the last word (tm)
15/No. 3 - 426th issue - May 18, 2006
firstname.lastname@example.org - http://members.iglou.com/bandit - Bellevue, Kentucky
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WINGNUTTERY MADE, BATSHITTERY DRIVEN
May 12 - When you hear the word university, you think of an institution that stands for the free exchange of ideas. But when one speaks of Northern Kentucky University, a different picture emerges.
NKU uses the slogan, "Quality made, community driven." However, NKU suppresses views that differ from contemporary conservative orthodoxy - and favors views that don't. Although it may have occurred on an occasional basis in earlier years, this practice became the norm at NKU in the '90s, in part because of congressional pressure (which doesn't excuse it).
This is exemplified by NKU's persecution of The Last Word that culminated in bogus criminal charges (which were dismissed after a vexing legal ordeal), the use of students' tuition money to buy a bulk subscription to an extremist right-wing newspaper, and administrators' attempts to silence a longtime professor by wrongly accusing him of being anti-police. (The liars at Fox News Channel quoted the professor out of context to make him sound more inflammatory than he really was.)
Lately there's been another noteworthy incident that showcases NKU's political bias, and this - like the earlier dispute between a heavy-handed school administration and a dissident faculty member - has also received nationwide attention.
We're not going to get into a heated debate over abortion, because the issue here isn't even abortion but how NKU claims to be a free speech bastion despite its own shameful record on First Amendment issues. However - because it's relevant to this story - we have and will take a firm stance against the actions of the militant wing of the anti-abortion movement - which, sadly, now dominates almost every anti-abortion organization. These belligerents yell "MURDERER!!!!!" whenever someone votes for a politician who failed to receive the movement's endorsement. We so fucking dare them to say it to the faces of more than 15,000 people in Campbell County who voted for somebody other than the movement's "approved" candidate in the last presidential election. (If you think we've been too harsh on Bush's supporters, you have to realize that our broadsides began after the aforementioned activity did. Fair is fair.) Also, in 2 articles in our next issue, we're going to touch on policies that show just how hypocritical the movement's clamorous foot soldiers have become.
Of course people are entitled to their opinions. One side of the issue should have the same right to express their views as the other side. We've defended the right of people we strongly disagree with to voice their views. But it's a different matter when one side starts demanding privileges others don't have.
Recently at NKU a professor of British literature encouraged a group of at least 6 of her students to remove a large temporary display on campus posted by NKU Right To Life that featured some 400 crosses. The removal of this insidiously judgmental exhibit touched off a firestorm, naturally. The students were threatened with (and may still face) expulsion for taking down the display. The professor, who had taught at NKU for 26 years, was placed on leave for the rest of the spring semester. The local press editorialized about what a huge affront it was to remove the crosses.
Even from the basic facts that have been reported by the media - which ignored some important facts we'll discuss later - it's already clear that the rules are being selectively enforced against the professor. That alone doesn't justify taking down the display, but it does illustrate a double standard.
A few years ago a name-calling right-wing heckler tried to deny a local activist, who was speaking out against the Religious Right and corporate power, his right to free speech. The badgerer incited a full-on fistfight. The activist's display had been formally approved under NKU's written guidelines, so it's not as if he had no business being on campus. Yet was the student who started a confrontation threatened with expulsion or even reprimanded for denying the man his First Amendment right? Was he threatened with any disciplinary action at all for explicitly violating a rule outlined in the student handbook?
We think you can guess the answer to that. Even after several witnesses corroborated what happened, the university took no action.
Campus organizations and individuals often post fliers about important causes or events - again, with approval under official guidelines. The posters are frequently vandalized with bigoted right-wing graffiti. Although the fliers are posted in approved places, the university fails - nay, refuses - to investigate this vandalism. (What's equally shocking is that the vandalism would be carried out by college students, a vast majority of whom are at least 18 and are therefore adults.)
Why is it fine and dandy to ruin posters and events that advocate some causes while it's not allowable to take down an exhibit that supports other causes? Oh well. Just another example of "free speech for me, not for thee" - the prevailing rule in BushAmerica.
Prosecutors now involved
NKU isn't handling the Right To Life flap as just an internal matter. NKU and the Right To Life group went crying to Campbell County prosecutors to get them to bring serious criminal charges against the professor and students who were involved in the episode.
Strange. In most instances we know of where students are victims at school of an act they feel is illegal, the school insists on handling it internally, if at all. Often the victim is reprimanded if they dare to notify outside authorities. But this policy changes completely when a group like NKU Right To Life feels slighted.
