Leaked: The Internet must go!

Hey! Are you on the internet right now? Of course you are! Then you should definitely check out this amazing video about what the internet companies are planning. This move could hurt both consumers and content creators--but of course would be a huge windfall for internet providers.

How weathly are Americans?

The disparity in wealth between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 80 percent has grown exponentially over the last thirty years — but the video, posted by user politizane and relying on data from a popular Mother Jones post, focuses on the difference between the ideal disparity that Americans would like to see and the reality.

Tax the Rich

So long! It's been fun.

Dear listeners,

In July 2011 I started a new job teaching Italian at Kansas State University. In some ways this was a return to my roots, as I taught English as a Foreign Language for 17 years in Italy. Now I am teaching English speakers Italian. I've come full circle.

This coming full circle also means the end of an attempt on my part to start a new career in my 50s. Sadly, as much as I tried to bring community radio to Manhattan, I was not successful. So I have decided to dedicate my energy and time to my first love, being an educator.

The archive of my shows will remain active - there's a lot of great content in the shows. So I hope you continue to listen and enjoy them.

Once again thank you for your support and encouragement over the five years the show was on the air. I know many feel that my program needs to be on the air and I agree with you that a diversity of voices is sorely lacking in the local media. But alas, it is not I who will bring that diversity. It will have to be someone else.

Christopher E. Renner

07 March 2007

What is Obscenity?

Originally read on 1 March 2007
by Christopher E. Renner

This week the Kansas legislature’s right-wing darling, Rep. Lance Kinzer, Republican from Olathe, under the banner of “obscenity” lead a direct attack on free speech. Rep. Kinzer so values our basic freedoms that he wants parents to be able to sue teachers for exposing their students to ideas the parents find objectionable, which is what HB 2200 would allow.

HB 2200 would amend several criminal statutes relating to obscenity. The bill would limit the ability of elementary and secondary schools and teachers to assert the defense that the materials they used in class had literary, educational, artistic, political or scientific value to a change of obscenity. Under current law, this defense is provided to public and private schools, as well as, colleges and universities. It is called academic freedom and protects educators from being dragged from their classrooms and thrown in jail for educating children and presenting ideas that some might find offensive.

Basically, Kinzer was able to get the House Federal and State Affairs committee to approve HB 2200 which would remove all academic freedom protections in the state’s obscenity laws for K-12 teachers.

Under Kansas law, material is deemed obscene if an average person, applying community standards, would find that it “appears to the prurient interest” and involves “patently offensive” depictions of sex or nudity. Also, the material must lack “serious literary, educational, artistic, political or scientific value.”

So what “obscene” books are children being force to read in rich, white Johnson County schools that have these parents so upset?

According to Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools their poor little privileged white Christian children have to read such books as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Color Purple, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse Five, The Norton Anthologies of American Literature, Tony Morrisons’ Song of Solomon and Beloved, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, there’s also Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, --- do you see any pattern here?

Maybe the parents are upset that their children have to read at all. Heaven forbid their children might be exposed to real life experiences that require rational thought and challenges their parents’ irrationality and un-American theocratic beliefs.

For those of us who believe in freedom of speech, press, and religion, we know the origins of the Blue Valley parent’s concern was really one book: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden.

The American Library Association designated the book a "Best of the Best Books for Young Adults." The School Library Journal included the book in its list of the 100 most influential books of the 20th century. But having the book on its library shelves ended up costing another Johnson County school district - Olathe - $160,000.

Back in 1993, the LGBT organization Project 21 donated Annie on My Mind, along with Frank Mosca's All-American Boys, to forty-two high schools in the Kansas City area.

Because both books included homosexual themes, some parents objected that the books were made available to high school students.

In the ensuing controversy, opponents showed their respect for our nation’s Bill of Rights by burning copies of Annie on My Mind.

Around the time the good old-fashioned Nazi book burning took place, author Nancy Garden was at a writers' conference. When asked if she had had trouble with Annie on My Mind she answered “no.” Soon after, she learned of the burning when she received a call from Stephen Friedman, who asked, "Did you know your book has just been burned in Kansas City?"

