You won’t last long in my business if you let the news of an average day get you down (she said, snapping the brim of her fedora, the one with the PRESS card sticking out of the hatband), but man, this one? Was a total downer:
CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — Deanne Westbrook had tried everything to keep her husband, Ronald, in the house.
He was 72. Alzheimer’s had erased much of his talent for music and flying airplanes.
No one is sure how, in the frigid hours before dawn last Wednesday in this small north Georgia community near the Tennessee border, Mr. Westbrook ended up nearly three miles from home with a handful of other people’s mail, jiggling Joe Hendrix’s doorknob.
Mr. Hendrix, 34, stepped onto his porch with a Glock pistol in his hand and his fiancée inside on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. He fired four shots. One hit Mr. Westbrook in the chest.
Yes, another American has stood his ground, and bravely defended his home. You can read the rest of the story. Joe Hendrix feels really bad about what happened. It says he’s under investigation, but you don’t have to be much of a bettor to figure he won’t be charged with anything. This is Georgia, where gun ownership is a civic religion, and anyone who rattles your doorknob at 4 a.m. is asking to be ventilated.
I just keep coming back to what, precisely, goes through a man’s head when stuff happens — admittedly scary stuff — at 4 a.m. and there’s a loaded gun in the house. I’ve often told Alan that I would happily watch a thief take anything he might want from our house and wouldn’t feel the need to shoot anyone. If he moved on one of us, sure. But even a doorknob-rattle is only a doorknob-rattle, as long as the rattler stays on the other side of the door. More:
Sheriff Wilson said he wished Mr. Hendrix had just stayed inside. But he knows it was a tense situation.
“When you listen to the 911 calls, it’s evident to me that there was fear displayed at least by the female who lived there,” he said.
As Mr. Westbrook came around a corner of the house, Mr. Hendrix took his gun and repeatedly called for him to identify himself, he told the police. Then he fired the shots. Mr. Hendrix told investigators that Mr. Westbrook continued to approach him, so he fired the shot into his chest.
I guess fear is an unpredictable thing, but this is a 72-year-old man we’re talking about.
I don’t know how you hear a rattle at 4 a.m. and immediately think SERIAL KILLER COME TO DO ME HARM, but maybe I do. Maybe that’s the prevailing myth of the country at the moment. It’s the story we’re told in every crappy crime show and every lousy movie. I’m not much of a Michael Moore fan, but he sees things. The parts in “Bowling for Columbine” where he fingered media-generated fear as the motivation for all this strapping up? That was dead-on. Of course he screwed it up later in the movie, but he got that right.
So let’s move on. To Katie Couric, helping reverse the gains of medical science. Here’s the promo for a recent show on the HPV vaccine:
The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer … but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls? Meet a mom who claims her daughter died after getting the HPV vaccine, and hear all sides of the HPV vaccine controversy.
Love that weasel word: “Potentially.” More:
On the anti-vaccine side: Couric’s guests included a mother whose daughter died of undetermined causes 18 days after getting the vaccination; another mother and her daughter, who came down with a hodgepodge of symptoms that sound an awful lot like depression a few days after the vaccine; and Dr. Diane Harper, a skeptic of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s push to vaccinate all girls and who is careful to avoid obvious untruths but has been criticized for her involvement in the anti-vaccination movement. On the pro-vaccination side, Couric only hosted one guest, Dr. Mallika Marshall, a ratio that wildly underplays how dominant the pro-vaccination opinion is in the medical profession. Marshall was only given a few minutes to state that vaccines are safe and that the side effects mentioned by other guests were probably unrelated to the vaccine. Unfortunately, Couric and her producers allowed these facts to be totally overshadowed by the heartrending tales told by the two mothers.
I think we need something a little more fun. Lions examine a remote camera somewhere in Africa. Great pix.
And now, let’s get through to the weekend.
