The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union


Yeah, that's pretty much what it reminded me of.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Apparently, Some Democrats DO Get It

This is a great article about Southern Democrats introducing bills that allow the Bible to be taught as literature in public schools. I appreciate their efforts for a couple of reasons: first, it shows sensitivity to a very controversial issue that has bitterly divided people of Faith; second, the Bible IS a central, crucial element of Western Civillization and should be taught to students as part of well-rounded liberal education; third, from a purely cynical partisan standpoint, it takes the air of the perception of many that GOP stands for God's Own Party. I wonder if Betty Peters, a Republican on the Alabama school board, appreciated the irony when she accused Democrats of wrapping themselves in Jesus? Probably not.

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One View of the Alito Confirmation Fight

From The Bull Moose. Not sure I agree, though. Why is it that it's always "political suicide" when Democrats play to their base (and the Democratic base is strenuously arguing that the opposition to Alito was too tepid), but when Republicans play to their base (Terri Schiavo, for example), that's given a by?
Here are some other views, courteously compiled by The Reaction.


Abramoff vs. Indian Country

Republicans (and their trained monkeys in the media and blogosphere) have been furiously trying to spin Abramoff-gate as a "bi-partisan" scandal, repeating over and over and over again the flat-out falsehood that he gave money to Democrats, too. The meat of this spin has been the fact that some of the tribes Abramoff's firm represented gave money to Democrats, apparently an attempt to insinuate that all money from Indian Country is somehow tainted. Now, an extensive analysis of campaign donations by The American Prospect shows that Abramoff's tribal clients actually REVERSED their historic pattern of donating to Democrats and started giving more money to Republicans once his firm was hired. Now this is not, repeat NOT, to suggest that all tribal leaders are completely blameless. If nothing else, some of them have at the very least been too free with their tribe's money, too secretive in their dealings with lobbyists, and duplicitous about it, on top of that. But we shouldn't let this excuse Right Wing attempts to smear all Native Americans in a desperate attempt to cover their own asses.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stretched Thin? Oh My Goodness, No!

If, as Rumsfeld claims, the US Army isn't really stretched to the breaking point, why do we need to "extend the enlistments" of 50,000 soldiers? I am deeply worried about the long-term damage this war will cause to the regular armed forces, not to mention the National Guard and Reserves.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cleburne Times-Review Article for January 29, 2006

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
--1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

In a recent column, Molly Ivins outlined the reasons why she would not be supporting Hillary Clinton for president. The Clintons, Bill and Hillary both, are guilty of many political sins, but probably the worst of them is one Molly mentions in her first paragraph: “triangulation,” that particularly Clintonian strategy of charting a course straight down the middle of two extremes on any given issue. Bill Clinton’s version of Karl Rove, Dick Morris, may have invented triangulation, but now everyone wants in on the act, to the point that even conservatives are sick of seeing Republicans use it. Maybe the most egregious example of this tactic, and certainly the most harmful to America’s future (not to mention the Democratic Party), occurred in 1992 over NAFTA and global “free trade.” Back in those days, which seem so long ago now, the rich and notoriously obnoxious loudmouth H. Ross Perot exploded in the polls by, among other things, bashing “free trade.” NAFTA was then a predominantly Republican issue, closely associated with George H. W. Bush, and bitterly opposed by most of the Democratic base, particularly labor unions. So, after hemming and hawing for as long as possible, Clinton finally, at literally the eleventh hour, October of 1992, endorsed NAFTA “with reservations,” calling for better environmental and labor standards. Once he was safely elected, Clinton worked quickly to isolate the still-ranting Perot and managed, just barely (like Nixon going to China) to cram NAFTA through a Democratic Congress. If the intention was to lure big business (or at least big investors) away from the Republicans, it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: discouraged labor voters stayed home, business PAC money still flowed like a tidal wave to the Right, and the GOP stormed Congress in 1994. By plugging into the same sort of economic appeasement that Reagan, and the first Bush (and now the second Bush) followed, Clinton crippled his own party, but worse yet, has put America on the fast track to second-class status in the world economy.

