June 27, 2007

Hot Springs: Police Brutality Hot Spot

While it's entirely possible - even likely- that the office had a reason to stop these kids, it's obvious that he lost control of himself and the situation. I grew up around cops, and with cops. I usually side with them; they have a tough job, and sometimes the laws they must enforce - and they way they must be enforced - chafe. But choke holds are not legal in any police department in the US, and beating up children is unacceptable.

An argument might be made about the kid who ran; but remember, he had a picture of the cop breaking the law, the cop was beating up his friend, and then started screaming at him. He had every reason to believe that the cop was simply going to beat him up, too.

Finally, and the thing that turns me against this cop, he apprehends the witness taking the video. He accuses this witness of "getting in the middle of it," but the fact is all the camera man did was try to tell the cop to calm down. Something that is obviously warranted in this case.

These weren't armed thugs, they weren't criminals on a spree, these were 13 and 14 year old kids skateboarding as part of a pro-skateboard movement. Whatever crime they committed (and I will guess it was skateboarding on the sidewalks), it didn't warrant a beating from a 240 pound gorilla.

The video gives an email link to the Chief of Police; the mailbox has been shut down. Which means that he's a coward. I suspect that he's been flooded with well-deserved criticisms. And I suspect that he decided to shut down the mailbox rather than deal with thousands of people excercising their first amendment rights.

So you'll have to complain to the city commission:

Peggy Brunner- Maruthur
(term expires 12/31/2008)

Elaine Jones
(term expires 12/31/2010)

Steve Smith
(term expires 12/31/2008)
Bus:624-4699 Cell:627-8127

Carroll Weatherford
(term expires 12/31/2010)
Home:276-7945 Cell:545-3153
Bill Edwards
(term expires 12/31/2010)
Tom Daniel
(term expires 12/31/2008)
Home:623-0682 Cell:627-8641


Interestingly, the mayor doesn't have an email address. Says a lot about the city. In this day and age, a city official without an email address is proclaiming "YES, I AM A HICK!!" Even the AMISH have a website, with email, fer goshsake.

June 17, 2007

Censorship in Wilton, Connecticut

I've written before on the attacks the Miami-Dade School Board has made on our most basic rights. Now here's a case of another School Board violating our most treasured right.

A group of students at Wilton High School, in Wilton, CT, worked to create a play that was relevant to their lives. They chose to create a play using the words of soldiers fighting in Iraq. They gleaned the material from published letters and interviews with soldiers.

You might think that this is a fine way to honor our soldiers who are risking their lives to defend our country. Well, you and I might; the principal of the school and the school board didn't: They canceled the scheduled performance of the play.

Wilton High School principal Timothy Canty , quoted in The New York Times felt that it might "hurt Wilton families ‘who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,’ and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide ‘a legitimate instructional experience for our students.’ "

Remember, this isn't commentary about the soldiers, it's their OWN WORDS. Canty isn't just silencing his captive student population, he's silencing the voices of those making great sacrifices for our country.

And one would hope that the School Board would have more sense; but no such luck:
Superintendent of Schools Gary Richards: "The student performers directly acting the part of the soldiers ... turns powerful material into a dramatic format that borders on being sensational and inappropriate."

So reciting the words and adapting the persona of the soldiers to explore their views is "inappropriate." In my day, that was called "effective instruction."

As much as the canceling of the play distresses me, the REALLY distressing fact is this:
during their history classes, they also discuss CURRENT history, with one caveat: “We are not allowed to talk about the war while discussing current events.”

How can you competently discuss current events in the world that affect our country and NOT discuss the war? Of course, you CAN'T. Wilton students are being deprived of more than their first amendment rights, they are also being deprived of an adequate education.

Our school administrators and school board members are supposed to set an example of what a good American is: someone who defends the Constitution, who protects our freedoms, and respects the rights of others. Wilton's Canty and Richards fail miserably as role models for children of The Constitution State.

These incompetent hacks not only owe their students an apology, they owe the citizens of Wilton their resignations. These men have no place in any education system in the United States; they should perhaps pursue work in Cuba, China, or North Korea.

Fortunately, the students were able to present their play: at the Culture Center, in New York City. A performance at The Public Theatre is scheduled, and some of the soldiers portrayed in the play will attend. Stanley Tucci helped arrange it; he was already working on helping students at his alma mater who were punished for performing "The Vagina Monologues" and using the word "vagina." (Noting that his alma mater was only 15 miles from Wilton, he quipped "perhaps it's something in the water!" What a shame that it's not.)

Theatre is supposed to alter our perception of the world around us; at its best, it moves us to consider things outside our comfort zone. Ours is a country with unprecedented freedoms; it gives us opportunities to express bold new ideas and question ancient taboos. It is this freedom that has allowed us to develop into a premier nation in the world. Men like Canty and Richardson would throw all that away. There simply isn't any good argument FOR censorship; so why expend energy doing it?

We shouldn't stand for it, and we don't have to. Come election time, toss the bastards out. If we don't take steps to remove those who erode our freedom, we deserve to lose it.

Christian Science Monitor
Hartford Courant

June 15, 2007

It amused me

Man, we can't take you ANY where.

I found this image on http://eminedokumaci.blogspot.com/

June 12, 2007

New Blog

I've started a new blog: South Florida Theatre Scene. It's a blog dedicated to, well, South Florida Theatre. This one will be a collaboration (I hope!). I am inviting participation from every producing theatre in South Florida, as well as people who work in various aspects of theatre: directors, designers, fabricators, etc.