Dexter said on December 5, 2013 at 2:34 am
I feel bad for Deanne Westbrook. I had an uncle, 1st Lieutenant Joshua Eberly, shot dead at Chickamauga also, but 150 years ago last September. When we visited the place, a park ranger helped us reconstruct how he probably died, advancing from a protective ridge into the open to fire off a shot, and as he did, was shot dead by a rebel musket ball. Those folks are amazing in how they can reconstruct battles on a bas-relief map in the museum there. It helped that the archives held vivid details of the battle that day, and probably since Uncle Joshua was an officer his name was in the book, and he has a private grave site and stone in the downtown Chattanooga Military Cemetery.
I had a jingling doorknob one particular early morning. Of course you folks know by my posts that I am a night owl. The house was dark but for my lamp on the desk here as I was blogging away. The time was 2:45 AM on post-Christmas night. We had been to Toledo and had just returned home hours before. Not suspecting trouble, I flipped on the living room light and the porch light. I opened the door…there were two very rough-looking women dressed in pulled down wool hats and jean jackets and jeans, matching. The one nearest the door had a pock-marked face and was strikingly reminiscent of Aileen Wuornos. Srsly. Yes.
She looked at me eyes wide open and said, “Oh, we have the wrong house.” Yes she did. I am not scared of guns, I have been trained in guns in the army, but I choose not to have guns. You see why? I very easily could have shot dead those two women, or at least one of them. God would really have to have shown mercy on their souls if they had pulled their little stunt when I was drinking more than a few shots of bourbon every night, years ago. I would have probably been charged with murder if I had killed them when intoxicated.
Got guns? I hope they truly do save your life one day. Please don’t kill anyone that doesn’t need killin’, OK, pardner?
Deborah said on December 5, 2013 at 3:33 am
We had a jiggling door knob in the wee hours in my former life when I lived in St. Louis in an iffy neighborhood. My then husband called out asking the person on the other side what he wanted. The guy answered that he had the wrong house. He was probably drunk and thought he was home a couple of blocks away. I have done this in my building in Chicago, not drunk but just not paying attention. All the floors look alike except for the artwork on the corridor walls. If someone has pushed the button on the elevator for an earlier floor but for some reason got off the elevator, I have, in an oblivious stupor walked to an apartment in the same tier but wrong floor many times, trying to work my key in their lock. So far no one has been home or they haven’t responded to the jiggling key/knob. I guess I’ve been lucky.
David C. said on December 5, 2013 at 7:47 am
At work, every department is given a budget for team building exercises. It’s usually a baseball game or something like that. Well my department decided that a day at the gun range would be perfect. When I said I wouldn’t be going, they asked why not. I told them I don’t own a gun and they were flabbergasted. How do you protect yourself was the usual question. They seem to see demons and goblins everywhere whereas I see the world as a screwed up but mostly benign place. Sure, sometimes bad shit happens, but not so much as to always be pissing my pants with fear. The anti-vaxxer thing is the same. People have fear ginned into them and they go irrational on us. Crime isn’t that high, and vaccines are true miracles. If reporters aren’t giving us that information every time one of these stories comes up they aren’t doing their jobs.
Jolene said on December 5, 2013 at 8:02 am
The Katie Couric story is really disappointing. Given all she has done to encourage testing for colon cancer, you’d think she’d be more cautious about presenting such underjustified reports on medical issues.
And the shooting story from Georgia is heartbreaking. Just unbelievable how many senseless shootings there are in this country–as if that’s news.
coozledad said on December 5, 2013 at 8:06 am
You hope that one day every one of that ALEC crowd will be ripped apart by a sudden burst of self-reflection. But it isn’t going to happen. They’re not
sentient beings, and it doesn’t do any good to pretend they are.
We’ve given our criminal class extraordinary powers.