After years of NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and other alphabet soup agreements that weakened American sovereignty in favor of unelected pro-corporate bureaucracies (far worse than the impotent UN that is the boogeyman of all Conservatives), manufacturing has declined as a share of the American economy from 39% in 1988 to an anemic 9% in 2004. Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will layoff as many as 30,000 employees and close ten plants in the United States. This follows a similar amount of layoffs by General Motors. Bethlehem Steel, one of the engines of the Industrial Revolution in this country, died with a whimper in 2003, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for 95,000 workers and retirees. After the US was forced to lift protections against cheap Chinese textiles, the market was so flooded, and the prospect of the utter collapse of the American textile industry so imminent, even the Bush Administration was forced to take action, though it remains to be seen if this “gentlemen’s agreement” does anything more than just postpone the inevitable. America’s trade deficit declined slightly in October of last year to $64.2 billion, but that’s still the third-largest in history. Foreign ownership of US debt, after remaining steady at around 20% from 1970 until 1995, is now over 50%. Of that debt, now over $8 trillion dollars, Japan held $682.8 billion and Red China $249.8 billion as of November 2005.

So, who cares? So what if we aren’t making cars, or steel, or textiles, or much of anything else? The economy seems okay outwardly. The unemployment rate is down a little, for however much you can trust the “official” jobless rate. Here’s why you should care: you cannot be an economic superpower and not make anything. You cannot be an economic superpower and owe astronomical amounts of money to foreign countries which do not necessarily have your best interests at heart. Don’t believe me? Ask Great Britain. Better yet, read “Wealth and Democracy” by every Democrat’s favorite Republican Kevin Phillips, or the older but still relevant, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” by Paul Kennedy. They both make the same point: throughout history, countries that abandon manufacturing in favor of “high finance” and other “paper economies” rapidly end up being pushed off the top of the heap. Or think about this: I remember the days when Republicans lined up to accuse Bill Clinton of selling out to Red China (when in reality he was following almost to the letter George H. W. Bush’s policy). But what if China decides to invade Taiwan? What, exactly, could we do about it, even if our military wasn’t already bogged down in Iraq and strained to the breaking point? The People’s Liberation Army (which is really more a giant real estate company these days anyway) would never have to fire a shot; they could just sell off their Treasury bonds and wreck the US economy overnight if we raised a peep.

Now here’s another question: why are there NO Democrats of national stature talking about this? Forget a third political party, I’d be happy if we had two!



Okay, like an idiot, I had the comments section set to require registration before you could post a comment. Forgive me; I'm new to the internets. I notice the number of hits nearly doubled in the last hour or so, so if you are really dying to give me a piece of your mind, you can now do so anonymously. Thank you and goodnight.


Bad to Worse

Could the news from the Middle East possibly get any worse? Don't answer that! First, possibly the only two men (Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat) who might've hammered out a peace despite their shortcomings (in Arafat's case SERIOUS shortcomings, like being a crook, liar and terrorist) are gone; then, a total lunatic who was apparently one of the thugs that seized the US Embassy in 1979 becomes President of Iran; and now a terrorist organization has won contol of the Palestinian Authority legislature.
I have to disagree with the Salon article a little; yes, it was the Bush Administration's bright idea to force the Palestinians to give power to a prime minister, and yes that has come back to bite them in the ass, but it was necessary at the time to give Israel someone they could negotiate with instead of Arafat. Whatever else you can say about Arafat, he would NEVER, by hook or by crook, have allowed Hamas to win. A sad joke in the Middle East is that the Islamists believe in the principle of "one man, one vote, one time..."
This isn't a very profound observation, but I expect with a power vacuum in Israel AND the Palestinian Authority, things are likely to go downhill from here. I hope I'm wrong.


Thank God That Terrorist Appeaser Kerry Lost, Huh?

Putting aside all the jokes from the 2004 campaign about who had the highest college grades (which just went to prove my point that it was an election for student body president between the captain of the football team and the president of the chess club), it now appears Bush is actually cribbing notes from Kerry, cutting-and-pasting the Iran policy he mocked during the election.

