"A Democrat points out Rahm apologized to Shriver, but not to the liberals he called 'retarded.'" More at Politico about this tempest in a teapot.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner always struck me a smart, level-headed guy. You don't make a fortune in Silicon Valley if you're a dummkopf. Of course, business smarts don't always translate into political smarts, as voters are learning to their chagrin today.
Poizner called a bizarre press conference in Sacramento on Monday, in which he accused former eBay CEO Meg Whitman -- his main rival for the Republican nomination for governor -- of "criminal" campaign tactics. Poizner wants the state attorney general's office and the FBI to investigate Whitman's campaign consultants.
Torey Van Oot of the Sacramento Bee reports the gory details:
GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner today said he has reported "threats" made by the Republican rival Meg Whitman's campaign adviser to law enforcement officials.
Poizner said at a press conference that Whitman campaign strategist Mike Murphy issued "crystal-clear" threats to his staff in an attempt to effectively "cancel the election" by pushing him to drop out of the race.
"This is not an attempt to be hardball and to be aggressive, but this is an attempt to effectively manipulate the election process, the integrity of the election process, by issuing these threats behind the scenes to get me not to run," he said.
The campaign provided a copy of an e-mail in which Murphy asks an unidentified Poizner campaign consultant if there is any chance Poizner, who is trailing Whitman in the polls and in campaign funds, will reconsider his run.
The e-mail, provided by the campaign to reporters and in a letter to law enforcement officials, says the Whitman camp can spend $40 million "tearing up Steve if we must."
"I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee," Murphy wrote, according to the e-mail.
In the e-mail, Murphy offers that the campaign could "unite the entire party behind Steve right now to build a serious race" for U.S. Senate in 2012.
In a letter sent to the FBI, U.S. Attorneys Office, Fair Political Practices Commission and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Poizner also claims Murphy told a senior adviser that the campaign would "put (Poizner) through the wood chipper" if he did not drop out of the race.
Poizner evidently believes Murphy -- who often appears as a guest and occasionally fills in for Dennis Miller -- was being literal. If that's so, then Poizner isn't politically smart at all.
It is true that I have been trying to find a way to avoid a costly and unnecessary Republican primary. I believe it is important that Republicans across California unite around Meg Whitman to defeat Jerry Brown in the fall. It is also true that I am not the only one with this view. Many Republican leaders are more and more concerned that the Poizner campaign, now 28+ points behind in the polls and still sinking, is becoming little more than a stalking horse for Jerry Brown and the Democrats, especially since Commissioner Poizner has been loudly threatening to run a multi-million dollar negative campaign against Meg Whitman for months.
Several weeks ago I was advised by a source close to Steve Poizner that his pollster, my old friend Jan van Lohuizen, had been expressing grave doubts about the viability of the faltering Poizner campaign. So I emailed Jan; this is the email the Commissioner is so excited about. About ten days ago I also placed a phone call to a second senior Poizner consultant. We had a nice talk and discussed the option of Poizner considering a race for Senate in 2012. The consultant offered to discuss this with Commissioner Poizner and asked for a number where I could be called back. I do not plan to make any further comment on these discussions, as I do not want to create even more embarrassment for his consultants or get anybody fired.
Judging from the Commissioner's rant today concerning the FBI and Jerry Brown, I take it the Commissioner's answer is "no."
There's more. (Murphy also expresses concern about Poizner's "mental condition.")
This is not good for Poizner, who is, in fact, trailing badly in the polls. No doubt his advisors thought he could portray Whitman as just another vicious pol disguised as a business-savvy outsider in an election year down on "politics as usual." Unfortunately, Poizner comes off as an underdog desperate to get traction. (Hugh Hewitt says much the same.)
It's really too bad, because Whitman is such a lame candidate. Her radio ads are as tedious as they are ubiquitous. She's currently traveling the country to peddle her new book of clichés. After Tom Campbell jumped to the Senate race, I had hoped Poizner would make a stronger showing. Instead, he's imploding. Just as well. If Poizner thinks Whitman is nasty, he wouldn't last five minutes in a stand-up fight with Jerry Brown or the SEIU.
