Tag Archives: schools

Political Cartoon of the Week – May 28, 2022

RJ Matson

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Videos of the Week – May 28, 2022

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t want to contend with the brutal honesty of a Sky News reporter, so he reacts how cowards always do – he walks away.

Steve Kerr is the head coach of the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team.  In this video, he delivers a personal message following the Uvalde school shooting.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Tweets of the Week – May 28, 2022

Paul Gosar

As noted, Gosar deleted this Tweet.

Tomi Lahren

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Most Hypocritical Quote of the Week – May 28, 2022

“What happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy that cannot be tolerated in the state of Texas.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, about the shooting in Uvalde, Texas

In 2019, Abbott signed into law a bill allowing gun purchases without a license.  Two years later he signed another bill into law lowering the age requirement for a firearms purchase from 21 to 18.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Worst Quotes of the Week – May 28, 2022

In the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting, there were so many idiotic comments made by conservative politicians and other right-wing dumbasses it was tough to highlight them all.  But here are a few.

“The President of the United States. Frail, confused, bitterly partisan, desecrating the memory of recently murdered children with tired talking points of the Democratic Party. Dividing the country in a moment of deep pain, rather than uniting. His voice rising, amplified only as he repeats the talking points he repeated for over 35 years in the Senate. Partisan politics being the only thing that animates him. Unfit to lead this country.”

Tucker Carlson, responding to President Biden’s comments after the Uvalde school shooting

“I want to be very, very clear tonight.  President Biden appeared on camera tonight for less than eight minutes, not because he believed that his words would comfort the families or the friends of the victims, not because he believed that he would calm what are obviously frayed nerves of a worried nation, parents who are worried.  And he didn’t do it to unite America in this time of grief.  No, he did not.  He spoke tonight because politics is selfish.  Because in today’s twisted world, it’s considered perfectly appropriate to exploit the massacre of innocent little kids in order to try to turn around your own sagging poll members.  Today, Reuters/Ipsos has Biden at the lowest approval of his presidency, 36%. So this attempt at political resuscitation on Biden’s part, it’s despicable.”

Laura Ingraham, about Biden’s comments on the Uvalde massacre

“We need to celebrate our culture.  We need to celebrate Americanism, we need to celebrate the Judeo-Christian principles that went into the founding of this nation.  And if you’re not Jewish, you’re not Christian, there’s no reason to take offense.  You came here, a family member came here because of the nature of the country.  You fled.  You don’t have to be Jewish or Christian but facts are facts. It was founded on a Judeo-Christian belief system which embraces Western civilization and the Renaissance, the Reformation, and all these things.  It’s not so terrible to have a prayer in school, is it?  Even a silent prayer.  To think about a higher authority, learn the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments are common sense.”

Fox News host Mark Levin, discussing the Uvalde shooting on his radio show

“Having one point of entry and making it more difficult for people even to get in that point of entry and having – potentially – teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed because first responders typically can’t get there in time to prevent a shooting.  This is just not possible unless you have a police officer on every campus, which for a lot of these schools is almost impossible.  You’re going to have to do more at the school because it typically involves very short periods of time and you have to have people trained on campus to react.”

Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, speaking on Newsmax after the Uvalde shooting

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Best Quotes of the Week – May 28, 2022

“Tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them. Give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now. As a nation, we have to ask — when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”

President Joe Biden, about the Uvalde massacre

“If our ethics are not consistent with respecting human life, period, no matter color, language, religion, profession, way of life – life is life – then we are not pro-life.”

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, San Antonio, about the Uvalde massacre

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Best Quotes of the Week – April 30, 2022

“When billionaires talk about freedom, watch your wallets.  Behind Elon Musk’s blather about free markets, free speech, and free choice is his goal to be free from accountability.”

