Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball Occurances

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

Liberals vs. free speech

Michigan's largest teachers union is suing a conservative group for quoting its president-accurately-in a fundraising letter. George Will calls this an example of liberals' disdain for free speech. He compares it to the recent battle for campaign-finance restrictions. "When the history of today's liberalism is written, the writers may . . . tread lightly," the columnist argues. "Otherwise they may be sued by liberals demanding subordination of the historians' rights of freedom of expression to some greater social good that supposedly would be impaired unless the historians' speech is regulated." The quote from Michigan Education Association President Lu Battaglieri appeared in a letter sent to supporters of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The letter quoted Mr. Battaglieri as saying, "Frankly, I admire what the Mackinac Center has done." Mr. Battaglieri, who usually opposes Mackinac proposals, said this about Mackinac's influence in shaping education reform.

Stone-cold ratings

Pro wrestling is taking a dive. Teenage boys are ditching World Wrestling Entertainment in droves, reports Variety's John Dempsey. Top performers are out of action and some young viewers are tuning out. "While the Rock's career is soaring, Steve Austin, another star wrestler, walked out after a disagreement with the WWE and then got into hot water with the San Antonio cops for allegedly beating up his wife Debra, who's also his manager," writes Mr. Dempsey. The Smackdown show is down 35 percent among teen boys and 10 percent overall.

Wrong songs

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Honor student Megan Gaffey refused to sing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, calling them blasphemous. So New York's Kellenberg Memorial High School told her not to come back for her senior year, Rita Ciolli reports in Newsday. "There was a piece in there by Mary Magdalene saying she was in love with Jesus ('I Don't Know How to Love Him') and I knew I wasn't going to sing that song. The rest of the words were not very holy either," said the 17-year-old student. The girl is Orthodox Presbyterian and the school is Roman Catholic. Her father told the paper he has paid $16,000 in tuition and expects her to return to the school next year. The school's principal, Kenneth Hoagland, complained that the parents "did not accept the school's notion of Christianity" and so they should "seek a school more in line with their philosophy." "Gaffey attended a Christian day school from kindergarten through second grade and then was homeschooled until she started as a freshman at Kellenberg," Ms. Ciolli writes. "Her two younger sisters and a brother also are being homeschooled." Her parents deny any hostility toward the school.

Don't read the label

Conservatives are "conservatives," while liberals are just people. At least that's the way television news stars see it. National Public Radio's Geoffrey Nunberg attacked former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg when Mr. Goldberg asserted that reporters label conservatives more than they label liberals. But the Media Research Center studied five years of evening news on ABC, CBS, and NBC, and says that Mr. Goldberg wins this debate. MRC researchers used the Nexis database to discover each use of "conservative" and "liberal" on the Big Three from 1997 to 2001, tossing out all labels used in nonideological ways ("liberal arts colleges") or by on-air sources rather than network staffers. The disparity MRC found was large: 992 "conservative" labels to 247 uses of "liberal." The MRC's Rich Noyes said the results show that "network reporters generally regard conservatives as having alien and eccentric views that need to be labeled, while liberal beliefs require no special identification."

The Gildered age

George Gilder used to be the king of high-tech stock tippers. Now he's broke and faces a lien on his home, reports Gary Rivlin in Wired. "I knew that it was going to crash, I really did," Mr. Gilder told the magazine with regard to the tech bubble. "I told people in early 2000 they should sell half their shares in these companies. I didn't say it often. I didn't put it in a newsletter." Mr. Gilder got rich briefly picking stocks in his financial newsletter. These were up-and-coming hot tech stocks, most notoriously Global Crossing. He followed his mantra, "listen to the technology," even as the stock market started falling. "So what has Gilder learned from his flirtation with imponderable riches?" Mr. Rivlin writes. "Everything and nothing. He expresses relief that he can return to what he knows best, studying the inner workings of cutting-edge technology. He expresses deep regret for the role he played in the telecom crash. But Gilder is first and foremost a man of faith [in technology]. He continues to add new companies to his list, and he still tries to predict the future."

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