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Friday, November 27, 2015

The Train is Coming!

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

Tucker Bryant darted to the rear of this bus and tugged on the lever. He grunted. “It’s wedged in there tight. I can’t move it.”

Vanessa Carlyle screamed. The red crossing gate lights flashed and the warning bell had sounded, signaling the approach of a train. The red and white striped wooden crossing gate swooped down, smashing onto the front of the school bus, before breaking off. “I see the train!” Vanessa cried. “It’s coming right toward us.”

The train’s shrill whistle pierced their ears each time it sounded.

Mackenzie gazed out the window. “It’s half a mile away. He won’t be able to stop in time. That’s why he keeps blowing the whistle. He wants us off the track.”

Tucker grunted, as he pulled the lever. “This won’t budge. Even if we could get it open, there’s no way we’re getting seventy kids off this bus in a few minutes.”

“Break the windows,” Marlene suggested.

“With what?” Tucker asked.

“We can’t squeeze through the windows,” a girl in the row in front of Marlene said. “Besides, the broken glass would slice us up.”

The train whistle blew three more times, momentarily drowning out the ringing crossing gate alarm.

Mackenzie turned to Marlene. “There’s only one thing left.”

“You can’t,” Marlene said. “Your hour’s up.”

Mackenzie gritted his teeth. “I can bypass the safeguard.”

“You can’t risk it, Mac.” There was panic in Marlene’s voice. “You don’t know what will happen. The watch might explode… or age you… or kill you.”


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

If Turkeys Could Speak…

As you sit down for dinner this Thanksgiving, pause for a moment to ponder the meaning of the holiday. If you are a Millennial, a recent Pew poll suggests 40 percent of you are clueless as to why we should be thankful this day.

One of the first Thanksgiving celebrations occurred in the American colonies, in Plymouth Colony (now Southeast Massachusetts) in 1621 when the Pilgrims shared an autumn harvest feast with the Wampanoag Indians. The Indians brought deer, not turkey, so venison was the main course. But the first true Thanksgiving came two years later, when the Pilgrims’ prayers were answered: rain brought an end to the drought that was destroying their crops, and Captain Miles Standish landed bearing new and much needed supplies.

But who were these Pilgrims who had settled the Plymouth Colony? They were men and women fleeing religious persecution by the English Crown, emigrating first to the Netherlands and then to the American colonies. They sought freedom of religion, which encompasses two other freedoms: the right to express ones’ self and the right to gather with others who share this expression. A century and a half later, the American colonists upon declaring their independence from England would consider all three rights to be necessary, fundamental freedoms and combine them in the First Amendment to the new nation’s Constitution.

The First Amendment is arguably more important and essential to democracy than the other nine amendments comprising the Bill of Rights or even the Constitution itself. It’s all about freedom of expression. It guarantees it through what you say (freedom of speech), what you write (freedom of the press), what you believe and the practice of those beliefs (freedom of religion), and the right to share such expressions with others (freedom of assembly).

Of course, not everyone will agree with what you say, or write, or even how you express yourself. Some may even be offended. That is the cost of, and a necessary corollary of, free expression. While there is an explicit guarantee of the right to free speech in our nation’s Constitution, there is no corresponding right not to be offended by others. Democracy will survive, and even flourish, amidst offensive words – the most bountiful plants flourish when manure is heaped upon them. But democracy cannot survive when speech and other forms of expression are forbidden by the government.

That is why it is so shocking and downright frightening to read the results of the Pew poll in which 40 percent of Millennials – those aged 18-to-34 – say they want the government to censor statements that are offensive to minority groups. America was founded on the concept of fundamental freedoms, and that the government could not be allowed to censor its citizens, in part because the government was “of, by, and for the people.” We are not governed by a dictator or king’s edicts but rather by those we choose from among us. We are our government and therefore shall not censor ourselves. That’s what made America different from all the other nations from which its future citizens would emigrate. Once we allow the government to decide what we may or may not say, we have surrendered our democracy. Once we permit offensive speech to be proscribed, the next question becomes ‘Who decides which words or statements are deemed offensive?’ Our freedom decreases in direct proportion to the expansiveness of the definition of the word “offensive”.