The Republican challenge to the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' is going to avoid overt homophobia. Instead, opponents are going to say we just can't do it right now. From NYT:
Gay rights groups are calling the hearing historic even as they question how quickly the administration is prepared to act. But Republicans are already signaling that they are not eager to take up the issue.
"In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat," Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" on NBC, "why would we want to get into this debate?"
It's a poor argument. Congressman Boehner needs no reminding, of course, but America has been embroiled in war for nearly a decade now. Troops are already drawing down in Iraq, but they're ramping up in Afghanistan -- and though the president has vowed to "start" bringing them home in 2011, the truth is that nobody knows when or if the state of war will ever end.
If we wait for the wars to end to end unjust treatment of gays in the military, we will wait forever.
Here's one benefit that war has traditionally had for America: It calls us to our better selves, sometimes in spite of ourselves. We spent World War II trying to bring down a racist tyrant with dreams of empire -- and we succeeded. But rallying against Hitler's regime was a big step toward making racism untenable here at home -- how could we fight for freedom we weren't granting here? -- and it wasn't long before Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces (in the face of opposition strikingly similar to today's); the performance of women in factories on the home front also gave lie to the idea of the "weaker sex" and paved the way for postwar feminism. Those developments have been good for our country, and for its citizens.
We face a similar challenge today. We're fighting terrorists who want to kill Americans -- and want to do so in the name of a theology that often (though not always) mutilates women and executes gays.
Besides, it's easy to make the argument that wartime is precisely when we don't have the luxury of casual discrimination. I'll repeat myself here: The downside to the current policy is obvious and tangible: Under 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' we’ve discharged a number of military professionals — including linguists — whose skills are needed in the War on Terror. And a number of warriors have come out of the closet, post-combat, in recent years. Turns out they served with valor in combat; the closet was not a requirement for that valor.
Congressman Boehner asks how we can eliminate 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' during wartime. The real question is why we wouldn't.
Organizing for America?
The West's insistence on treating children as if they are the same as adults is a losing proposition. The trend was instituted in the late 50's and 60's with the almost-grown-up 18-20 year-old crowd. That worked out, to some degree. But then the drive was on to apply that to younger and younger children. In my day (as a child), it was down to about 16-17. Nowadays, I see children at my school as low as the 5th grade routinely being given the intellectual and social privileges of adults.
I won't claim societal collapse, but I have a hunch a societal "reboot" can't be far off.
Thomas Mitchell provides a terse lesson in constitutional law for his readers in The Las Vegas Review Journal:
Don't imagine what you want the Constitution to say or pretend it says something it does not.
If you, like the president, don't like what the Constitution says, amend it. An amendment banning corporate free speech probably would pass, because most people think the rest of us are too gullible to resist a message backed by money.
If that's the case, this experiment in democracy is over.
President Bush's infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
These words were "infamous" because the left claimed (and still claims) that this was a lie. But it was not a lie. The British government believed that, shared that intelligence with the United States, and last I heard still stands by its word all these years later.
President Obama's infamous 29 words in his 2010 State of the Union address:
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”
This is, in fact — if not a lie — an egregious misrepresentation of the Citizen's United decision, which plainly states on pages 46 and 47:
We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process.... Section 441b [of current campaign finance law] is not limited to corporations or associations that were created in foreign countries or funded predominantly by foreign shareholders. Section 441b therefore would be overbroad even if we assumed, arguendo, that the Government has a compelling interest in limiting foreign influence over our political process.
In other words, the court's decision in Citzens United does not do anything to weaken (let alone repeal) current law preventing foreign corporations "to spend without limit in our elections."
Because I was covering Congress at the time, I remember how much of a tizzy Bush's "16 words" caused in Washington. Members of Congress demanded he apologize (for starters) for supposedly misrepresenting the facts and misleading the American people — despite the fact that he did not misrepresent the facts and what he said was not misleading.
