Friday, November 09, 2007

The True Purpose of Zero Tolerance

Anti-hug bans continue to spread through the nation’s schools. Two days ago we learned that schools in Missouri and Alabama had banned hugging. Today we learn that another school in Illinois and two schools in Texas (Kyle and Keller) have also banned hugging. In Virginia, a school has banned not only hugging, but all forms of physical contact, including high-fives. And the bans are not confined to the US. In Great Britain another school has banned hugging.

Different schools give different reasons for the bans. Sometimes the reason is to prevent sexual harassment. Other times hugging and other public displays of affection (PDAs) are banned because they are considered to be in poor taste. Then there are times when school officials say it has nothing to do with sex or taste at all, but is only because hugging causes students to be late for class.

None of these explanations entirely makes sense. If being late for class is the problem, why not just punish students for being late? Why single out hugging from all the other reasons students are late? If sexual harassment is the issue, why punish a student for hugging a friend who lost a parent? And if taste is the issue, what is there about a high-five that is in poor taste? And why is this suddenly a problem now? It wasn’t considered a problem when I was in school. You couldn’t smooch on school grounds, of course, but there were no rules against non-sexual hugs, and the lack of such rules did not result in anarchy. Why is hugging a problem now?

Schools have banned tag, they’ve banned dodge ball, they’ve banned cupcakes, and now they’ve banned hugs. What are they going to ban next? What will be the end result of all this zero tolerance? What will schools look like ten years from now? Twenty? Fifty? What kind of society is zero tolerance creating?

Prisons practice zero tolerance. Prisons are no-hug zones. PDAs are prohibited in prison, as are many things we in the free world take for granted. Behavior is narrowly circumscribed in prison. There is very little free choice. You can choose not to eat the potatoes on the plate of food they give you, you can choose which magazine to read from those the authorities have allowed inside prison. But the important decisions are made for you. Individualism is discouraged. Free will is discouraged. Thought is discouraged. You follow the rules without question, and the rules don’t have to make sense or be fair. There are no exceptions, no distinctions, and very little recourse.

That is how our schools are becoming. Like prisons. An honor student with a perfect record gives an aspirin to another student and is immediately suspended for violating the rule against drugs. A boy doodles a gun on a piece of notepaper and is immediately suspended. A girl hugs a few friends at a football game and is immediately suspended. And what happens when lawsuits are filed over zero tolerance issues? Nothing, that's what.

Why are schools becoming like prisons? Because schools prepare kids for society and society is becoming a prison. That’s what a police state is, a society where citizens are treated like prisoners.

Every day we hear about a new rule, and rarely is the rule rescinded. Usually, the rule is expanded. One day smoking is banned in workplaces and nightclubs. The next day it is banned in cars and homes. One day all guns must be registered. The next day they are being confiscated.

Gun control, smoking bans. Both were instituted by the Nazis in Germany, and both are being instituted here. Day by day, we have less and less freedom of choice, just like prisoners.

At first, zero tolerance seems benign. No reasonable person thinks children should be allowed to bring marijuana to school. Therefore, a zero tolerance rule against drugs makes sense. Until a student is suspended for possessing aspirin. A zero tolerance rule against sexual harassment makes sense, too, until a four-year-old boy is suspended for hugging a teacher’s aide.

Zero tolerance has been proven time and again to have no effect on curbing harmful behaviors. All it does is criminalize harmless behaviors. Which makes no sense, until you realize it’s not supposed to make sense. In fact, the less sense it makes, the better. Zero tolerance replaces the will of the individual with the will of the state. Zero tolerance teaches the individual to obey without question or thought. A police state requires such obedience. Zero tolerance makes everyone guilty of something, gives everyone a reason to be afraid. Fear is what a police state needs most of all, because a police state controls through fear. Control, then, is the true purpose of zero tolerance. Therefore, kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance killed your parrot. Zero tolerance killed the Kennedys. Zero tolerance killed the radio star. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance stole the election. Zero tolerance stole your girl. Zero tolerance stole your newspaper. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance said the f-word. Zero tolerance said the n-word. Zero tolerance said the b-word. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance didn’t leave you a tip. Zero Tolerance didn’t repair the levees. Zero tolerance didn’t invite you to the party. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance amputated the wrong leg. Zero tolerance gave you the wrong directions and you got lost. Zero tolerance kicked in the wrong door and shot everyone. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance doesn’t flush the toilet. Zero tolerance doesn’t put the lid down. Zero tolerance doesn’t cover its mouth when it coughs. Zero tolerance picked its nose and put the boogers on the pizza. Zero tolerance defecated on the Constitution and said it was for your own good. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance changed the channel while you were trying to watch cartoons. Zero tolerance painted a swastika on its own door and told the cops you did it. Zero tolerance downloaded child porn onto your computer while you were away. Zero tolerance embezzled money from the Children’s Cancer Fund, then lost it all in Vegas. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance is such a b-word. Zero tolerance is also a c-word. Zero tolerance is full of s-word. Zero tolerance should go f-word itself. Zero tolerance makes us all n-words slaving on the plantation. Kill zero tolerance.




Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kill Zero Tolerance

You’ve heard of schools being declared drug-free zones. Now schools are becoming… hug-free zones.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but believe it or not, a growing number of public schools are disciplining students for for hugging. In Missouri, for instance, a junior high student was put in detention for two days after she was seen hugging friends at a football game. In Alabama, another junior high girl was suspended for hugging a male friend who had recently lost a parent. And last year, a four-year-old in Texas was placed into in-school suspension when he hugged a teacher’s aide. A four-year-old!

What's going on here? I thought the slogan was “Hugs, Not Drugs.” How on earth did innocent hugging become so demonized?

Apparently, it originated with the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1999 ruled that schools can be held liable if they ignore claims of sexual harassment. The court, however, offered no guidelines for what constituted sexual harassment, thus leaving it up to the idiots in our nation's schools to figure it out on their own. To be fair, there are a great many school officials who do practice common sense and differentiate between a sexual and a non-sexual hug. But there are just enough idiots turning schools into no-hug zones to give us cause for concern.

What can be done about these idiots? Will there ever be an end to zero tolerance? Are we doomed to live in a world where an innocent hug between friends is considered the same as a lecherous grope, where drawing a picture of a gun is the same as bringing an AK-47 to school, where cutting a cupcake with an unauthorized plastic knife is the same as whipping out a switchblade, where being found in possession of an aspirin is the same as smoking crack? These are just a few of the actual infractions that have caused students to be disciplined under the zero tolerance policies of today’s public schools.

Zero tolerance is supposed to make us feel safe. But it does not make me feel safe, because in practice zero tolerance translates into zero common sense. Zero tolerance only sees the world in two colors: black and white, with no shades of grey. It sees a four-year-old’s affectionate little hug as something sick and depraved. And in the larger world outside school, it sees shoes as potential bombs, confiscates bottled water and nail clippers, puts a deadly chokehold on a 110-pound woman who was upset because she missed a flight, throws a man to the ground and handcuffs him because he jaywalked, and Tases old people in wheelchairs when they don't follow orders fast enough.

Zero tolerance is idiocy, insanity, hysteria, paranoid delusion. Zero tolerance is dangerous, far more dangerous than the things it professes to protect us from. Zero tolerance is the enemy. Zero tolerance hates our freedoms. Zero tolerance wants to kill us. Zero tolerance wants to torture us. Zero tolerance wants to scare us. Zero tolerance wants to turn us into a nation of bed-wetting, boot-licking sissies.

Forget the War on Terrorism. We should be fighting zero tolerance. Let’s declare zero tolerance on zero tolerance. Let’s suspend idiot school officials from their own schools. Let’s make it mandatory for cops who misuse their Tasers to be Tased themselves. Let’s pass a new Patriot Act that restores the Constitution and puts all the Neo-Con, PNAC, Bush White House scumbuckets in the concentration camps they’ve been building for us. Then let’s waterboard them all! Yay!

Zero tolerance, zero tolerance, zero tolerance for zero tolerance … sis-boom-rah!

Zero tolerance keyed your car. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance sends you spam. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance killed your dog. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance is tapping your phone. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance stole your credit card. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance knowingly gave you AIDS. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance plays its music too loud. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance lied when it said it loved you. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance mugged you and left you for dead. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance shortchanged you at the Lucky Mart. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance took your money but didn’t deliver the weed. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance married your sister and beats her every night. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance doesn’t wash its hands after it uses the bathroom. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance took a wide stance in the next stall and tapped its feet. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance took a cell phone call in the middle of your presentation. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance put Rohypnol in your drink and is raping you in a cheap motel. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance farted next to you on a crowded bus and thought it was funny. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance took pictures of your wife’s butt and masturbates to them every night. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance has a meth lab next door and lets its pit bull run loose in the neighborhood. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance text-messages its friends while driving drunk 90 miles an hour through a school zone. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance has a reality show and sings crappy pop sings and just made headlines by giving birth to a purple-assed baboon. Kill zero tolerance.

Zero tolerance has done all these things and more. It is everything bad and stupid and foul and mean and rotten and stinky and selfish and shallow and hateful and wicked and loathesome and wrong in the human spirit. So KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL zero tolerance.


Olbermann Special Comment on Waterboarding

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ron Paul on Jay Leno with the Sex Pistols

Drive-In Memories

In the 30 years since its closing, the Fort Worth Twin Drive-In has managed to evade the wrecking ball. But now it is no longer.