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The Church vs. The World

A recent Rolling Stone article on Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas perfectly illustrates the crisis of the Church in America as it has been transformed into a moral fig-leaf for the sort of anti-Christian social Darwinist economics touted by the corporate masters of the Republic Party. Unlike the article, which adopts a subtly sarcastic tone, I can easily believe that Brownback's faith is sincere, but it is ultimately tragic that he (and others like him) cannot see they have been lured into the worst sort of blasphemy. The very fact that Brownback would brag that he was put into office by a venal, corrupt and borderline psychotic like Pat Robertson indicates the depths of his apostasy.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Around Christmas, there were news reports that President Bush had a received a bump in the polls. Maybe not so much. This January 6 Survey USA poll for all 50 states is astonishing, particularly given his low numbers even in the Deep South. In Texas (TEXAS!) his approval rating is only 54%!

Everything's Bigger in Texas...

...including income disparity. For an excellent if excrutiatingly long-winded discussion of why this is a generally bad thing for democracy, see Kevin Phillips' Wealth and Democracy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fighting Dems

There's been an explosion of veterans running for Congress this year as Democrats, including locally David Harris, running against the shamelessly corrupt Joe Barton in CD6. I have to say, though, Major Tammy Duckworth is the most inspirational candidate I've seen in a long time. Even if you don't live in Illinois, much less her district, she's someone worth your donation.

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Son of Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Watch

From Unclaimed Territory, an excellent and detailed deconstruction of all of the White House's pathetic attempts to excuse what was and is blatantly illegal wire-tapping.


A Judge To Be Proud Of

Judge Charlie Baird, formerly of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (BEFORE it became a national laughingstock) is running for the 299th District Court in Travis County. If you live in that area, give him your support. The bench will benefit from his wisdom and experience.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Watch Rides Again

With thanks to The Cunning Realist.

Abramoff/Wohlgemuth Connection, Part 2

As far as I can tell, Abramoff did NOT contribute anything directly to Arlene's unsuccesful 2004 race for Congress; however she DID receive $10,000 from Americans for a Republican Majority, Tom DeLay's PAC, and ARMPAC received at least $15,000 from Abramoff.

Laundering YOUR Tax Dollars

Call Rob Orr at 817-295-5158 and ask him if he thinks it's okay to turn taxpayer dollars into political contributions for Tom DeLay. Even by the admittedly low standards of Texas politics, this is pretty bad.

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Texas Congressional Redistricting Case

Oral arguments on the latest efforts to overturn Tom DeLay's abolition of democracy through computerized redistricting are set to begin before the US Supreme Court March 1. From the Burnt Orange Report, an excellent summary of the appellants' case.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Confederate Battle Purse Update

After doing a little research, it may well be that Burleson ISD is out of luck when it comes to banning displays of the Confederate battle flag by students on campus. I have found cases where the ACLU successfully challenged similar bans in West Virginia and Georgia (scroll down to the bottom of the page). As I said in my January 15th column in the Times-Review, my first instinct is to support the First Amendment, but what's going to happen when other students decide they want to wear a swastika or pentagram t-shirt? At what point does Burleson High School get transformed into a permanent political rally?


The Boys Who Cried Wolf

An excellent review of a case involving another severely injured person (this time a child) who will very likely die if life support is terminated. There may be some genuine issues of concern in this situation (include the incompetence of child protective services), but the bizarre, ludicrous rhetoric of the Right over Terri Schiavo may keep Haleigh Poutre's sad situation off the radar.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

As Usual, She Has A Point

One Two-Faced Grandma

Give credit where it's due, Chris Bell properly skewered Carol Keeton Strayhorn (Rylander? Etcetera?) for her hypocrisy on school vouchers as she tries to siphon votes from Democrats AND the ultra-right wing at the same time and on the same issue.

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Setting the Bar Low

How bad have things gotten in American politics when it is headline news that the President of the United States is deigning to entertain unscripted questions from his subjects? Next you'll tell me he's decided to stop arresting people who disagree with him!

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Watch Continues

'member when President Bush said "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" in New Orleans? Turns out, not so much.

Environmentalist Critique of Brian Schweitzer

Eerily Familiar...

Remember in 2004 when Republicans were asking "Who would Osama vote for?" Take a look at this 2002 letter from the Chief Evildoer himself and see if you recognize any themes. Via The Crooked Timber.

Someone to watch...

Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana. Sure it's a long shot, but think about this: in 1990, how many people had heard of Bill Clinton?

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Wohlgemuth-Abramoff Connection?