Robert Reich, regarding Elon Musk’s recent takeover of Twitter

Reich went on to say: “The “free market” increasingly reflects the demands of big money. Unfriendly takeovers, such as Musk threatens to mount at Twitter, weren’t part of the “free market” until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before then, laws and regulations constrained them. Then came corporate raiders like Carl Icahn and Michael Milken. Their MO was to find corporations whose assets were worth more than their stock value, borrow against them, acquire enough shares to force them to cut costs (such as laying off workers, abandoning their communities, busting unions, and taking on crushing debt), and cash in. But the raiders’ antics often imposed huge social costs. They pushed America from stakeholder capitalism (where workers and communities had a say in what corporations did) to shareholder capitalism (where the sole corporate goal is to maximize shareholder value). Inequality skyrocketed, insecurity soared, vast swaths of America were abandoned, and millions of good jobs vanished.”

“In the end, if Jimmy and Susie are curious about any of the above, they can do what everyone else does – get a room at the Motel Six and grab the Gideons.”

Chaz Stevens, a Florida resident who has asked the state to remove the Christian Bible from schools and public libraries because its content is inappropriate for children

He took issue with the many Biblical references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism and infanticide and proceeded to question whether the Bible is age-appropriate, pointing to its “casual” references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication.  “Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?”

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Book Less

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [‘hard-core pornography’], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964

You know the old puzzle: if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?  Using that logic, if a book is published, and no one finds its content offensive, is it obscene?

Obscenity seems to be subjective.  Right-wing extremists certainly feel that way, as they have (once again) assumed the role of moral overseer and decided they have the authority to determine what books are and are not appropriate for others to read.  To we writers and other artists, the term censorship is like holy water to a devil worshiper: it’s terrifying!  Whenever we learn that some people are challenging the presence of certain materials in a public venue, such as a library, we bristle.  But, instead of running and hiding, we’ve been known to stand and fight.

In the latest battle, the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee decided to ban the 1986 Art Spiegelman book “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” from its library.  The illustrated tome is Spiegelman’s recounting of his parents’ experiences as prisoners of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.  It won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize and, in 1992, the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition displaying his original panels for the story“Maus” had been party of the school district’s lessons on the Nazi Holocaust.  The McMinn school board’s complaints about “Maus” are the usual gripes: language and nudity (animal nudity in this case).

It’s worth noting McMinn County, Tennessee is near the location of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, where the concept of evolution became intensely controversial.  In 1925 the state of Tennessee passed the Butler Act, a bill banning the teaching of evolution in its schools.  Evolution, declared legislators, contradicted the Christian Bible as the single standard of truth in public arenas, such as schools.  The move astonished – and frightened – many across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded immediately by vowing to support any educator in the U.S. who dared to teach evolution.  A popular young high school teacher in – of all places, Tennessee – named John Scopes offered to be the defendant, if the state decided to make good on its promise.  They did.  On May 7, 1925, Tennessee authorities arrested Scopes and charged him with violating the Butler Act.

The ensuing legal battle made headlines across the country and the world.  The judge in the case showed his deference to the state by opening each session with a prayer and refusing to let Scopes’ defense call any scientific witnesses.  Ultimately Scopes was found guilty and fined $100.  The ACLU hoped the case would make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Tennessee State Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality.  Still, the repercussions were widespread.  The Butler Act was never enforced in Tennessee again, and similar measures in other parts of the U.S. met with failure.  But progressives realized they could never relax in the face of extremist ideology.

So, here we are in the third decade of the 21st century, where the U.S. has come out of two brutal Middle East wars and is now facing an onslaught of urban violence.  We experienced 36 mass shootings in the month of January, resulting in 101 injuries and 42 deaths.  That’s just in the month of January 2022 alone!

But, as usual, social and religious conservatives are more upset with books.  In October of 2021, Texas State Representative Matt Krause asked the Texas Education Agency for information about 850 books in school libraries.  He wanted to know how many copies of these books were in each library.  It didn’t surprise observers that the majority of the books are by women, non-Whites and/or LGBT authors.  The imperial Krause is concerned that taxpayers are funding the presence of these books in school libraries.  Yet, my tax dollars are wasted if those books are removed because he and other like-minded folks find them unacceptable.