The professor and 6 students then all faced charges of criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking. If nothing else, it's double jeopardy to charge someone with 2 different offenses for the same act, so the judge ought to see right through that. The theft charge is the more severe, as it carries up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.
Also, the professor faces a charge for encouraging her students to remove the exhibit. Oh, so it really is "free speech for me, not for thee", isn't it? Hell, using the prosecutors' "logic", almost anyone can go to jail. If some activist writes a website encouraging civil disobedience, Campbell County can just prosecute them for "criminal solicitation." Sounds like Robert Bork is prosecuting this case, doesn't it?
In addition the authorities are claiming the wooden crosses cost a total of $600 - just so the charges can be trumped up more. To add insult to injury, the professor was never served with the papers listing the charges!
Key fact ignored
The prosecution's case is hopelessly torpedoed when you pop an important fact that the media completely ignored into the mix.
We don't doubt that the university did indeed approve the Right To Life display before it was posted. But there's one key fact that's completely missing from media accounts that completely changes everything: THE EXHIBIT WAS ERECTED IN A SMALL GRASSY FIELD WHERE TEMPORARY DISPLAYS AREN'T ALLOWED!
Weird how the media, administrators, and authorities conveniently ignored that part.
The lawn where the display appeared is the one that features the box sculpture and overlooks a walkway. This knoll is meant as a gathering space for students and their friends. For years students have often placed blankets on the lawn to study or played hackeysack there. You can't very well study if you've got a wooden cross up your ass.
In other words, NKU Right To Life isn't a victim at all! The professor and her students were just enforcing the longtime policy against displays on the lawn.
Where's the crime? As far as we can tell, the students and professor broke no laws and violated no school policy.
You might say they took matters in their own hands by removing the display instead of waiting for a more "official" person to remove it. So what? If you've had dealings with NKU administration or county authorities in recent years, you know handling things like this on your own isn't just desirable - it's often necessary. If I'd seen a display on that particular lawn when I went to NKU, and if I wanted to sit on the lawn, I'd have taken down the display myself - whether I agreed with what the display said or not.
As we said, we've championed the right of those we disagree with to be heard. NKU Right To Life, however, placed its crosses where nobody else was permitted to place displays. If school administrators knowingly ignored the usual policy against displays on the lawn, that's even stronger proof the school is biased in favor of some stances. You can reasonably argue that the official policy should be changed to allow displays on the knoll - but if so, NKU needs to start making damn sure other people can put their displays there too (which is why it probably ain't gonna happen).
Some "facts" reported by various outlets don't agree with each other. Some accounts say all the crosses were strewn about the field. Others say they were thrown in a garbage can. The least the university can do is get its facts straight.
Lip service for free speech
To nobody's surprise, a nationwide e-mail campaign praising NKU for disciplining the professor was launched by the leading dimbulbs of the New Right. NKU and its apologists keep touting this punishment as proof of the school's support for free speech.
NKU sure didn't support the free speech of the professor who spoke about the Cincinnati police situation a few years ago. Or of the outside activist who was shouted down a few years before that (except after he turned more conservative). Or of WRFN DJ's who criticize the university's refusal to punish student athletes who violate school rules.
For most, the First Amendment is nonexistent at NKU. The university has engaged in intellectual hooliganism against dissenters for some time. Now NKU's political sensibilities have been aired in front of the entire country, and activist conservatives in other states have asked the school to send admission information to their kids. Just great. Now Kentucky taxpayers have to help fund the education of perhaps hundreds of out-of-state conservatives - while many prospective students from Kentucky don't even qualify for admission. This doesn't bother NKU administration, however.
This entire incident has been carefully manufactured to publicly hang backers of an opposing viewpoint out to dry in the press. It's almost as if the self-anointed Right To Life club knew the display was going to be taken down for being posted in the wrong place, so they figured they'd post it and then cry to anyone who'll listen when it got removed. The media's always happy to lend a sympathetic ear to this tactic to serve its causes.
Meanwhile, where's the outrage over NKU's real abuses against free speech, which continue to be swept under the rug? Where's the outrage over general harassment against people with opinions that might run afoul of conservative attitudes? For instance, a member of a pro-choice faculty group at NKU reports that members of this group have had their tires slashed, and that the group's meetings have been crashed by militant anti-abortion students shoving pictures of fetuses into their faces. Why won't the authorities investigate the tire slashings?
