Jewish World Review Feb. 7, 2003/ 5 Adar I 5763

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Consumer Reports

Mark Twain's tears


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | We all know that John Ashcroft has "shredded the Constitution," thanks to the typical fringe-left sources who conveniently forget that Democrat Woodrow Wilson actually jailed journalists for publishing dissenting views during World War I and the Japanese internment camps under FDR. If the Wilson administration were in power today I wonder if people like Robert Scheer, Eric Alterman, Bob Herbert and Jules Witcover would currently be bending over for soap in the pen instead of exercising their First Amendment rights, which have in no way been abridged by unjustly maligned Ashcroft.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Democratic Councilmen David Weprin and Albert Vann have sponsored a bill that would make water pistols illegal in the five boroughs. Why not? After all, these moronic legislators are simply falling into line with the dopey policies of faux-Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who's more concerned about the noise from nightclubs and secondhand smoke than the jobs that'll be lost if he succeeds in busting the economy by driving away commerce with any number of new taxes.

And in Pensacola, FL, it was reported by the Associated Press that middle school teachers in Escambia County are now forbidden to hand out copies of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to their pupils. According to AP: "School officials said one parent of a seventh-grader complained about the usage of Mark Twain's 19th-century novel, which chronicles the adventures of a white boy and a runaway slave and uses racial references more than 200 times. ĆThere was one student who felt uncomfortable,' principal Richard Harper told the Pensacola News-Journal... ĆOur feeling was, we're not here to make kids feel uncomfortable and if he felt uncomfortable then it was a problem.'"

Presumably, Mark Twain's insubstantial writings will be replaced in Pensacola by those of the far-more accomplished Maya Angelou.

Laura: Entertain Us!

IT'S A RARE occurrence when I agree with a Boston Globe editorial. True, although New England's largest-circulation newspaper is owned by the New York Times Co., its reliably wishy-washy liberal opinions aren't yet as shrill, anti-Semitic or deliberately misleading as those printed by Howell Raines' puppet Gail Collins in the Times. The paper is a benign Democratic Party booster, in the same vein as the Baltimore Sun or Los Angeles Times.

Unlike Manhattan's blustery broadsheet, the Globe rarely publishes much to work up a lather over, unless, I suppose, you consider Beltway lifer Thomas Oliphant's nonsense on the op-ed pages serious commentary. And the Globe is dismissed as minor-league by the media intelligentsia in New York. I remember, a few years back at a Four Seasons party for some innocuous magazine editor, Walter Isaacson (then riding high at Time) admonishing me for wasting time reading the Boston daily. Everyone has weaknesses: I glance at the paper for Jeff Jacoby's and Cathy Young's excellent op-ed pieces, but mostly for the latest news on the Red Sox.

Anyway, last Saturday, a Globe editorial commented on the postponement of Laura Bush's Feb. 12 "celebration of poetry" at the White House, a decision made because some disturbed poets planned to disrupt the event with their anti-American scribblings.

The Globe said: "Laura Bush's decision shows respect for her husband [a courteous nod to the first lady that Raines would never allow in his paper] as well as the understandable limits that can a bind a president's spouse. But what a fine, crackling public debate it would have been if the first lady had said: Let the angry poets come. Let them bring their metaphors of outrage, their similes of despair. Let the poets' grievances clash with the passion of politics. Let poets explain the wisdom of wielding compassion against a man who murders his own people."

You see what I mean by "wishy-washy."

Nevertheless, the Globe is correct that it would've been a spectacle to remember, and a politically astute one at that. I'd have expanded the event beyond the number of no-name poets to include a vast array of celebrities/journalists who've made fools of themselves in visits to Baghdad, opinion columns or by signing near-illiterate protest advertisements in newspapers. Imagine the likes of Sean Penn, Noam Chomsky, Greil Marcus, George Clooney, Janeane Garofalo, Tori Amos, Moby, Sheryl Crow, Ed Harris, Michael Moore, Norman Mailer, Susan Sarandon and her actor husband, Bianca Jagger, Amiri Baraka, Michael Kinsley, John Cusack, Barbra, Paul Krugman, Alex Cockburn (who has a hard spot for Laura), Lewis Lapham and Chris Matthews, all at the White House for a no-holds-barred debate.

One wonders if manners would prevail at such a venue, or if Martin Sheen would spit his sherry at a security guard.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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