Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Tolerance For No Tolerance

Someone has said current practices of ”no tolerance” for school infractions represent a lack of leadership on the part of administrators. Rather than make the tough decisions regarding student misbehavior, administrators hide behind rules, some of them extreme.

Back in the ‘50s was an old doo-wop song, “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters. In today’s climate of no tolerance, here’s how the original “Charlie Brown” might play out:

Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo-fum
I smell smoke in the auditorium

Dear Mrs. Brown. It has come to our attention that your son, Charles has been engaged in antisocial and dangerous behavior such as smoking at school. As a result we have suspended Charles until such time as he enrolls in and completes a substance abuse program regarding tobacco products. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown
He’s gonna get caught
Just you wait and see.
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me)

Dear Mrs. Brown. Upon completion of his substance abuse program, we have noticed your son Charles demonstrating characteristics that can only be described as those of paranoia, in that he thinks everyone is “pickin’” on him. As a result, we are continuing his suspension until such time as we have documentation from a qualified mental health care professional that Charles is undergoing treatment for these apparent symptoms. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

That’s him on his knees
I know that’s him
Yeah, from 7 come 11
Down in the boys’ gym

Dear Mrs. Brown. Having completed the tobacco substance abuse program and the mental health treatment for symptoms of paranoia, we have found Charles engaged in gambling activities in the boys’ gym. As a result, we have referred him to another substance abuse program for treatment of his gambling habit. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who’s always writing on the wall?

Dear Mrs. Brown. Upon your son Charles’ return to school, we found him engaged in aggressive vandalism. Only quick response prevented such vandalism from spreading beyond a 4-square-inch section of the north wall of the main stairway. But I am sorry to have to tell you that we must bill you for damage from the vandalism and for the resulting security actions. Please see our attached statement for $7,000 for repainting the interior of the school and $8,000 for costs for SWAT team response. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who’s always goofing in the halls
Whose always throwing spit balls
Guess who (who, me) yeah, you.

Dear Mrs. Brown. I regret to inform you that your son Charles is in the county jail on a weapons charge. While some may say so-called “spitballs” are harmless, this is in violation of our no tolerance policy regarding any projectile devices. We cannot say when or how Charles will be released as he is now under county law enforcement jurisdiction. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who walks in the classroom, cool and slow
Who calls the English teacher, Daddy-O

Dear Mrs. Brown. While out on bail, your son Charles recently caused great offense to one of our English teachers, Mr. Perot. We have contacted the district attorney’s office for an opinion regarding a hate crime offense and have attached a bill for $295 for Mr. Perot’s first session of counseling. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Not to condone the mischievous behavior of fictitious Charlie Brown, it is difficult to understand contemporary news reports of children being hauled from school in handcuffs, of having their homemade lunches reviewed for foods of questionable nutrition, of being accused as six-year-olds of sexual harassment, or of being suspended because they did the right thing but didn’t do things right. Again, school administrators need to stand up and make wise and proper decisions, not play the bureaucracy game.

By the way, “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters should not be confused with the recent “Charlie Brown” tune by Coldplay, which alludes to auto theft. Mr. Crisp would be really upset with that. And I’d agree with him.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eat More Chiken

So Dan Cathy, Chick Fil A CEO, said the company upholds traditional values regarding marriage between a man and a woman. And Chick Fil A became corporation non gratis in Boston. And Chicago.

But not in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Chick Fil A Day. Cars are lined up into the street trying to get into the Chick Fil A at Martin Luther King and Razorback. The Cutest Community Organizer To Whom I Am Married along with some politico friends and I got there at 11 a.m. to avoid the rush. Ha! The place is packed.

The issue is not about discrimination against homosexuals. Chick Fil A says it does not discriminate on any basis, including sexual orientation. It's just that Cathy and his closely-held company hold the same values as most Americans.

It's a festive atmosphere at the Fayetteville store. The crowd is young – mostly 35 and below; there are kids, some teenagers, many young parents. Two Boy Scouts are in line. And a sheriff's deputy. There are some young guys with tee shirts saying they're part of a football team. A young man wears an Ave Maria University shirt. The line inside spreads throughout the building. In fact, people keep asking, "Where is the end of the line?" Me, playing the funny guy, keeps pointing and saying: "In Oklahoma!"

California, hotbed of liberalism, amended its constitution to prohibit gay "marriage." But Those Who Know Best in federal court overturned it. Twenty-eight others states put on the ballot constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. All of them passed.