Oh, and this:
coozledad said on December 5, 2013 at 8:07 am
Ooops. The linky.
alex said on December 5, 2013 at 8:12 am
I think part of my aversion to TV and cinema is the recognition that it can easily overtake one’s grasp on reality. When I was a big consumer of media many years ago, it would cause me enormous anxiety, and when I tuned it out I realized the world was not on the brink of disaster, the sun would continue rising and setting and life would go on just fine. As one who limits his consumption, I find that I’m in the minority whenever conversations turn to the latest hysteria, whether it’s child predators lurking under every bush in the neighborhood, Muslims infiltrating the government, vaccines killing children or turning us all into zombies, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Come to think of it, the zombie metaphor fits this phenomenon to a T.
coozledad said on December 5, 2013 at 8:22 am
Alex: I saw Kurt Vonnegut at Memorial Hall in Chapel kill many years ago, and one of the things he talked about was the way television encouraged people to believe their own lives should follow a dramatic arc. It’s a useful behavioral modification tool to sell them a bunch of shit they don’t need.
ALEC’s bleeding money. That’s got to break the Bushies’ hearts:
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 5, 2013 at 8:24 am
First thing the Marines teach you: put a loaded gun in a man’s hand, and his IQ drops thirty points. (Range instructor doing first safety orientation in boot: “And for some of you, that puts your number into negative digits!”)
Which is why you need training, training, and training. Well-ordered militia and all that.
Kim said on December 5, 2013 at 8:34 am
I was going to say we don’t have any guns but realized we do: a pistol my late grandfather (a classic Chicago drunk and mid-level Outfit operator) claimed was used at the Haymarket riot, some similar-era 5-pound revolver and a rifle that belonged to my husband’s grandfather and was used for hunting animals the family would eat. No ammo in the house, but still. We got guns.
The more active gun owners I know are largely responsible, although I question their safety rationale for owning these weapons. Where we live is just not a dangerous place, at all. Yet I understand it’s allowed, etc.
I do know a few people who own weapons and, despite the safety of our neighborhood, seem eager for the opportunity to use them. That’s what scares the hell out of me when my youngest and his buddies have a bonfire in the backyard, then head into the semirural neighborhood where we live to play manhunt. I try to make sure all the neighbors know the kids are out there but it’s total agita for me until they’re back in the yard.
My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and once, during her 3 a.m. wanderings, escaped the house. A neighbor two blocks over found her, shivering in a nightgown and socks, on their front porch trying to get inside. Thank God the neighbor recognized her from church. It also prompted my father-in-law to listen to his kids about mom needing more care than he could provide at home.
Snarkworth said on December 5, 2013 at 8:35 am
To be fair to Mr. Hendrix, it appears he was being assaulted with junk mail. One can hardly blame him.
beb said on December 5, 2013 at 8:41 am
Whether it’s a 19 year old drunk black girl or a 72 year old senile white guy we need to start making the point that you can’t just shoot people outside your house.
And speaking of Fear Factor, what about the Fox news report that a school in Georgia was confiscating Christmas cards? It wasn’t true, it whipped it a lot of angry and passion towards the school over a sin they didn’t commit and no one is going to pay. Meanwhile Martin Bashir who returned to educate the knuckle-dragging misanthrope from Alaska on the true meaning of slavery has resigned.
Amazon’s idea of delivering packages with small drones naturally slides to the idea of Domino’s offering to delivery pizzas in 15 minutes or less by flying drones with a built-in oven to the pizza can cook en route. And if Domino does it can Little Caesar’s be far behind, leading to a fear of dog-fights over competing pizza delivery drone. Naturally Red Baron pizza will dominate the airspace with their patented ultras-light bi-plane design with synchronized machine guns…
alex said on December 5, 2013 at 8:43 am
Cooz, I got to hear Vonnegut at a lecture at the Printer’s Row Book Fair in Chicago many years ago. When I was younger I was a big fan. He had a very deft hand when it came to humor and though I never cared for sci-fi, I always found it enjoyable when it was used as a vehicle for political and social satire. I don’t have any vivid takeaways from his appearance that day, however.
alex said on December 5, 2013 at 8:47 am
Naturally Red Baron pizza will dominate the airspace with their patented ultras-light bi-plane design with synchronized machine guns…
alex said on December 5, 2013 at 9:02 am
On reflection, gotta give Snarkworth his due as well.
Snarkworth said on December 5, 2013 at 9:05 am
Thanks, Alex! Glad to share. And it’s “her”, by the way. Don’t let the beard fool ya!
alex said on December 5, 2013 at 9:18 am
I’ve know plenty of beards who were “hers.”