In this recent story from The Texas Observer, notice that Arlene's name is mentioned in a 2001 email from evangelist/ninja Ralph Reed to uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff as someone to contact in their efforts to kill HB514, an Indian casino gambling bill opposed by Abramoff's clients, the Louisiana Coushatta Tribe, who didn't want competition from Texas tribes. Someone with more time on their hands than me should check Wohlgemuth's campaign filings and see if she received any Abramoff money...

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Go, Judge Gammage!

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Chris Bell. Seems like a decent guy, though frankly the bar is set pretty low for for Governor of Texas these days. I never thought we'd have a governor that made George W. Bush seem like an intellectual giant, but Perry is it. Having said that, I have to go with Gammage for purely cynical, brutally realistic reasons: he can win, Bell can't. Already, the trial lawyers (the last source of campaign funding for Democrats) are drifting towards Strayhorn. She just got the endorsement of the TSTA. Judge Gammage has been around long enough that he knows where the money is, and without money, it doesn't matter who our nominee is. Here's something else to consider: this race is going to be BRUTAL. Perry will stop at nothing to cling to power; he clearly demonstrated that by playing lapdog to Tom DeLay over the abolition of democracy through redistricting. Running for city council and twice for Congress is not preparation for a truly vicious statewide race. Judge Gammage knows what it's like because he's been there. If Democrats really want to win this year, there's only one choice.

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Cleburne Times Review Column for January 22, 2006

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
--Colossians 3:11

A strange Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, with controversies both real and imagined. First, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans makes the bizarre comment that he wants a “chocolate city,” which he defines as “majority African-American,” just in case anyone failed to grasp the subtleties of his metaphor, and then takes the usual tactic of claiming his comments were misunderstood. Please. There is no way to positively spin such moronic statements. If Katrina had struck some rich lily-white beach resort town (which would have been buried under federal aid before the rain even stopped falling), and the white mayor of that town had made comments even remotely similar, he or she would be ridden out of town on a rail. And rightly so. As the leader of a city that was nearly wiped off the map, and then ignored and abandoned by the Federal government, the Mayor is understandably over-stressed. Fine. But he needs to put the people of his city (ALL the people of his city) first. Shooting your mouth off gives aid and comfort to those who have no interest in rebuilding New Orleans, and hurts those who want to help. Nagin needs to buck up, give a real apology, and move on.

Next, Hillary Clinton gives a weird little speech at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem where she said the House of Representatives is run “like a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about.” Huh? For starters, Senator Clinton once again has given us more proof that she may know Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton may be a friend of hers, but she is no Bill Clinton. The man referred to as the “first African-American President” due to his incredibly high levels of support among black voters knew better than to condescend to his audience by trying to sound hip and edgy. And ultimately that may be why Hillary Clinton is unlikely to follow her husband into the White House; she may have his drive and ambition, but she utterly lacks his skill as a politician. But beyond that, why is it that suddenly all potential Democratic presidential candidates have to scramble to be seen in public with Al Sharpton? This con man who nearly sparked a race riot in New York with a completely fabricated story of police abuse is now vetting candidates like a king maker? Kind of hard for Democrats to make the case that the Republic Party is dominated by the tele-Pharisees of the Right when they are kowtowing to demagogues like Sharpton. Predictably, Republicans are full of righteous fury about Clinton using the word “plantation,” claiming it’s nothing but “race baiting.” Right. “Plantation” is only acceptable when right-wingers like Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich use it.

Speaking of tele-Pharisees, I once said that Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson were neck and neck in the race to become the official spokeskook of the Right Wing political evangelism Sanhedrin. Well, the race is over and Robertson wins. Hands down. The man who blamed feminists and lesbians for the 9-11 attacks, claimed that God would allow Dover, Pennsylvania to be destroyed because the school board there voted against teaching “intelligent design,” referred (like Nagin) to Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment, and called for the assassination of blowhard socialist Hugo Chavez, now says God (who in Robertson’s twisted theology is apparently nothing more than a glorified hit man) struck down Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for “giving away” the Holy Land. It’s time to retire the Crackpot Crown. Robertson is the undisputed King of Fools.