One of the lines at the Fayetteville Chick Fil A is delayed. A woman is picking up a massive order to take back to her co-workers at the local veterans hospital. Two soldiers in fatigues are embarrassed as people keep giving them cuts to go ahead of them in line.

Voters in Hawaii instructed legislators to ban gay marriage; voters in Maine stopped legislation that would allow it. This week supporters of California's ban on gay marriage are asking the U. S. Supreme Court to settle the whole thing once and for all. Like so many issues, the will of the people is no longer relevant; rather, lawyers in robes rule us.

A maintenance man comes from a back room of the restaurant carrying a fan that looks like a boat propeller on steroids. What a day for a restaurant fan to give out! A Chick Fil A worker says the milkshake machine has quit. On the street behind is a truck from an expediting freight company set up to unload. Are they bringing extra supplies to Chick Fil A? But they're parked a few doors down. Could it be they didn't want to block cars belonging to Chick Fil A customers that are parked off the street and on the grass? Why would anyone come to a restaurant they know is going to be packed? In fact, there were some people who had no idea what was going on -- they just wandered in wanting a Chick Fil A meal. They looked a bit overwhelmed. We hear people saying a Channel 5 news crew is on the property. Reports indicate the what's happening here is happening all over the country.

The issue is not homosexuality per se. Most people don't care about what goes on in other people's bedrooms. But gay marriage is uncharted territory. Even ancient Greece, highly tolerant -- even encouraging of -- homosexuality, did not think to tamper with the concept of marriage.

And when Dan Cathy voiced what so many of us believe, he was mocked, his company threatened. But there is a large majority out there: tolerant, respectful, not wishing ill on their fellow human beings, but who know what is right and what is wrong. People who try to work within the system, signing petitions, securing amendments to state constitutions, people who are tired of what they hold sacred being mocked. People who are tired of being bullied while they are accused of being bullies.

People who one day just go to their local Chick Fil A and decide the most relevant political action they can take is:

Eat more chiken.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Where is the Consent of the Governed?

A key concept in our Republic is the consent of the governed. Where is the consent of the governed when political trickery overhauls our health system? When the EPA wants to tax the very air we breathe (or at least exhale)? When traffic fines are designed for raising local government revenues instead of ensuring safety? When tax cheats head the Department of the Treasury? Where is the consent of the governed when our President in effect declares himself archbishop of the United States? When airborne drones spy on our citizens? When government functionaries brag they will "crucify" our employers? When political correctness threatens the security of our Nation? When the President spoils our concept of fair play by making obscene gestures at defeated opponents? Where is the consent of the governed when we dare not disturb a rock, a puddle, or an unheard-of animal on our own property? When SWAT teams are sent against our minor offenses? When our sovereign states have become mere administrative districts of the federal government? When our Department of Justice lacks justice? When our elected officials act like royalty? When children's lemonade stands are shut down for lack of licenses? Where is the consent of the governed when prosecutors cheat, lie, and instead of the rack use plea bargaining to pressure innocent people to false confessions? When local governments raise taxes for extravagant spending saying it will only cost us "a cup of coffee per week" or "one dinner out per month?" That's our coffee. And our dinner. And they matter to us. Where is the consent of the governed when our politicians turn their elected offices into their own sexual, financial, or power-based playgrounds? When cops are quick to ticket us for speeding but refuse to obey speed laws themselves (they think we don't notice?)? When people trained as doctors, insurance underwriters, and bankers are hampered by government officials who know nothing about medicine, insurance, or finance. When kids are not getting educated but the biggest, most extravagant building in a small town is the local school? Where is the consent of the governed when we are forced to give up the guilty pleasures of our junk food? When our wives, mothers, and children are molested, groped, and traumatized at airports? When foreign intruders invade our country and the federal government attacks local efforts to stop them? When the most creative and productive among us are penalized for their success? When our economy is manipulated and ruined by people who know nothing about economics? Where is the consent of the governed? Gradually, one by one, week by week, people are becoming aware of these violations. And they are meeting in businesses and coffee shops, veterans halls and homes. They are organizing, strategizing, donating, reading and learning, running for office or helping others in doing so, turning off their televisions and turning to action. We the People are tolerant. We are patient. But as citizens of the United States, a representative Republic, we will not be governed without our consent.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Upgrade to a Creek of Consciousness

