Ward Churchill

Ward L. Churchill is a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. In the U.S. The nation that represents a shining beacon of hope to the world because of it’s democratic values and it’s devout belief in freedom of conscience and religion and a free press and free speech.

Do you take that all seriously?

Really, how significant is it when a university professor makes public comments indicating that he just doesn’t quite want to jump on the all-patriotic American bandwagon after 9/11 and actually dares to question the complicity of U.S. corporate interests in the attacks on the Twin Trade Towers?

Well, the Board of Regents– purely by coincidence, you know– not as if there was ever even the slightest question of abridging Professor Churchill’s freedom of speech, of course– decided to investigate Professor Churchill’s academic history, as, I’m sure, they did for all the professors at the University of Colorado, and with equal diligence and objectivity.

Lo and behold! Professor Churchill may have actually made a statement or two that might have been somewhat historically inaccurate! Fire the tenured sonofabitch! Done. The constitution is safe.

Now get this, so there is no confusion: he was fired because he had “falsified history” and “fabricated history”. He was also found to be “disrespectful of oral Indian traditions”.

These deliberations took place behind metal detectors and police guards because, the solemn regents reported, they had received death threats in the past month. Well, several death threats. A death threat. By e-mail.

Oh ye Regents of Colorado! Oh you proud and circumspect men, of towering integrity and courageous principle! You have saved your students from the misapprehension that the purpose of our freedoms is to be free! George Bush owes you a great, big, monstrous FAT one.

The truth is, Ward Churchill sounds like he may well be a liar and a scoundrel who doesn’t really deserve the support of anyone. That doesn’t change the fact that the regents targeted him for review because of his beliefs about 9/11.

Billy Graham’s Irresistible Sexual Allure

The great American evangelist Billy Graham, who has never been caught in the slightest scandal– depending on how define “scandal”–, has a strict personal policy of never being alone with any woman except his wife. Since he doesn’t listen to her– she didn’t want to be buried at the new Billy Graham Theme Park, but he buried her there anyway, so that more tourists would come– Graham thinks this has kept him free of sin. (In fairness to Billy, it appears that his son, Franklin, is the driving force behind the burial decision, but Billy clearly had final call.)

It is very, very odd that Billy Graham has never been quite so public about a vow to never, ever be alone in a room with a man with a lot of money. Or a man with a lot of political power. Or a man who wants to create the impression that he is very devout and prays deeply and sincerely for a long time before bombing the shit out of a country.

Does this practice do him credit? How creditable is it to know that Billy Graham feels that no one should have confidence in his ability to resist the advances of an attractive woman in a room alone with him? And how creditable is it to the women with whom he interacts professionally, to know that they can never have a solo meeting with this very important evangelist (who has body guards and limousines) but their male colleagues can?

And of course, Billy is missing the most important flaw in his prophylactic little policy: who knows if the man he is meeting with, alone, isn’t a homosexual? What if Billy himself….

Obviously, Billy Graham should never be left alone with anyone… and that includes the President of the United States, even if he does want to pray before invading and bombing and destroying a country under false pretenses.  Or, like Bill Clinton, confess to a scandalous sin and ask for help in praying for forgiveness (probably the most absurd thing an American evangelist has ever consented to– Bill Clinton couldn’t pray with your assistance?)

You might object– the President of the United States? Are you mad? Do you honestly think the President of the United States would be so foolish as to…. oh my goodness! I’m right!

It has been said that Graham’s practice is “wise”, not only because it helps him resist temptation and remain “pure”, but because it also makes him less vulnerable to false accusations. Of course, the same could be said about meeting with men with money or political power: someone might believe that Graham compromised his principles so he could use someone’s private jet or limo or hotel room, or get invited to the White House or something. Or is that just in my filthy mind?

From A Christian Writer in the Christian Reformed Church’s Official Magazine: The Banner:

‘The students seemed to like it. I didn’t but then my wife, jokingly, keeps threatening to buy me one of those caps with “Old Fogie” plastered on the front, except the word emblazoned across the brim isn’t “fogie”. You know.’

Am I mistaken or did this writer just substitute the word “fogie” for “fart” because he thought “fart” would offend his reading audience? This man takes himself seriously as a writer. How can anyone else? This man is afraid of words, he can’t stand them, he can’t face them, he can’t digest the full breadth of reality because his aesthetic sensitivity is so delicate that he would collapse into a black hole of dainty- quainty tea-times and pewter plates and water-colour sea-scapes… FART. There. Now I understand.

I realized later that the “f” word in the ball cap might be something other than “fart”. Not likely. I doubt his wife would have offered to buy him such a cap, even jokingly. But maybe she has a more interesting sense of humour than I assume….