And last but not least, the Republican spin doctors have worn a hole in the rug trying to justify President Bush’s fetish for spying on American citizens without the benefit of a warrant or the overview of the court designed specifically to authorize such wiretaps. “9-11!” They say. “Al Qaeda!” Only one problem: we now know this Administration began illegal wiretapping BEFORE September 11, 2001 (from So the last sorry justification for such police state tactics falls. Apparently, it became necessary to destroy the Constitution in order to save it. How long until January 20, 2009, again?


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Republicans Off the Plantation

Predictably, Republicans are feigning outrage over Hillary Clinton's comment that the House of Representatives is run "like a plantation." Now, you can argue that the comment just shows how politically inept she is compared to Bill, but shows how Republicans only seem to find the word "plantation" offensive when a Democrat uses it.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Arlene Rides Again!

From The Jeffersonian. Just in case you were worried that our beloved former state representative Arlene Wohlgemuth doesn't have enough to do with her time since losing a congressional race to Chet Edwards, we receive word that she is busy raising funds for alleged Democrats like Frank Madla. Now that's bipartisan leadership in action!


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Review of "Hellfire Nation" by James A. Morone

Subtitled, "The Politics of Sin in American History," Morone's book describes the historical cycle in American history of moral crises driving politics, beginning with the Puritans. His thesis is that these crises follow a fairly predictable repeating pattern: moralizers denounce some social evil, the general public is rallied both by opposition to the evil and to the demonic "others" that profit by or are seduced by the evil (and this usually ties into patterns of racism and sexism), the authorities are compelled to take action and typically overreact with draconian and sometimes disastrous results. Morone begins with the Puritans themselves, who originally rallied "The City on the Hill" against evil Indians with their demonic ways and seduction of white women. Once the Indians were all killed or driven off, the Puritans turned on themselves with the famous witch trials. An interesting point I hadn't realized: Tituba, the slave woman who eventually became the focus of witch hysteria was not, as commonly portrayed, African; she was actually a Native American from the Caribbean, though still a slave.
The book then recounts numerous instances of this pattern of moral outrage repeating itself throughout American history, from the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil War, to the Suffragettes, to Prohibition, the War on Drugs and (briefly, since this book was only published in 2003), the War on Terror. The other theme involves the tension between Puritanism (with its focus on moral condemnation of sin) and another American meme, the Social Gospel (focusing on the causes of sin, rather than merely punishing the sinner). For Morone, the high water mark for the Social Gospel as a driving force in politics came in the brief period from 1933 (The New Deal) to 1973 (as the 'Sixties came crashing to an end, and Roe v. Wade transferred the force of moral persuasion in public life from the Left to the Right, where it firmly remains to today). One of my complaints, however, is that the author does not further develop the differences between the Social Gospel and classic liberalism, though to be fair, at 497 pages (not counting the extensive notes) this is already an exhaustively-researched work. Nevertheless, it is a surprisingly easy read for an academic work (Morone is a professor of political science at Brown University). I was frankly shocked (though I should have known better) by some of the grotesque detail on the truly venal and cruel nature of racism in America, from wars of genocide against Native Americans to the terrorist state of the post Civil War pre Civil Rights South. I don't like to constantly harp on the long and sad history of racism, but often the reality of how bad things really were is glossed-over with feel-good rhetoric, particularly at this time of year when white politicians dutifully trot out press releases praising Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when the vast majority of them would if he were still alive be bitterly denouncing the theories of economic justice he was exploring just before his assassination.
In short, I recommend "Hellfire Nation" if you are interested in political history and especially if you want to explore the origins of the Culture Wars that actually stretch back to the very beginning of America.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Conservative," hell!

A good friend of mine (and former Libertarian candidate for Congress) sent me this link to an excellent article from the Cato Institute that beautifully illustrates my point that George W. Bush and the Republican Congress are approximately as "conservative" as a drunken sailor on shore leave.

Old Columns

I plan to post all 80 some-odd prior columns from the Cleburne Times-Review, but I need to find some clever way to add them straight to the archives instead of just piling them all over the main page. Don't worry; I'll figure something out.