Freedom of speech must not be curtailed in the name of political correctness. Americans should cherish the First Amendment and not carve it up along with their turkey.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Interview with a Terrorist

Q:  First off, I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you.
A:  It is my pleasure to speak to the Americans and other Westerners through you so that they may learn how we have plotted their destruction.

Q: When you say “we”, you’re referring to ISIS I presume?
A: We are the Islamic State – al-Dawla al-Islamiya.

Q: How long have you been a member of ISIS; excuse me, I mean the Islamic State?
A: For many years now. At one time, we were known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Q: I want to hear your viewpoint on current events involving terrorism. There is a lot of fear in America right now. Americans are afraid you want us dead.
A: Of course we want you Americans dead. I would kill you right now if I did not need you to get my message out to your fellow infidels.

Q: But why? That’s what we want to know. What did we do to you to make you hate us enough to want to kill us all?
A: You did not have to do anything, other than exist. You are not believers; you are infidels, and therefore you must be cleansed from the earth.

Q: So the Paris attacks weren’t retaliation for some perceived affront? You killed those innocent people because they weren’t like you and therefore didn’t deserve to live?
A: Exactly.

Q: Our intelligence community estimates there are 200,000 Islamic State members. There are 320 million Americans. We outnumber you by 1,600-to-1. Don’t you think your plan to kill all of us is a bit optimistic?
A: (laughter). We do not plan to kill you; our plan is to destroy you. More specifically, our plan is to make you destroy yourselves.

Q: That sounds even more optimistic, or delusional. Why are you smiling?
A: Because we have already won and you simply haven’t realized yet.

Q: What do you mean?
A: What is America? The legendary land of individual freedom; a melting pot of people from all races, nationalities, and religions who have come for generations from across the world in search of the so-called American Dream. We have taken it from you and in so doing we have destroyed America.

Q: I don’t understand.
A: What did your nation do after the first terrorist attack on your soil on September 11th? It curtailed all of your individual freedoms: your government spies on your phone calls and emails and tracks the Websites you visit. It passed the PATRIOT Act, which was anything but patriotic, further curtailing your individual liberties in the name of “security”. Americans may now be detained indefinitely in military jails without being charged with any crime. Your government may now demand any personal records held by any source, including your doctor, employer, accountant, or even a library, if it claims it is related to an investigation into “terrorism.” It may now conduct secret searches and wiretaps in your home or office without having to show probable cause.

Q: Granted, the PATRIOT Act was a knee-jerk reaction… An outrageous overreaction that Congress has inexplicably and repeatedly renewed, but nonetheless it’s been 14 years since 9/11 and America is still here.
A: But it is not the same America. It is no longer Home of the Free, and now, thanks to us, it is no longer Home of the Brave, either. The cowardly French are even braver than you Americans. We attacked Paris, the heart of France, and made it bleed. Yet France is increasing the number of Syrian refugees it is taking in, from 24,000 to 30,000, while you Americans refuse to accept a mere 10,000 of the four million Syrian refugees.

Q: Not all Americans feel that way. Only 56 percent of the country, 31 governors of the 50 states, and the majority of the House of Representatives.
A: That’s more than half of your nation’s people and its leaders. America, land of immigrants? Bah! No more. Thanks to the Islamic State, the American dream is dead. We have made you destroy everything you stood for. You should tear down your Statue of Liberty and replace it with a guard tower.

Q: Yes, I saw the same NBC News/Survey Monkey poll. But Americans are good people and will do the right thing in the end.
A: (laughter). You are naïve. We follow your presidential campaign closely. Have you heard what your future leaders are saying? Presidential candidate Ben Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs” whom you wouldn't want near your children. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want a religious test for refugees, in violation of your own U.S. Constitution. Donald Trump said he would deport any Syrian refugees President Obama allows in even though half of the 2,000 already in the U.S. are children and another quarter are more than 60 years old. Trump also said he would consider warrantless searches of Muslims, issuing them identity cards, and forcing them to register in a database. Isn’t that what the Nazis did to Jews when they made them wear yellow stars to identify themselves as Jews?

Q: Well, yes but…
A: And did not Trump – the likely Republican nominee for president of your country – say yesterday, “Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago”?

Q: Well, yes but…
A: Adolf Hitler rose to power saying the same things. Is this still your America? Or do you realize now that we have already won?

Q: Look, a lot of crazy things get said in the heat of a presidential race.
A: Then what about your governors and mayors? Yesterday, David A. Bowers, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, talking about the Syrian refugees cited the use of concentration camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Is that your America?