Wow -- has it been nearly three months since I've posted anything? The rush of end-of-semester things at the campus caught me up, then there was a vacation of nearly two weeks to visit our daughters in California (and I fell in love with Catalina Island). Then there was a rash of things needed in the upkeep of our two-and-a-half acres, then there was... Never mind. You've been busy, too. Of course, being away long enough allowed Google to work mischief: they revamped the software for posting this blog. I hope everything posts okay. If software engineers ran the world (Wait. They do.), we'd go out to our cars in the morning and find the steering wheel in the back seat, the brake pedal on the passenger's side door, and a sign that said Upgraded. Or we'd drive up to a traffic light and find a sign that says System upgrade: from now on the color blue means "stop," yellow means "go," and white means "caution." Which is why I'm in fear and trembling over the phasing in of Windows 7 at my campus. At any rate, here's a Creek of Consciousness: over three months, talk has turned from can Romney win? to the possibility of a Romney landslide. Ah, but the polls show Obama and Romney even. Translation: Romney landslide...Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard ( has an amazing story entitled The Real Reagan. Barnes says Ronald Reagan intentionally disarmed opponents by playing the role of the amiable dunce they thought him to be. But Barnes quotes David Smick, chief of staff to Jack Kemp, regarding Reagan's comments on a speech by Kemp: “Reagan reveled in the wonkdom of urban policy in a way that might have even made a young Bill Clinton envious. The more I read the comments in the margins of Kemp’s speech, the more obvious it became that Reagan had a passion for policy details.”...Barbra and I visited the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. Moving experience. However, close to his grave was a herd of goats being used to keep the grass down. What's this? How disrespectful! Goats by the grave of a President of the United States! To which Reagan would have replied something like: "Well, they sort of remind me of when I got around Congress. Anything I took to them, they just said: 'Baaah.'"...Spent last weekend in Texas to visit Barbra's dad, Harold Johnston, for Father's Day. He's 83, and if you want to know what he's like, think of Robert Duvall playing Gus in Lonesome Dove. Harold is an amazing storyteller -- I've known him for forty years and rarely have him repeat a story. This time he had us laughing about the time he accidentally shot himself in the foot with a .22 pistol. He had a hard time getting to the doctor because despite his injured foot he had to carry his friend who kept passing out at the sight of blood. That's all for now -- Google's new blog format seems painless, I guess. Except for one thing: how does one make paragraphs? Not everything is meant for Facebook and Twitter, you know. Is this like Microsoft Word 2007's inability to make documents single space unless you revert to the 2003 format? And why is the brake pedal on the passenger door?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Comes to Wildcat Creek

Usually an early riser, I was sitting on my front porch about 4 a.m today enjoying the warm Ozarks air, listening to the gurgle of Wildcat Creek just down the hill, getting ready for another busy day.

The fireflies should be returning soon, I thought. That's a big deal for Barbra and me: sitting on the front porch watching what we call our "firefly friends" do their thing in the front yard.

Just as I was thinking about our blinking friends, I thought I saw a light. Is that one of the neighbor's yard lights through the leaves, I wondered? No, there was the light again. Slowing moving through the trees. Indeed, it was the first firefuly of the year.

Spring is grand in the Ozarks: the dogwoods, the flowers, the greening trees, the smells, the stirrings of nature in all kinds of ways. It's been increasingly like that for the last few weeks.

And spring is really here now.

The fireflies have returned.

Welcome back, friends.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Off the Air...

The nightmare of broadcasters is "dead air." A gap in the program. Silence.

It literally is a nightmare. Although I've only had the dream perhaps twice in the nearly two decades since I left radio, many broadcasters tell of a recurring dream where a song being broadcast is ending or a program is running out and the broadcaster is either locked out of the studio, mucking through mud unable to get to the microphone, or is kidnapped by gangsters or some other weird thing.

For me, there were two memorable off-air instances while I was doing a radio talk show in Colorado. The first involved an interview which was going nowhere. For some reason -- I guess as sort of a human interest thing -- I had in the studio two teenage girls who were exchange students from Ireland. I don't remember much about the interview other than it was bad. Whether the girls gave lame answers, were unable to say more than a few words in response to my questions, or I exhausted every angle I could think of and had nothing more to talk about, I don't recall. About all I remember is the stench of showbiz death as I looked at the clock and saw that I still had perhaps eight minutes to fill on the Interview to Nowhere.

At this time our station had an old AM transmitter that was on its last legs. Every once in a while for no reason the old beast would just shut itself down. And we'd be off the air. Someone from the on-air staff would have to then run into the transmitter room and turn it back on. This was a big nuisance, but the old transmitter was scheduled for soon replacement.