Danny said on December 5, 2013 at 9:21 am
Slashdot (new for nerds) has a poll:
Should companies start using drones for common tasks, like package delivery?
A. Absolutely. Can’t wait.
B. Sure, as long as it’s properly regulated.
C. I don’t care either way.
D. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea.
E.No way — they can’t do it safely.
F.No way — they can’t do it ethically.
G. Wait, I could get pizza from magical sky robots?
Peter said on December 5, 2013 at 9:22 am
Delivering pizzas by drone? Oh, I’ve just died and gone to heaven…..
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 9:37 am
I’ve know plenty of beards who were “hers.”
I’m thinkin’ Alex has won back the thread he awarded to Snarkworth and Beb!
Jolene said on December 5, 2013 at 10:09 am
Which is why you need training, training, and training. Well-ordered militia and all that.
The Georgia shooter was a vet of recent vintage, so whatever caution military training supposedly instills didn’t seem to be sufficient in this instance. Really, the more I think about this incident, the madder I get. Seems like a peek out the window could have told him there was only one old, unarmed man out there. Not exactly a situation that justifies an aggressive approach.
coozledad said on December 5, 2013 at 10:22 am
Let’s not place too muchblame on shooters. What we really need are better trained shooting victims. Trayvon Martin should have received instruction on how to take a bullet without damage to vital organs.
Bystanders in NYC need to be reminded with a series of subway posters and street signs that whenever the police shoot at an unarmed suspect, they must stop, drop, and roll to minimize the professional’s distraction from the target. Something short and memorable, like “If the bullet’s not for you, you must let it pass through!” would do it.
coozledad said on December 5, 2013 at 10:26 am
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 10:35 am
Cooz – you gotta admit: with a police department that inept, NYC looks a very great deal like what Ms Palin used to refer to as “Real Amurka”!
beb said on December 5, 2013 at 10:37 am
Wow, I had to check to be sure I was reading Gawker and not The Onion. And you did hear of the kids arrested for being black whi9le waiting for a bus….
Like Alice, I think we have gone through the looking-glass.
Julie Robinson said on December 5, 2013 at 10:45 am
So many good zingers today; I stand in awe.
Have we heard from Dorothy lately? I know she was moving, but it seems like it’s been awhile.
We’re headed off today to visit our daughter in Orlando, who will be installed as Pastor of the Audubon Park Covenant Church on Sunday. My excitement level is as much about escaping cold and dreary weather as it is about the visit itself. High today in the Fort:37, high today in Orlando:84. Yay!
Connie said on December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am
I laughed out loud at the antics of this elf: http://fb-troublemakers.com/inappropriate-elf-on-the-shelf-2482/
Danny said on December 5, 2013 at 11:20 am
The new Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot:
Wow. What a face.
Charlotte said on December 5, 2013 at 11:21 am
My dad had a great friend, fishing guide in northern Wisconsin, who wound up with Alzheimers. Got away one night, and no one could find him. Two days later his daughter woke up from a dead sleep. They found him out at what we all called the “Little Lake” –where he used to take us to see otters. Sitting by a log, peacefully gone. Still makes me tear up. A perfect death, if you will. (Luckily, no one was out there with a gun. Even old and with Alzheimer’s Ray was 6′ 6″ and imposing.)
Ten below here this morning — inside of my car windshield had nearly as much frost on it as the outside. Forget pizza drones, I just want one of those remote-control-car-ignition thingies.
LAMary said on December 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Someone I know well, who has always had guns but made a point of stocking up on bigger scarier guns post Sandy Hook, nearly shot his 16 year old one night. The kid had sneaked out and was sneaking back in. My acquaintance had the gun pointed at his son and was very close to pulling the trigger. This has not deterred him from keeping loaded guns next to and under his bed.
Judybusy said on December 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Charlotte, that was indeed a great way to go.
I really do not understand the mentality of shooting people who come to the door. DON’T OPEN THE DOOR. Call 911. Why is is so hard to understand?
