People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee

I can remember giving the ACLU credit back in 1977 when it came to the defense of the American Nazi Party when the dimwits decided to stage a march through heavily Jewish Skokie, Illinois. Though much of the enlightened liberal left among us opposed the nazis' right to peaceably assemble (I can't remember where I picked up that phraseology ...), and a slew of the ACLU's own members resigned in protest, America's premier civil liberties organization stood firm. I was proud of them.

As someone wrote a while back: "The First Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech, because nobody ever tries to ban the other kind.” The same applies to one who wishes
to peaceably assemble.

With that having been said, my guess is, when the Floyd County Woman's Club held its Floyd County Arts and Crafts Festival last weekend, nobody complained about those vendors who were selling pots and whatnot. Why would they?

Just as nobody (I'm hoping) complained about the Muslim vendor who showed up yesterday at the Bland County Festival of the Leaves here in Bland selling copies of the Koran and Allah God knows what else. (I'll also venture a quess that his proceeds at the end of the day didn't pay for the gas to get him here from Georgia). He set up his booth. He was ignored.
We all survived the experience and had fun.

Well, a columnist for the Roanoke Times has a big problem this morning with someone selling published material at the Floyd County Arts and Crafts Festival with whom he disagrees.

He wants the vendor - who happens to also be the author - banned:
Racism doesn't belong at a crafts festival
By Christian Trejbal

Gary Walker has been a regular vendor for years. He's an amateur historian who self-publishes books about the Civil War and sells them at the event.

He's also a racist.

His revisionist history warms the hearts of some modern Confederates. After wading through his book, "The Truth about Slavery," I only felt dirty.

Walker is entitled to write his books, self-publish them and spread his message ...

The Woman's Club had consulted an attorney who said the group's bylaws do not allow it to single out a vendor based on his views.

Then change the bylaws. The club is a private group that has no obligation to give Walker a forum. (link)

Trejbal is right, of course, about the club's legal obligations. The leadership can ban any craftsman they want to ban.

But Steinbeck might have had something to say about such actions. As would Aldous Huxley. Faulkner. Arthur Miller. Walt Whitman. Salinger. Even J.K. Rowling. They too had, in one way or another, at one point in time in America's history or another, by one do-gooder organization or another, found their works to be banned. Were we the better for it?

If this columnist had left his admonition in the realm of challenging Walker's facts and interpretations, he would have been on solid ground (although I'm perplexed by the "... as long as people like Walker go unchallenged, we all share his shame" declaration), but he wants the author - and therefore his work - banned.

In the United States of America.

In the year of our Lord 2007.

My my my.

* I suppose it is in order for me to personally thank the organizers of the Bland Festival of the Leaves for being more enlightened than Roanoke Times columnist Christian Trejbal for having allowed one of Louis Farrakhan's followers to peaceably sell his literature without incident or calls for the man's scalp. But then there probably weren't too many liberals wandering in downtown Bland yesterday looking for reasons to be offended and authors to be banned. Most of us were there to enjoy ourselves ... and the funnel cakes.

Damned If You Do. Damned If You Don't.

I passed up the opportunity to comment on this story yesterday. But this morning Roanoke Times columnist Shanna Flowers decided to jump into the fray, so I find myself wanting to as well.

The story has to do with race (again ...), fact-gathering, and related reporting:

A group of parents angered by a letter sent home from schools has formulated questions for Bristol Virginia school officials *
By Khristopher J. Brooks, Bristol Herald Courier

In [a] letter attached to student report cards last Wednesday, school administrators explained that some of the middle school’s black students and students with disabilities didn’t score high enough on their statewide reading and math exams – respectively. And the low scores prevented the school from attaining yearly progress in the No Child Left Behind program.

After reading the one-page letter, many parents were outraged at its wording. About 30 parents met Tuesday night at Lee Street Baptist Church to discuss how they might approach school leaders about the issue later this month.

The letter states: "Based on the preliminary data released by the Virginia Department of Education, Bristol Virginia Public Schools did not make AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] for 2007-2008 in reading performance by black students."

"Virginia Middle School did not make AYP in reading performance by black students and math performance by students with disabilities. All other schools within the division made AYP," the letter states.