Q: Again, that’s just one man, even if he is a government official.
A: Are you blind? Yesterday, your House of Representatives voted to stop the Syrian refugee program that would have admitted 10,000 refugees. That pleases me. Perhaps I will see my Badia again when the unwanted refugees are forced to return to the war-torn land they once called home.

Q: Who is Badia?
A: A very pretty girl – nine years old. We captured her family on a raid. I beheaded her father in front of her and her mother. My friends took turns raping her mother before they killed her, but I kept Badia alive so I could rape her. Unfortunately, she fled with other refugees, but thanks to your wonderful country she may soon be forced to return.

Q: Don’t count on it. You’re referring to H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed by a 289-to-137 vote. But before it becomes a law that bill still has to pass the Senate, and even if it does, President Obama has vowed to veto it.
A: But you know it is an unrealistic law designed solely to end the refugee program. It mandates the heads of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence, personally certify that each of the 10,000 refugees being allowed into the U.S. does not pose a security threat. If it does pass, the Islamic State will look forward to watching your three top security leaders spend all of their time doing nothing else but examining each refugee while we plot more terrorist acts.

Q: Admittedly that is a rather stupid requirement that would be impossible to enforce because, as you say, the heads of our intelligence agencies have more important things to do, like putting an end to your organization. But the bill is very popular because people think it will keep them safe.
A: Safe from whom? The poor refugees who are running from us? Women and children like Badia, who have been abused and seen their loved ones murdered? This is whom you fear?

Q: It’s true that 2,000 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since 2001 and not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. But after the Paris attacks, Americans fear Syrian terrorists might…
A: The Paris attacks were carried out by French and Belgian recruits, not Syrians.

Q: … Pretend to be refugees to sneak into the United States.
A: (laughter). Why would we do that? The Islamic State is not stupid. Refugees must wait 18-to-24 months before being allowed to enter the United States, and then only after they have passed rigorous and thorough security background checks.

Q: But…
A: It is much easier for us to enter your country through the Visa Waiver Program. Every year, 20 million people do so with minimal screening. We can leave from a European country and be in the United States legally with no vetting within 24 hours. Once we are in America, we can buy all the guns and weapons we want, legally. We can even speak out publicly against America and not be arrested.

Q: Maybe the Syrian refugees are simply frightened children and their families, fleeing butchers like you. But surely you can understand why Americans would fear them?
A: Of course. It is simple fear-mongering and bigotry. What puzzles me is why you would fear them so much while accepting your nation’s homegrown terrorists shooting up schools, shopping centers, and movie theaters. You already have terrorists on American soil, but their faces are American, not Syrian.

Q: So in conclusion, you’re saying by using terror to make us fear you, you’ve forced us to change our values and our laws, destroying everything America has stood for since its founding?
A: Now you understand. We have already won. This interview is over. There is nothing more to say.

What Would You Do?

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

Mackenzie watched the school parking lot disappear in the rear window of the yellow school bus. “You know what this means, Marlene?”

Marlene shot him a quizzical look. “What?”

Mackenzie grinned. “An extra day to finish our English term paper. Field trips are awesome.” He opened his brown bag. “Ham and cheese. What’d you get?”

Marlene peered inside hers. “PB and J.”

“Trade you halves.” He handed her half of his sandwich and she gave him half of hers. Mackenzie eyed her bag. “Chocolate chip cookies? You know, those are really unhealthy for you.” He pulled an apple from his bag. “Since you’re my BFF, I should let you have my apple.”

Marlene grinned. “I suppose you’ll be happy to dispose of these unhealthy cookies for me?”

Mackenzie flashed a boyish smile. “It’s the least I could do.”

Marlene knew he hated fruit and had a sweet tooth. As much as she liked chocolate chip cookies, she liked Mackenzie Mortimer more. She passed him her cookies.


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Shameful Day in U.S. History

A few days ago, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, I wrote: “But don’t go off on a Xenophobic rant against allowing refugees into our country. Not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. For most of them, terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris we’ve seen this week are part of their daily lives. They are fleeing their homelands because they are fleeing terrorism. They are scared, literally frightened for their lives, to the point where they have left their homes and belongings and fled their country merely for the chance to survive. These people are not our enemies; they are running away from our enemies. We need to recognize the difference. It was the French people who gave us the Statue of Liberty, which has always served as a symbolic beacon guiding the oppressed to our shores. It would be a sad irony if the attacks on Paris caused America to turn its back on all the Statue of Liberty stands for.”

