Given the right-wing freak-out over the existence of sexually explicit passages in several books that Kevin Jennings' former organization has recommended for adolescents, we look forward to the I'm-sure-forthcoming denunciations of the Ayn Rand Institute. It'll be hard for them, of course, since The Right loves Rand's books and considers her one of the founders of modern conservative philosophy, but in order to avoid being hypocrites, they will have to do so.
The Ayn Rand Institute, according to its website, "works to introduce young people to Ayn Rand's novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience."
And boy, do they promote! Here's their website for high school students. Here's the description of the contests they hold for high students competing to see who can write the best essays on Rand's works: 8th, 9th, and 10th graders compete for the best essay on Anthem and 11th and 12th graders compete for the best essay on The Fountainhead. Here are the Institute's lesson plans for high school teachers who want to assign Anthem or The Fountainhead. And here's the Institute's notice to high school teachers that they can get free copies of Rand's novels to teach in their schools from the Institute.
Oh, and here's the Scribd.com version of The Fountainhead. If you scroll down to page 186, you'll find an extremely explicit rape scene, which the Institute apparently finds appropriate for 11th and 12th graders.
I'm sure those denunciations will be coming any time now.
I'm humbled to have been nominated in the Air America Cruise Contest – even more so to learn today that thanks to the support of Air America readers and others I've made the Top 5 (along with Digby, Joe Jervis, Mike Lux, and Pam Spaulding) and moved on to the second and final round of voting. David Brock, the founder & CEO of Media Matters, sent around the below email today encouraging County Fair readers to take 30 seconds and cast a vote in my favor before the second round of voting ends on December 17.
Needless to say, your vote today would be greatly appreciated – it really only does take 30 seconds. Don't forget to tell your friends and spread the word on Twitter and Facebook:
Post for Twitter: Top 5 Announced: VOTE NOW for @mmfa's @KarlFrisch in Round 2 of the Air America Cruise Contest: http://bit.ly/6U6inX - #aamcruise
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Here's that email from David Brock:
Air America is having a contest, and with your vote today, our very own Karl Frisch, a Senior Fellow here at Media Matters, could be the winner!
Please take 30 seconds and cast your vote TODAY for Karl Frisch.
One lucky progressive blogger will win a seven-day cruise through the Mexican Riviera with Howard Dean, Rachel Maddow, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ron Reagan, and other leading progressives.
Thanks to the support of Air America readers and others, Karl and four other progressive bloggers have moved on to the second and final round of voting.
Please take 30 seconds and cast your vote TODAY for Karl Frisch.
This second round of voting will end on December 17, but your vote is needed today to make certain it is counted. The winner will be announced on December 21.
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Media Matters for America
The Right-wing has rushed to attack Kevin Jennings because the organization he used to run lists several books with sexually explicit passages among those they recommended for adolescents. Aside from the fact that GLSEN's list specifically recommends that adults review the books themselves before selecting them for youths, the conservative media's argument is undermined by the fact that numerous books that are often assigned to high school students and are considered classics contain similar material.
For example, during my tenure at a public high school, I read the following books from an American Library Association list of "Banned and/or Challenged Books" that have been cited for sexual content:
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of 'language and sexual references in the book.'"
- The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger, challenged or removed from several schools due to "sexual scenes," "sexual references," "depict[ion of] premarital sex," "lurid passages about sex," and "sexual exploits experienced in the book"
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, "Challenged in the Greenville, S.C. schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a 'vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.'"
- Beloved, Toni Morrison, "Challenged in the Sarasota County, Fla. schools (1998) because of sexual material."
- The Lord of the Flies, William Golding, "Challenged in the Waterloo, Iowa schools (1992) because of ... lurid passages about sex."
- 1984, George Orwell, "Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell's novel is 'pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.'"
- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, "Challenged at the Jacksboro, Tenn. High School (1991) because the novel contains 'blasphemous' language, excessive cursing, and sexual overtones."
- Native Son, Richard Wright, Challenged or banned in various districts because it was considered "sexually explicit," "sexually graphic," and for "sexual content."
We also read Gunter Grass' Cat and Mouse, which is not on the ALA's list, but contains an extremely vivid scene of group masturbation.
On the other hand, most of the sexual content in the above books is of the heterosexual variety. Perhaps that is why the conservative media isn't as worked up over them.
In the latest in a long line of smears conservative media figures have hurled at Department on Education staffer Kevin Jennings, Scott Baker of Breitbart-tv.com takes to the blog Gateway Pundit today to claim that Jennings' organization, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), recommended books to students which include explicit sexual passages. Baker states that the information comes from "team of independent researchers that I have known for some time and have come to trust." Baker goes on to falsely claim that "these are the books that GLSEN's directors think all kids should be reading."
