Bill O’Reilly’s Innocence Unlost

In a commentary piece for something called the Creator’s Syndicate, Bill O’Reilly urges us to “Keep ‘diversity’ books out of kindergarten.” He frames his argument with gilded memories of a halcyon youth spent climbing trees, stealing second base and learning to read “Dick and Jane” books. Then, Bill recounts a recent news event that illustrates how lost our society has become.

Today, in Lexington, Mass., 6-year-olds have another book. It is called “Who’s in a Family?” This book features not only Dick and Jane but also Jennifer and Lauren and Charles and Henry. The pages tell little kids about different kinds of families: mixed-race, gay and lesbian, and even traditional family units. They are all discussed in very positive ways.

A father named David Parker took one look at the same-sex part of the book and made an appointment to see the principal of Estabrook Elementary School, a woman named Joni Jay. Parker asked Jay to inform him when the gay family stuff was going to be presented because he felt his little son was too young to learn about homosexuality, and he would keep him home that day. Sounds reasonable, right?

Not so fast. Jay informed Parker that the family book had nothing to do with sexuality, so he was not entitled under the Massachusetts sex education law to get a heads-up. When Parker pointed out that same-sex situations contain the word “sex,” he was asked to leave the principal’s office. He refused. So the Lexington police arrested him on trespassing charges. See Dad get arrested. What does Jane think?

O’Reilly sees this as a symptom of “a massive mission of indoctrination going on in America.” He rails against 9-year-old girls with bare midrifts and third-grade boys wearing gold chains.

I think both Dick and Jane would agree that we should all back off and give the kids a break. Let’s bring back childhood in America, OK? No more “diversity” books for kindergartners ….
The world is a tough, nasty place, and children will learn that soon enough. Shouldn’t we make their first years fun years, free of political and social agendas? Why do some little kids these days look like Britney Spears and Kid Rock? What the deuce is wrong with us?

What’s wrong, Bill, is that Howdy Doody is off the air, coonskin caps are no longer in fashion and Beaver Cleaver is a chubby middle-ages has-been. This isn’t and can’t be the 1950s.

What’s right with us, Bill, is that white children go to school with black children, gay and lesbian couples can raise their own kids and even get lawfully wedded in some places, races and cultures are mixing in new and interesting ways, and the world is much more complicated and diverse than it was when “Father Knows Best” was popular.

Dick’s mommy has a new Latino boyfriend and his daddy only gets to see him every other weekend, while Jane has two mommies. Dick and Jane play “Grand Thefy Auto” on the computer and listen to Dirty Ol’ Bastard on the radio. Your nucular threat of the ’50s has been replaced by the terrorist threat of the 21st century. The world’s a far different place than when Sister Lurana taught you to read. Catch up, Bill.

Telephone Company Promotes Anti-Gay Agenda

“He who has ears, let him hear.”
– Jesus

The image of the boy with his fingers stuck in his ears to the right says a lot about what United American Technologies is up to. The company provides “filtered” internet access to the pious who are either so computer illiterate as to not understand simple parental controls, or who think that the Internet is Satan, period, and the only way to keep him off the family computer is through divine intervention.

Are you beginning to feel like you need to be protected when on the Internet? United American Technologies is dedicated to providing the luxury of the Internet without the hassle of unwanted content and information. We provide a clean outlet to the Internet for family, friends, employees and students.

UAT offers “DSL speeds at the price of dial-up,” as well as “filtered web browsing from pornography and other unsuitable content; filtered email from pornography and other unsolicited marketing emails; pop-up protection available with our High Speed Dialup service; unlike many of our competitors, we do not offer unfiltered Internet access for a single subscriber. We do not have double standards and do not support pornography in any way.”

But it is in the company’s telephone solicitations that their true intentions become clear. A fellow named Eugene Merman called an anti-gay marriage group and learned about UAT. For quality-control purposes, he recorded his conversations.

Merman called in to something called the Faith, Family and Freedom Campaign, whose prerecorded hold message says, in part: “Please do not hang up. Listen to my brief message and find out how you can help. This information will explain how the ACLU and gays are getting gay marriage in every state.”

The operator breaks in at this point, identifies herself as what sounds like “Kewpie,” and asks, “Eugene, did you press one to oppose same-sex marriages?”

After Merman has her on for a bit, and it’s clear that he is playing it to the hilt, Kewpie gets to the real pitch: “Mr. Merman, also, our organization is dedicated to people such as yourself that want to stop same-sex marriages and to quit doing business with companies that promote and profit from the homosexual lifestyle.”