Apparently more than half of the U.S. governors do not subscribe to my blog. These troglodytes have publicly declared that they will not allow any Syrian refugees into their states. Never mind that governors do not have the legal authority to prevent refugees from entering their states. Never mind that the U.S. has committed to accepting only 10,000 of the estimated four million Syrian refugees. Never mind that seven of the eight Parisian attack terrorists were homegrown French residents – ISIS’s current strategy is to indoctrinate natives and turn them against their own country. Never mind that terrorists can cross the U.S. borders legally and illegally without resorting to subterfuge by pretending to be refugees. Never mind that the majority of refugees are women and children. Never mind that the terrorists win when we allow fear to cloud our judgment. Never mind common sense when a knee-jerk reaction and a podium can turn a meaningless sound bite into political fodder.

On May 13 1939, the S.S. St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany carrying nearly a thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany. Most had applied for U.S. visas and planned to stay in Cuba until they could be admitted to the United States, the Cuban government allowed only 22 Jews on shore. The remaining refugees appealed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to allow them to enter the United States. But American public opinion strongly favored immigration restrictions. It would have been bad politics, so President Roosevelt turned away a steamship filled with Jewish refugees. The more than 900 frightened men, women, and children were denied sanctuary from the Nazis and sent back to Germany to their own deaths. Three months earlier, Congress had refused to pass a bill that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish children hoping to escape Nazi Germany.

Of course, they weren’t the first Jewish refugees to be turned away. Two thousand years ago, a pair of Jewish refugees refused admittance to an inn ultimately sought sanctuary in a manger. Perhaps the 27 American governors and those American citizens supporting their compassionless policy would think differently if we had a holiday devoted to Middle Eastern people refused refuge by the heartless.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trigger Warning: Hold on to Your Teddy Bear

Has America raised a generation of wimps? 

College campuses are awash with a series of innovations designed to mollycoddle university students who are old enough to vote but not old enough to step out into the big bad world of college without “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”. At the same time, the most privileged generation of minority students – who never in their lives experienced the terrible racism that was a daily part of their grandparents’ lives – angrily protest so-called “white privilege” on campuses across the country.

Apparently, attending college is no longer about broadening one’s mind or horizons, lest the poor, sensitive students stumble across a book or an idea that upsets or offends them. Teachers are now asked to warn students in their course syllabi of any required textbooks that might contain disturbing material, so that sensitive students may drop the class rather than be exposed to such content. I guess that means no more history courses, because history is full of disturbing material, like war and genocide. So is literature, so we can strike both subjects from the course catalog. 

The problem, of course, is that history and literature are based on life itself, which is also filled with its fair share of disturbing and offensive events. A sensitive student might prefer not to read Anne Frank’s disturbing firsthand account of life under Nazi occupation. Unfortunately for many students like Anne herself, they did not have the option to exempt themselves because life doesn’t come with a trigger warning. Some things are supposed to disturb you, upset you, and offend you. They carry messages, not trigger warnings, and usually the messages are important. Such content should not be eschewed but rather embraced. Learning only occurs when one has stepped outside one’s comfort zone.

The concept of creating “safe spaces” on campuses has resulted in the exclusion of students who are not members of the protected class that are deemed to need such protection, as well as in the abridgment of the right of freedom of speech by anyone whose words might offend such protected class members. This can extend to colleges having to retract invitations to guest lecturers or even comedians because the content of their speech might be offensive to selected groups of individuals. Instead of becoming a marketplace for the exchange of ideas, college campuses have become bastions of censorship and groupthink. The New York Times reports one student retreated to a campus safe space from a lecture because “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” This runs counter to the entire purpose of college as an institution which students attend precisely to encounter new ideas and challenge preconceived notions. The historical equivalent would be to repeal the Enlightenment and usher in a return to the Dark Ages.