But here we have President Obama, a supposed constitutional scholar, stating something that is flat-out wrong about the Citizens United free speech case. There are only two explanations for why he said what he said: (1) he, or his speech-writers and his entire White House staff, didn't read the decision very carefully; or (2) he knows the truth and engaged in willingly false demagoguery. Either one warrants an apology. And I hope for Obama's sake that this resulted because of option No. 1.
Update: President Obama on Friday said the U.S. would aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent in 2020, the Washington Post reports. Evidently, "hope" is a governing philosophy.
Cap-and-trade, or at least the version of it envisioned by the execrable Waxman-Markey bill, is in peril in the U.S. Senate. But for the moment, California is moving forward with the expansive carbon cap regulatory regime mandated by AB 32. That's even though the state's Air Resources Board knows the economic collateral damage will likely be extensive.
Although "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg doesn't mention California specifically, he makes a good case in Friday's Wall Street Journal for why Sacramento should think twice about cap-and-trade and the headlong rush to slash carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020:
Despite all the optimistic talk about solar, wind and other green-energy technologies, the alternatives we currently have aren't anywhere close to being able to carry more than a fraction of the load fossil fuels currently bear. For two decades, we've been putting the cart before the horse, pretending we could cut carbon emissions now and solve the technology problem later. But as we saw in Copenhagen last month, that makes neither economic nor political sense.
If we really want to solve global warming, we need to get serious about developing alternatives to coal and oil. Last year, the Copenhagen Consensus Center commissioned research from more than two dozen of the world's top climate economists on different ways to respond to global warming.
An expert panel including three Nobel Laureate economists concluded that devoting just 0.2% of global GDP—roughly $100 billion a year—to green-energy R&D could produce the kind of breakthroughs needed to fuel a carbon-free future. Not only would this be a much less expensive fix than trying to cut carbon emissions, it would also reduce global warming far more quickly.
Are you listening, Governor Schwarzenegger? Do you care?
More fallout from President Obama's denunciation of the Supreme Court during Wednesday's State of the Union. The Wall Street Journal's editors "unpack the falsehoods" the president managed to load into three sentences:
The Court didn't reverse "a century of law," but merely two more recent precedents, one from 1990 and part of another from 2003. Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce in 1990 had set the Court in a markedly new direction in limiting independent corporate campaign expenditures. This is the outlier case that needed to be overturned.
Mr. Obama is also a sudden convert to stare decisis. Does he now believe that all Court precedents of a certain duration are sacrosanct, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal, 1896), which was overturned by Brown v. Board (1954)? Or Bowers v. Hardwick (a ban on sodomy, 1986), which was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas (2003)?
The President's claim about "foreign entities" bankrolling U.S. political campaigns is also false, since the Court did not overrule laws limiting such contributions. His use of "foreign" was a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a President who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?
I think the last point is arguable, but the bottom line is strong.
Judge not the words themselves, but their effect on the audience. The president fully expected that his hundreds of supporters in the legislative branch would stand and cheer, while the justices remained seated and silent, unable to respond even afterward. Moreover, the president's speech was only released about 30 minutes before the event, after the justices were already present. In short, the head of the executive branch ambushed six members of the judiciary, and called upon the legislative branch to deride them publicly. If you missed it, check the YouTube video. No one could reasonably believe in their heart that this was respectful behavior.
Then there is the substance of the remark itself. It was factually wrong. The Court's ruling in Citizens United concerned the right of labor unions and domestic corporations, including nonprofits, to express their views about candidates in media such as books, films and TV within 60 days of an election. In short, it concerned freedom of speech; in particular, an independent film critical of Hillary Clinton funded by a nonprofit corporation.
While the Court reversed a 1990 decision allowing such a ban, it left standing current restrictions on foreign nationals and "entities." Also untouched was a 100-year-old ban on domestic corporate contributions to political campaigns to which the president was presumably referring erroneously.
That is a whole lot to get wrong in 72 sanctimonious words.
Ouch. Just imagine what would happen if Barnett turned his attention to the other 7,100.
