Essay Writer Dopped from the Marines

In another strange turn to this strange case, the high school student who was arrested for writing a violent essay, has been dropped by the Marines.

The U.S. Marines have dropped the 18-year-old Cary-Grove High School student whose controversial essay got him a disorderly conduct charge from McHenry County authorities.

Allen Lee, a straight-A honor student, had enlisted, passed all of the tests and was scheduled to start basic training in October in California.

So as part of a free-writing assignment, Lee writes a violent essay about killing people and having sex with their bodies and then ends it with a comment about his teacher inspiring a shooting spree (“No quarrel on you qualifications as a writer, but as a teacher, don’t be surprised on inspiring the first cg shooting”). Here’s the original document he wrote along with the instructions for it. His handwriting is worse than mine, something I didn’t think possible as my handwriting has been characterized as chicken scratches. Thankfully, the Sun-Times provides a readable version here.

I think the kid is guilty of extremely poor judgment and of attempting to get a rise out of his teacher. (He clearly succeeded in the latter.) When I was a senior in high school, smart-assed metal head that I was, I once wrote in my journal, a journal that was graded weekly by my English teacher, my own extended definition for the word “fuck.” She labeled it obscene but did not tell me to rip out the pages, nor did she turn me in to the dean. Why did I write it? I was probably bored, and I hated school and couldn’t wait to get out and I didn’t really care too much about my grades. (I would later get an F for the last semester of that class for failing to turn in a thesis project. There is a slim volume I’m sure that could be written about this…)

Kids with attitudes like Lee’s are always going to try to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. It’s not like Lee posted his essay on some internet forum or blog. He wasn’t making public threats. Clearly, he only meant for his teacher to read it. He doesn’t have a history of psychological problems, even passing the Marines’ psychiatric exam.

The teacher is a first-year instructor, which means she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience. A more seasoned teacher might have rolled with Lee’s provocative essay, given him some props for creativity and spunk and just let it go. Though from what I’ve read about this controversy so far, we don’t know if there was any tension between the teacher and the student to begin with. That’s another possibility.

I realize that with the recent shooting at Virginia Tech everyone is jumpy. But it doesn’t look at this point that arresting Lee and keeping him from joining the Marines is the best thing for all involved. Lee looks like a kid with an attitude problem that a few months in Marines Basic Training will straighten out, the teacher looks overly-sensitive, and McHenry county looks downright draconian and silly.

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Literary Theme Parks

Dickens World is opening in the UK. I had no idea this was even being constructed. It’s a theme park based on the books of Charles Dickens. No pick-pocketing games with prizes. No old women wearing their wedding dress for years and years. But a lot of other strange stuff like this:

Purists don’t even appear that perturbed by a soft play area called Fagin’s Den. That’s the same Fagin who ran a petty-theft sweatshop and beat children with a toasting fork – not an obvious person to name a creche after. “There’s something very attractive about Fagin and about the atmosphere that he creates for children in his employ,” says Leon Litvack, trustee of the Dickens Museum and professor at Queens University Belfast. “There is a sinister motive but Dickens treats that with humour. Oliver’s life there is better than it was in the workhouse.”

Attractive to whom?

Anyway, it go me to thinking about building a literary theme park here in the U.S. Which U.S. author would yield the most fun theme park?

A Don Delillo Theme Park could have attractions like Dodge the Left-Hand Shooter and Run from the Toxic Cloud. It would be dark, grim, and paranoid-inducing, similar to getting a case of The Fear while smoking too much pot sometimes. I’d still prefer the pot over the park in that case.

A park based on Phillip Roth’s books (I can see the rides already: the Circle Jerk, the Overbearing Mother, the Extra-Marital Affair, and Make That Damn Feminist Academic Shut-up) could be conceivable only in a state like Nevada where the prostitution laws would allow certain things deemed indecent in other states but not in literature. Note: this also would apply to a Henry Miller or John Rechy Theme Park.

A William S. Burroughs Theme Park would be modest in size, basically the size of an opium den with rooms so that people could experiment with all the different drugs they want, with paramedics at the ready for any ODs. I don’t think a Dr. Benway ride would be much fun though…

The Ernest Hemingway Big Game Park might be fun for those trying to return us to a more Manly Culture, complete with drinking games, deep-sea fishing, and bull fights. It would of course have to be clean and well-lit.