(That's not the only issue on which those who hold certain views are met with a belligerent response that goes unpunished by local authorities. A new example that's unrelated to NKU: Because of our opposition to the Iraq War, we received a threatening phone call 2 weeks ago that was traced to a local chapter of what is supposed to be a patriotic veterans' organization. No real war vet would make threats like this, because America's fighting men and women take an oath to defend the Constitution. Veterans don't look too kindly upon right-wing oafs bullying an American citizen just for speaking out - so we know the call was placed by someone who never wore a military uniform in their lives.)
The students charged in dismantling the display at NKU were sent to diversion - a program that small-time defendants are sent to that lets them avoid a trial. Diversion is often used around here when prosecutors realize they have no case but aren't mature enough to admit they're wrong by dropping the charges altogether. The diversion program is usually just a minor inconvenience that typically involves briefly reporting to court every month or so for the next few months. It's employed by zealous prosecutors to be an annoyance to defendants when it becomes clear the charges won't stick.
Prosecutors are now focusing their efforts on throwing the book at the 67-year-old professor. They excluded her from the diversion and will bring her to trial this month.
Also, when authorities in Campbell County tell you completing diversion will cause your arrest to be expunged from your record, don't believe them. The arrest stays on your record despite their promises to remove it.
Now that NKU has painted themselves as First Amendment champions, we're going to remember this when they go back to their old trick of violating the free speech rights of dissenters. It's not a question of if, but when. Mark our words.
WOMAN SENT TO PSYCH WARD OVER POLITICAL VIEWS
May 18 - All the right-wing troglodytes who go around insisting that nobody in America has ever been threatened with being labeled as "mentally ill" just because they had the "wrong" political views need to shut the fuck up now.
According to the Plain Dealer and the Free Times of Cleveland, a 53-year-old woman named Carol Fisher faces this very prospect - all because she publicly opposed the Bush regime.
The story began when 2 police officers caught Fisher hanging posters on utility poles in the town of Cleveland Heights promoting an upcoming anti-Bush concert. The fuzz confronted Fisher and told her she'd face a $100 fine unless she removed the posters. If placing signs on utility poles is a crime, you sure wouldn't know it from all the signs for yard sales, private school fundraisers, and conservative political candidates. So that's strike one against the system right there for selectively enforcing the ordinance against signs on telephone poles.
But Fisher was calm and collected. She turned around and began removing the posters, just as the officers directed. Then the police asked for her ID - which she didn't have. Then one of the cops ambushed her, grabbing her arm. The officers shoved her face-down onto the sidewalk and ground their knees into her back. Fisher exclaimed that she couldn't breathe. Fisher has a very fragile jawbone because of previous cancer treatments, but that didn't stop the police from shoving her face into the ground. Two more officers were summoned, and they shackled her legs and handcuffed her so tightly that she was bruised. Her lip was bloodied too.
Fisher objected, but she didn't do anything violent. One of the officers then screamed, "Shut up or I will kill you! ... I am sick of this anti-Bush shit! ... You are definitely going to the psych ward!" Fisher was battered so badly by the police that a witness called the paramedics to take her to the hospital. Once she got there, however, the cops (all of them male) ordered her to undress, handcuffed her to a bed, and refused to allow her visitors or a phone call. Later a psychiatrist appeared, but Fisher quite properly refused to tell him anything.
They called in a shrink because someone got in an altercation that the police started - yep, sounds like BoshAmerica alright.
Members of Fisher's organization showed up at the emergency room, but the cops argued with them too and threatened them with arrest. More police showed up to chase the group into the street. Think of all the violent crime that might have been taking place elsewhere in town, but which the cops couldn't do anything about because so many officers were busy bothering Carol Fisher's group.
Not even the ill-famed Devou Park Showdown was allowed to spin this far out of control.
Guess who was charged with felony assault over the original attack on Fisher? Just guess. Not the police.
Fisher was far calmer than most people would be when confronted by government-sponsored terrorism against their person, despite her natural human right to resist such clear abuse. But still she was accused of assault. Assault how??? This was such an obvious case of police misconduct that the cops should be the ones being charged.
A show trial
You'd think that in the Cleveland area the Goofy Old Party wouldn't be running the whole show. But, although voters there are overpoweringly Democratic, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Heights are generally Republican-run. And it shows: Cleveland Heights in recent years has built up a record of bogus prosecutions. Even in the city of Cleveland, police cited anti-Bush activists for posting fliers (though that case was tossed when it was proven the law there was being selectively enforced against people who have the "wrong" political views). And some of the county judiciary and prosecutors are conservative cranks who had already proven troublesome.
