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Posts Tagged ‘UVA’

There’s a big Georgian building in Ivy I’ve mentioned before, it’s an offshoot of UVA that offers free and open forums to citizens every month with leaders on the world stage. Its mission is to decode public policy for the rest of us, and its “American Forum” can be viewed on PBS – if there is still a PBS in the future:

“At the Miller Center, we strive to illuminate presidential and political history accurately and fairly. To shine a light on all the ways our democracy has worked—and all the times America has struggled. To inspire America’s leaders with unbiased insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.” https://millercenter.org

Because I felt like I needed some illuminating, I bid farewell to Bob, who was waiting at home for painters, and drove into town to hear Gerald F Seib (Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor and Chief Commentator) pontificate on presidential power at the Miller Center. As makeup artists powdered their faces, and the lights dimmed for filming, American Forum’s host, Douglas Blackmon, prepared to interview Seib about Donald Trump. The room was so packed I was squeezed onto a pew sitting sidesaddle. Seniors and students alike, we were all eager to understand Trumpland.

Seib told us that reaching out directly to US citizens is nothing new, that President Obama actually liked to cut out the main stream media and talk to real people. Utilizing Twitter however is a new phenomena.  Labeling media the “…enemy of the American people” is not just new, it’s dangerous. He called Trump a “Master at Communicating,” in that he creates bright shiny objects (Tweets) every day in order to control the media.

Seib also told us time and again that we must take everything a President says seriously; when his aides tell us not to take his statements – like the wiretapping charge against Obama – literally, we the public and the media must still consider his words seriously. The surveillance charge is a diversion, it puts the others (his media enemies) on the defensive.

And although I like to think the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted (Scotty Reston), Seib told us that reporters need to explain and put into context a leader’s words. His job is to analyze in depth, to find the meaning and illuminate facts. He emphasized the one thing journalists have is our credibility, ditto for presidents, then he asked us how will we know when to take Trump seriously – if everything he says isn’t?

I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

He did acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ years ago, but insisted that his editorial pages have been critical of Trump. And he told us about some memos that had been circulating; saying it’s fine to call certain statements “False” but not “Lies,” not until they are proven to have come from a person’s conscious intent…“and nobody has skirted around facts like Donald Trump.”

Seib warned reporters not to let their attitude substitute for the facts. In other words, don’t become the story you were covering. Harder and harder to do these days I imagine. With UVA Communications majors sitting in the orchestra seats, Blackmon asked what one piece of advice he would give to a young journalist today. “Be honest!”

Seib went on to say he would tell Mr T he must be careful not to devalue his currency (ie credibilty) and to understand and accept that a free press is good for democracy and he should not diminish it!

In short, the Bully Pulpit is still real, it exists and it’s easier than ever to get everybody’s attention. And today, similar to Nixon’s Watergate era, we reporters must be willing to, “…suspend disbelief”…one story at a time. In order to write about the news today we must  “temporarily accept as believable, events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html        Yes sir, that’s the best definition of Trumpland so far!

Let’s hope Mr T doesn’t lay his hands on Angela Merkel while he’s talking trade with Germany. No shoulder rubs for the President who grabs you know what. Seriously. And let’s also hope Tillerson does no harm in Asia. Although he refused to bring the press with him, so how will we know? Not to worry, Andrea Mitchell is on the job.  This is the season to lay mulch at the feet of Buddha, and have faith that North Korea doesn’t take Tillerson seriously.

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In local Blue Ridge news, the Rolling Stone “Rape on Campus” trial is winding down. UVA Associate Administrator Nicole Eramo is suing the iconic rock magazine for 7.5 Million in a defamation lawsuit. Our little Cville courthouse has been hosting lots of Yankee traffic this week because Eramo, who was the person in charge of coordinating the school’s response to students claiming sexual assault or harassment, would like to prove the reporter and editors acted with malice.  

“Actual malice is a legal standard, loosely defined in this scenario to mean that Rolling Stone knew that information they were publishing was false, but they proceeded to publish it anyway.” 

Yesterday Sean Woods, an editor at Rolling Stone for 17 years, took the stand. And we learned that he meant to add an addendum to the original article, stating that the other witnesses refused to be interviewed in person for fear of reprisal (meaning their corroboration of “Jackie’s” statements after the alleged rape were hearsay). He really meant to add this, but he forgot!

This would seem unlikely. I might forget where I left my cellphone, but every editor I ever knew would never forget something like that. You must be a little OCD to be an editor; in fact, you may have to be certifiably OCD to do that kind of work. However, Woods stood by his criticism of the administrator, stating Eramo was a public figure and therefore subject to scrutiny…which is almost like saying, “Yeah we screwed up, but so did she, nah nah nah.” Oh and he also tried to resign, but they didn’t let him.