Column for January 15, 2006

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
--Luke 6:40

Once again, Burleson (the city of characters) makes the news! And it’s high time, too; jokes about our neighbor to the north’s ham-fisted prosecution of a woman selling what we refer to in a family newspaper as marital aids were starting to fall off the radar. No, this time the school district that turned a bronze cast of a bull elk into a gelding for fear of giving offense is recognized for disciplining two teenage girls who wanted to display Confederate battle flags on their persons at school. This incident even merited mention in a great metropolitan newspaper to the north of Burleson which typically only notices Johnson County if a major crime has been committed here or there’s some opportunity to make fun of us, whereas every dog that gets run over in Parker County or Denton County receives lavish coverage. But back to the Civil War. I tend to be an absolutist when it comes to Free Speech; I think that particular freedom probably more than any other in the Constitution has prevented our country from collapsing into anarchy or dictatorship over the last two hundred years or so (keeping in mind that George W. Bush still has three years left in office). I also tend to have little patience for people who labor under the delusion that the Constitution somehow protects them from ever having to see or hear anything they consider offensive. On the contrary, as I’ve said many times, the First Amendment virtually guarantees that you will be offended by something somebody else says or thinks, probably on a daily basis. The same First Amendment that protects Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letters from the Birmingham Jail,” also protects the right of pathetic Nazi wannabes to march through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Illinois. It protects the right of that ignorant loud-mouth Ann Coulter to shrilly call for the execution of liberals who displease her, and for the loathsome fake Native American Ward Churchill to compare the victims of 9-11 to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichman. So, my normal response to people who claim to be “offended” by someone else’s Free Speech is “don’t read it, listen to it, or watch it!”
This situation, however, is a little different, since it involves minors in a school environment. I don’t agree with the Supreme Court that students give up nearly all their constitutional rights just by walking through the schoolhouse door, and Burleson’s code against “offensive displays” is pretty broad. Let’s also assume for the sake of giving the benefit of the doubt, that both these girls were genuinely ignorant of the fact that many people (and not just African-Americans) equate the Confederate battle flag with racism, slavery and the Ku Klux Klan. Although apparently, at least according to the article in that other newspaper, one of the girls has now learned to parrot the tired cliché that the flag represents “heritage not hate” and she was evidently unaware of the Texas Ordinance of Secession which explicitly stated that secession was done to preserve slavery and white supremacy until it was read to her by a nosy member of the elite liberal media conspiracy. He could also have quoted the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens or any of a number of other sources to rebut the ludicrous revisionist fantasy that the Civil War was not “about slavery.” That’s another column all by itself though; putting all that aside and assuming these girls had no malicious intent, no political ax to grind, and were at worst naïve, does that give them the right to wear the Confederate battle flag to school? I say “no” and here’s why: if these girls can wear the Confederate battle flag because they think it represents “heritage not hate,” how could we ban another student from wearing a swastika? Or another student from wearing a satanic pentagram? I don’t say that to equate the Confederacy with Nazi Germany or Satanism (because that’s an asinine comparison), but to prove the point that if you allow one student to display his or her controversial symbol, you have to let everyone else display theirs and that ends up distracting the kids from what should be their primary purpose for attending high school; namely, looking cool in the latest designer clothes and trying to impress members of the opposite sex. And also learning. I agree that “speech codes” and “sensitivity” can quickly become ludicrous. After all, I could argue that my children are offended by Chief Wahoo (the appallingly racist stereotype cartoon mascot of the Cleveland Indians) and the professional football club from Washington, DC, named after a racist slur; does that mean I could get the school district to ban the other kids from wearing football or baseball jerseys? And if these girls had gotten in trouble for, say, wearing a political campaign t-shirt, my opinion would be different (even if it was a Rob Orr t-shirt). But as long as Burleson ISD is applying this policy evenly, and not showing favoritism for one point of view or the other, I have to stand with the administrators on this one. Unfortunately, space doesn’t permit going into the whole touchy issue of the Confederate legacy in the south, but it is (as Abraham Lincoln would say) altogether fitting and proper that we discuss an issue that reveals the still sore spot of race relations in America on this day, right before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.


