Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

A Vermont Superior Court judge ruled that the state's Department of Motor Vehicles was right in denying a woman's request to put the word "IRISH" on her vanity license plate because it could be considered offensive, the Vermont Times Argus reported.

In making the ruling, Judge Matthew Katz said that while Irish may not necessarily be offensive on its face, allowing it could open the door to other more offensive variations.

Carol Ann Martin, the woman who requested the plate, said she was disappointed and would appeal the ruling. "This opinion offended me," she said. "How did I get painted a racist? There's something wrong here."

The DMV's regulations say that letters or numbers which refer, in any language, to race, religion, color, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or political affiliation cannot be put on license plates.

Judge Katz's own license plate reads MIK, his initials.

Folding the Mississippi Flag

A Mississippi company that runs a furniture showroom at the annual International Home Furnishing Market in High Point, N.C., removed the Mississippi state flag from the building after city officials there relayed complaints about its Confederate emblem, the Associated Press reported.

The showroom, named Center Point, regularly flies the U.S., North Carolina and Mississippi flags during the market — but elected to remove the latter this year. City officials said they did not order the flag removed, only passed on the complaints they heard.

Bernhard Thuersam, an interior designer with Shoreline Design Group in Wilmington, said he avoided the market this month because of what he called the "slap in the face to the people of Mississippi" represented by the flag's removal. He has asked that an official apology be sent to Mississippians and the flag to be returned to Center Point.

A Second Plays at That Game

Following the fracas over David Horowitz's slave-reparations ad on college campuses, a writer for tried to buy space in newspapers at conservative colleges claiming abortion is not murder and that God was an abortionist. The ads were rejected for the most part.

David Mazel said he attempted to buy the ads at schools such as Abilene Christian University in Texas, the Virginia Military Institute and Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Writer David Mazel says one of 11 colleges he approached agreed to run the ad.

Most declined for reasons similar to those expressed by Cassandra Lopez, advertising manager for the Optimist at Abilene Christian University. "I'm sorry," she wrote, "but we are not allowed to publish any advertisements dealing with this nature."

'Confederate-Americans' Step Up to the Plate

A U.S. Department of Labor employee denied the right to participate in a Diversity Day celebration because he wanted to set up a Confederate-American exhibit lost his plea for protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, UPI reported.

Don Terrill's lawyer declined to press a First Amendment case, which a federal judge said he probably would have won, because he wanted to see whether a "Confederate-American" could be granted protection under the act's rules that prohibit discrimination based on national origin.

Terrill's lawyer, Kirk D. Lyons, said he will appeal the decision. He said cases involving discrimination against Confederate-Americans in the workplace "are falling out of the trees" and cited one in South Carolina in which a man was fired for refusing to remove a Confederate flag from his toolbox.

From the Annals of Zero Tolerance

The American Enterprise reported that a high-school senior who had been accepted by the Coast Guard Academy wanted her yearbook photo to show her winning a rifle-marksmanship prize, but the principal denied her request. Such an image would, he said, "promote violence."

Another student wanted to write a paper about the Marine Corps but couldn't find any books on the subject in her library. "The librarian told him 'violent' books were not allowed," David Stolinksky wrote.

Fish Have Feelings, Too

PETA's next target? The Boy Scouts. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging the Boy Scouts to stop giving merit badges for fishing because fish have feelings too, the Chicago Tribune reported. The group is also taking action because it claims boys who kill animals in their youth might grow up to become killers of human beings.

In a letter to Milton Ward, president of the Boy Scouts of America, Dawn Carr of PETA said, "Encouraging scouts to put hooks through the mouths of live frogs so as to trick other animals into impaling themselves [as is recommended in the fishing merit badge booklet], then to rip them from the water into an environment where they cannot breathe and can only struggle desperately for their lives is inconsistent with Boy Scout law and with teaching respect and kindness."

Backtracking in Joburg Education

Officials in South Africa who removed a book by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer from school reading lists because it was deemed "deeply racist, superior and patronizing" backpedaled furiously last week and apologized to their compatriot, Melbourne's The Age reported.