It was during my poor interview with the Irish girls that the transmitter chose another one of its times to fail. And, as I recall, I and/or my producer could not get old thing back on the air. Minutes ticked by. The station was dead in the water. Memory is hazy on this, but I believe it took the entire rest of the time of the allotted to the Irish girls' interview to get the station back on the air. I do remember that I was grateful that the radio station decided to crash just then and give me a reprieve from an awful broadcast experience.

The next memorable off-air experience happened after we had replaced the sick old transmitter. Things were running smoothly now and no longer were we having those dreaded dead air experiences. Again, I was conducting an in-studio interview and it was with a Christian man who described how God had overcome his addiction to pornography. I don't remember the details of the interview (it might have been related to a book he had written on his experiences) but I do recall that in the course of our conversation the unthinkable happened: the transmitter failed. I was shocked. The producer ran to the transmitter room to get us back on the air. While we're waiting to continue broadcasting, my guest said to me: "That happens all the time when I go on the radio." What? This man regularly goes on radio to speak of being freed from his addiction and the stations regularly get knocked off the air? I looked at him and realized what he was saying: there was a dark spiritual element to his addiction and an apparent unseen force attempting to stop his message from going out.

The experience was beyond coincidence. If it had been just our station, I wouldn't have thought much about it. But the transmitter taking a dive occured not just in our case but had occured elsewhere when this man would go on the radio.

To what do I attribute it? Satanic forces worked against this man, I believe. He had escaped the clutches of an incredibly destructive addiction and demonic powers worked to disrupt his attempt to explain that escape.

Finally, on a lighter note, years ago there was an old broadcaster story drifting around which, for the sake of the man involved, I hope wasn't true.

The story went something like this: there was a neophyte radio announcer who was faced with a situation in which his radio station had unexpectedly gone off the air. Speaking into the microphone, the man said:

"Pardon us, ladies and gentlemen, but we are off the air."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Invisible Toxic Air

Liberal journalists like to say their news coverage is “unbiased” and “objective.”

Nonsense. Everyone is biased. No one is objective. If you write a grocery list, your biases will cause you to put ice cream at the top of the list.

People often read news stories and know there’s something not quite right. Or as the old journalism movie Absence of Malice defined it: the story is not true, but it’s accurate. And when we read a news story about something with which we are familiar, we are often disturbed at the reporter’s ignorance of the overall topic, and/or the subtle but deliberate distortions.

I used to feel that way sometimes reading a newspaper story until I went back to the top of the story and realized it had come from the New York Times or the Associated Press. That's how I learned not to trust those guys.

A great example appeared recently on Page One of Arkansas’ statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The story – about former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee going up against Rush Limbaugh in a daily radio talk show -- is not the focus of what I’m going to say; rather, I want to look at how the story is presented. Because the story relates to topics about which I have familiarity: 1) radio broadcasting, in which I worked for about a dozen years; 2) Rush Limbaugh, to whom I’ve regularly listened for most of his 23-year national career, and 3) journalism, where I spent some time in radio, television, and newspapers.

Below is part of the story in boldface type. Italics indicate what I believe the reporter is trying to say. My comments are in regular type.

WASHINGTON — The advertising exodus from Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated radio show has fallen like a gift into the lap of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Starting April 9, Huckabee, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will begin airing a three-hour radio show in the same afternoon time slot as Limbaugh, a revered figure among many conservatives.

Limbaugh’s ability to stir things up is his stock in trade.

He has routinely called women leaders “feminazis”... Women leaders? Would those women leaders be individuals like Michelle Malkin? Sarah Palin? Limbaugh has used the "feminazi" term only to describe militant feminists. Does the reporter believe that small strident group leads half the population?

...and has angered critics for comments deemed by them to be racially biased. These days anything representing conservative dissent is considered racist (ask those of us who’ve been involved in the Tea Party), so there's little to comment on here. But notice how the reporter can inject his opinion: "critics" call Limbaugh racially biased. Reporterspeak basically has said Limbaugh demeans prominent women and is racist. True? No. Accurate? As expressed in the reporter’s world view: yes.

Also, the reporter has managed to highlight his own distaste for Limbaugh by placing these comments in the opening paragraphs of the story. In reality, the story is supposed to be about Huckabee competing on-air with Limbaugh, but the reporter apparently believes it is important for you first to know how to think about Limbaugh before getting to the actual story. This, my friend, is the invisible toxic air of liberal media bias that we breathe all the time.