Somehow, Baker missed the following note at the bottom of the GLSEN BookLink website, in bold red type, recommending that adults review the books before adolescents read them:
All BookLink items are reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content. However, some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes. We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability. The editorial and customer reviews listed at Amazon.com often provide information on mature content.
CORRECTION: Buried in the 13th paragraph of his post, Baker does acknowledge that "GLSEN does advise adults to 'review content for suitability.'" He does not acknowledge that this undermines his entire point.
And it's confirmed by the FBI.
Backstory: Right-wingers like Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck claim SEIU union reps who were recently slapped on the wrist for "misdemeanor ordinance violations" in connection with an August altercation outside a town hall health care forum, ought to face "hate crime" charges for allegedly beating up Kenneth Gladney.
But as I noted earlier:
Meaning, Gladney, a black man, was allegedly punched by [Elston] McCowan, a black man, and now Breitbart and Beck want prosecutors to file hate-crime charges because McCowan was prejudiced against Gladney's race; because McCowan's assault was driven by his hatred of Gladney's race. That, despite the fact that Gladney and McCowan share the same race.
It made no sense that a black man would be charged with a hate crime for hitting another black man, even if the accused used a racial epithet just prior to the scuffle.
And what do you know, the FBI agrees. From its "Hate Crimes Data Collection Guidelines," the FBI cautions law enforcement about certain extenuating circumstances [emphasis added]:
2. Misleading Facts — Agencies must be alert to misleading facts. For example,
the offender used an epithet to refer to the victim's race, but the offender and victim were of the same race.
According to the FBI, if the victim and the offender are "of the same race" than hate crime charges should not be brought.
UPDATED: Breitbart sure does have a tough time trying to decipher the law.
UPDATED: With all that right-wing funding, you'd think Breirtbart would put an attorney at retainer so his site wouldn't keep making these embarrassing gaffes.
Then again it's quite possible Breitbart's staff knows that it's wrong about the law and purposefully publishes falsehoods any way. After all, we are talking about conservative "journalism."
More often than you'd think, Media Matters president Eric Burns is confused for former Fox News host Eric Burns. Well, the other Eric Burns (the former Fox News one, not the Media Matters one) has a pretty great piece up over on the Huffington Post about his former employer, here are some choice excerpts but be sure to read the entire thing:
I am not the Eric Burns who heads Media Matters, the liberal watchdog group. I am the Eric Burns who used to host Fox News Watch on the right-wing partial-news-but-mostly-opinion network. In the past year and a half, since departing from Ailes and friends, I have been much more silent about media matters than my namesake.
I speak out now because it is the time of year when one is supposed to count blessings. I have several. Among them is that I do not have to face the ethical problem of sharing an employer with Glenn Beck.
Actually, Beck is a problem of taste as well as ethics. He laughs and cries; he pouts and giggles; he makes funny faces and grins like a cartoon character; he makes earnest faces yet insists he is a clown; he cavorts like a victim of St. Vitus's Dance. His means of communicating are, in other words, so wide-ranging as to suggest derangement as much as versatility.
I ask myself what I would have done if I worked at Fox now. Would I have quit, as the estimable Jane Hall did? Once a panelist on my program, Hall departed for other reasons as well, but Beck was a particular source of embarrassment to her, even though they never shared a studio, perhaps never even met.
I think . . . I think the answer to my question does not do me proud. I think, more concerned about income than principle, I would have continued to work at Fox, but spent my spare time searching avidly for other employment. I think I would not have been as admirable as Jane Hall. I think I would not have reacted to Beck with the probity I like to think I possess.
But, in my defense, I would never have gone out in public without wearing those funny black eyeglasses with no glass, bushy eyebrows and a fake nose.
Yesterday, my colleague Simon Maloy pointed out that one of the hallmarks of conspiracy theorists is their overwhelming desire to believe in their theory in spite of any and all evidence to the contrary. An hour later, a blogger at Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website demonstrated another such feature: a complete inability to accept a simpler, more prosaic explanation instead of an extraordinarily complicated one that ties in all of their personal hobgoblins.
You see, the simple explanation is just too normal, too prosaic, to be accepted by these people. John F. Kennedy was too important a figure to have been struck down by a lone nut; it is far more satisfying to blame his death on a conspiracy involving some combination of the Mafia, LBJ, the CIA, and the Soviet and Cuban governments. Barack Obama simply MUST be an illegitimate president, so he couldn't have been born in Hawaii, as his birth certificate and local newspaper notices indicate: instead, he and his family must have woven a web of lies for decades to disguise his actual Kenyan birthplace.