She then goes on to smear the competition, claiming that AT&T owns the Hot Network, “which is a hard-core pronography channel,” and “they also give millions of dollars to the gay and lesbian alliance groups.”

Then Kewpie gets to the point: “Mr. Merman, there is a Christian-based telehone company in your area called United American Technologies … UAT, Mr. Merman, is the only carrier taking an active stand against same-sex marriages and hardcore child pornography.”

Kewpie goes on to explain how MCI “sponsors child pornography” through a Montreal-based “pedophile” Web site called MenWhoLoveBoys, and Verizon “trains their employees to accept the gay and lesbian lifestyle.”

All of which leads the feckless Mr. Merman to breathlessly exclaim, “Basically, God hates AT&T, MCI and Verizon!”

“Yes,” accedes Kewpie.

And Jesus said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

Study: Public Says Press Bad, Freedom Bad

A study released today by the University of Connecticut Department on Public Policy found (surprise!) a significant gap between the public and the press on details like freedom of speech and the government’s right to censor the press. Editor & Publisher offers an executive summary of the study, which found that 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree (who are those guys?). Shockingly (or not), only 14% of the public respondents could name “freedom of the press” as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

While many of the other findings are as predictably depressing as those, the study did mine some interesting data on blogs, and since this is a blog, we’ll concentrate on those data. The widest gap between the 1,000 regular folks and the 300 journalists polled opened between the 8 in 10 journalists who said they read blogs and the less than 1 in 10 others who read blogs. A majority of the news pros polled do not believe bloggers deserve to be called journalists (editor’s note: because they fear the POWER). But, of course, the journos’ greatest fear is irrelevance — the study found that 61% of non-journalist average Americans get most of their news from television (Thanks, Bill O’Reilly!), while only 20% read newspapers (Thanks, Wall Street Journal!).

A full 83% of journalists reported using blogs, with four in 10 claiming to use them at least once a week. Fifty-five percent of blog-using journalists said they use blogs when gathering news. And while 85% of the Fourth Estaters believe bloggers should enjoy First Amendment protections, three-quarters say bloggers are not journalists because they don’t adhere to “commonly held ethical standards” (whatever those are).

Finally, in what can only be seen as the triumph of technology over truth, “61% of the news pros say that the emergence of the Internet has made journalism better.”

We here at Pensito Review, unburdened as we are by commonly held or uncommonly held ethical standards, and blessedly protected as we are by the First Amendment, will continue to do our part to make journalism better, or, more to the point — make better journalism.

A Modest Proposal for the Florida Legislature

From the “Why I’m Glad They’re Only In Session Two Months of the Year” Department:

Florida, Water and Lobbyists
Toward a New State Capital


Church is a good place for Sunday worship, but to contemplate the miracle of Creation, sometimes all you need to do is take a good walk.

The point of a good walk is obvious to anyone who has taken one. You start in one place and end up in another, even though you return where you started.

Which brings me to Tallahassee, a state capital so full of lobbyists you can’t do business without one handing you a towel when you finish.

Once I wrote critically of the pledge by Gov. Jeb Bush to empty Tallahassee of government superfluous to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But I’m coming around to a compromise.

I am for letting the whole place go to weeds. Like a flea-ridden mattress, Tallahassee just needs to be abandoned. Let’s start from scratch.

I hear the state’s largest land owner is building new cities in the Panhandle and that it is really sensitive to smart growth.

Let St. Joe build a smart capital in the Panhandle, surrounded by a wider moat and higher walls than Tallahassee.

Then, the governor and legislators shall remand all lobbyists to Georgia or Alabama, with a requirement to wear ankle bracelets for the duration of the session.

But the key to a functional government is not discrimination — but a good walk, without lobbyists, before the legislative session starts.

There is no better place to experience Florida — the thumb of the continent sticking into the ocean’s eye — than from the water.

The day before the session begins, our legislators and governor shall assemble in Key West, the southernmost point of the United States and the very point of the question.

With face masks, snorkels and life vests, they float over the coral reef that has virtually disappeared in the past decade — and now looks like a graveyard strewn with the bones of dead coral.

Treading water, they come up with their own theories and explanations. Before returning, they make a small ritual of throwing away cell phones.

By bus caravan, the government now proceeds northward on U.S. Highway 1 toward the new state capital.

