the last word (tm)
15/No. 1 - 424th issue - February 28, 2006
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DRINKING, NO - HARASSMENT, YES
Feb. 26 - Now that we had a generally good fall 2005 election season - capped off with the overpowering (and hilarious) rejection at the polls of the right-wing Campbell County Schools' tax plan - it's back to reality.
Early last year we telled you about the long-overdue efforts by some Kentucky legislators to crack down on school harassment. Some right-wing lawmakers opposed the Democratic measure and even praised harassment outright. After we wrote our article, the Far Right got its way, unfortunately, and the anti-harassment bill was defeated.
You'd think nobody would oppose such a bill. But we know what kind of so-called people exist out there, and they run America now, so we should have known to prepare ourselves to listen to some big league right-wing chew from the bill's opponents.
A month ago, a new bill against school harassment passed the Kentucky House unanimously. Several Kentucky newspapers, however, tried to make it look like opposing school bullies is a conservative stance by listing "conservative groups" among the bill's supporters, but failing to mention "liberal groups", despite the fact that we progressives backed the bill. Also, this "official" article - which was not labeled as an editorial, mind you - cried that last year's bill would have infringed on bullies' True Free Speach Now (tm). Well, boo hoo hoo. Last I checked, some spoiled brat taking a different school bus home so they can follow a classmate home and harass them wasn't mentioned in the First Amendment, so it's hard for us to see how stopping harassment violates free speech - especially because some of Kentucky's newspapers support right-wing policies like public school uniforms that curtail legitimate free expression. (Remember when that paper in Western Kentucky ran that bizarre editorial that praised authorities for arresting a young woman for wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt to a public street festival?)
Over half of all adjacent states (but not Ohio) already had legislation specifically against school harassment on the books. Still it was considered too much for right-wing Kentucky lawmakers to approve during last year's session.
Alcohol bill a setback
Now something damn dumb is going on in the Kentucky legislature that doesn't seem to concern school harassment directly, but plays squarely into the hands of those who think harassment is A-OK. A new bill would suspend for 6 months the driver's license of anyone under 21 who possesses, buys, or tries to buy alcohol, even if there is no motor vehicle involved anywhere in sight.
We fail to see what is accomplished by yanking the license of a 20-year-old who purchases and privately consumes beer, and does not operate a vehicle following the imbibement of said beverage. Of course it's illegal to buy or drink alcohol if you're under 21, but revoking a driver's license for a transgression that is not car-related would be a penalty that doesn't fit the offense. One heavily debated provision of this bill would even revoke the driver's license of people who are 21 or over who provide alcohol to someone under 21.
We fail to see why the drinking age should be set as high as 21 anyhow, considering that it's lower than 21 in almost every other country in the world. We don't know why it should be, but we know why it is: National 21 was MADD's sellout to the insurance racket, an industry that cajoles MADD and others into favoring their ideas, so these ideas can be exploited to charge higher insurance rates. It has nothing to do with drunk driving at all. MADD now supports efforts in all 50 states and D.C. to pass a law like the Kentucky bill to revoke licenses of 20-year-old drinkers.
MADD's indecorous habit of backing arbitrary and ineffective legislation that heavily infringes on private behavior has earned it scorn from an unlikely source. MADD founder Candy Lightner now refuses to have anything to do with MADD, thanks to the organization's tendency in recent years to demonize all alcohol consumption.
National 21 is so ineffective that, just last year, John McCardell Jr., president of Middlebury College in Vermont, wrote a column in the New York Times about how the national drinking age has made alcohol-related problems much worse than they were before. The national 21 rule, by being so arbitrary, makes people think they're fighting the system by drinking excessively.
Harassers may still drive
Where's the bill to revoke the driver's licenses of spoiled high school and college bullies? Wait, that's right. It doesn't exist. Obviously this shouldn't even be an issue, because anyone old enough to drive should have grown out of school harassment anyway, but with harassment strongholds like Brossart cluttering the landscape, we know better.
A car is a weapon when given to a serial school harasser. (Recall "Carwatch!") There is perhaps no more effective tool for a harasser to continue their course of behavior in the community. Unlike private boozing, this is a malicious, public act, and is at least as dangerous.
In over 15 years since states began revoking the licenses of students who flunk even one class at school, which has nothing to do with driving, not one person has ever had their license yanked for being a harasser - even when a car is involved!
Is that fair?
Didn't think so.
Why are bullies not only not punished, but also given more rights and privileges than others? This is far more sinister than it appears.
