The Associated Press notes that “The nude woman is drawn as a mouse. In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice and the Nazis are drawn as cats.”

According to a tweet by the U.S. Holocaust Museum: “Maus has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors. On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history.”

One news story, which I cannot find now, noted that it’s increasingly difficult to teach historical events to students who weren’t even born when 9/11 occurred. I can see how this would be a challenge to history teachers: making the events of the past relevant to a generation focused on texting the current moment as though there were never any earlier moments.

Maus is not a pleasant book, but then neither is the subject matter and the lessons we learn from being made uncomfortable about the world’s worst moment are, I think, vital to our understanding of how we became the people we are now.


I don’t understand mass shootings

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, I don’t want to understand mass shootings. But, as a country, I think we need to figure them out. So far, (through March) there have been 146 mass shootings this year, with a death toll of 148 along with 485 wounded. The latest one occurred in South Carolina yesterday when five people, including a doctor, his wife, two grandchildren, and another individual were killed by a shooter who apparently took his own life. No motive has been established.

Do you really need this for self defense? Wikipedia photo.

Many people believe these shootings occur due to easy access to guns, with the emphasis to “access” usually meaning military-style weapons. When I was in high school and junior high school, almost everyone I knew owned guns, as did my family. They were for hunting and target practice. That was 50 years ago, so how we felt about hunting for food is so different from today’s culture, that it would be inaccurate to say, we had easy access to guns and yet there were no mass shootings.

Some people hunted deer, though we never did. These folks used 30-30 and 30-06 rounds in a variety of rifles. Many were bolt action. Some held 3-5 rounds. We owned shotguns for hunting ducks. My grandfather in Illinois hunted pheasants, my wife’s father hunted deer and quail. Almost all of us went fishing. The purpose was always food that wasn’t available at the grocery store.

I cannot compare our access to guns in the 1950s and 1960s with today’s access to guns or with the kinds of guns people are buying, much less the rationale for buying them. So I’m perplexed about the motivation for buying semi-automatic weapons with large magazines. One doesn’t hunt with these. One doesn’t really need them for self-defense.

According to the New Yorker, “The late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said, in 1991, that the idea that the Second Amendment conferred a right for individuals to bear arms was ‘a fraud on the American public.’ Burger was no liberal, and his view simply reflected the overwhelming consensus on the issue at the time.” This interpretation matches mine, that being that we cannot overlook the part of the Second Amendment that mentions the militia–in today’s terms, the national guard.

The default interpretation today is to overlook the militia component of the amendment and say we all have the right to own all the military-style guns we want. That’s absurd on the face of it. Yet, when solving this problem of mass shootings, I think we need to look more at our culture than simply on access to firearms. Why would anyone bust into that doctor’s house and kill everyone? I’m not sure we know. Perhaps we will never know. If it comes down to, “The doctor pissed me off,” then we’re really not at the core issue of motivation. If you’re the shooter, knowing you will probably end up dead, being pissed off seems very lame as a rationale.

The “why” illudes us. Is it news reporting: copycats who say, “yeah, I want to die like that.” Is it the guns? Is it the fact many people don’t believe in the sanctity of life?

We’re not looking hard enough or deep enough at this problem.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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For those who get too close

Nightbeat Column, by Jock Stewart, Star-Gazer News Service

In addition to a robber’s red bandana face mask, my grocery store costume includes a carpenter’s utility belt with a sign in 18-point Bodoni Bold type that says For Those Who Get Too Close.

COVID-19 oriented, my utilities do not include a hammer, screwdriver, vise grips, pliers, tape measure or T-square because handy as those tools are, they don’t scare huggers, hand shakers, coughers, and sneezers away.

Instead, I have these very practical items:

  • Wikipedia Photo

    TASER: For lone family members at the far end of the aisle who start running toward me sh0uting, “Jock, give me some sugar,” in the belief that being close at home (in some cases) means being close in the store is okay.