I wonder if being forgetful is the same as being malicious, only in a passive aggressive way?

Now y’all know I’m a card carrying feminist, a proud “nasty” woman, and if a woman cries rape, or “He kissed me against my will with a mouth full of Tic Tacs,” I will tend to believe her. But when the Columbia School of Journalism investigated this infamous rape on campus article and found it to be riddled with problems, I had to think twice. Or, as the Flapper always said, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.”

The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here. Erdely (the reporter) believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked. Like many other universities, UVA had a flawed record of managing sexual assault cases. Jackie’s experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern. Her story seemed well established on campus, repeated and accepted.   http://www.cjr.org/investigation/rolling_stone_investigation.php

Journalists everywhere have learned their lesson from this case. Just because someone sounds like they are telling you the truth and only the truth, and you want to be sensitive to a rape victim, you must still verify the story. Even though independent news outlets have been gobbled up by mega media corporations, and so many beat reporters have been eliminated from courthouses and borough halls, and the world of “putting to bed” a story at midnight in newsprint, has changed to an online rush of clicks and scathing comments…this one basic truth remains. 

I was taught to get at least 3 corroborating interviews on any story. Fact checking is a basic technique that we the readers must demand, particularly considering our own confirmation bias, in this world of Trumped-up half-truths. I thought you might enjoy some of my old campaign buttons.  http://www.poynter.org/2016/its-time-to-fact-check-all-the-news/426261/  img_5487

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While looking at colleges for the Rocker, we stopped by my alma mater. After the proverbial backward-walking tour, I dragged him into the library. I remember being told that each graduate’s senior thesis would be stored there permanently, until the end of time, and my young self thought, “Hey, this writing thing is cool!”

Sitting with him, we poured through the old-school paper, and I could see he wasn’t all that impressed. After all, there were numbers and graphs and charts, and psycho-babble about what those statistics meant. I had spent the better part of a year testing a group of deaf children to find out how the development of language influenced cognition. His eyes remained focused on the middle-distance. Then I said,

“You know I did all of this by hand, right? We didn’t have computers.”

The Rocker grew up with personal computers. Not just at school, but at home Bob was a very early adapter. Granted they were bigger, and cumbersome, but we were like that family that got the first color TV on the street. Or maybe the first black and white. So it was no surprise to see how well the Rocker could integrate his God-given musical talent with technology. That pioneering spirit came straight from his genes, from a Dad who never stayed within any line he ever saw.

In fact, when people ask whatever would Bob do if he retires, I think to myself, he will always be hungry – he will never be afraid to be foolish.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish” was imprinted on the back cover of the last old school paper edition of the bible of innovators, The Whole Earth Catalog. This book turns 45 years old today – a mere blip in time – but it was like Google before personal computers, and its creative genius was Stewart Brand. The single most influential guy in Steve Jobs’ universe.

…it’s almost impossible, to flick through the pages of the Catalog and recapture its newness and radicalism and potentialities. Not least because the very idea of a book changing the world is just so old-fashioned. Books don’t change anything these days. If you want to start a revolution, you’d do it on Facebook. And so many of the ideas that first reached a mainstream audience in the Catalog – organic farming, solar power, recycling, wind power, desktop publishing, mountain bikes, midwife-assisted birth, female masturbation, computers, electronic synthesizers – are now simply part of our world, that the ones that didn’t go mainstream (communes being a prime example) rather stand out.   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/05/stewart-brand-whole-earth-catalog?CMP=share_btn_tw

Maybe Bob will start the first commune/co-housing community for old Boomers and revolutionize the continuingcare/assistedliving/nursinghome industry? I can see it now, the Rolling Stones and Parlor Mob playing in the dining barn.

As for me, there will always be meals to prepare. We celebrated a friend’s graduation yesterday from UVA. An amazing wife and mom of three, Michelle is an exceptional NICU nurse who completed her doctoral thesis and will Walk the Lawn today. Congratulations Michelle, my former roller derby cohort, you are inspirational on so many levels for young women today.

And of course, since we are always hungry, I made lobster pot pies!  IMG_4435

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Lately I’ve felt like my gender has been under attack. I’m not talking about the anti-women, anti-choice legislation that can strangle any hope of progress on sex trafficking up on the Hill. This is a more subtle, incendiary scheme – the media’s role in humiliating women. Let’s talk briefly about an intern.