Notice it's just all well and grand and big ol' 1892-in-a-bottle-of-poo to keep people from driving because of some minor issue, which in this car-scale society contributes to their long-term economic marginalization by preventing them from getting to work and costing them their livelihood. Yet school harassment brings no punishment. This is part of a long-term plan to 1) force people who are considered "troublesome" (because they got a bad grade or drank when they were 20) out of work so they have to rely on government assistance and do everything the government says as a condition to receive benefits; and 2) allow the crazies who we all remember from school who had political connections to get the jobs everyone else had to give up.
The U.S. of A. government is run by people sick enough to actually implement a plan like this.
If you support pulling licenses over "under-age" drinking but not for school bullying, you'll just enable these efforts to be more successful. Don't give the ogres what they want.
PRIVATE SCHOOL ACCUSED OF SEIZING HOMES FOR BUSH LIBRARY
Feb. 27 - Oh look everyone, it's more of what Bush calls freedom on the march!
Of course this isn't just in Iraq, where the new Bush-installed theocracy practically shut down the entire city of Baghdad because it felt like it. (Like all the insurgents are just going to stop blowing things up just because the government ordered everyone locked inside their home all day.) This is going on in the good ol' U.S. of A. nation too!
Southern Methodist University - a private school in Texas - really, really wants the George W. Bush Presidential Library (for some inexplicable reason). Yes, we know the words Bush and library don't belong in the same sentence, but they needed a place to keep the floating bathtub books and the book Bush wrote by stapling together pieces of a paper grocery bag that he drew a doggy on. (Instead of staples, GeeDumbya might have used the "mud" he found in the bathtub as glue.)
Anyway, the private university is facing a lawsuit because it allegedly used improper practices to take over nearby University Gardens condos to acquire land that it reportedly wants to use for the library.
Since when do private organizations have the power to directly condemn real property that belongs to someone else? Well, apparently, what SMU did wasn't eminent domain, since that's outside its legal powers in Texas, as SMU is a private entity. (Yes, the Supreme Court fucked up in Kelo v. New London, but that's another book.) According to the suit, SMU gradually acquired 93% of the units in the condominium complex so it was able to pack the condo board with university employees, who were then able to decide the condos' fate. SMU reportedly accomplished this by buying a few units at a time and refusing to maintain them, which drove off other occupants, enabling the university to buy still more units. The suit contends that school officials violated the condos' bylaws and misled residents.
(For its usual right-wing part, the New York Sun reported "increasing outrage among Republicans over the use of eminent domain" - which is misleading, because the Republicans have run the country for most of the past 25 years and haven't done a damn thing to halt eminent domain abuse until very recently when everyone started paying attention. We, on the other hand, began criticizing eminent domain abuse years ago.)
The real irony is that Bush himself made millions of dollars abusing eminent domain! He had a local government expropriate land for his Texas Rangers stadium, and the landowners were paid far less than what the land was worth. We don't know whether or not this is the ballpark where the future "unitary President" (as he calls himself) was once caught on video vigorously picking his nose. The idea of a viable neighborhood being demolished to provide a venue for Bush to pick his nose seems almost too bizarre to be real.
It appears, however, that SMU has yet to be officially awarded the Bush library (rather, liebrary, considering how ol' Georgie always seems to have trouble telling the truth). Some would say it would serve the university right if it doesn't get its library it wanted so badly.
BILL WOULD PREVENT STATES FROM LABELING POISONOUS FOOD
Feb. 28 - Remember the '90s? It was an era of Seinfeld, Pogs, and helmet hair.
Ah yes, the '90s. It was when conservatives tried to pass themselves off as champions of states' rights. Not like we ever believed them to begin with, because we knew their support of states' rights applied only to states doing conservative things, and not to states enacting progressive policies.
Now conservatives in Congress are once again proving that they believe in "states' rights for me, but not for thee." A bill by Rep. Michael Rogers, a useless Republican from Michigan, would rob state and local governments of their power to let you know what's in your food. The unfortunate bill, numbered H.R. 4167, is fuckheadedly known as the National Uniformity for Food Act, and it's up for a vote this Thursday, March 2.
Some states require food and beverages to carry labels to warn you of any risk of cancer, birth defects, allergies, or mercury poisoning. Rogers's moronic bill would prevent states and communities from requiring these warnings. It would also bar state and local governments from having laws to require genetically engineered frankenfoods to be labeled.
Uh, what was this about states' rights again? Guess states' rights are one of these "offer not valid in such-and-such states" deals like these contests you hear about in TV commercials.
Many titans of the retail and food industries back this bill in the interest of their own bloated profits - but you, if you're a resident of one of the 50 states, can fight this dangerous legislation by e-mailing your congressional representatives now!
Help protect your community's autonomy and your family's safety by opposing this bill.
On the other hand, if the bill becomes law, the federal government is going to look mighty silly trying to enforce it against states and localities that disregard it. Unfortunately, most state and local governments probably don't have enough gumption to disregard it.
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