The William Faulkner Theme Park would be well, hmm…No one would want a Popeye Corncob Ride, or want to end up like Joe Christmas or Quentin Compson. And having somebody clinging to a fence crying and bellowing “Caddy! Caddy!” would be way too creepy. Okay, so no theme park based on Faulkner.

By that standard, too, a Toni Morrison Theme Park wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun either. Or a Richard Wright one. Or a Louise Erdrich one. And definitely not Cormac McCarthy. Rides based on “The Road” or “Blood Meridian” would not be much fun indeed. Or anything by Hubert Selby Jr. for that matter.

One based on Aimee Bender’s stuff might be trippy enough, though.

I guess that leaves us with the rides based on Dr. Seuss’s books in Orlando, FL.

Michigan Republican Demonstration

There was a Republican-led demonstration at the Michigan State Capitol today, what they called a “Taxpayers Rally” to supposedly mimic the Boston Tea Party.

While it was marginally interesting to see GOP Party Chairman Saul Anuzis hand Lt. Governor John Cherry his tea bag with Tim Skubick holding a microphone between them, it’s not like the Governor or the Democrats decreed a tax on tea. Tea doesn’t even have anything to do with the current budget debate. The tea-bags were for what? Symbolism?

Here’s what the original Boston Tea Party was about, courtesy of the the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum,

On May 10, 1773, the British parliament authorized the East India Co., which faced bankruptcy due to corruption and mismanagement, to export a half a million pounds of tea to the American colonies for the purpose of selling it without imposing upon the company the usual duties and tariffs. With these privileges, the company could undersell American merchants and monopolize the colonial tea trade. Not only did this action create an unfair commerce to the merchants of the colonies but it proved to be the spark that revived American passions about the issue of taxation without representation. To fully understand the resentment of the colonies to Great Britain and King George III, one must understand that this was not the first time that the colonists were treated unfairly. In previous years, the 13 colonies saw a number of commercial tariffs including the Sugar Act of 1764, which taxed sugar, coffee, and wine, the Stamp Act of 1765, which put a tax on all printed matter, such as newspapers and playing cards, and the Townshend Acts of 1767 which placed taxes on items like glass, paints, paper, and tea. The Tea Act of 1773 was the last straw.

Last time I checked, the Republicans controlled the Senate and have a number of people in the House. This state also has a Republican Attorney General and Secretary of State. By that measure, the Republicans have plenty of representation. The people in this state, too, who are able to vote regularly in elections for those positions, have their views represented. There is no king or queen in this state, either. Given all of that, you can’t really say that we suffer from “taxation without representation” in Michigan.

So if anything, the Taxpayers Rally demonstrated Saul Anuzis’s and the GOP’s incomprehension of useful symbolism, our state’s political structure, and one of our country’s defining historical events. Which means they have how much credibility in this budget debate? Looks like zero right now.

Michigan Press Still Responding to Fake News

How long, O Lord, how long before the editors of this state’s newspapers finally get this story right?
The Port Huron Times-Herald still believes Fake News. Note to the editors: it’s impossible to be wise to drop something when you were wise enough never to propose it in the first place.

At the ever so cheery Detroit News, while the editors are not still responding to Fake News, they continue to publish letters that slam Democrats in response to Fake News. The Detroit News loves nothing more than to slam Democrats, even when the slamming is based on false premises.

Over at the LSJ, on the same day they published this piece of Fake News, one of their own journalists published this lucid mea culpa on his blog.

Attention Michigan newspaper editors. Repeat after me:
“There never was a plan to give every child in Michigan an iPod.”

The Debunking of the "iPod for Every Child Myth" Did Not Take Place

Not to be outdone by the FREEP and the Detroit News in outdoing the Onion when it comes to fake news, we have reached a new stage in this “iPod for Every Child” non-story. The story written about the negative reactions to the Democrats for the fake news story about them.

This is the kind of thing that philosopher Jean Beaudrillard talked about, that was often misunderstood by people who never took the time to actually read his books; with our current media structure, the spectacle around a thing often becomes the truth instead of the thing itself having its own truth recorded and acknowledged empirically. We have now reached a point where even if those in the MSM point out this obvious fact;

The full budget line as approved by Gillard’s subcommittee last week doesn’t even mention iPods or MP3 players, although it says the state should help districts obtain “distribution tools” for digital media.

it no longer matters to them. The writer of this article allows the Democrats to be characterized as silly and inept for something they didn’t do, even while acknowledging they didn’t do the thing of which they are accused. The above debunking of the iPod story doesn’t come until paragraph number 12.