The first post there describes what it is and why I'm doing it. So I'll just say:

HEY! Check out my new blog!

June 11, 2007

I made the paper!

My letter concerning Book Banning and the Miami School board was published in today's Miami Herald. It doesn't appear to be in the online version.

June 10, 2007

Rural Georgia outshines Metro Miami.

The good news is that not all elected officials are as idiotic as our own school board.

In a recent court decision, the judge ruled against a mother who had been crusading to have the HARRY POTTER books removed from school libraries.

So what's her beef? (don't be eating when you read this next sentence!)

"Harry Potter is a terrorist threat, for the spells in the books are speical codes for terrorist groups in the middle east. The characters represent well known terrorist who have attack our borders. This is why we should ban these books from our schools."

That's right; Laura Mallory (MySpace page) not only believes that the series of books about a young wizard coming of age are evil; she believes that J.K. Rowling is in league with Al Queda.

Perhaps our school board simply believes that Castro is far more dangerous than Osama Bin Laden et al, but I think that rational thinking has more to do with the complete lack of support Mallory is finding.

The position of the school board, as outlined by their attorney, Victoria Sweeny:
"This case is a very simple one," Sweeny said, accusing Mallory of trying "to censor materials that are rightfully in the public libraries of this county."

Sweeny went on to say "... we urge the court to heed the words of Thomas Jefferson, who admonished that freedom of speech cannot be limited without being lost."


And further, according to Sweeny: "This was not just an issue about one book. This was actually a First Amendment issue... These books have been in our public school libraries, and will continue to be in our public school libraries"

Imagine that... a school board that actually fights to KEEP books in the library. All we have to do is NOT re-elect ANY of the bozos on our current board, and we could have school board that makes us proud.

(And have you noticed that no one trying to ban VAMOS A CUBA has quoted anyone who signed the Declaration of Independence? I guess it's hard to find a quote from Jefferson that is in favor of something he and the rest of our founding fathers abhorred so much.)

June 7, 2007

BANNING BOOKS IS BAD, a primer for the Miami-Dade School Board.

The gang of drooling morons that comprise our school board are once again championing a cause that's a loser in every sense of the word. Most of us remember the flack they got LAST year over their attempts to ban the book "VAMOS A CUBA."

For those who are not familiar with this book, it is one of a series of books about children growing up in different culture around the world. The basic message is that even though people in other cultures have seemingly very different lifestyles, they really have the same core values. Each volume deals with single culture, and uses idealized archetypes to demonstrate how the cultures can be superficially different, but fundamentally the same. It's intended for elementary level readers.

Last year, some Cuban-American parents protested this book's presence in school libraries. Their complaint: while the books accurately described aspects of Cuban culture, it failed to mention that Cuba's government is an oppressive dictatorship that strips its citizens of many basic human rights.

And that is true; it doesn't mention such details. Just as the book on the Swahili children didn't mention that for years their tribe and others were hunted down and enslaved, and in many places only recently gained basic human rights, and just as the book on American kids didn't mention that our culture basically wiped out the one that USED to live on our lands. These books aren't intended to to explain those aspects of geography.

This misguided board apparently believes that Truth can only be arrive at if it is fully spelled out in every document we have access to. The board's demand is tantamount to banning The Bible because it doesn't mention that the universe is millions of years old and that all life on the planet evolved from earlier forms.

No, VAMOS A CUBA doens't mention dictatorships, or human rights, quantum physics, torte law, and thousands of other worthy topics. It's aimed at eight year olds.

There are arguments back and forth over whether or not the School Board has the legal authority to trample the First Ammendment. Excuses are being tossed about, arguing about curricula, decency, political indoctrination blah blah blah.

The point being missed by the School Board, and according to reports, the court reviewing the case is that WE ARE TALKING ABOUT BANNING BOOKS.

Book banning is simply WRONG. I don't care if this is a case where it can be twisted into being legal: IT IS WRONG TO BAN BOOKS.

Here, I'll use a sentence that even the morons on the School Board can understand:

In a free society, we must be able to express differing viewpoints. Some viewpoints will contradict each other. Some will be based on false information or faulty reasoning. Some will be based on fact and solid logic. But there is only one way we can sort it out, and that's by allowing the viewpoints to be expressed, and to be scrutinized and judged on their merits.

VAMOS A CUBA is certainly viewing Cuba through rose-colored-glasses, idealizing the positives and ignoring the negatives. So did my High School US History book. So does most literature we give our students.

That History Book was never banned. It never mentioned that our European ancestors broke faith with the Native Americans, over and over again. It never mentioned that 98% of the Native American population was wiped out by diseases the Europeans brought with them, and that THAT is the reason the land looked empty and unused to the first European settlers. It told us that General Custer was ruthlessly massacred at Little Big Horn: it didn't mention that he and his troops had massacred an undefended village of women and children.

But if that is the history book used in my school, how can I know about its inaccuracies? Because I read OTHER books. Books written specifically to correct what our schools had been teaching. In many cases, those NEW books are now being used instead of the old ones. But the old ones remain; so we can see the truth of the claims made about their mis-statements and fallacies.

VAMOS A CUBA doesn't mention the dictatorship or the harsh conditions: but it presents us with the opportunity to discuss those things. And THAT is why this book should remain on the shelves of our school libraries, along with books that tell about how Castro took over Cuba, and about what that has meant for the Cubans that stayed AND the Cubans that left.

You don't defend the truth by hiding lies and inaccuracies: you have to hold those lies and inaccuracies up to the light, so we can see them for what they are. Leave VAMOS A CUBA on the bookshelves, and the First Amendment intact.