In happier news, I was able to take the dog to the dog park today. We’d gotten our first real snowfall and the temps nose-dived over night as the cloud cover disappeared. So, we had brilliant sun, accompanied by sun dogs today. Mist was rising from the Mississippi, and the thinnest sheets of ice were moving along, then breaking up gently at the shore, little sheets doing summersaults against the rocks. You could hear it gliding along. A day full of beauty.
Also, all the new windows are in place. Wow, it’s so great not feeling drafts. Insulation and siding will happen next week. Gotta go get the guys coffee now–they’re doing the trim wrapping in -12 windchill.
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm
Connie – those were, indeed, pretty good.
The little fellow appears to have the elfin’ magic mojo goin’, in the one where Barbie has that 1000-yard stare (and he maintains the goofy smile) while they’re busy
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm
Judybusy – we did the window-replacement thing, too, and the absence of drafts has been a marvelous thing
susan said on December 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm
While waiting in the long, slow “check-yer-receipt-before-egressing” line at Costco yesterday, I found myself standing next to a wall of huge gun safes. I’d never looked inside one of those, so I took the opportunity to swing open the heavy door of the biggest one. The sign on it said it was a 48-gun safe. Jeebus. Forty-f&%king gubs?? Sure enough, the inside of the door had probably two dozen or so pockets for pistols. The cave-like interior had slots and racks for long-gubs and I suppose for those horrendous assault-type gubs. I gasped out loud to nobody but myself. “F&%k, who the f&%k needs 48 f&%king guns??!” Except the older (meaning mid-seventies or so, but hey, older than I!) woman behind me responded, “My husband has that many.” I turned and looked at her. “Your kidding, right? Why?” She didn’t answer that, but she shook her head, with sadness on her face. “But the poor thing can’t shoot them anymore, what with his bad shoulder and the kick-back.” Whew. Their house might be safe for door knob jigglers.
Basset said on December 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Good place to keep jewelry & other valuables as we’ll, and I suspect a lot of people do. I own way fewer than 48 guns, next security/gun cabinet I buy will have to be waterproof though.
MarkH said on December 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm
Just a bit colder here in the Hole – still 8 below after getting to -21 last night.
Just in case anyone hasn’t heard, there was a massive theft of sign-ons and passwords from all of google, facebook, yahoo, youtube in the last few days:
I am not a regular user of google other than searches, but this morning I was greeted with a notification of a ‘suspisious sign-on attempt’ of my account originating in Seattle. Just finished changing all of my passwords and I suggest you all do the same.
MarkH said on December 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Charlotte said on December 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm
Also — the anti-vacc people make me crazy. My stepmother has fought HPV-caused cancers for 10 years now — which necessitated a hysterectomy and eventually led to her needing a permanent ostomy. We nearly lost her after the ostomy because she couldn’t get her system back online (and she was so depressed and freaked out and feeling disfigured) and she damn near starved to death. Which, since she’s just about the only family I have, well, I go into very gory detail for any of my friends who quail at getting their kids vaccinated (and yes, boys should get the shots too). Completely preventable at this point. And don’t even get me started on these idiots who spread whooping cough around the county … grrr …
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm
The only thing more shocking (SHOCKING!, I say) than Katy Couric’s vapidity is that Florida decided not to prosecute the rapist/star FSU quarterback.
Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply when you’re a woman and your husband wants to beat you, or the star quarterback of the college your tax dollars support wants to rape you?
Joe K said on December 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm
Brian, you might want to go back and study the Duke lacrosse case before making judgment on this kid at fsu. I don’t know the full story nor does anyone else outside the two people involved, he claims consensual, two DNA samples taken from the girl, one identifiable, the other not.
Sherri said on December 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm
Brian, I’ve been as vocal as anybody over the way star football players (or even not so star football players) get away with sexual assault, but this particular case always smelled funny. Ignoring the noise on social media about this case, I never did understand how you get from describing the attacker as around 5’9″ to naming a 6’4″ guy as the perp. Now, apparently they did have sex. But some things just don’t add up.