The real world doesn’t have safe spaces. College is a transition for young adults leaving their parents’ home yet not quite ready to begin their own homes and careers. It is the ideal time to prepare for the big, bad, and extremely unsafe world out there, not to go scurrying off into a safe space hugging your teddy bear. Someone said something you didn’t like? Deal with it. It’s going to happen a lot over the next 60 or so years. Grow a pair. Confront reality, don’t avoid it by creating your own unreality.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Red Friday in Paris

Black Red Friday in Paris

On Friday the thirteenth, November 2015, Paris was struck by a series of synchronized terror attacks that left 129 dead and 352 wounded, many with life-threatening injuries. In an all too familiar scenario, reminiscent of the earlier Parisian attack in January on the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, global leaders have decried the attacks, families have grieved, and civilized people of all nations are horrified and outraged while expressing their condolences and solidarity to the French people.

But it is not enough merely to change one’s Facebook profile photo to reflect the tri-colored flag of France. The citizens of the world, through their governments, must do more. As individuals, we must channel our outrage to end these attacks once and for all. Television commentators and political pundits are once again asking the perennial questions, “Why do they hate us? Why do they want to kill us?” This is not the time for questions; it is a time for action. When someone is trying to kill me, my response is to kill that person first. When I am standing over his cold, dead body, then I can allow myself the luxury, if I wish, of delving into his mind.

Make no mistake, we are at war. But unlike battles of the past, this war’s battlefield is not confined to one geographical location. Our enemies may be based in one place, but they have brought the attack to us: the synchronized attacks in Paris; the suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 43 and wounded 240 the day before the Parris attacks; the October downing of the Russian commercial aircraft that killed 224 passengers and crew; the October suicide bombings in Turkey that killed 102 and wounded 508; the August bombing in Thailand that killed 21 and injured 123. They have brought the war to us.

Those figures represent only the past four months and do not include the almost daily terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Africa. We know who the terrorists are and where they live. The majority of the world’s terrorist attacks are committed by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram. In January, Boko Haram slaughtered an estimated 2,000 people in Nigeria. How many more innocent people must die at the hands of known terrorists before the civilized world says enough is enough? What good is it to be the world’s most powerful nation if our leaders are unwilling to use that power? Must we stand impotent and watch the unabated wholesale slaughter of random innocents?

When Harry Truman decided the threat to the American people outweighed the value of the lives of civilians within our enemy’s borders, he used America’s most potent weapons to end the conflict once and for all. In doing so, he ensured it would be a long time before anyone would consider harming an American anywhere in the world. While I believe Truman was wrong to target populated cities, any target will unfortunately yield what the military calls collateral damage. There has never been a war in the history of the world in which innocent people did not die. We must accept this unfortunate fact and be as ruthless as our enemies or we shall eventually succumb to them. I have no doubt that eventually ISIS and their ilk will get their hands on chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction; just as I also have no doubt that the terrorists will not hesitate to use those weapons against the West.

Instead of a meaningless gesture, like changing your Facebook profile photo, contact your Congressman and tell your representative what you want your government to do. But don’t go off on a xenophobic rant against allowing refugees into our country. Not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. For most of them, terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris we’ve seen this week are part of their daily lives. They are fleeing their homelands because they are fleeing terrorism. They are scared, literally frightened for their lives, to the point where they have left their homes and belongings and fled their country merely for the chance to survive. These people are not our enemies; they are running away from our enemies. We need to recognize the difference. It was the French people who gave us the Statue of Liberty, which has always served as a symbolic beacon guiding the oppressed to our shores. It would be a sad irony if the attacks on Paris caused America to turn its back on all the Statue of Liberty stands for.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dad’s Going to Ground Me Until I’m 40!

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

Mackenzie looked around the room. “What’s that humming noise?”

Zigs shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard it before.” His eyes scanned the bedroom. “Look! The ship in a bottle you gave me is glowing.”

“What’s strange about that? You told me it was solar-powered.”

“Yeah, it lights up, but not like that. It had little lights coming from inside the ship, through the portholes. But now, the whole bottle is shinning like a lamp.”

“The humming is getting louder, too. I think that’s where it’s coming from.”

The bottled ship glowed with a brilliant intensity, as the pitch increased to an ear-splitting level. Zigs covered his ears and Mackenzie grew concerned, fingering his pocket watch.

“Something’s wrong, Zigs. Let’s get out of here.”