"I’m not trying to intentionally call this a racist situation, but in my heart, I truly think it is," said Valerie Fugate. (link)

I agree with Valerie, though my guess is she doesn't find it to be a "racist situation" involving a government mandate that student achievement statistics be collected and categorized by the racial makeup of the children, and be reported to the government bureaucracy. She just didn't want the reporting reported to the parents. I'm guessing too that she wouldn't have a problem with the same letter having gone out if it had extolled the achievements of the targeted children.

The article didn't mention one word of protest that the letter addressed the underachievements of "students with learning disabilities" even though it did. Selective outrage in such instances is not at all unusual. Nor is it endearing.

But my question, as I read this news, was: Why do we collect data by race? Doesn't that fall into the classic definition of the word segregation? Weren't wars fought and won over just such government attitudes toward racial identification?

I feel for the school administrator. He or she is obligated by law to gather this kind of information, to respond to it, and disseminate it. But God help him if the information doesn't sit well with parents. The same parents who acquiesce to such government intrusion in their lives.

You don't want to have the (embarrassing) facts be made public? Demand that the facts not be gathered in such a manner in the first place. We are Americans one and all, with slightly different colorations.

You can't be black when you want to be.

Here's to Shanna Flowers, by the way. To her credit:
My pointed question to the parents are (sic): What are they doing to help raise the test scores?

The letter was bush league, but I won't let parents off the hook. Kids need to arrive in class fed, well-rested and ready to learn.
Notice she wrote "parents." Not black parents. We're all in this together.

* Could you fellas get someone to write headlines?

Quote Of The Day

From James Taranto:
[Al] Gore became only the second former U.S. vice president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first was Theodore Roosevelt, 101 years ago. (A sitting veep, Charles Dawes, also won in 1926.) A comparison between Roosevelt's prize and Gore's shows how far the Nobel Peace Prize has strayed from its original purpose: Roosevelt won the prize for negotiating a peace treaty between Russia and Japan. Gore won it for something that has nothing to do with peace.
"Defining Peace Down," The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2007

GOP To Decide GOP Candidate

A strange header, I know.

But when we here in Virginia allow Democrats to cross over and vote in Republican primaries - and vice versa - as we have in the past, you really don't get a GOP candidate. You get a ragbag. In fact you get Emmett Hanger.

I have advocated that we replace the open primary system that we have in place with a party nominating convention. I would, by the same token, have been just as satisfied with a closed primary (which would have kept liberal Democrats from getting Hanger the Republican nomination in June up in Augusta).

So consider me satisfied:
Virginia GOP opts against primary
By Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times

Richmond — Virginia's Republican State Central Committee yesterday voted to hold a convention rather than a primary to pick the party's nominee to replace retiring Sen. John W. Warner next year.

In a convention, thousands of grass-roots party activists — many who have a conservative bent — select the nominee.

The convention to decide the party's nominee is expected to be held sometime in the spring, but officials did not set a date yesterday. (link)
Much of the article deals with the struggle (real or imagined) between former Governor Jim Gilmore and his conservative faction, and Congressman Tom Davis and his liberal faction (that was counting on Democrat support in an open primary). Whatever.

This is a good and proper decision.

Republicans are going to determine who the Republican Party's nominee is going to be. Let the best Republican win.

Can Anyone Write For The Times?

New York Times columnist Frank Rich is a delusional, hysterical nut. The Gestapo for God's sake.

Can Anyone Write For The Times? II

According to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Crazy Al Gore is a uniter and George Bush is such the divider. I think he's serious. As to whether he has a drug habit ...

Update: I misunderstood the thrust of Friedman's column. He's advising us that Al Gore has united the entire editorial staff at the New York Times. Now I understand. Apologies.

How Low Will A Politician Go?

I happen to know Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Centreville). He's a stand-up guy. And he's not a slippery, untrustworthy politician, an attribute that sets him apart from most. Including his Democratic opponent, it now appears.

Because I know Mr. Hugo to be two cuts above most others, I was rather shocked when I received an email this morning (a portion of which I reproduce below) to find that his challenger, some upstart named Rex Simmons, had made the most defamatory (and, on their face, ridiculous) charges about Tim's character and past.