Carol Fisher was arraigned in the courtroom of Judge Kathleen Sutula, a right-wing Republican infamous for partisanship. Furthermore, Fisher wasn't presented with a copy of the indictment until the morning of the arraignment - which violates an Ohio law that says it must be served at least 24 hours before the court appearance. To add insult to injury, Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor Deborah Naiman - who wasn't even assigned to the Fisher case - berated Fisher's lawyer from across the courtroom and approached him in a threatening manner. "You know and everyone knows it’s against the law to hang posters there!" Naiman shouted, referring to the initial "crime."
The case was tried by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy McGinty. McGinty was once a prosecutor who hid evidence to win convictions. It was in McGinty's kangaroo court that the most mind-numbing autocracy unfolded. McGinty insisted that anyone who dared to challenge authority must be suffering from "mental illness." The judge gave biased instructions to the jury and refused to allow jurors to hear important testimony. He failed to inform the jury of proper police procedures in dealing with so-called violations like placing posters on utility poles. Jurors never got to hear that police in Ohio aren't even allowed to make arrests for such a minor violation!
A paramedic who arrived at the altercation to help Fisher had made a videotaped deposition about what he saw. Several minutes into the tape he began describing how one of the policemen pointed his finger at Fisher and boomed, "I don't care if you're injured! You're going to jail!" McGinty ordered the tape cut off when it got to this part. The judge also failed to inform the jury of an outright lie told by the prosecution during closing arguments.
Even the cops' own testimony should have exonerated Fisher. One of the officers admitted in court that Fisher began peacefully walking away to remove the posters but that he grabbed her by her coat. We find it hard to believe, however, that one person who is 53 years old, weighs 130 pounds, and has had cancer could have assaulted 4 big, tough policemen who are about 30 years old, weigh 200 pounds each, and all lift weights. If 4 young, burly cops couldn't defend themselves against one 53-year-old cancer patient who was in handcuffs, that's pretty sad on their part.
And that's one of the main reasons we know Fisher didn't assault the popo.
You'd think the police wouldn't let the act of sticking posters on a telephone pole get out of hand like this. If the cops wanted to follow the standards of courtesy that we have a right to expect, they should have just let Fisher take down the signs like she was going to. But the fact that they lacked the self-control to do so is further proof Fisher was targeted because of what the fliers said.
When the police see someone posting a garage sale sign on a utility pole, they probably don't walk up to them and demand to see their ID - let alone grab their jacket and pull them to the ground. Unless authorities start going to the addresses that are in plain sight on the yard sale signs and ticketing the occupants for posting the signs, it's selective enforcement. Here's an actual example of selective enforcement like the Cleveland Heights case: In Portland, Oregon, antiwar demonstrators were arrested for jaywalking, while other jaywalkers were subject to only a citation. It was a case where the law was enforced more rigidly based on the offender's politics.
There's utterly no grounds in the Ohio case for anyone to claim the police were just spontaneously attacked by someone hanging fliers on a pole. Although skeptics of the defendant's case have claimed repeatedly that 4 witnesses saw her assaulting the police, the Mother Jones blog reveals that these witnesses claimed merely that she was being disrespectful to authority, not physically combative.
Shockingly, Fisher was actually convicted of assault. The proceedings proved to be a show trial, one in which the court had already made up its mind and was just making an example of the defendant. The conviction is, quite frankly, bunk gas. You don't have to look very hard to find lots of cases - yes, in America - where people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit. (Some are later freed because of DNA evidence.)
Following this specious conviction, McGinty ordered Fisher to undergo psychiatric tests before being sentenced. About 35 supporters of the defendant held a rally for her, and she announced she would refuse to follow the order to take a mental test. "America is becoming a place where people who speak out against Bush are intimidated," she said.
If there ever was a clear case where someone in this U.S. of A. nation was arrested and potentially stigmatized with "mental illness" because of their political views, this is surely in the running. We love to see how the Bushbots are going to explain this one, but they'll probably use the same excuses they always use. The official pretext for the forced psychiatric evaluation is more or less that Fisher got upset at the police when they put their hands on her after she violated a very minor law, but even that is not evidence of a mental disorder. Ultimately, the psychiatric order never would have happened if not for the defendant's politics. That is indisputable.
Because this case proves McGinty's tendency to make politically motivated judgments, past cases tried by the judge should be reviewed.