Some disputes have become hostile.  Police in Leander, Texas got involved in a controversy over one book, “Lawn Boy” in 2021.  Author Jonathan Evison says he received death threats because of it.  Texas – where any restrictions on guns is considered anathema – isn’t the only state under siege by moral zealots.  Similar attempts at censorship and assaults on free speech have played out in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“If I had a statement, it would be ‘Read the book or sit down,’” says Evison. “I feel like these people are frightened because they’re losing the culture wars.”

Yeah!  Sit down and read – more than the Bible or the TV guide.

I will concede parents have the right to be concerned by what their children view and read.  But I feel banning books from a school library is just one step away from banning books in any library or elsewhere.  It’s truly not an unrealistic stretch to envision such a scenario.  The world has witnessed such activities in totalitarian societies, and the results are often sanguineous.

Once again, though, what is obscene?

The 1920s was a decade of both progress and excess, particularly for the growing film industry.  Although silent and in black-and-white, movies had begun to show a variety of mature content – mainly heavy alcohol consumption and sexual behavior.  Concern over the material became so intense that, in 1934, Will H. Hays – then head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – introduced his personally developed “Hays Code”, a standard production guide for what is and what is not acceptable content for motion pictures.  The code remained until 1968, when the MPAA introduced its film rating system: G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance recommended), R (Restricted) and X (mainly for sex, but also for violence).

By the 1960s, films were presenting increasingly controversial subject matter – and headaches for the MPAA.  The 1966 film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” shocked audiences with its blatant use of foul language and served as one catalyst for the rating system.  The 1968 film “Vixen” became the first movie branded with an X rating.  The following year John Schlesinger released “Midnight Cowboy” with Jon Voight in the titular role.  It, too, was branded with an X rating.  Despite that, it went on to win the 1969 Academy Award for Best Picture – the first and (to date) the only X-rated film to win such an honor.  Viewing both “Vixen” and “Midnight Cowboy” now might make somebody wonder what the fuss was all about.

The film rating system took an odd turn in 1983 when a remake of the classic film “Scarface” came out.  The MPAA initially granted the movie an X rating because of its excessive violence.  Director Brian DePalma reluctantly trimmed some of the footage, and the film was rebranded with an R.  If it had gone out with the X label, “Scarface” would have been the first movie released as such because of violence.

Another X controversy arose six years later with “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”.  The film’s gratuitous sexual content garnered an X rating from the MPAA.  As with DePalma and “Scarface”, director Peter Greenaway reluctantly agreed to edit out a small portion of the sexual matter – small as in some 5 minutes – and the film was upgraded to R.  The fiasco upset many in the entertainment community – not just in the U.S. but across the globe.  If the difference between an R and an X rating is a paltry 5 minutes, then how valid is a film rating system?

What is obscene?

In the 1950s, the Hays Code was applied to a growing new medium: television.  In motion pictures, the code, for example, dictated that people of the opposite sex could not be filmed in bed together, unless one of the duo (usually the man) had at least one foot on the floor.  In TV, however, even married couples couldn’t be shown in the same bed.  The rule went into effect after a 1947 episode of “Mary Kay and Johnny” showed the title characters hopping into the same bed.  But that taboo dissolved completely in 1969 with “The Brady Bunch”.  Bathrooms also were generally off-limits in television.  One exceptional first was a 1957 episode of “Leave It to Beaver”, when the boys tried to hide a pet alligator in the tank of a toilet.  An early episode of “All in the Family” produced another first: the sound of a toilet being flushed.

As mundane as all of these events are today, they each sparked a ruckus at the time.