Finally, I can scarcely believe I agree with everything Jonathan Chait writes here. But I do!
Hillsdale College's Kirby Center in Washington D.C. sponsors an excellent monthly speakers' series called "First Principles on First Fridays," in which Hillsdale academics or friends of the college discuss Big Questions. All of the talks are online and available for download as podcasts. I'm currently listening to Larry Arnn's November talk on The Crisis of American Constitutionalism. Good stuff.
CNN's State of the Union focus group reveals that independents are tired of "hope." Notes the American Spectator's Philip Klein, "As always with focus groups, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt." It's nice to know, however, that I'm not the only one who has a negative visceral reaction to the word in almost any context.
Still, one shouldn't get too cocky about President Obama's apparent reversal of fortune among independents, because that would be racist, says San Francisco Chronicle blogger Zennie Abraham:
But when the hangover from the SOTU cleared, and the GOP realized what happened, some conservatives went for the racial-code-word jugular and sounded like White Supremacists in the process.
One such example is Red State's Erick Erickson.
In his Red State blog post, Erick Erickson used a word that's has a totally racist connection to describe President Obama's delivery: "cocky."
What you did not know at home listening to Barack Obama's speech tonight is that he inserted a few quips that were not in the prepared text. They were cocky and snide.
Erick Erickson, forgetting that Barack Obama is President of The United States, or perhaps upset about it, echoed the same views expressed over at the White Supremacist website Stormfront....
Abraham proceeds to quote from some obscure racist nobody's ever heard of, and concludes:
In other words, Erick Erickson and Red State apparently think that this African American President needs to be "slammed back" because he's too "cocky" and presumably like other black men should know his place.
Apparently, Nat X moved to San Francisco and started a blog when The Man took his show off the air.
Does anyone seriously buy these tendentious claims anymore? Anyone who is not wholly invested in the race hustling racket, I mean? Good grief.
The mighty Hadley Arkes makes a brief but compelling case at the Corner for abandoning the State of the Union's "monarchical" format.
Arkes is on to something. (Mark Steyn agrees and riffs on the idea a little more.) The annual spectacle Americans know today is an innovation that dates only to Woodrow Wilson. The Constitution says only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." Until the vainglorious and megalomaniacal Woodrow showed up, every president simply wrote a report and sent it over to Capitol Hill. The old way was better.
I didn't watch Obama's address live; I heard a few minutes of it on the radio. And then I read the full text before I listened to more audio today. It reads better than it sounded.
Politics is tribal, and we often give our support and our votes to people with whom we most closely identify. I count myself a fellow Declaration of Independence conservative in the John Eastman tribe.
I heard a few weeks ago that the dean of Chapman University Law School was contemplating a run for attorney general of California. Last week, Eastman told Legal Newsline that he's the best candidate "to fix the mess that Jerry Brown has created for us." And now he has launched a Web site to help raise awareness and funds for his campaign. (He needs to get his Twitter feed up to speed, though.) I'm not sure I can send Eastman any money on my meager freelancer's wages, but I'm happy to lend my support in just about any other way.* That doesn't mean you shouldn't pony up, however.
Some Californians will know Eastman from his weekly appearances on the Hugh Hewitt Show. (Update: Here is audio of Eastman's hour with Hugh discussing his candidacy the other day.) I know and previously worked with Eastman at the Claremont Institute, where he was director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and I was director of publications and managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books. Eastman has a long and distinguished career as a constitutional lawyer. His writings and amicus briefs are extensive and impressive. He clerked for Clarence Thomas. I've no doubt that the Democrats will try to smear Eastman as an extremist. (He's actually given speeches to the Federalist Society -- quelle horreur!) He isn't.
In an election year in which voters are more skeptical than usual of career politicians, Eastman is a highly attractive and rare sort of candidate: A competent outsider. And he's a good man. I look forward to voting for him in June and again in November.