The glow from the bottle was so bright, the ship inside was no longer visible. Mackenzie felt his eardrums about to burst and sought relief in the silence of Q-Time. He pushed the watch stem down and turned it clockwise, as the pitch reached a crescendo and the bottled ship exploded. Seeing the explosion as he entered Q-Time, Mackenzie twisted the larger stem to the right, expanding the chronal energy field from around his body to encompass Zigs. “Grab my hand, Zigs, and stay as close to me as you can while we run from the room.”

The boy grasped his hand. “What’s happening, Mac?”

Mackenzie glanced up at the kaleidoscopic array of shrapnel hanging in the air. “It’s an explosion. But I’ve slowed time, as long as you stay close to me. I’ve never shared the chronal energy field with anyone, so I don’t know how long I can keep it up for both of us. I should be able to do it for the whole hour, but if you slip out of the field’s range, you’ll be trapped in regular time with the explosion. Whatever you do, stay with me and don’t fall behind.”

“How far do we have to run?”

“Far enough that we leave the explosion behind us. We don’t know how powerful it was. It might take out your room like a grenade blast or, if it’s strong enough, it could bring down the mansion.”

“The whole house?” Zigs cried. “My dad’s going to ground me until I’m forty.”


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Quick, My Feelings Have Been Hurt! Call the Thought Police!

They’re at it again. This time, the University of Missouri’s campus cops emailed students urging them to report any “hurtful speech” they encounter on campus. They asked students to describe the offender and encouraged them to photograph the speaker, if possible.

For now, I’ll bypass the obvious question of what hurtful speech is. “Your hair is a mess.” “Are you gaining weight?” “I think we should stop seeing each other.” “You’re a liar.” You get the point. “Hurtful” is by definition a subjective standard, depending in part on the sensitivity of the listener and also in part on extrinsic circumstances. A comment one listener may find deeply hurtful another may shrug off. That’s why courts will generally strike down any statute prohibiting vague behavior.

More importantly, courts will also invalidate unconstitutional laws, such as those violating that pesky First Amendment that says the government – and its agents like police departments of federally funded schools – can’t tell citizens what they can and cannot say. It’s called free speech for a reason. Even hate speech – which is much more clearly definable and recognizable than “hurtful” speech because its content is reprehensible and offensive to society as a whole and not merely to a specific individual – is nonetheless protected speech under the U.S. Constitution. That’s right, hate speech is perfectly legal in America.

The campus police responded to concerns voiced about the First Amendment implications of the email they had sent by saying, “We are simply asking them to report what they feel is hurtful and/or hateful speech.” Notice the other subjective word in their response: feel. It’s all about feelings. If someone hurts your feelings, call the police.

Fortunately for our politically correct society, we have an instruction manual to advise us on this situation. It used to be required reading in colleges like the University of Missouri before it was changed from a cautionary tale into an instruction manual for modern society. George Orwell created the concept of thought police in his novel 1984, and apparently the UM campus cops believe they should add that to their job description.

The really astonishing thing is that this is all occurring at an institute of higher education. Journalism professors attempting to prevent reporters from covering a news story; faculty members advocating students physically intimidate others, calling out “help me get this reporter out of here … I need some muscle over here”; and now campus police announcing they have turned into thought police, urging students to report any hurtful speech they encounter on campus. In all of this, is there any actual teaching going on at the University of Missouri? I suggest they start by teaching the First Amendment… Although they would first have to learn it themselves.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Discourteous Professor of Hypocrisy

They just don’t get it. The cognitive dissonance at the University of Missouri School of Journalism is incredible. It posted a statement about yesterday’s incident (which I discussed at length yesterday) on its Website  suggesting that it could be a teachable moment. The statement purported to be about the conflict between the First Amendment and “competing interests” but it was rather fuzzy on what those competing interests might actually be. It contrasted the fact that Carnahan Quad  – the spot on campus where the incident took place – is a public venue with the protesters’ “expectation of privacy in a public space”. Reality check: there is no expectation of privacy in a public place – that’s why it’s called public. The quad is open to the public, meaning everybody, and that includes the news media.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Muscle Flexing by an Ass Media Professor

In this Carollian looking glass, bizarro world of 21st century radical liberalism run amok, it should come as no surprise that a college journalism professor attempted to stop a journalist from filming a news event on campus.

Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, threatened a student journalist  who was filming a campus protest. “You need to get out, you need to get out,” Click yelled at the freelance reporter while trying to rip the camera from his hands. “I actually don’t,” the student journalist replied, displaying a greater understanding of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press than the journalism professor paid to teach the concept to her students. Her response was classic, and fortunately caught on video. Rather than acting as a responsible faculty member and attempting to de-escalate a potentially volatile situation, as many emotionally-laden protests can be, Click instead threatened the photojournalism student with mob violence, calling out to the crowd, “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here!”

As a 10th grader reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, I had some difficulty accepting the cognitive dissonance of Bradbury’s dystopian world where firemen were called to start fires rather than put them out. But it now seems more credible after witnessing a college journalism professor threatening violence to stop a student journalist from reporting on a campus news event. Melissa Click has shown by vivid example that she has no business being a journalism professor or even coming within 100 yards of a journalism school. She should be fired immediately and considered an anathema by any journalism college or news publication to whom she sends her resume.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Download the 10th Edition of Issues in Internet Law!

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The 10th edition of Issues In Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law has been updated for 2016 with the latest cases and trends in Internet Law. The new edition not only has an expanded glossary, and expanded statute and case indexes but an entire chapter devoted to the NSA's spying on Internet users and a first look at the European Union's Right to be Forgotten court ruling and its aftermath.

Topics include:
Privacy: Invasion of Privacy, Public Records, Workplace Privacy, Employer & ISP Monitoring, Data Collection, Data Retention, Data Breaches, the Right to be Forgotten, E-Mail & Chat Room Privacy, Web Site Privacy Policies, Behavioral Marketing, Flash Cookies, Device Fingerprinting, Privacy & Children, Metadata, Border Searches, FISA & the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA, FISA Court, PRISM, XKeyscore;

Free Speech: Defamation, SLAPPs, Gripe Sites, Revenge Porn Sites, Mugshot Sites, Blogs & Vlogs, Obscenity & Pornography, Harassment & Hate Speech, Prior Restraint, Repression, Student Speech, CDA, Anonymous Speech, Commercial Speech, Expressive Conduct;

Social Media: Misuse, Ownership, Coerced Access, the Courts;

Cybercrimes: Spam, Phishing, Identity Theft, Spyware & Malware, Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying, Computer Trespass, Wardriving, Virtual Crime;

Intellectual Property: Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Trade Secrets, Creative Commons, Linking, Framing, File-Sharing, Fair Use, Public Domain, Work-Made-For-Hire, DMCA, VARA, Domain Name Disputes, Keyword Advertising, America Invents Act;

Business & the Internet: Internet Taxation, Internet Interstate Commerce, Web Contracts, e-Discovery, Corporate Securities, Crowdfunding, Reg A, Reg D;

Also: Cloud Computing; Digital Currency; Right of Publicity; Web Accessibility; Net Neutrality; Online Reputation Management; Social Media Monitoring; Podcasts; Geofiltering; Digital Journalism; Hyper Local Web Sites, Digital Estate Planning; Sexting; E-Books and many more subjects.

Concisely written and covering a broad range of topics, this is the most current book of its kind!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Internet is a Harsh Mistress

Wow. I’m watching someone on George Takei’s Facebook page attacking Robert Heinlein. Robert Heinlein, the “Dean of Science Fiction” – the man whose books I devoured as a child – being brutally slandered by a smartass whippersnapper. Comments like: “He's a science fiction writer; not an esteemed philosopher or political ideologist. A science fiction writer; and not a very good one at that.”  …. “Apparently you think that a photo of Heinlein with his opinion scrawled over it somehow gives him more gravitas on this issue when in actual fact he's a literary laughing stock” ….  “His books have a creepy, fascist (yes fascist) vibe to them that's hard to swallow.” 

First of all, I think most writers are inherently philosophers expressing or imparting a philosophy to their readers. Many science fiction writers, such as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, were also political ideologists. As for the quality of Heinlein’s writing, like the majority of science fiction, especially at that time, none of it was great literature. But it was entertaining, well-written, and imaginative. Heinlein was prolific and groundbreaking in the genre. All writers are products of their times and should be viewed accordingly. Science fiction in Heinlein’s day was spawned in the pulps where most writers were hacks, churning out hackneyed plots and cliché ridden dialogue for three pennies a word. Yet the pulps brought us some of the greatest entertainment characters ever created and served as the foundation for the mainstreaming of genres like science fiction that was to come. Without Heinlein – and Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Leigh Brackett, Otto Binder, and their ilk – there would be no Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Lost in Space, or Doctor Who, or Red Dwarf, or Continuum.