At a surprise hearing early this month, McGinty ordered Fisher incarcerated in the psych unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail and held indefinitely. Though we know of other cases like this, Fisher's attorney says this is the first case he's seen in his 33-year law career of a person being held in a mental ward because of their political views. McGinty had insisted all along Fisher was "mentally ill" just because of her beliefs, but he claimed the anti-Bush shirt Fisher wore at this hearing was further proof. The judge said Fisher was "delusional" for opposing Bush and told her, "I do not negotiate with felons." Fisher's eyeglasses were seized when she arrived at the psych ward.
Cuyahoga County has been the site of other arbitrary psychiatric detentions in the past. Forced druggings and shock treatment (without consent of the detained person) have been known to be used on occasion.
Government considered perfect
Still, according to conservatives, the government can do no wrong (unless of course a conservative gets busted for something). It doesn't matter to them that trumped-up, bogus prosecutions of peaceful dissidents have increased dramatically under Bush and have been widespread under other right-wing officials in the U.S. in the past 2 decades.
We wonder what they think of America now being in the company of the old Soviet Union in using psychiatric detention to punish dissidents. The truth is, America has become a police state ruled by an evil criminal gang - whose head honcho is War-Criminal-in-Chief Bosh, with much assistance by his personal babysitter Sure Shot Cheney.
Fisher could have faced an automatic 20-day stay in a psychiatric "hospital" if she refused an evaluation at the jail. Last we heard, however, Carol Fisher has now been released from the jail mental ward (probably because they realized she wasn't "mentally ill").
This isn't over though!
The actual sentencing is scheduled for June 2. The judge's order to detain Fisher at the jail psych ward was just a bonus that the judge decided to arbitrarily impose in addition to the real sentence. Fisher is still looking at 3 years in jail and a hefty fine for the assault she didn't commit.
The minions of the Bush crime family may yet get to make another long-term political prisoner out of an innocent person. Old conservative habits die hard.
VD IS FOR EVERYBODY! (A Poopyism)
This piece is what we call a poopyism. Do you remember what a poopyism is? A poopyism is a far-out story that, thanks to its sheer ridiculousness, received hardly any media coverage (lest the media seem undignified). The term poopyism comes from a remark a certain former President was once reported to have made about his "poopy area." However, this occasional feature is nonpartisan and isn't limited to politicians. It's really just a craggy mountain of dumb fun (with occasional dark humor).
Don't you just love those public service announcements you see on TV? We're talking about those items they show during commercial breaks that look like commercials, yet aren't commercials. When used properly, PSA's are designed to make the world a nicer place, not sell a product. These usually clever clips often give important advice to the audience, like telling them not to drive drunk or that only they can prevent forest fires or that they shouldn't mail dead lip skin wrapped in Wet Ones to their school psychologist. (Strictly speaking, if some government agency lapses into one of its periodic campaigns to serve some contorted political goal, then perhaps a PSA is a commercial. An example of the government misusing a PSA campaign is the ridiculous gripe by the Bush regime that tried to link pot smoking with terrorism.) The PSA's we grew up with were usually shot on very cheap film that made them look much older than they were.
In 1969 the Ad Council came out with a PSA dealing with venereal diseases. The minute-long spot featured a catchy but weepy tune that intoned, "VD is for everybody, not just for the few...Anyone can share VD with someone nice as you..." The song sounded a bit like "When I'm Sixty-Four", except it was about VD. The piece showed numerous people, young and old, ranging from librarians to teachers to horses to a businessman who is said to have resembled Mr. Hooper of Sesame Street - all of whom presumably suffered from a sexually transmitted disease. The point of the clip was that "anyone can get VD" - even the professional types and clean-cut teenagers shown in the clip - so hey kids, if you think you may have VD, don't be ashamed to tell your doctor.
The PSA was largely a success. But here's the poopyistic part: Opponents of the campaign reportedly charged that viewers who had no idea what VD was saw all these happy, intelligent, successful people with a venereal disease and thought they could become happy, intelligent, and successful themselves if they too acquired VD. According to this urban legend spread by the naysayers, the audience thought to themselves, "VD is for everybody, so why not me too?" They wanted to be part of the crowd! So - the story goes - viewers tried figuring out how to contract a sexually transmitted disease so they could lead the type of joy-filled lives led by all the folks in the Ad Council's PSA.
However, this tall tale about the piece turned out to be made up by opponents. The real question is why anyone would oppose the "VD Is For Everybody" campaign, but those who were against it were probably the same people who went on to criticize sex ed in schools.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the Editor of The Last Word:
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