Hypnosis and the Criminal Mind

How reliable is hypnosis? It was used in the case of the Boston Strangler– under hypnosis, Albert DeSalvo was able to recall precise details that only the murderer could have known.

Except that DeSalvo probably never was the Boston Strangler. DNA testing has shown decisively that he was not the man who raped and murdered the last known victim of the Boston Strangler, and many experts are now convinced that he probably did not commit any of the murders attributed to the Strangler.

[Update – 2013-07-11]

I just read that a new round of DNA analysis, using a sample from Albert De Salvo’s nephew, proves that he did rape Mary Sullivan (and, therefore, probably murdered her). I am confused, since DNA evidence allegedly cleared him decisively of that particular murder.

In any case, that remains the only case for which there is any real evidence of DeSalvo’s guilt.  There is abundant evidence that DeSalvo did not know the details about the other crimes attributed to him, elicited under hypnosis, or that his accounts were inaccurate concerning timing and methods.

Incidentally, DeSalvo’s murder in prison, November 27, 1973, was the 11th in two years at that particular facility.

There was no prison-wide panic.


The Poetic Enola Gay

The Enola Gay

Captain Paul W. Tibbets Jr. is one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. His work is stunning and amazing and most original, and utterly, transcendent. He is the author of the “the vilest act ever committed by a soldier is actually the purest, most noble, and kindest act ever performed by a soldier”.

Paul W. Tibbets was the captain of the Enola Gay. His mission, on August 6, 1945, was to drop the most powerful bomb ever made on the Japanese soldiers hiding in Hiroshima.

As you might think… there were also 450,000 mothers and grandmothers and children in the area of Hiroshima that ended up being under the bomb that Paul Tibbets dropped.

People who love Tibbet’s poetry, become enraged when you suggest that there was something tragic about the bomb. That’s because they can’t tell the difference between poetry and a limerick. Paul Tibbets thinks he has written a limerick. But he should learn to be a man and accept that what he has written is a poem, and a real man can use naughty words in a poem. You can forgive a great poet for his filthy language because a great poet cares more about the truth than anything else.

The only thing is… Paul Tibbets still believes he has written a limerick…

It is one thing to say the filthy language is okay, because it’s the truth. The filthy language is unpleasant and frightening and regrettable, but we are adults who live in an imperfect world and sometimes the imbalance of good and evil is so great that we need to use powerful, harsh words to put our feelings about this imbalance into a poem.

It is quite another to say, as many Americans seem to, that there is no filthy language there at all. Not a word.

And then there is the possibility that this poem was never written for the Japanese, who only wanted to keep their emperor. It was an atomic love letter to the Russians, to let them know that our radioactive hearts were overwhelmed with desire for their own filthy words.

The Polite Commerce of Cold Blooded Murder

“The Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory acquired a patent in 1999, illegalising (sic) manufacture of the Kalashnikov rifle system by anyone other than themselves.”
From Wikipedia

That’s so quaint– the Izhevsk Machine Tool company– 50 years after it first started manufacturing the AK-47– suddenly decides to patent it, and demand that everyone else stop copying their design. Those design pirates, you see, who make these weapons so they can sell them to governments and guerrilla movements, which then use them to murder people (call it “war” if you like), are doing something illegal.

This equation, this syllogism, this logic, this reasoning, this state of affairs— this calculation of the commerce of human depravity: my patent of this machine used to kill people, to over-throw governments, to kill protestors and organizers and nuns, to stop the enraged population from storming the palace, is worth money. Pay me for the right to do evil.

The Izhevks Machine Tool Factory could never have dared to make such an assertion if we did not live in a world of raging hypocrisy. They should have denied that they had anything to do with this weapon. They should have sued for libel anyone who said, “the design of this gun is obviously stolen from the work of Mikhail Kalashnikov…”.

How dare you! How dare you assert that we would have created or built such a device, or — even worse– made a profit by selling it to people who obviously can only have one purpose in mind….”

That Contrived Inspirational Teacher Movie: “Freedom Writers”

Just once, I would like to see a movie about a young teacher who doesn’t care about his students, can’t wait to move on to a better paying job, and doesn’t want any students intruding on his private life ever. And, it turns out, is a pretty good teacher. And he has a principal who really tries hard to manage his school well, and retain good staff. And when this teacher wants to take a field trip, his principal says, “of course– we take field trips all the time.”

This scenario is more likely than you think: life is not a Hollywood movie. What makes a good teacher? Dedication is one factor. Loving students is important. But, surprisingly– to Hollywood– it helps to be smart. To be competent. To know how to do a good job.