Column for December 25, 2005

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

--John 3:16

When I was a little kid, like all little I guess, I loved Christmas. You got out of school (and it was a nice long break back in those days), you got to eat candy, and best off all, you got presents. What’s not to love? Even when I went off to college, Christmas was still great. I still got the long break from school, still got to eat candy, and still got presents. When I got married, I learned new ways to enjoy the season: now I had someone to buy presents for. Of course, when we first got married, my wife and I were so strapped for money our Christmas “presents” to each other were usually the electrical bill or the rent (same as our birthday and anniversary “presents”), but it was still fun. Then we had kids. And that’s when I learned what my parents had known for years: Christmas is a pain in the butt. There’s never enough time to get everything done. The lights aren’t up (I recently discovered the joys of red and green floodlights), the cards aren’t addressed. The crowds are awful, the traffic is murder, people are pushy and rude, and how the heck am I going to pay for all this? But, in spite of all that, you know what? I still love Christmas. Yeah, it’s hard to see under the layers of tacky storefronts, materialism, greed, political posturing and so forth, but the important lesson of Christmas is still there, if you look hard enough. I also love Christmas music, but I tend to be kind of old-fashioned about my sacred music. My wife loves Contemporary Christian music; I can’t stand it. I really only like hymns that were written decades or centuries before I was born, songs like Amazing Grace, Victory in Jesus, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, How Great Thou Art--that’s what I want to hear. I don’t even really care for modern covers of the classics, though Randy Travis does have a voice that was made for gospel, and I’m not very big on any musical instruments in church besides a piano or an organ, although the little electric guitar combo in my church is amazingly talented. Maybe that’s grandmaw’s Church of Christ rubbing off on me. At any rate, I much prefer the older sacred songs of Christmas (The First Noel, Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High) to fluffy commercial stuff like Santa Claus is Coming to Town or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I make one exception, though, and that’s The Little Drummer Boy, especially when it’s sung by a choir. Yeah, it’s trite and schmaltzy, but it reminds me of the real, important lesson of Christmas.

The lesson is this: God, all-powerful and all-knowing, created the Universe. He created the Earth and every living thing on, under or above it, and he created humanity. And, like many kids on the day after Christmas, we turned out to be whiny, greedy, spoiled ingrates. One rule He had in the Garden of Eden, just one! Don’t eat the apple, how hard is that to follow? But we blew it. In fact, pretty much the entire Old Testament can be summed up in three words: we blew it. Time after time after time, God rescues His people, and we respond by ignoring Him, defying Him, turning our backs on Him. If any of us had a friend like that, what would we do? If you bought somebody a house, paid all his bills, and otherwise kept him out of trouble, just to have him ignore you, would you keep doing it? Heck, no! But what was God’s response? Did He give up? Did He just wipe the slate clean again and start over with some new more grateful intelligent species? No, He gave us His only child, knowing full well that we would despise Him and eventually torture and murder Him. Who would do something like that? Who would sacrifice everything that was important to them to save a rotten bunch that didn’t deserve it? A parent.

Now, here’s where Christmas and The Little Drummer Boy comes in. You have the Son of God, and how does he come to Earth? As a conquering general like the Maccabees? That’s what the Jews were looking for. You’d expect that the living embodiment of God made manifest would be a king, or at least rich. Instead, He’s born to a poor couple of a conquered race, from a tiny insignificant village, in a remote backwater province at the hind end of the Roman Empire. And He is so poor, his parents are essentially homeless and He’s born in the equivalent of a parking garage. “I am a poor boy, too,” the little drummer boy says. Our Savior comes not as a mighty ruler commanding great armies and great wealth, but delivered up in a stable, the adopted son of a lowly carpenter. That, for me, is the most important lesson of Christmas: the incredible humility of Christ. Knowing all that He knew, consider the spirit of Christ in being born into such humble beginnings, and remaining that way, poor and consorting with sinners, His whole life. Consider the love that God must have for us to send His Son to live in poverty and squalor to give all of us wretched sinners one last undeserved hope for salvation.
I think we could all use a dose of that kind of humility, and not just at Christmas. And in that humble spirit, we should reflect on how greatly we have all been blessed in material wealth and remember those who are poor: the homeless, the downtrodden, the ignored. And remember those who even today are serving us in a humble spirit: the soldiers away from their families in distant and violent lands, the police officers, EMTs and firemen who are working while we’re at home, opening presents. Maybe, instead of worrying so much about “keeping the Christ in Christmas,” we should be more concerned about keeping Christ in our hearts, and living our lives in a Christ-like manner. Merry Christmas to us all. Da ni s ta yo hi hv!


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My first post.