* (In case anyone is wondering, no, he didn't put me up to this post. I think I saw John briefly at a Claremont event last spring, and I haven't corresponded with him since September 2008. I did send him an e-mail a few weeks ago when I first heard that he was exploring a run, but he has yet to reply. Not complaining; just saying. Update: E-mail answered!)
I always liked the idea of JD Salinger more than I liked anything that Salinger wrote. Franny and Zooey was ok, I guess, but Catcher in the Rye is massively overrated. Generations of literary hipsters have named their children "Holden" because they saw Catcher's protagonist as the ideal; an authentic James Dean type, maybe, railing against the phoniness of modern life.
Me: When I got around to reading the book at age 17 -- during my year of reading classic novels that were often banned -- I simply couldn't believe what a whiny sonofabitch the kid was. I don't think it's because I had the soul of a College Republican; I was reading books like Johnny Got His Gun, Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five that year and they were greatly influencing me. I just think that Holden Caufield was a whiny sonofabitch. Which makes me suspicious of all those who idolize him.
Salinger, of course, withdrew from public life after Catcher. The glimpses we got of him over the intervening decades were not flattering; he apparently had a pretty creepy sex life. But there's something fascinating and inspirational about an artist who produces One Great Work and gives it to the world, then hides himself forevermore. Too bad the reality of JD Salinger could never, ever live up to the hype.
Just how unprecedented was President Obama's pointed criticism of a Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address?
Tony Mauro of the Legal Times has an informative post that looks at the way presidents since Woodrow Wilson have treated the Supreme Court in their annual addresses to Congress. Bottom line: It "was beyond unusual; it was almost unprecedented."
The operative word here is almost.
I discovered that Mauro piece by way of Glenn Greenwald's mendacious, hypocritical and utterly shameless denunciation of Alito at Salon. Here is a writer who has gleefully joined in the orgy of politicization of the court now denouncing the politicization of the court. I found myself shaking my head and mouthing "not true" from the first paragraph. But, hey, credit where it's due.
Tangina Barrons has joined Carol Anne in the light.
Or, rather, the actress who immortalized the character in three Poltergeist films has gone to her reward. Zelda Rubenstein was 76.
The diminutive Rubenstein did cartoon voice work before making her debut in the atrocious Chevy Chase-Billy Barty vehicle, Under the Rainbow. She went on to roles on television, including most memorably as the sheriff's radio dispatcher in Picket Fences.
But this will be how millions of fans will remember her:
(More Rubenstein clips here.)
At 47, Rubinstein -- a Pittsburgh native, Zaius will be happy to know -- abruptly decided to end her career as a medical technician. She told an interviewer:
“I had no idea what I would do next, but I knew it would involve advocacy for those people who were in danger of being disenfranchised,” she said. “I wanted a platform to be visible as a person who is different, as a representative of several varieties of differences. This is the most effective way for me to carry a message saying, ‘Yes you can.’ I took a look at these shoulders in the mirror and they’re pretty big. They can carry a lot of Sturm und Drang on them.”
Rest in peace, madame.
The takeaway from President Obama's first official State of the Union address may not be the (bogus) spending freeze, his call for a jobs bill, education reform, or the pledge to end the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Rather, the most significant moment was this passage from the speech assailing the Supreme Court's decision last week in Citizens United v. FEC, and Justice Samuel Alito's reaction to it:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
Nice touch there with the bit about "all due deference."* Just after Obama finishes saying "including foreign corporations," Justice Alito -- who is already shaking his head -- can clearly be seen saying the words, "Not true."
As more than one blogger has pointed out, this is another "Joe Wilson moment"... not for Alito, but for the president. Rep. Wilson of South Carolina famously shouted "You lie!" from the gallery last autumn when President Obama last addressed a joint session of Congress on health care reform. Specifically, Wilson objected to Obama's claim that the bill then under consideration would not cover illegal aliens. Wilson's outburst may have been indecorous -- and he did subsequently apologize -- but it also had the virtue of being true.
Although Alito's more dignified retort may have appeared awkward to some -- Orin Kerr, Kashmir Hill and Allahpundit are among those who think the justice should have sat in silence and let the president "demagogue the First Amendment" -- he was also telling the truth.