Monica Lewinsky delivered a TED talk, and by all accounts it was something worth seeing. She talked about having to deal with becoming a pariah in her early 20s, the punch line of a joke. And she talked about cyber-bullying on a monumental scale: “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”

I thought to myself, she really did have an “A” branded to her chest. She didn’t ask for that, she simply confided in the wrong person. I wonder how many young women JFK corralled in the White House, BI (before internet)? How many young women are seduced by older men, say their professors, and maybe what comes of it is a May-December wedding, or maybe not. Certainly not front-page fodder for years.

Yesterday I caught the end of our Police Chief’s news conference on the investigation and fall-out of the Rolling Stone article last November. Don’t get me wrong, I happen to adore Chief Longo. But, he managed to politely say that they interviewed over 70 people and maybe something terrible did happen, but they found no evidence of a crime.

We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said at a news conference. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/03/23/charlottesville-police-to-issue-report-on-u-va-sex-assault-investigation/

A female reporter asked the Chief if this conclusion may have a “chilling effect” going forward for victims of rape. He paused, and reiterated the many levels of support the University has for these women (“and sometimes men” he added), and that if bringing a criminal charge was going to be the next step, that time would be of the essence. Which sounded alot to me like, first go through the University system and only come to us IF you really want to proceed with a very messy criminal case; and don’t think about it over the weekend, or for two weeks or two years. Oh and btw, go to the ER right away in order to gather evidence.

All of this sounds good, but imagine if you are 18 and not wanting to admit what just happened. Not wanting to tell your parents, let alone a dean, or the police. In “Jackie’s” case, even her supposed friends remembered that night differently. You begin by blaming yourself, and move up the humiliation ladder slowly. If only you didn’t drink; if only you didn’t go to his room; if only you stayed with your friends.

Just recently the secret Facebook page of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University came to light with its pictures of nude, unconscious girls, drugs and hazing incidents. Why should we act surprised. Even today, long after my generation fought for our rights, it’s the woman who does the “walk of shame,” not the man. And in our anonymous world of social media, that walk only gets longer and can go on forever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/maryanngeorgantopoulos/penn-state-students-demand-university-suspend-people-with-ac#.ddZyg9ExxP

I’d call this culture very chilling indeed. Boys, here are some basic rules: DON’T RAPE, and don’t hack, post or share nude or any other pictures of girls without their consent. Newspapers used to end up in bird cages, public scandal and shaming had its limitations. Today, we need to think twice before throwing virtual stones. CAjYZ3ZWUAAXzen

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So it’s Sunday, and while just about everyone I know is melting Velveeta and salsa together for Super Bowl munchies, let’s talk about the game that really matters – basketball!

Last night my beloved Blue Devils came from behind to beat the Cavaliers 69 to 63 right here in Cville at John Paul Jones Arena. Y’all know that Bob went to Duke, and the Bride graduated from Duke when Shane Battier was the major heart throb. We also had a close cousin go to Duke Medical School. So you can see that we come from a long line of Cameron Crazies, that our blood runs Blue – and royal blue, not that wimpy Carolina blue.

Even if the Bride went to UVA Med and we’ve been living and working in Wahooville for nearly a decade, this hasn’t changed my allegiance.

What, you didn’t know I was competitive? Didn’t I tell you about my halcyon basketball days at Camp St Joseph for Girls? This is about as close any woman my age can come to understanding warfare. That tight band of brothers/sisters we fought with, running up and down those pine planks; sweating, grunting, shoving, grimacing and feeling like our hearts were about to explode. I loved basketball, with a capital B!

Football, meeh.

Anyway, last night Duke delivered a must-see game if you’d like to know what it takes to win. And here’s the simple trick that I first heard about back there on Lake St Joseph, it’s called making “fast break points,” or REBOUND. When the opposing team has the ball, and they take that lay-up shot and it bounces off the rim, that’s your cue. You jump higher. You take possession of the ball. And you run like hell down the court. Swoosh. Their loss becomes your gain.

Time and time again, you keep on doing this, because you see all the other players are still trying to unstick their eyes from that near-miss basket, pivot their feet to go the other way, and stay in the game. Their brains are stuck for a second, and the smart team takes advantage of that. They end up in their court with most of the guards still shaking their heads on the other side of the center line…

Virginia lost their first game in 21 home games to a packed stadium last night decked out in orange. And Duke was behind for a good portion of the time, that’s another secret – You just never give up! “Duke’s 11-possession, 28-point explosion in the final eight minutes against Virginia turned the game — and perhaps the state of the ACC race — on its head.” cores.espn.go.com/ncb/recap?gameId=400587955

So, bring it Super Bowl. In my mind you just cannot compete with Travelocity’s Gnome, who was making the rounds in Cville this weekend. Life lessons aren’t learned in a feudal football jersey, with concussion injuries and too many sexual and domestic assault cases involving players in the news:

“The crime was horrific and the verdict stunningly swift. Two former Vanderbilt University football players are facing the possibility of decades in prison after it took a jury less than four hours to convict them for their roles in a 2013 sexual assault of an unconscious woman. Two more former football players await trial.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/us/vanderbilt-rape-trial-didnt-stir-students-on-campus.html?_r=0

Lessons happen when we reach higher and run faster than any opponent. And when we can find a gnome at Bodo’s!