In his post, "Stage Right," a "veteran of the Broadway theatre industry," adopts this conspiratorial line in discussing the August altercation between Kenneth Gladney and several SEIU union reps. Breitbart and his cronies have taken up Gladney's "cause" over the past months, claiming that he was savagely beaten and is the victim of a hate crime; last week, the union reps were charged with "misdemeanor ordinance violations."
I won't pretend to know what happened that night in St. Louis; I don't know who started the fight or why. But the simplest possible explanation seems to be this: sometimes, people get into fights. They get into an argument, tempers flare, and blows are thrown. Fights are common, not a massive aberration that requires an extraordinary explanation.
But portraying what happened as a common fight is boring. Doing what Stage Right did, and blaming a conspiracy involving the White House, the House Democratic Leadership, the DNC, and HCAN, is not:
Here are the facts (circumstantial though they may be) that show a clear level of coordination from the House Democratic Leadership ("in close coordination with the White House") all the way down to the SEIU staff members now facing charges for beating Kenneth Gladney:
- July 31st: House Democratic Leaders state they are coordinating with the White House and HCAN to ensure they are implementing grass roots efforts in August.
- August 4th: HCAN releases an instruction sheet with a plan to "Fight Back Against the Right" with details on security, confiscating posters and leaflets, loading the room with supporters, providing pre-written and rehearsed questions and suggestions on how to keep protestors out of the town halls
- August 5th: Speaker Pelosi derisively callsprotesters"Astro-turf" and says they are coming to these meetings carrying swastikas. DNC releases a video calling theprotestersan "Angry Mob".
- August 6th: White House political strategists David Axelrod and Jim Messina meet with Congressional Democratics with rules and suggestions for August town hall meetings. Messina is quoted saying: "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard."
Can one conclude that it is common knowledge that one of the ways unions in America have exercised their power in the past is by using intimidation tactics and physical violence? Is that a stretch? And when the Democratic Leadership ("in close coordination with the White House") charge the unions who support them with the responsibility of coordinating grass roots efforts at Town hall meetings, wouldn't a reasonable person conclude that they were asking the unions to "punch back twice as hard" on their behalf?
THIS is why Kenneth Gladney was beaten. And McCowans, Molens, SEIU, HCAN, the House Democratic Leadership and yes, the White House is who did it.
It's an explanation that will certainly look interesting once it's been slapped up on Beck's chalkboard. In its attempt to blame everyone Stage Right hates for this incident, it neglects to consider questions such as why, exactly, the White House and Democratic leadership would have wanted Kenneth Gladney beaten.
We should consider, of course, the possibility that he was in possession of Barack Obama's real birth certificate.
The Financial Times' John Gapper thinks the nasty Rupert Murdoch is… back?
The Rupert Murdoch we all know and love (or love to hate) is an aggressive, insurgent media tycoon who prefers to fight against entrenched media forces and insult them while doing so.
The Rupert Murdoch we have seen in the past couple of years is a humble pussycat who says nice things about how News Corp has to learn to play nicely with the digital generation.
Thankfully, nasty Rupert seems to be back.
Had he every really left? Sure, Gapper is talking more specifically about the business end of News Corp., but surely there's more to Murdoch that one could describe as "nasty."
How about agreeing with Glenn Beck that President Obama is a racist -- errr, made a "very racist comment"?
What about letting Fox News morph from a conservative cable news outlet to an all out partisan political operation?
We could spend an entire day rattling off the evidence that regular readers of this blog are already well aware of, but we'll save our breath.
Huffington Post's Danny Shea writes:
The Wall Street Journal has scrubbed an article from its website after learning that it was plagiarized from several sources.
"A Nov. 10 "New Global Indian" online column by New York City freelance writer Mona Sarika has been found to contain information that was plagiarized from several publications, including the Washington Post, Little India, India Today and San Francisco magazine," a notice to readers now reads where the column once lived.
"In the column, 'Homeward Bound,' about H-1B visa holders returning to India, Ms. Sarika also re-used direct quotes from other publications, without attribution, and changed the original speakers' names to individuals who appear to be fabricated," the notice continued. "The column is the only work by Ms. Sarika to be published by the Journal, and it has been removed from the Journal's Web sites."
The original article — near 1,200 words — described Sarika as "a graduate student and freelance writer who hails from India and currently lives in New York City."
Now if News Corps could just get a handle on Fox News' penchant for doctoring of video, we'd have some real progress.