  • WASP Spray: Since this comes in long-range spray cans, it keeps White Anglo-Saxon Protestants on their side of the store without having to accept any tracts or lists of Bible verses.
  • Pepper Spray: Keeps hookers from coming up and whispering, “Jock, baby, I need $100 for a roll of toilet paper.”
  • Bowling Ball: If a bevvy of grannies from the neighborhood runs toward me for help carrying their Polident, Fig Newtons, and snuff back home, this can be rolled down the aisle for an easy strike. (I have two balls in case I come up with a dreaded 7-10 split on the first roll.)
  • Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special Revolver: Keeps the cashiers on their side of the new sneeze screens.
  • Emergency Poster: Printed in 72-Point Bodoni Bold type, this sign says: I ALREADY GOT IT: HOW ABOUT YOU.

Shop only for essentials, be safe, and mainstain social distancing (or else).

“Nightbeat” appears on the Junction City Star-Gazer editorial page as needed

Slanted news isn’t news, it’s propaganda

Those of you who’ve read this blog for years know that I was a journalist and a college journalism teacher as was my father before me. We grew up in another era, one in which opinion in a newspaper was confined to the editorial page. Those who wrote news stories were–as we said back then–supposed to leave their opinions at the door.

These days, it’s hard to find the truth because the major news outlets are biased in favor of Trump or those who oppose Trump. My wife and I–she was a newspaper reporter–have caught news outlets (AKA propaganda sheets) focused on both sides the aisle slanting the news. We watch an event or a speech live, and then the outlet reports it incorrectly, sometimes making up quotes that weren’t in the speech.

We saw on Facebook yesterday and today how damaging skewed news can be. Many of us were debating what appeared to be the taunting of an Indian elder in Washington, D.C. by a group from a Catholic school that was in town to speak out against abortion. Our first impression–based on how the news was reported–was that the school group verbally attacked others and was rather smug about it.

Today we learn that everything about the incident we thought we knew yesterday was wrong. That is, the news report made it appear that the school group verbally attacked the Indian when this was not what happened. In fact, the school group, who was already chanting after the formal end of their march, saw the Indian chanting, and when he came over to them, they thought he was chanting with them. They didn’t realize until they saw the news that the media viewed them as white kids making fun of a well-known Indian elder.

My initial perspective was that the kids had run amok and shouldn’t have been making fun of the Indian. Others used the incident as a springboard to criticizing the Catholic Church, suspecting that taunting the Indian was something the church believed in. Others said that since their kids were supposed to be representing a church school, they should not have worn the MAGA hats because they were in town to protest abortion and not as Trump supporters.

Even though the Catholic diocese has apologized to the elder, the media who put their agenda up as more important than the actual news should be the ones apologizing, both to the kids who were under fire for being white and conservative and to the readers for skewing the story so that it matched their political agenda.

The political arena is volatile enough these days without news outlets published biased reports. They think they are helping the political parties they agree with when, in fact, they are hurting the country. Journalists are supposed to present the facts and allow their readers to decide how they feel about what happened. Today’s media appear not to trust the readers because they hedge their bets by using propaganda rather than truth.

They are discounting all of us.



What’s Your Iran Policy?

“News is a necessity in a democracy, for only those who understand the nature of their world can comprehend the perils and hazards facing them and thus survive the struggle. Men who enjoy a free and open encounter with vital ideas and issues, facts and problems of their epoch can best map their future.” Campbell and Wolseley in “How to Report and Write the News.”

“With Neda’s death, the Iran I know finally has a face. The sequence of her death is the sequence of our nation’s struggle in the past 30 years: The democratic future that 1979 was to deliver collapsing, then trails of blood — that of so many executed or assassinated — streaming across its bright promise. The film of Neda’s death is the abbreviated history of contemporary Iran.” — Roya Hakakian in “Commentary: Pray for Neda

As you watch the protests in Iran on television and read about the importance of Twitter in spreading vital news to those who are otherwise denied access to information, have you formed an opinion about what must be done and developed a policy?

Most often, we are shown only one side of the coin in Iran, and that is of a rogue nation figuratively in bed with North Korea and a long list of other regimes portrayed–and often hunted–like junk yard dogs.