The president, however, was not.
Bradley Smith, former FEC commissioner, says flatly: "The president's statement is false."
The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication... ."
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen [sic]? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
But perhaps the most subtly devastating reply to Obama's attack comes from none other than the New York Times' former Supreme Court correspondent, Linda Greenhouse:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.
But this was a populist night and the target was irresistible. There are a variety of specific proposals floating around to address the Citizens United decision. The president offered no specifics and did not endorse any of them. Just as the decision doesn’t lend itself to a sound bite, neither do the fixes.
Greenhouse tries to offer the best possible spi... er, interpretation of what the president said, but there can be no denying that he botched a cheap attempt to score populist points. Worse, this one brief moment may completely overshadow everything else he attempted to do with the speech. If none dare call it "arrogance", may we at least call it folly?
* By the way, I reject the view that Obama's critique of the Supreme Court is somehow unprecedented or especially alarming because of the venue in which he made it. Here's an example of what I mean from The American Spectator's blog: "Has a president ever attacked The U.S. Supreme Court like that in such an august setting?" I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure some enterprising blogger will fill us in before breakfast. (Update: See here.) Clearly, American history is replete with examples of U.S. presidents battling the High Court for political supremacy. Andrew Jackson, anyone? And as Kevin Mooney points out in that Spectator post, "President Franklin Roosevelt's attacks on the judiciary ultimately worked to his political disadvantage back in the 1930s." Obama can expect no different.
I just realized that I always buy Apple products about a year after they come out, and I get the next generation...Apple ][+, Mac 1024K, Mac IIci, iPod 10GB...and when I haven't done that, I've regretted it (like when I bought one of the first Intel iMacs, and missed out on a bunch of small upgraded added in the next few months).
So I urge everyone to go buy an iPad when it comes out, so it is successful...and I can buy one in March, 2011...
Good news from Menifee, where parents and school district officials have come to their senses about Webster's dictionary. The Press-Enterprise reports:
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary will return to fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School, a committee of Menifee Union School District parents, teachers and administrators decided Tuesday.
An alternate dictionary also will be placed in the classrooms, and parents will have the option of choosing which dictionary their child can use, Superintendent Linda Callaway said in a statement about the committee's decision at a school board meeting Tuesday.
School officials pulled the Merriam-Webster dictionaries from classrooms last week after an Oak Meadows parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for "oral sex."
The decision to offer both dictionaries was made by a committee of about a dozen school administrators, teachers and parents. School board policy calls for such a committee to be formed when classroom materials are challenged.
Here's a PDF of the school district's statement on the resolution. I'm pleased that Menifee's elementary school kids will continue to have access to first-rate dictionaries. Their teachers and administrators, however, could use a remedial course in writing simply and directly.
Menifee's absurd dictionary ban made me reach for my own copy of Webster's -- I don't actually have the "controversial" Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition in my library, but I do have a copy of Webster's II New College Dictionary. And therein lies a short story.
The dictionary was a gift from my late friend Chris Warden, on the occasion of the birth of my son Benjamin. Chris loved the language; he knew I did, too; and so he expected I would impart that love to my first-born. Lord knows I'm trying.
Truth is, I had forgotten where this dictionary came from. And so I forgot what Chris wrote on the flyleaf. Here it is:
To combat consternation
Calm, cool cerebration
A concatenation of confusion
Conspires with chaos, a constant collusion
Yet a conservative confluence
of candor and comprehension
Will compel composure, commute contention
Collect the truth
Claim your faults
A happy accident... and a charming, bittersweet reminder of Chris's wit and wisdom.
A follow-up to the story yesterday about Menifee Union School District pulling Merriam-Webster's dictionary from some classrooms obscures more than clarifies. Today the Southwest Riverside News Network reports, contrary to previous accounts:
1) Only one school in the district removed the dictionaries from its fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, not all schools districtwide.
2) Although one parent, a classroom volunteer, discovered "oral sex" in the dictionary, several other parents in the district raised concerns about "age-inappropriate" content.