Earlier this month, Limbaugh referred to Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke as a “prostitute”and a “slut” after she spoke out for government-mandated free contraceptive coverage. Truth, not accuracy, would say that Ms. Fluke is also a feminist operative who may have "forum shopped" for a school like Georgetown that does not provide free contraceptives so she could perhaps call them out on it. If anything, she’s not, as others have portrayed her, the innocent “civilian” unwittingly pulled into the culture wars. Also, the Democrat-Gazette story neglects to say why Georgetown resists the government mandate: it's a Catholic school and contraception is contrary to official Catholic doctrine.

Republican House members denied a request to let Fluke testify during recent hearings on the ability of religious institutions to opt out of covering birth control. Reporterspeak: Not only has Limbaugh mistreated Ms. Fluke, but so have evil Republican House members. Oh? Ms. Fluke's appearance was before a Democratic-called meeting. It apparently was a grandstanding event in favor of an Administration policy that many Republicans oppose. Why would Republicans want to give her the platform Democrats did?

Advertisers apparently have not been mollified by Limbaugh’s subsequent apology. At least 98 of them have pulled their ads from the show. Accurate but not entirely complete. Best I can tell is perhaps six or eight national sponsors pulled out of Limbaugh's show (with one asking for, but being refused, reinstatement). Others, according to Limbaugh, are local businesses that have asked local radio stations not to run their ads during Limbaugh's program. Happens in broadcasting all the time. Indeed, large consumer-oriented corporations (car companies, airlines, electronics manufacturers) tend to avoid conservative media outlets. Even the late William F. Buckley’s staid National Review tends to have lesser-known advertisers.

Huckabee, who has a weekly television show on Fox News and began his career in the radio business, is betting that a toned-down talk radio format will lure listeners. Did Huckabee actually say that, implying he will do the job better than Limbaugh? Or was Huckabee comparing and contrasting their on-air personalities? Which brings us to:

“It’s not my style to get in the face of a guest,” he said. “I’ll engage in conversation and not have a shouting match.”

These quotes imply Huckabee believes Limbaugh tends to "get in the face of a guest" and leans toward having a "shouting match." I question the context -- while I believe Huckabee said these things about himself and/or talk radio, these quotes may have been inserted here to make the reporter's case that Limbaugh abuses guests and engages in heated arguments. Huckabee, as a conservative and a broadcaster, would presumably know this is not true. First, Limbaugh rarely has guests and, secondly, when a person with an opinion different than his calls the program, Limbaugh is the gentleman. He will debate the individual, raise questions, provide differing comments, but is not rude. Sometimes he may get agitated, but often is careful to say his agitation is at the caller's thoughts, and explains that he is not personally upset with the caller. Again, we don't know the context of Huckabee's statement, but I'm suspicious.

[The story then goes into four paragraphs about the business and logistics aspects of the new Huckabee program.]

Huckabee downplayed any competition with Limbaugh, calling him “the most successful voice in radio by leaps and bounds.” Very relevant comments about the Limbaugh-Huckabee matchup, which is supposed to be what the story is about. But it's buried deep in the text, lest we wade through the story without being told how to think about Limbaugh.

“Rush apologized,” Huckabee said. “He was right to apologize, and he was wrong to have said what he did.” Again, the apology is important information buried deep in the story, along with the next two sentences.

But Huckabee suggested that there was a double standard for judging remarks made by liberal commentators.

“I’m still waiting for Bill Maher and Chris Matthews to apologize for what they’ve said about conservative women,” he said.

[The story then at length conveys the thoughts of Rhode Island radio consultant Holland Cooke about business aspects of the Limbaugh and Huckabee shows].

The question remains whether Huckabee will be able to take advantage of the opportunity created by the Limbaugh controversy.

Cooke called Huckabee an “affable guy” who could succeed on radio nationally.

“Why must talk radio be snarling? Why can’t it be reasonable?” Cooke asked. “I think he’ll do real well.”
Now we're told "talk radio" -- read Rush Limbaugh -- is "snarling." Limbaugh does not snarl. He speaks boldly and with the brilliance of the accomplished lawyers from which he descends. And he is very effective and influential for conservative thought. That’s his crime

Again, I'm not focusing on what Limbaugh said. Elsewhere I've written that it was over the top and silly. But that’s not within the scope of what I’m writing about: media bias.

Of course, like the writer of the story we've looked at, I'm biased, too. It's part of being human. But I'm voicing opinion, not writing what is supposed to be a news story.

And ice cream would probably be at the top of my grocery list.