The provincial chief of education for the Johannesburg and Pretoria region appeared live on national television alongside Gordimer to apologize. He said the recommendations of the all-white panel that proposed removing Gordimer and several other authors, including Shakespeare and at least two black authors, from the lists had been rejected by his department.

"We need to agree a serious mistake was made," said Ignatius Jacobs.

From the Central Servers:

Thomas K. of Shawnee, Kan., writes of last week's Comedy of Errors:

Would you be so dismissive of the routine if the comedy troupe member wore blackface and spouted phrases like "yessum massuh" and "pickin cottin"?

While I am against any government attempt to stop "hate speech," can't we at least agree someone could reasonably find these ethnic slurs offensive? You add insult to injury by dismissing their offense as "PC".

But Kevin S. of San Diego, Calif., says:

I find it intriguing that Amy Leang could possibly be offended by a skit regarding the Chinese. She obviously has never watched Black Entertainment Television and seen the jokes made about whites. These jokes, if made at the expense of blacks or any other race, would be considered racist at the very least and would undoubtedly lead to lawsuits. My advice to Amy would be to follow her own advice and walk the walk, not just talk the talk!

Don in Minneapolis, Minn., adds to the 'Straight Pride' story:

I too thought the school had reacted foolishly to the Straight Pride shirt, until I contacted a sister of mine with children in that school. It seems that in this instance there is an important part of the story that wasn't reported. A short time before this particular incident, one student wore something (I think it was a pair of pants with a confederate flag on them) which offended a group of students. The offended students beat him so badly that he was hospitalized.

There's your real ridiculous story if you want one. Someone wears something you don't like so you and a group of cohorts beat the living daylights out of them. Sort of a PC storm trouper squad.

I am surprised that the news media (especially my favorite, Fox News) didn't report about the violence this school has seen lately. It would be best to provide the whole story rather than just the sensational part, wouldn't it?

David C. says:

Angelique Z. in St. Louis: You may be an arbiter of sanity in this pc police state the neurotics are erecting. I do not hold your position but would fight to the death to defend it. But be careful, you elicit a dangerous level of practical sense.

Robert D. writes:

In response to Michael T. of New York insisting that "The term 'Straight Pride' is obviously a joke at the expense of the countless gays and lesbians who fought and still fight daily battles to overcome the ignorance and fear that festers right below the surface of many otherwise reasonable straight people," this sounds similar to those bumper sticker Darwin fish that are obviously a joke at the expense of the countless creationist Christians who fought and still fight daily battles to overcome the ignorance and fear that festers right below the surface of many otherwise reasonable non-creationist people."

Free speech works both ways and it's for everyone, Michael - deal with it.

Joshua K. says:

I wonder how people like Dem Sharon Weston Broome get elected to any kind of office. Can she really be so limited in her train of thought that she can't see that racism is the problem, not the arguments called out in its name?

If the KKK came out with a mathematical equation demonstrating racial superiority, would she call for an end to teaching math? Better yet, since "racist principals" are being printed, why not stop teaching children to read. That would certainly solve the problem under her way of thinking.

Ben P. tells us:

It's hardly PC to say to, but Ms. Broome is entirely correct, if she is claiming either that:

1. The biological theory of origins and behavior provides a theoretical basis for asserting that the development of inferior and superior 'breeds' of ANY species is possible. Since humans -- under this theory -- are ONLY a biological animal, and have no particular value apart from their 'fitness', it then becomes both reasonable and proper, from the perspective of the 'breed' to prefer the 'more fit' species. This sword cuts equally against 'inferior' breeds and 'defectives' however defined.

2. The philosophical theory of evolutionism asserts an idea of an 'advancing' mankind, and a concomitant duty to encourage the 'more fit' members of the human race. This philosophy has been practiced both in Nazi Germany, and throughout Western Europe, commonly under the cognomem of "eugenics".

So, there are both theoretical and historical grounds for asserting that evolution, as either a biological theory or a philosophical theory is intrinsically 'racist.'

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