3) But! It turns out the term "oral sex," which set off the hullaballoo in the first place, does not in fact appear in the dictionary. That's a real head-scratcher...
4) What's more: "The term 'oral sex,' which the initial parent complaint was about, is not a term that is never heard or written," said Joan Bertin, executive director for the New York-based National Coalition against Censorship.
Say what now?
The story closes with a nugget of clarity (sort of): "A committee to review the dictionary and decide if it should be permanently removed is expected to begin meeting within the week.... According to (school) board policy, the committee may take up to 30 days to review the complaint and decide on its educational appropriateness and its suitably for fourth and fifth grade readers."
My preference would be for the board to simply leave the dictionaries where they are and forget this ever happened. I'd wager that this kerfuffle has had salutary effect of sending every fourth and fifth grader who's gotten wind of the story scrambling for mom and dad's dictionary, in search of the forbidden fruit. And if they've encountered such words as cunctation, fucoid, Mother Hubbard, oracular, shist, and titian along the way, so much the better. Language wins!
And I am quoting from the Washington Times, July 2006.
This just re-emerged, unbidden, from my subconscious this morning as I was assessing students in Algebra 1:
That is all.
Turns out, that's Herbert's lead -- RCP appropriated it for the headline; the Times's head was "Obama's Credibility Gap." Meh.
In any event: Who is Barack Obama? Who is Barack Obama?!?
Here's Herbert walking down a well-trodden path:
Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don’t get it soon — or if they don’t like the answer — the president’s current political problems will look like a walk in the park.
Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.
Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.
In danger of being perceived as such by whom, Mr. Herbert? Independents? They're already disaffected. Leftists? Depends which leftists you talk to, I guess. Rank-and-file Democrats? Maybe. But once you've lost the hard-core activists and the fickle independents, where does that leave you?
Right about here.
*With apologies to James Taranto.
Good news! The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is getting smaller. "Emergency spending to combat last year's recession combined with a muted recovery will push this year's federal budget deficit to $1.35 trillion, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday," according to our friends at the Washington Post.
What's that? You say the news is freighted with caveats and exceptions?
"The figure represents a slight improvement over previous projections but would still be one of the deepest budget holes since the end of World War II."
Well, sure. Even so, the deficit is headed in the right direction and as long as the economy continues to improve, the numbers aren't likely to get any worse, right?
"And the numbers, the CBO notes, are likely to get substantially worse."
Oh... dear. And why is that, exactly?
"This year's deficit -- which is only slightly lower than the $1.4 trillion the government racked up last year -- would continue to expand if Congress approves additional spending this year. The House, for example, has already approved a jobs measure costing more than $150 billion, and the Senate is considering a package of tax cuts and social safety net programs that would cost more than $80 billion."
The other problem is taxes, which are likely to go up if Congress and President Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire and do not make the necessary adjustments to the alternative minimum tax to spare millions of middle-income earners from an unpleasant surprise. Genuine tax reform isn't on this administration's agenda.
Although the CBO says nothing about President Obama's proposed three-year spending spree, the Post notes the move "would save only about $15 billion next year but as much as $250 billion over the next decade." That doesn't even cover a fraction of the U.S. debt payment.
Never mind. Party on.
Stories like this drive me crazy -- almost as crazy as schools' insipid, mindless zero-tolerance policies.
The Press-Enterprise reports that the Menifee Union School District in southwest Riverside County has pulled Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves last week. Why? Naughty words -- or, as the district put it, "age-inappropriate language."
According to the P-E, which first shared the story Friday:
After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.
School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.
"It's just not age appropriate," said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.
"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.
First, I can't believe it took school officials this long to figure out that the dictionary includes vulgarity, profanity and obscenity. My word-nerd buddies and I made precisely the same discovery 30 years ago. We were hardly pioneers. (Parochial school students have a variation on this; i.e., scanning The Song of Solomon for "the good parts." You know what I'm talkin' about!)