Personally, I find excessive violence offensive.  I never laughed when I saw men and boys get struck in the groin in slap-stick comedy scenes in films and on television.  I grimace at bloody acts in similar venues, while others react as if nothing more than a sharp wind blew past them.  Conversely, many of these same individuals are horrified by the sight of blatant nudity, especially if the nudeness is that of a male.  It’s difficult to imagine now, but even as recently as the late 1960s words like pregnant and diarrhea were forbidden on television.

The word “bitch” is used frequently on TV today.  But, in 1983, a musical group called Laid Back released a song entitled “White Horse”, which features the line: ‘If you wanna be rich, you got to be a bitch.’  MTV played the video, but bleeped out the term “bitch”.  In 1994, Tom Petty released “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, which contains the line: ‘But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint.’  Music video networks deemed the ‘roll another joint’ verbiage unacceptable and bleeped it out whenever they played the video.

In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew released two versions of their song “Me So Horny”: what they dubbed the G-rated version and the R-rated version.  Radio stations played the G-rated version frequently, but the R-rated version generated the most strife.  At the start of 1990 a federal judge in the state of Florida considered the group and their music obscene and in violation of community standards – whatever that’s supposed to mean – and forbid local radio stations from playing any of their music.  Consequently, 2 Live Crew’s reputation and music sales skyrocketed.

I remember the controversy that erupted with the video to Madonna’s 1990 song “Justify My Love”.  Once again, music video networks assumed the role of moral protectorate and either refused to play the video or played it late at night, when children and other fragile souls – such as moral crusaders – were asleep.  Undeterred by the skirmish, Madonna packaged the video and sold it independently.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones made their debut appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, during which they performed a sanitized version of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.  Producers convinced the group to sing ‘Let’s spend some time together’ instead.  Lead singer Mick Jagger leered at the camera – in the way only Mick Jagger can – when he spat out the words.

Two years later The Doors were presented with a similar option when they made their appearance on the show and performed their already popular and now seminal hit “Light My Fire”.  Sullivan’s son-in-law, Robert Precht, suggested they alter the line ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher’ to ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much better.  The group refused and performed the song as it was.  Their act of defiance resulted in their permanent ban from the show – a move I know upset them to no end.

I’ve noticed social conservatives haven’t raised concerns about inappropriate material in books like “The Anarchist Cookbook” and “The Turner Diaries”.  The latter served as a blueprint for Oklahoma City bomber (domestic terrorist) Timothy McVeigh.  If conservatives really want to ban books with sexual references and violence, they should start with the Christian Bible, which is rife with salacious and unsavory behavior.

Meanwhile, “Maus” has experienced a surge in sales as a result of the squabble surrounding it.  If there’s one way to ensure something’s popularity or success, it’s to try to ban it.  In other words, censorship always backfires.

Yet, censorship will always remain a threat to freedom of speech, expression and the press.  The war will never be won – by either side.  But those of us on the side of true freedom can win individual battles by standing up to self-righteous demagogues.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

Worst Quote of the Week – August 8, 2020

“[Children] don’t have a problem, they just don’t have a problem.  It doesn’t have an impact on them.  I’ve watched some doctors say they’re totally immune.”

President Donald Trump, in a video commentary on why schools should re-open, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The video had been tweeted out by Trump’s reelection campaign, but was promptly removed by Twitter for violating its newly-minted standards against spreading false information.

5 Comments

Filed under News

Video of the Week – July 18, 2020

A school principal shared some thoughts with Betsy Devos, U.S. Secretary of Education, in a video shared by Bored Teachers.  The 2-minute video synopsizes the heroic efforts that teachers took on when the pandemic hit and how Devos needs to “sit down somewhere” and just listen.  In fact, that’s the best advice we can give to any political figure – especially those like Devos and others in the Trump Administration who sit in their gilded cages in the ivory towers of wealth and privilege; far removed from the chaos and drama of REAL lives.

Teachers like this gentleman stand at the front lines in the brutal world of education and are now faced with the very real threat of illness and death, as the Trump gang threatens to pull education funding from states that don’t open their schools next month for the start of the new academic year.

Leave a comment

Filed under News