Not going to see that movie. Ever. We have been conditioned by the movies (see list below) to believe that good teachers care deeply, personally about their students, have all the time in the world for them, evenings, and weekends, and really don’t need the slightest academic ability because most of his or her skills will only be applied to “real life” problems, like gang violence and poverty and … well, not sex anymore– those “gang members” in “Freedom Writers” seem to be absolutely celibate. Doesn’t seem to be any thing in their journals about their boyfriends or girlfriends… They might be getting shot at, but at least nobody’s hitting on them… I guess these are unusually spiritual gang members.

Or could it be the Erin Gruell has provided us with a sanitized version of the story? One wonders, of course, what else she has chosen to leave out. She certainly didn’t omit even the tiniest fragment of student adulation of her. In the film’s most disingenuous scenes, the head of her department, wildly caricatured– if you believe the movie, she has made it her purpose in life to sabotage good teachers–opposes the demands of her students that she continue to teach them into their junior and senior years. We are given to understand that there isn’t a single other worthy teacher in the system, and that it is only right and good that Gruell should never apply her special gifts to the new, equally needy students entering grade 9.

There’s not much in the film about how learning really takes place, how students actually learn to write and express themselves, how students acquire self-confidence, how teachers pass on skills and techniques. It’s really all about what a lovable, heroic person Ms. Gruell is, and to make her as lovable as possible, the movie leaves out all the little potholes and pitfalls of real life. That’s not inspirational: it’s delusional.

Did you notice my deception in the first paragraph? I was wrong, of course. There is one movie that actually tells you about a dedicated but rather chilly professor who comes to realize that he has wasted most of his life: “The Browning Version”. If you find yourself getting extremely nauseated by “Les Choristes” or “Dangerous Minds” or “Freedom Writers” some Saturday night, go and rent “The Browning Version” (if you can) and take the cure. Even better: rent “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and try to understand how charismatic, visionary teachers may not be a good thing.

Of all of these, aside from “The Browning Version”, “To Sir, With Love” is probably the least smarmy, and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is probably the most smarmy and gooey, and “Dead Poet’s Society” is the phoniest. Most of these films create a straw man villain to inject some tension into the story– invariably a principal or Board Member who really, really wants the students to be bored and oppressed.

If you liked most of these movies, I’ll bet you’ve never seen “The Browning Version” or “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. You should. You must.

It is a dose of reality, a cold bath of truthfulness and authenticity, in a field of mushy, indeterminate ideals and beliefs. The truth is that any of the teachers in these movies could just as well be Jean Brodie, teaching her little brood the blessing of Fascism, and inspiring them with misguided fervor. The truth is that the high school band in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” would never have played that well in real life. The truth is that the poetry in “Dead Poet’s Society” didn’t express much about the lives of any of the characters in the movie because if it had, the audience would have been as frightened of real poetry as real people are frightened of real poets in real life.

And “Brodie” is the only one of these films to recognize that there is a danger in charismatic teachers. Make it a double feature: “Dead Poets Society” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. Which film has more truth?

Copyright © 2007 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved. July 20, 2007

The problem with “Freedom Writers”…

I’m sure a lot of the events in the film really happened, even if not quite as depicted in the movie. I’m a former teacher: even good students don’t quite prostrate themselves before good teachers the way these kids did. There’s always at least one smart ass, or more, and not all students are little angels waiting for an encouraging teacher to see the good in them.

By half way through the movie, I didn’t trust anything it was showing me. That doesn’t mean I believe all of it was false– just that the movie clearly set out to “Hollywoodize” the story. I didn’t believe the head of the English Department could be that ridiculously obstinate, or that a rival teacher would be so transparently jealous of his “honor students”. I really doubt that the real students were as disinterested in sex as these students were, or that all of them would conveniently lose their personalities during the second half of the film so we could all focus on how amazingly grateful they are to Ms. Gruell.

There’s a story here, probably a really good one. And if it had been told honestly, it would be an inspiration to us all. You would think, wow, there is hope for mankind. But I can’t think that about this film– it is so rigged.

Inspirational Teacher Movies, Ranked:

The Gems:

  1. The Browning Version (Michael Redgrave)
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith)
  3. To Sir, With Love (Sidney Poitier)
  4. Up the Down Staircase (Sandy Dennis)
  5. Asphalt Jungle

The Stinkers:

  1. Freedom Writers
  2. Les Choristes
  3. Mr. Holland’s Opus
  4. Lean on Me
  5. Dead Poet’s Society
  6. Stand and Deliver
  7. Dangerous Minds
  8. The Substitute

About Schools:

  1. Ridgemount High



In 2001, George Bush Jr., following his Christian principles, and his instincts for justice and integrity and honor, appointed Reggie B. Walton to the Federal bench. No more molly-coddling criminals under my administration! Walton was known for his tough as nails approach to sentencing– the only way to stop crime in this country is to make sure that criminals pay the full penalty for their offences! By Golly, America wanted frontier justice and George Bush delivered!