We read of the nuclear threat, of “honor killings,” of rule by divine right, of repression and torture supposedly justified by divine concurrence.

We are busy people, plugged into each others daily lives via Twitter, Facebook, and cell phones, so time and space for Iran on our daily radar scopes is, indeed, quite limited. Perhaps a fleeting glimpse the Ayatollah’s face as we last saw it in a news photograph or a political cartoon, perhaps an image of a nuclear holocaust with stock images out of one of the “Terminator” movies, perhaps an image of protesters marching in the streets.

Understandably, it’s easy for these images to become lost in the great clamor of background noise that is, by the grace of God and circumstance, far away. Even so, you probably have an opinion about it and, perhaps, what our government’s policy ought to be. But your policy, has it reached the drawing board yet?

Some say the U.S. and Israel should, on one pretext or another–whether out of rationalization or a true clear and present danger–attack. Others see this view as absurd.

What then?

Lately, some voices suggested that the U.S. should take care in its statements about Iran’s invalidation of the election and its harsh treatment of the protesters lest the Ayotolla find sufficient “evidence” in our statements to “prove” the protests are being orchestrated by Washington.

In her “Commentary: Pray for Neda,” Hakakian writes that during her first cab ride in the U.S., the driver asked her where she was from. When she said she was from Iran, the driver responded “Eeran … Khomeini?” and then moved his hand across his throat in a knife-slitting gesture.

Hakakian concluded that from this that “2,500 years of civilization was reduced to one vile name and the invocation of a throat being slit. It did not take long for me to learn that between the Iran that I knew and the Iran that Americans knew was a discrepancy as vast as the waters that separated us.”

It’s likely, given our lack of daily attention–especially when Iran is overtly quiet–that our opinion of Iran is similar to that of the cab driver.

And, if we are not among those urging our government to attack, what then is our opinion about our government’s alternatives. Is it “hands off”? Is it “out of sight and out of mind”? Is it wait until “they kill each other anyway”?

In the dedication of her memoir “Escape from the Land of No,” Hakakian writes:

“Between 1982 and 1990 an unknown number of Iranian women political prisoners were raped on the eve of their executions by guards who alleged that killing a virgin was a sin in Islam.
This book is dedicated to the memory of those women.”

From an Iran as a rogue nation perspective, it’s easy to see how you might see the guards full-frame in fron of your face and regard them as vile men who should be shot.

However, Neda’s death and the impact the video of her last moments is having throughout the world represents a potential defining moment in my consciousness and, I suspect, your consciousness as well. The video shows us Neda, NOT the man who shot her. You can see, as I can see, the victim at the other end of the repression, at the bullet’s destination and her eyes are like my daughter’s eyes and perhaps your daughter’s eyes.

Those eyes are an invitation and an opportunity to acknowledge with love and compassion the women the guards raped and executed rather than focusing a powerless hatred upon the guards–or upon the Ayatolla and his like-minded clerics and his soldiers.

May I suggest that while the actions of the Iranian repressors are news, they are not the entire story, and that newspaper headlines and television images that focus only on the rulers at the expense of the victims represent dishonest journalism? How many thousand people, victims with eyes as haunting as Neda’s eyes, do you suppose have gone unseen since the Ayatolla came to power?

Like that cab driver, it has been very easy for us to sweep the oppressed beneath the rug with the rogue nation label on it.

What is your Iran policy today?

Can you look into Neda’s eyes and say, “I love you and your brothers and sisters without condition and count you amongst my extended family?” If so, you will no longer feel the powerless hatred that arises from only staring at the Ayatolla’s image and from only despising the actions of the prison guards. Instead you will see that out of compassion and love, your actions will change and you will become part of a groundswell of news that flows around the world focusing on the struggles and needs and humanity of the Iranian people rather than upon the words and deeds and inhumanity of their regime.

Should the protests be silenced and the headlines fade away, you won’t forget Neda’s eyes will you? You will continue to love her, won’t you, and see to it that you are never silent about the news stories that still need to be told. I hope that will be your policy about Iran.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer” and the upcoming “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.” (This post from my Writer’s Notebook)