They shall move at a deliberate pace, preferably at rush hour on a bad day, so all may contemplate what rule permitted so many buildings in the Keys and, once they hit Miami, why unbearable traffic is laying family life to waste.

The second stop is the reef tract off Palm Beach. It is blanketed by a nasty carpet of macro-algae and is lifeless except for supersized parrot fish hulking like hundred-pound babies baptized at McDonald’s and left for good by the fryer.

It is the effect, say some scientists — whose careers do not depend on state funding — of an underground flood of nitrogen pollution from Big Sugar — represented now by lobbyists jumping up and down in Georgia. Or Alabama.

What a tangle we have made of Creation, no doubt about it. Our government stares glumly out bus windows motoring across the Everglades, devoid of birds, to the other side of the state.

Now, the persuasions of technology, helicopter rides, Power Point presentations, planning matrixes and a dizzying array of acronyms induce melancholy and pity.

The confusion between smart engineering and intelligent design percolates through the minds of men and women given the consent of the governed.

For a blessed third time, they dip into water at the edge of Rookery Bay in Collier County, a growth-management failure that sticks like an urchin spine in the foot of the governor.

Expecting nothing, they are astonished by a profusion of wildlife around the freshwater spring bubbling from the bottom of Henderson Creek, recently reported by the Naples Daily News.

When all seemed lost, here is Creation firing on all 12 cylinders. Manatees, tarpon and snook crowd around looking sideways at the Legislature as if they only knew.

Humbled in the presence of Creation, with the sound of their breath in their ears, legislators and governor exhale like fish busting the surface at the same time.

But there is news.

Within a mile radius of the spring, Marco Island wants to double its aquifer storage and recovery wells already permitted by the state, injecting up to 6 million gallons per day — with no assurance and no idea whether what is left of God’s original plan can survive contamination through cracks and conduits underground.

This is the end of a good walk.

Once the Legislature arrives at the new capital, the bars and prayer groups, smoke- and lobbyist-free, fill with animated debate — for instance, which political party had more members who forgot to fasten their life vests.

But in all seriousness, were such a walk to take place, our Legislature and governor might resolve that when intelligent design is destroyed by smart engineering, polluters must pay and that, moreover, aquifers for drinking water that nourish Creation must not be violated.

But don’t count on that happening any time soon in Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida.

Can’t See the Forest for the Spin

Apparently, the Bush Admin didn’t learn its lesson about the imprudence of using outside public relations firms to spin its education message and is now trying to replace U.S. Forest Service information officers with PR consultants. (Disclosure: I am a PR consultant in the leisure travel industry.) According to the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the move to outsource spokesperson duties is the first step in Bush’s renewed effort to further gut the Forest Service and erode forest protections.

The U.S. Forest Service announced that it is weighing replacement of 100 of its public information staff with private public relations firms, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The move is motivated by pressure from the Bush White House to put more federal jobs out to bid by private contractors in order to “increase the cost-effectiveness of Forest Service work.”

According to agency memos, 100 of the agency’s 700 public affairs officers, public affairs specialists, writers, editors, graphic artists, illustrators and audio visual specialists will be reviewed by June 30 to determine whether the positions would be subject to bid by private firms. The agency plans to make decisions this fall and contractors could be in place by January.

Hundreds of other positions throughout the agency may be subject to similar bidding in 2006. In 2004, citing cost overruns and potential side effects, Congress severely restricted the Bush Administration efforts to outsource Forest Service and National Park Service jobs. Those restrictions, however, lapsed this past October and now the Bush Administration is again pushing its “Competitive Sourcing” initiative.

“Wag the Dog is coming to a national forest near you,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, referring to the movie about government use of PR firms to manipulate public perception of events. “Civil servants are under a legal obligation to tell the public the truth while PR firms specialize in shading it. Outsourcing the public information function risks putting a premium on spin at the expense of candor.”

President Bush promised to limit reliance on PR firms after recent controversy over federal agency payments to commentators for promoting Bush Administration programs. Through this “Competitive Sourcing” mechanism, these same firms can have a long-term role in shaping agency communication practices.

In 2004, the Forest Service spent $113,000 for a public relations firm to design a campaign to gain public acceptance of the agency plan to increase logging in California’s Sierra Nevadas. The campaign, titled “Forests With a Future,” sparked criticism but the Government Accountability Office ultimately ruled that the contract did not violate prohibitions on using taxpayer dollars to pay for “publicity or propaganda.”