When the U.S. sent Mayer Arar to Syria for some good, old-fashioned torture, and it was later revealed that it was all a mistake– no apologies! We are tough even on uncommitted crimes!

Until… until Dick Cheney’s good friend “Scooter” appeared before Reggie B. Walton and Reggie B. Walton did exactly what George Bush Jr. appointed him to do– deliver a tough sentence.

And then George W. Bush commuted his sentence (note: but he did not pardon him, which would have allowed Libby to continue practicing law).

Since then, Republican apologists have been performing the kind of verbal acrobatics that would make even George Orwell blush. Bush doesn’t want to undermine the judge, according to his White House Spokesflunky Tony Snow: “The point here is to do what is consistent with the dictates of justice”.

There you go. To do “what is consistent with the dictates of justice”. One of the fundamental principles of justice, of course, is equality under the law. So if a judge sentences Scooter Libby to two and a half years in jail and that turns out to be about average for obstruction of justice, then — then…. well, let’s not be coy here: nobody ever thought George Bush or his gang wanted the law to apply equally to themselves. Don’t forget that none of those raging militarists in the White House ever served in a wartime army either. Other people do that stuff. When they come back, we slash their veterans benefits. It’s the Republican way.

So when other people commit crime, the Republicans want the law to be merciless, uncompromising, and relentlessly destructive. But not, of course, for our crimes.

What Bush has done is absolutely the opposite of the “dictates of justice”: he has applied the law unequally. He has over-ruled a judge and jury. He has short-circuited due process. Don’t buy all the whining about a “conviction” being sufficient punishment– they don’t believe that about any other criminal– why should we think they really believe it about Libby?

But it doesn’t even matter if Bush agreed with the verdict or the sentence at all. It is completely irrelevant, if a country has a constitution and an independent judiciary. What Bush just did, from the point of view of any one who believes in constitutional government, was despicable.

He has done a favor for his friend. He has offered compassion and clemency to someone who did him a favor by taking the brunt of the Valerie Plame scandal and not implicating his superiors.

There are two ways Bush could have made things right. He could have advocated understanding and compassion for every single person who comes before Judge Walton.

Or he could have let Libby serve his full sentence, just like everyone else.

If you’re not outraged enough, consider this: as Bush was giving speeches about how “harsh” and “unfair” the Libby sentence was, he was simultaneously advancing new legislation that would make it even more difficult for judges to give more lenient sentences to any criminals, after taking into consideration special circumstances.

There’s a point at which it’s hard to even muster a fresh feeling of outrage at an administration this bad. This is raging hypocrisy. This is vindictiveness, spite, hatred, and stupidity, on a scale I could not have imagined 20 years ago, when even Nixon had more common sense than anyone in the Bush White House.

Why is there no scandal? Why is there no move to impeach Bush? Because most people believe what they see on TV?

Why not just pardon him? Now.

Yes, now– because Bush will indeed pardon Libby when he leaves office– no question about it. He’ll also pardon the rest of his friends after they are indicated, charged, and whatever. He’s got nothing to lose now– Bush is probably becoming dimly aware of the fact that his administration is going to go down in history as the worst ever.

I was surprised that Giuliani and Romney both endorsed the commutation. I think they may come to regret this. But then again, there is an important message here that they may wish to send out to their supporters and colleagues and campaign workers, and that message is: We will take care of you! If you have to do something of “borderline legality” on behalf of the campaign– don’t worry. We will take care of you.

[2022-05-07] As you probably know by now, I was wrong.  Bush, I think because he had become dimly aware of how Dick Cheney and others had mis-used him and led him down a garden path of quagmire and mediocrity, did not pardon Libby, to the consternation of Dick Cheney who fully expected Libby to be rewarded for taking the fall for his (Valerie Plame) scandal.

This is probably the most honorable thing George W. Bush did.  Then, to highlight the fact that it was honorable, Donald Trump came along and gave Libby the pardon he craved.  Bush never looked more honorable.

Old People

“She sits and stares at the backdoor screen…”
John Prine, “Hello in There”

We don’t know if Loretta is catatonic, tired, disappointed, or all of the above, but we know that no one comes calling anymore. Not Joey, who’s somewhere on the road, or John and Linda who live in Omaha, or Davy, who died in the Korea War.

714 Files

I have written about 714 rants now, over a period of about 10 years. In fact, next year will by the 10th anniversary of Chromehorse.net. My first piece appeared in November, 1997.

There is nothing to celebrate. As far as I can tell, I don’t have any readers. So this is the sound of one hand clapping. Thank you, thank you very much.