And the Tallahassee police don’t just cover up Florida State football rapes, or even move slowly on them: http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9360575/greg-dent-florida-state-seminoles-facing-sexual-assault-charges
This doesn’t feel like Notre Dame or Steubenville. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think anybody covered for Winston.
brian stouder said on December 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm
(a concession without the word “but”)
Joe and Sherri – I respect you both and readily concede that I know just-next-to-nothing about this case, other than today’s news.
If I was a juror, I would come in with preconceptions about big-time sports-related cases like this one, and I would have to set them aside and really focus on the case at hand.
Dispassionate consideration of facts is something that I don’t automatically default to – or at least, not as often as I should!
Jolene said on December 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm
Apparently, quite a few people noticed the scientifically spurious discussion of the HPV vaccine on K. Couric’s show. This article refers to lots of online criticism. I wonder if she’ll respond.
MarkH said on December 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm
From WaPo: Nelson Mandela has died. RIP.
Judybusy said on December 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm
I can’t help compare the approach to life lived by Mr. Mandela and all the stand your ground nuts. Or people running corporations that pay so poorly the employees need food stamps or medical assistance. Or the politicians cutting food assistance.
Another palate cleanser. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRSsxfu0F3o&noredirect=1
Sherri said on December 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm
Boeing has sent out a wish list to states wanting to get the 777X production work: http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2022401328_boeing777xrfpxml.html
At $10 billion to provide 8500 jobs, wouldn’t it be cheaper for the states to just pay the 8500 people directly?
MichaelG said on December 5, 2013 at 6:16 pm
Judybusy, you can Boeing to your list.
Jolene said on December 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm
Here’s a link to an essay by Rick Stengel, Mandela’s biographer. Gives, I think, as deep a sense of what it meant to be him as one could do in a page or so. Also a very good video and some old pictures of Mandela in his early years. Very much worth a look.
Deborah said on December 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm
RIP Nelson Mandela. He lived through a lot.
On a lighter note, Coozledad I loved the Yellowbelly link you left here earlier. I wish that would become a viral meme. We need to make those hair-trigger fingered people seem like ridiculous scardy cats afraid of their own shadows.
It’s frigid in Santa Fe, getting colder by the minute. It’s going to get down in the low single digits around here soon. We had about 6″ of snow today.
Basset said on December 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm
Continuing the Medora topic from yesterday, bear with me a minute… Connie, I graduated from high school in Loogootee, about fifty miles west of Medora, and I noticed in the NYT article that the Medora coach’s college coach was someone I knew there. Not that had a whole lot of contact… he was the team manager and I was usually in my room by myself on Friday nights… but I know the area and can claim to have some perspective on the movie. Not gonna pay $10 to download it though, I have seen enough depressing southern Indiana hill scenes in real life.
Connie said on December 5, 2013 at 9:25 pm
No kidding Basset. I lived in Seymour for 14 years, to me it was always just this size of hillbilly country. I did put a branch library in Medora but I hear that in recent years usage has dropped to very low levels.
Dorothy said on December 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm
Hullo from Dayton! Thanks for checking on me, Julie. Two weeks ago today we sold our house, and bought our new house the next day. The movers we worked with were out of Michigan and they were marvelous. I am done unpacking the first floor and most of the upstairs. The basement is another story. Mike and I will work down there this weekend. We were planning that before the forecast. I signed up for unemployment and now the emails have begun. I have no desire to become an insurance sales person, but something in my resume has prompted two companies to declare their undying love for my potential in that regard. Job hunting is much more difficult these days. No one seems to use the newspaper anymore!
Deborah said on December 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm
Good news Dorothy!
basset said on December 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm
Connie, Loogootee had/probably still has a library, but I lived in Crane, up in the other end of the county… in the early 70s we had a bookmobile come through every week or so, don’t remember where it was from.
and we didn’t get the Grand Ole Opry till Monday morning, either.
Jenine said on December 6, 2013 at 10:38 am
Jolene, thank you for the Mandela link. It does give a good overview. He had the ability to be a symbol, that takes a lot of self sacrifice.