Heinlein was an award-winning, best-selling author who influenced a generation of writers. It is painful to see an author of Robert Heinlein’s stature derided and vilified by someone who is obviously at best clueless and at worst an arrogant troll. It makes the attacks I’ve endured as a writer pale by comparison. For what it’s worth, Heinlein was also a good man. The one time I met him, he was in the process of donating blood to help others. I’d like to see some of these ultracrepidating criticasters write their own books before being allowed to criticize other writers. It’s easy to criticize others for doing what you cannot do yourself.  (And yes, those are two really neat words you should look up).

Friday, November 6, 2015

I’d Hate to See Your Pretty Little Bird Get Hurt

An Excerpt from The 25th Hour (Book One in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer):

They turned, only to find their path blocked by an imposing figure.

“You!” Tucker exclaimed.

The man chuckled. “Now boy, is that any way to greet your pa? Especially after he’s been away for so long.”

Tucker squeezed Brooke’s hand.

“Let’s go, Tucker,” Brooke said. “Your foster parents will be wondering where you are.”

The man grinned. “Aw, ain’t that cute? You done got yourself a little girlfriend while I was banged up. Pretty one, too.”

Tucker released Brooke’s hand and pushed her behind him. “What do you want?”

“It’s what I don’t want. I don’t want to go back to that jail cell. You should have seen the scum they put me in with. But bad as it was, it’ll be worse if they convict me and send me to state prison. There’s even nastier guys there, serving long sentences, and they do things to the new guys that… well, since your little girlfriend is here, let’s say they’re things you don’t want to know about, let alone experience.”

Tucker cringed. “What’s that got to do with me?”

His stepfather’s lip curled into a crooked smile. “Everything. They’re going to call you to testify at my trial. Probably in the judge’s chamber or in a recorded deposition. Either way, they’re going to ask you a bunch of questions. If you answer them the right way and tell them none of those things happened, then they’ll have to drop the charges and I’ll stay out of prison.”

“You want me to lie to save your butt?” Tucker studied his stepfather. He knew the older man was afraid of what awaited him in prison. Tucker had never seen him fearful; he had always been an intimidating figure to the boy. It dawned on him his stepfather was not a particularly large man, and indeed, placed among other men he might be fodder for the hardened prisoners.

“Smart boy. Make it convincing and I won’t even punish you for the hell you put me through. All I want is to stay out of prison.”

“Don’t listen to him, Tucker,” Brooke said. “Tell the truth and they’ll lock him up for years. Maybe he’ll get what he deserves behind bars.”

“Feisty little thing.” Tucker’s stepfather grinned. “It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to her.”

“Leave her out of this,” Tucker said. “This is between you and me.”

“Then, you’d better be sure to testify the right way. I’d hate to see your pretty little bird get hurt. I remember the last time you brought a sparrow home.”


Available in paperback or Kindle exclusively on Amazon.com


Time is running out… fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pepsi Imperfect

Pepsi has officially proven itself to have the most incompetent marketing department on the face of the planet. Twice.

You may recall my earlier post last month about Pepsi’s much touted marketing campaign to release a special edition bottle of Pepsi Perfect – the fictional soft drink in the film Back to the Future IIPepsi completely botched the rollout due to a number of blunders, all detailed in my previous post. Fortunately for Pepsi, I offered it a way to climb out of this marketing debacle. I advised: “If Pepsi wants to attempt to recover from this disaster, it should immediately announce it will release an unlimited supply of Pepsi Perfect in time for the Christmas holiday season, offered in stores, at the same price as similarly sized Pepsi products.”

The incompetents at the Pepsi marketing department must have read my post. More likely, they merely skimmed it. That would explain how they were able to ignore its most pertinent elements and repeat their epic failure – twice. Pepsi did announce it would release more Pepsi Perfect… But, only 6,500 more bottles would be available today (November 3, 2015) precisely at 9 am; but only available for pre-order now for delivery after Christmas (forget about buying them as Christmas gifts); but only available online; but priced at $20.15 each. What part of my simple one-sentence solution to your marketing fiasco did you not understand, Pepsi?