Twitter: @roaminggnome

Twitter: @roaminggnome

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The talk of the town is last night’s article about Greek life and the nuanced acceptance of a rape culture at UVA. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119?page=6

It’s a long and grueling read interspersed with an old Rugby Road drinking song which was only recently banned from football games. It tells the story of a First Year girl who was brutally gang raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party in 2012. She tells her friends and a Dean and is gently persuaded not to press charges for a myriad of reasons – her reputation, loyalty to the school and fear of not rushing a sorority, ruining the boys’ lives and on and on.

Last night that fraternity house on Rugby Road was vandalized. I imagine some group of angry young women was seeking revenge. President Sullivan has issued a statement that appears to be too little and way too late.

I was a freshman at Emerson College in 1966 in Boston. But we had a curfew in our dorms and the trolleys and underground MTA stopped working at midnight. It was a different age, but the drinking games at MIT across the Charles were the same. The consequences were a bit different. Girls got married quickly pre-birth control. Some obtained illegal abortions and had their fertility compromised. Some may have been raped, but I didn’t know or hear of anyone victimized in that way.

And Time wants to ban the word “Feminism.”

It’s hard to read that young men can still behave like they are entitled to sexual favors simply because they belong to an elite Greek brotherhood at this prestigious public university.

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How to Evade Ebola by Flying Yourself!

A man for all seasons, Bob is also a private pilot. I haven’t flown with him in awhile, for many reasons. But mostly it’s because the weather has to be perfect, and I have to have a destination in mind. Like the Love Bug. You won’t find me flying over to Newport News for lunch. And also there’s this, I just don’t like flying! But yesterday, I squeezed myself into the plane.

Pre-flight Check

Pre-flight Check

Me:  The interior looks great! Ouch, oh yeah I forgot I’ve got to take my earrings off before I put the headset on. Thinking to myself – Let’s see where can I stow them? Can’t reach my bag in the back… wait, I’ll just clip them onto my necklace.

Bob:  What? Here you’ve got to have the mic right up to your mouth, like this, like you’re kissing it

Me:  OK, are we clear? What about those clouds?

Bob:  We’re clear to 9,000 ft. Those clouds are around 5

Me:  Good, so it’s smooth sailing?

And it was pretty smooth, the clouds underneath us looked like marshmallow fluff, until I noticed a little red button light up and Bob started fooling around, quickly, and he’s never quick in the cockpit, with the throttle and the landing gear

Me:  What’s up? (said meekly and like I didn’t know something was wrong). Thinking to myself – we are 9,000 ft in the air and the landing gear isn’t supposed to come down until we descend in another 200 miles or so

Bob:  We’re just going to slow down a little  

Me:  Straining to read the red button on Bob’s panel – WARNING GEAR UNSAFE!   

Warning Light

Warning Light

Bob:  The door’s probably not fully closing (the Piper Arrow has retractable wheels, and the doors to said wheels were just replaced in its annual)

Me:  Thinking to myself – So this is it, we’ll have to fly around the airport to burn off all the fuel and then land on foam, if Charlottesville even has foam to put down on the runway, and we’ll make the local news, there will be fire trucks…

Bob:  We’ve got three green (which means all three wheels have come down) so it’s not a problem.

For an emergency physician/pilot, nothing is a problem. These people are the epitome of cool under pressure. Remember the voice recording of Sully landing in the Hudson? That’s Bob, telling me there’s nothing to worry about.

It wasn’t like flying around the Jersey Shore this time of year, with its kaleidoscope of pink and red cranberry bogs. But it was autumn in the Shenandoah Valley and beautiful just the same. It is also Homecoming weekend for UVA, so yesterday we landed amid the Big Jets with all their private pilots in uniform hanging around talking about who was getting enough sleep.

There wasn’t another plane in the sky all the way from Nashville, but three hours later and finally on the ground – all three green down – our little four-seater Piper was the poor relative to the top 1% of the 1% of alums flying in to see the Hoos play the Heels.

Me:  Perfect landing. Thanks honey, that beats 9 hours in the car!

Bob:  Smiling, thinking to himself – I’m gonna call that mechanic first thing Monday morning.  IMG_1478

 

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