Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free Speech at VSU III

Update on a funny post we did a while back. I apologize for the lack of funny here, but there's more news than funny!

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E) kicked up a little victory dance on Thursday after receiving a letter from new VSU President Dr. Patrick J Schloss declaring unconditional surrender of the Free Expression Area and replacing it with a new, shorter, policy named The General Public Forum Venue.

This effectively ends the national publicity campaign to make VSU a pariah among College and Universities; but, like doggy do scraped off your shoe, the smell lingers and you sniff in vain hope that it is all gone. It's not, but first some exposition for those who came in late.

It was a controversy that few understood because so little actual reporting was done on the actual issues at hand by both the Valdosta Daily Times and The VSU Spectator. After the full page color ad in the US News and World Report's college issue, the Spectator was filled with letter writers and editorials who confused the policy issue with the expulsion of one T Hayden Barnes and his quixotic fight against a parking deck.

Here is the scoop: VSU had a policy that limited public debate to two non-consecutive hours on a postage stamp of a stage and only on weekends and non-students were not welcome. Like most policy statements, no one ever bothered to read it and VSU only bothered to enforce it when some outside agitator wanted to set up shop to harangue passersby on the Palms Quad.

The Barnes affair led F.I.R.E. to read the policy. They immediately recognized the "chilling effect" the policy could have on free speech because they had won that lawsuit before. A fine legal point this "chilling effect", but lost on students who are rarely bothered with anything chillier than a bottle of Bud.

The policy was trouble waiting to happen. It was like a bottle of Gin in the bedroom of a recovering alcoholic. One day, some administrator would reach for the bottle and havok would pour out. We've had enough First Amendment havok for this century. Better to flush the contents of this particular bottle down the loo.

T Hayden Barnes' lawsuit is still creeping toward a jury trial. I expect that the lawyers are negotiating the size of the award at the dizzy pace expected of those who bill by the hour.

Should a trial begin, Valdosta and VSU will be made to look like ignorant rubes in the national media and the jury will give Mr. Barnes a big chuck of change If a settlement occurs, the national media will, by rote, vomit up the story one more time to remind everyone that we are still ignorant rubes and Mr. Barnes will still get a stack of cash.

Whichever happens, when it happens, we'll finally be shut of this thing. It can't come soon enough for us or Mr. Barnes, who must be tired of waiting for his jackpot.

The new policy has nothing in it to prevent what the original policy tried to prevent - preachers who visit the campus and call passing students whoremongers and fornicators. It also doesn't prevent combative students for getting in their face and calling them fundamentalist pin heads. A venerable campus custom has been revived. Someone call me when it starts and I'll bring the popcorn.

Who knew Free Speech could be so much fun?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why Prices Jumped So Fast

I recently posted a satire on the Daily Egg about the economic ignorance of the masses (and truth be told, most of the mass media) when it comes to gas prices.  The link above takes you to a site that did some independent reporting and discovered why stations ran out of gas so fast and why prices are sky high today.

For more on how gas prices work, here is a related post:

And, for more stuff you are stupid about, read this book by John Stossel

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Political Notes

I've almost read myself silly on the political blogs this weekend. Here are some links and commentary.

Palin appears to disagree with McCain on sex education

In this story from the LA Times, reporters keep looking for new things to share about Governor Palin that they hope will separate her from the Christian Right.  That's a fools errand.  Governor Palin would have to be caught defecating in public before that separation occurred, and I'm not all sure that even THAT would work.

Palin in this story is depicted as being in favor of both abstinence programs and teaching about condoms in school. Call it yet another "all of the above" position on drilling.  As the proud Uncle of two conceived-out-of-wedlock children, and my 17-year old nieces were both on oral contraceptives, I can see her point.  Welded shut chastity belts are your only guarantee.

A suggestion many fathers and uncles could easily get behind.

Conventional Wisdom Shifting In Obama Biden McCain Palin Presidential Race As Republicans Smile

The Moderate Voice tosses out the trope about "The Speech" being written by a speech writer.  As a public speaker myself, let me give you an old chestnut of a rule. "The audience is often paying much closer attention to non-verbal clues to judge your honesty. Content is secondary to them." The Clinton corollary to that is: "if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made."

Certainly Gov. Palin's speech was written with help from a ghost. So was almost every speech given in the past few weeks, including John McCain's.

It was in this more important facet of her speech, authenticity, that Governor Palin scored heavily.  

McCain's more pedestrian delivery of the written word also belied the good he did himself in reinforcing his themes of character, non-partisanship.

If you look at both the Zogby and Gallop today, the undecided vote is shrinking quickly. The question becomes, what percentage of those swing voters are also likely voters?

We could be looking at a replay of 2004 when getting out the committed voters was the key -- and the Christian Right won that battle. Obama so far this year has had the best grass roots operation (yeah, being a community organizer does have SOME advantages). Can the Christian Right make up for losing 8 months of this year in the next 60 days?

IF Palin can keep from making a major gaffe or being tagged by the media, she could be a factor. Obama doesn't have to be worried about making gaffes as he gets a pass... almost daily.  Today he accidentally referred to himself as a Muslim before George Stephanopolis helpfully corrected him.

Being an informed citizen these days requires a lot more work digging up original sources as the politicized media (right and left) can't be trusted to report even basic facts without spin.

One thing we can be sure of... the conventional wisdom often is overturned. There will be more changes before we get there.

Marijuana as an Antibiotic

MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is an anti-biotic Staph infection that can really ruin your day. The cannabinoids in Marijuana kill bacteria in a different way than traditional antibiotics, meaning they might be able to bypass bacterial resistance.

This does have the ring of truth. None of the stoners I know have ever had MRSA.

Unfortunately for the readers of High Times magazine, the researchers have also located two cannabinoids that don't make you high.  Spoil sports those researchers are.

So, if you come down with a Staph infection, ask the hospital orderly if you can bum a joint and ring down to room service for more ice cream. The cops won't be able to get you because you will be in a lock down isolation unit. Sweet!