Ironically, the Forest Service needs to retain contractors in order to prepare private sector competitions. Previous Bush competitive sourcing plans at the Forest Service involved possible contracting for law enforcement, biologist and sylviculturalist positions. The agency spent an estimated $100 million before Congress stepped in and put the effort on hold.

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EPIC: In the Year 2014

It’s 2014. “The New York Times” has gone off-line and is now a print-only newsletter for the elite and elderly, and EPIC is how you get everything, customized based on your consumption habits. Hey, it could happen, right? “EPIC” is an online film created by two fellows at the Poynter Institute, a well-respected journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla. It tells the story of what has happened and what could (might? will??) happen to how we get our media and products in the near (immediate???) future. Besides being interesting intellectually, it also represents a cogent analysis of what has happened to the way news is disseminated over just the past six years. See the film here: Epic.

Gays face same enemy as Jews in ’30s: hatred

In today’s Miami Herald, Leonard Pitts Jr. examines the au courant tendency to label the crisi dujour as whatever’s “Holocaust.” In this case, it’s a gay holocaust. While drawing the distinction between capital H and little H holocausts, Pitts notes that the tendency of conservatives to want to limit freedoms, especially those of gays and lesbians, does harken back to the neo-fascist days of the late ’30s, early ’40s.

Gay Holocaust?

That was the subject line of an e-mail I received last week from ”Chris,” a lawyer in a red state. He wanted to know if anybody else sees a similarity between the beginning of the Holocaust — the nibbling away of rights and personhood that ultimately led to the attempted extermination of a people — and what is happening to gay people in American right now.

He knows it’s far-fetched. ”But,” he says, speaking of the conservative element that is pushing hardest against gay rights, “we are not dealing with normal people here.”

Chris concedes that there are differences between the plights of Jews and gays. “But they also have this in common — at one time in history, that time being the present for gays, they were the object of official government-sponsored hatred couched in the name of religion or morals.”

Here’s what I think:

The Holocaust is an atrocity unique in history, and I’m wary of appending modifiers: the ”this” holocaust or the ”that” holocaust. There’s a reason the word takes a capital h.

Which is not to say the lawyer is off base. I’ve long felt the current spate of laws — you can’t do this because you’re gay, can’t have that because you’re lesbian — bears a discomfitting resemblance to Germany in the 1930s.

Both spring from a mind-set that says a given people is so loathsome, so offensive to our sensibilities, that we are obliged to place them outside the circle of normal human compassion. We don’t have to hear their cries, don’t have to respect their humanity, don’t have to revere their tears, because they are less than we — and at the same time, are responsible for everything that scares or threatens us.

Whatever it is, it’s all their fault. Blame them, whoever ”them” may be.


My problem is that I see human dignity as all of a piece. I don’t know how to want it for me and mine but not for them and theirs. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, we are caught in a network of mutuality. As Dick Cheney put it, freedom means freedom for everybody. As Cain put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I always considered that the signature lesson of the Holocaust; always felt that in the largest sense, it was not about Jews and Aryans, but about humanity and inhumanity. The Holocaust was, after all, only hatred carried to its logical extreme, the predictable outcome of an environment where we countenance taking rights from ”them,” heaping scorn on ”them,” making scapegoats of “them.”

And who can deny that this describes the plight of gay Americans in 2005? Or that demagogic lawmakers are using this environment to further their own ambitions?

There used to be an expression in Southern politics. The candidate who lost because he had been found insufficiently draconian on racial issues was said to have been ”out-niggered.” These days, the worry seems to be that one might be ”out-homoed.” Consider, for instance, a law under consideration in Alabama to ban books with gay characters from public school libraries.

Books. With gay characters.


It prompted a group of gay Alabamans to rise before a legislative committee and ask a pregnant question.

Why do you hate us?

And it strikes me that the same thing could have been asked by an Armenian in 1915, by a Bosnian Muslim in 1992, by a Rwandan in 1994 and, yes, by a Jew, in 1936.

We just don’t learn.

Ours is a stable and prosperous democracy, so no, I don’t predict train cars full of gays rolling toward death factories.

Still, the mind-set of aggrieved righteousness that allowed those trains to roll is not dissimilar from that which would ban gay people from public school libraries.

Maybe your instinct is to find the comparison unthinkable. Nobody is interning gays, nobody mass-murdering them.

You’re right. But ask yourself: How many would if they could?