I don't know who this Simmons person is but we have enough slimeballs like him wandering the halls of the capital. We don't need to add another.

The email is actually a copy of a letter that went to Governor Kaine:

The Honorable Tim Kaine
Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Dear Governor Kaine:

In the time that I have known you, while we have not always agreed on every political issue, I have always found you to be a decent man of sound character.

Thus, I was extremely surprised and disappointed that the Democratic Party of Virginia, with you as titular head, has chosen to libelously accuse me of being a under
investigation, being a war profiteer, and of being complicit in torturing Iraqi citizens. My opponent, Rex Simmons, hopefully without your approval and support, has stated that I have helped to bring “us the horrors of Abu Ghraib” Iraqi prison torture.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble, full contact sport. But, for most people, there is a line of decency that you simply do NOT cross. Falsely accusing a sitting Member of the Virginia House of Delegates – or any Virginian for that matter – of criminal acts and of being complicit in atrocities against another human being crosses that line of decency.

As a good father, I ask you to consider how you would respond when a child or family member asks you why someone would falsely accuse you of complicity in human orture. As a man of honor, I call on you to direct the Democratic Party of Virginia to issue a retraction and an apology to me and my family.

Tim Hugo
Virginia's 40th District
If this Simmons lowlife is capable of making such slanderous charges, he probably lacks the necessary integrity to apologize for them. As for the Governor ...

So Now We're Encouraging People To Smoke?

I've made mention - more than once - about the fact that the Democrats' plan to expand government-run health care to the middle classes (SCHIP) was going to be financed in part by a dramatic increase in cigarette taxes. What I didn't realize was that, in order to finance $35 million worth of welfare so that moderately affluent Americans can receive their health care coverage for free, we'll be needing to encourage youngsters to take up the tobacco habit.

The news:
Catholics target three over 'life issue'
By Gregg Krupa, The Detroit News

Some Catholics in Metro Detroit are organizing a media and Internet blitz against three local members of Congress, saying the representatives' stand against a Democratic proposal to finance the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- known as MIChild in Michigan -- is inconsistent with their vow to oppose abortion rights.

A campaign of radio advertisements and e-mails to the offices of Reps. Joseph Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township; Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia; and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, is to begin Monday.

Trent Wisecup, Knollenberg's chief of staff, called the Democratic proposal "a pile of loose parts." Some $35 million in new revenue for the program would be generated from taxing tobacco use, Wisecup said. But that amount would be realized only if 22 million Americans begin smoking.

"Everyone is for health care for kids," he said. "They cannot pay for it without a rigged tax increase that requires 22 million more Americans to become smokers." (link) [my emphasis]
To you poor folks here in Appalachia, a message: Light 'em if you got 'em. And encourage your children to as well. There are some rich kids up in the Big City who need their free doctor checkups and you're now their sugar daddy.

Maybe It's His Left-Wing Politics

Because of their politics, and the fact that they wear their Bush-hating, anti-military, left-wing biases on their sleeves, there's a small handful of Hollywood types that I'd rather not see succeed at the box office. They somehow equate a movie's gross revenue with personal popularity and therefore I do my part to prevent overblown egos. I want them to fail.

I avoid their movies.

Perhaps I'm not alone. From Deadline Hollywood Daily:

Tyler Perry, Joaquin Phoenix, And Mark Wahlberg All Beat George Clooney Friday

Everyone knew Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married would do well at the box office this weekend. But certainly not well enough to double the gross receipts of Triple-A List star George Clooney's adult legal drama Michael Clayton. Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg in We Own The Night also beat Clooney Friday. It's now abundantly clear that Clooney's donmestic popularity as an actor isn't what the media or Hollywood thinks it is. After all, his Warner movie is one of the
best reviewed this early fall (90% on Rotten Tomatoes). But except for his ensemble movies -- the franchise Ocean's 11, 12 & 13 or A Perfect Storm or Batman & Robin-- not one George Clooney-starring movie has ever opened big at the domestic box office despite plenty of hype. (link)

Any correlation? Who knows.

But I'll not go see Clooney's movie. Because of his politics. I'll wait until the local public library gets it and I'll watch it for free. Which is the value of George Clooney's opinions - and therefore his movies - to me.