Garden reportedly said: “Burned! I didn't think people burned books any more. Only Nazis burn books.” Good choice of a descriptive adjective to use for those trying to shove theocracy down our throats, Nancy.

Then, on December 13, 1993, superintendent Ron Wimmer, of the Olathe School District, ordered the book removed from the high school library. Wimmer said he made his decision in order to "avoid controversy," like the public book burning had produced.

The Olathe School District refused to accept other copies of the book, even removing a copy that had sat on its library shelf for over ten years. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union joined several families and a teacher to sued the school district for removing the book.

Two years later in September 1995, the case went to trial. In November 1995, U.S. District Court Justice Thomas Van Bebber ruled that while a school district is not obligated to purchase any book, it cannot remove a book from library shelves unless that book is deemed educationally unsuitable. He ruled Annie on My Mind to be educationally suitable, and called its removal an unconstitutional attempt to "prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion."

The school district announced it would not appeal the court's decision in 1999, and restored Annie on My Mind to library shelves. The entire proceeding had cost the district over $160,000. So that is why Rep. Kinzer introduced HB 2200. To provide an end-run around the rights you and I enjoy thanks to the US Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Kansas.

HB 2200 is another example of the social conservatives’ agenda to limit free speech, limit access to knowledge and portray our public education system as somehow being the cause of the moral decay of our nation they scream about at the top of their lungs. How many social conservative Christians have been exposed as frequenting prostitutes, or consuming pornography and drugs have there been now anyway? Oh, I digress….

What is even more upsetting to me is the following fact: according to the Lawrence Journal World, the only Representative on the House Federal and State Committee to vote against the bill was Ann Mah, a representative from Douglas County.

Our own representative, Tom Hawk, who sits of Federal and State Committee and is a retired teacher, voted for HB2200! Rep. Hawk reports that he voted for HB 2200 because he thought that as amended the bill would provide protections to teachers. He now regrets his affirming vote. He realizes that the parents from Blue Valley who had contacted him for his support of their censorship bill were doing an "end run" on their school board for the books they did not like in the high school curriculum. If you want to express your opinion to Rep. Hawk, his office phone number is: 785-296-7665.

But lets get back to the issue of what is obscene.

KSU took a public relations beating this past week from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in what is clearly an example of the obscenity that Rep. Kinzer is trying to stamp out: Total disregard for life - throwing live chickens onto the basketball court.

Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Surely KSU students are more creative and intelligent than thinking that throwing live animals is the best way we can show our resolve to defeat our greatest rival.

But even more “obscene” to me is the lengths that Kansas State University will go to promote homophobia and how that homophobia is tolerated by KSU officials.

In the lead up to the same great chicken toss game against KU, t-shirts appeared sporting the registered trade mark of the Power Cat and the following quote: “KU = gay.”

Now according to the “values” espoused by Kansas State University, such blatant prejudice isn’t one of the Core Community Values this institution of higher learning is supposed to be instilling in its students. Moreover, since the Power Cat is a registered trade mark, didn’t someone in the University have to approve the use of the KSU symbol to promote this irrational prejudice and bigotry? So why did the university allow this? By equating all KU students as homosexuals, just what did KSU gain?

Other than once again demonstrating for the rest of the world that we lack basic civility, respect for others, and knowledge of the complex world we live in, KSU gained nothing. The t-shirts were an insult to KSU and the state of Kansas. But I doubt if anything will be done to address this most recent example of institutional promotion of homophobia, unless people complain to university officials and in the press.

But maybe, if HB 2200 passes as amended which also removes academic freedom for university professors, KU students could sue KSU for it’s promotion of “obscenity.” The shirts obviously had no serious literary, educational, artistic, political or scientific value. Now wouldn’t that just get Rep. Kinzer’s goat? A bunch of liberal college students using his law to sue a state institution over homosexuality. I’m sure the social conservatives didn’t see that one coming.

Sources:
"Books in Trouble: Annie on My Mind", National Coalition Against Censorship, May 1996.

Miner, Barbara. "When Reading Good Books Can Get Schools In Trouble: First of Two Articles", Rethinking Schools: Online, Spring 1998.

Stang, Debra L.. "Annie on My Mind: Let Love Win!", suite101, November 1, 2000. Retrieved on 2007-02-25.

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