So even with the facts right in front of them, the MSM continues to operate as if the facts don’t matter. They instead go out of their way to de-emphasize and bury those facts that are inconvenient to the story they want to tell; the spectacle that currently fascinates. Right now, that story is that Democrats are incompetent and Republicans are smart. The spectacle around the iPod for Every Child Myth has now, unfortunately, become reality in the MSM, while the truth is ignored.

Kurt Vonnegut is Dead at 84, So It Goes

The New York Times has a nice long obituary.

Vonnegut was one of my favorite authors. I remember reading Slaughterhouse-Five, being enamored with it and then tearing through a bunch of his novels, like Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, and Breakfast of Champions, and his essays in the books Palm Sunday and Fates Worse Than Death, and his short stories in Welcome to the Monkey House.

What I loved most about his writing was his humor and his humanity. His characters are flawed human beings struggling to understand their own lives and the madness of the world all around them. The humor made the madness bearable.

From Cat’s Cradle:

“What hope can there be for mankind,” I thought, “when there are such men as Felix Hoenikker to give such playthings as ice-nine to such short-sighted children as almost all men and women are?”

And I remembered The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, given the Experience of the Past Million Years?”

It doesn’ t take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period.

This is it:

“Nothing.”

You can find a bunch of Vonnegut’s books here.

FREEP and Detroit News Outdo the Onion

You wouldn’t think it possible, but a news event that turned out to be fake has allowed the Detroit Free Press (FREEP) and Detroit News to outdo even the Onion in silliness.

The Onion, as most people know, is a fake newspaper that features satirical news stories and commentary. (Full disclosure: it’s one of my favorite sites to read.)

When the “An iPod for Every Child” story came out there was much ridicule, anger, and vitriol spewed at Speaker Andy Dillon and House Democrats for their seeming idiocy. This story on Thursday April 5th in the FREEP started all the fuss.

The House Democrats also proposed investing $100 million in Michigan’s downtowns. And another program that would provide iPods or MP3s to Michigan students to be used as a learning tool.

That was followed up by this story (also in the FREEP) the following day:

Also on the table, and playing a more prominent role Thursday, were expensive new programs, including $100 million for investments in Michigan’s downtowns and a $38-million proposal that would provide iPods or MP3 players for all Michigan students to use as learning tools.

Then there was this editorial in the Detroit News, the bastion of Free Market Republican Family Values, employing the headline “An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?” Yes, a family newspaper blocked out the word “fucking” in one of its own headlines. They wanted to use “fucking,” but thought that substituting some symbols for the first four letters would be enough to imply the word (and also their righteous anger) and still keep it family-friendly.

Ah, but Rich, you used the offending word yourself, you say? Of course, because I’ve never claimed to be a defender of Traditional Family Values. As a stay-at-home dad, I’m way past the point where I can be brought back into a more traditional line. And I’m okay with that. Plus, my two-year-old son, as smart as he is, can’t read yet. So I have no need to worry about exposing him to nefarious words for a few more years. One site I’ll be sure to keep his eyes away from is the Detroit News. I’ll add it to the blocked sites list on my parental controls. My blog might not be family-friendly, but at least I’m honest about it.

Getting back to Michigan’s two papers of record…It would be one thing if this non-story were some April Fool’s joke or hoax that these news organizations bought into, but it wasn’t either of those cases. Since we now know the “iPods for Kids” story wasn’t real, you have to ask if either the FREEP or the Detroit News employ fact checkers or provide editorial assistance to their writers. (I know the Detroits News does on occasion do some editing, because whenever they publish commentary ostensibly written by Saul Anuzis it shows marked improvements in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure compared to what Anuzis writes on his own blog on the MIGOP site. Or maybe Anuzis doesn’t write his own blog posts…hmm…)

Anyway, the point being that, as appealingly ridiculous (and funny) as “An iPod for Every Child” sounds, it’s even more ridiculous that the two papers of record in this state can’t even get a basic story right. Not only could they not get it right, but they have done nothing as of yet to correct their glaring errors. In their rush to tar the Democrats with stupidity and incompetence, they exposed their own stupidity and incompetence.

If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to go read “10 Million Fans Killed Off In Sopranos Season Premiere.”

Update: The FREEP is still printing fake news this morning. Oh, and you can’t run an everyone-is-incompetent-in-Lansing opinion piece like this, when you yourself are demonstrating your own incompetence at getting the facts straight about what goes on in Lansing, and expect to be taken seriously. What’s next? “Detroit Sold for Scrap?”