Second, I really cannot believe that one parent spurred the district to such drastic action. Apparently, neither can some members of the school board:
Board member Rita Peters questioned why one parent's complaint would lead the district to pull the dictionaries.
"If we're going to pull a book because it has something on oral sex, then every book in the library with that better be pulled," she said. "The standard needs to be consistent ... We don't need parents setting policy."
Peters said if the dictionary quarantine is setting a precedent, a committee should be formed to review all school books for age-appropriateness.
I would dissent slightly from Peters' blanket conclusion about the role of parents in district policy-making. Surely parents should have input. But this is simply absurd. I wish this busybody -- whom the story mercifully does not identify -- had trained her righteous indignation on something... oh, I don't know, useful.
A parent with three kids in the district makes the perfectly sensible point that the dictionary isn't the problem here.
“You want to dumb down the kids? You don’t create lifelong learners by sticking them in a box and telling them what books they can read,” Jason Rogers told the Southwest Riverside News Network. “That is not the worst word in the dictionary. Kids are going to be exposed to things, and it is the parents’ job to explain it to them, not the teachers’ or the school district’s (job).”
“It is not such a bad thing for a kid to have the wherewithal to go and look up a word he may have even heard on the playground. To me it is brilliant,” he added.
Sounds like a man after my own heart.
Mary Elizabeth Williams makes sport of the Menifee puritans in Salon today: "Those kid these days! With their sexting and their pregnancy pacts and their dirty book reading. I mean, Jesus, have you taken a look at this thing called Merriam-Webster's 10th edition? It's like an R. Kelly album."
If you want to know what other corrupting words are lurking in the pages of Webster's, Williams has an extensive (but hardly exhaustive) list.
Meanwhile, over at the Huffington Post, Jayne Lyn Stahl sounds as shrill as the Menifee parent who complained in the first place. "[S]hould the school district's committee decide to make the egregious act of pulling dictionaries from school shelves school policy," Stahl warns, "no educator in Menifee will be able to teach seventh grade American history without also removing the Bill of Rights."
(She also thinks it's no coincidence that banning the dictionary in a small district in Southwest Riverside County comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. SEC. I'm not joking. The better comparison would be to Apple.)
Newspapers as far flung as the Guardian in London have noted the story. I expect the mockery is flying fast and furious by now. The question is whether the district will have the good sense -- or the shame -- to let the matter drop and put the dictionaries back on the classroom shelves.
(Thanks to Chris Rywalt for noticing the story and sending it along to me.)
Update: L.A.'s NBC affiliate just aired a story about the row. It's safe to say that Menifee is now the lamest town in the universe. Sorry, friendly acquaintances in Menifee!
We Monkeys used "Cover It Live" in 2008 to live-blog a few primary and presidential debates. They are good fun, especially when friends pop in to help with the commentary, and can be quite informative. Well, my employer, The Heartland Institute, is going to be live-blogging President Obama's first State of the Union address on Wednesday night.
Your humble Dr. Zaius will be there along with several other scholars and fellows from the free-market, libertarian think tank. I'll be representing InfoTech & Telecom News, the publication I edit, and you can show up here just before the speech starts at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST to participate with your own comments. (To register a few hours beforehand, go here and mess with the stuff beneath the speech countdown ticker.)
Be there, or be square!
A team of Heartland Institute policy experts will be offering live online coverage of President Barack Obama's first State of the Union Address on Wednesday, January 27, starting at 9:00 pm EST.
The live-blogging team will be hosted by Research Fellow Ben Domenech, managing editor of Health Care News, and James G. Lakely, codirector of Heartland's Center on the Digital Economy and managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News.
The pair will be joined by policy experts on budget and tax, environment, and finance and insurance issues. The blog also will be open to participation by citizen bloggers and elected officials from across the country.
Advance registration is not required, but to sign up for an email reminder, visit one of these Web sites:
Budget & Tax News: www.budgetandtax-news.org
Environment & Climate News: www.environmentandclimate-news.org
Health Care News: www.healthpolicy-news.org
InfoTech & Telecom News: www.infotech-news.org