Last Friday, as my friend Brian Roper was driving down East Lancaster Street, he saw something missing: the Twin’s east screen. It had been demolished. The west screen was still standing, but in front of it was a wrecking ball, ready to bring it down come Monday morning. On Sunday, Brian returned to take some last pictures of the screen before it, too, bit the dust. While he was there, he learned that the property will soon be the site of eight natural gas wells.

It’s a sad day for nostalgic Fort Worthers who remember the glory days of that spot of land. Even though the theatre was in ruins and there was no realistic hope it would ever reopen, it was somehow comforting to drive past and see those old screens still standing and the big red letters TWIN and FORT WORTH faded but still intact, not a letter missing—it was good to still have this familiar sight, evocative of so many good memories, in the midst of so much change.

My last visit to the Twin was in the summer of ’64 to see Cleopatra. After 1964, we moved 30 miles south of Fort Worth to Cleburne and didn’t go back to the Twin. There was a drive-in in Cleburne, the Chief. That was where I saw a great many films of the late ‘60s, spaghetti westerns, biker films, Goldfinger, Bonnie and Clyde, so many. Hillbillys in a Haunted House was playing the night I took a girl there for the first time. It was January 1968, the night was cold. The girl was Rita, the rodeo queen. We steamed up the windshield so thoroughly we couldn’t have seen the movie if we wanted to.

By 1969, my parents were letting me drive to Fort Worth. Fort Worth was a better place than Cleburne to see movies because the new ones got there sooner. I didn't go to the original Twin, but went instead to the Southside Twin because it was closer. One time my friend Sandy and I drove up there to see a double feature of Patton and MASH. As we were about to exit the highway, Sandy told me he only had one dollar, enough for his admission, but nothing left over for the snack bar. Would I loan him a dollar? No, I only had enough money for my ticket and the snack bar, plus an extra dollar to buy gas to get back home. So what to do? Sandy told me to pull over so he could hide in the trunk. I was doubtful. My trunk was really small and he was a big guy. Not only would he not be able to move, there wouldn’t be much air to breathe. But Sandy looked at the trunk and said it wouldn't be a problem.

“I’ll be okay," he said. "As soon as the sun goes down, let me out. No one'll notice in the dark.”

So I locked him in the trunk, drove to the theatre, paid for my ticket, parked, and started waiting for the sun to go down.

The wait was longer than I expected. We had gotten there too early. I realized it would be at least an hour before it was dark enough to start the show. Would Sandy be okay in the trunk that long? What if he suffocated? For all I knew, he had already suffocated. Also, the temperature was in the mid-80s. Pretty warm. It would be even warmer in the trunk. In fact, it was probably as hot as an oven, once you added Sandy’s body heat in that cramped space.

I grew more and more uneasy. Finally, I decided to check on him. I didn’t want to open the trunk, because there was a car full of people parked nearby and they might see Sandy. So, instead, I knelt down by the trunk, acting like I was checking something under the car. Turning my head so the people wouldn’t see my lips moving and speaking as loud as I dared, I said, “Sandy?” No answer. I said it again louder. This time I heard his muffled reply: “Yeah?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah … I think so.”

“You think so?”

“Is it dark yet?”

“No, it’s not. Can you wait a little longer?


As I stood up, I glanced at the nearby car. The people were looking at me. I got back in the car. Five, maybe ten minutes passed. It seemed a lot longer. The sun was not going down fast enough. Would it ever go down? It was as if it had gotten stuck. I kept worrying about Sandy. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I went back, knelt down again like I was checking under the car, and said, “Sandy?”


“Are you okay?”

“I think so. Is it dark yet?

“No, and it’s not going to be any time soon. I better let you out.”


I glanced around. The people in the car were watching me and smiling. Also, on top of the building that housed the projection booth and snack bar stood two men. I guessed they were employees, maybe the projectionists waiting to start the show. Maybe the reason they were standing there was to watch for people like me and Sandy. That worried me. But it worried me more to leave Sandy in the trunk. Maybe, I thought, if we moved quickly, and if the men happened to look in another direction at that moment, they wouldn’t see Sandy get out of the trunk. As for the people in the car—well, they were going to see this, no doubt about it. But maybe they wouldn’t tell on us.



“We’re going to have to do this quick.”


“As soon as I open this trunk you jump out as quick as you can.”


I opened the trunk and Sandy began trying to uncoil himself from the awkward cramped curled-up position he was in. I heard someone laugh in the nearby car and felt my face turn red. After what seemed like ten minutes, Sandy finally managed to sit up, crawl out of the trunk, swing his feet onto the ground, and raise himself up to his full height of six feet, in broad daylight for everyone to see.

We got back in the car. Sandy said, “Do you think anybody saw me?”

“Well,” I said, “the people back there definitely did, but maybe they won’t tell. The only thing I’m worried about are these two guys I saw standing back there on that—”

At that moment, the two men appeared next to my window, smiling. One leaned into the window and said to Sandy, “You ready to pay for your ticket now?”

Sandy handed over his dollar. “Thank you,” said the man and they left.

I heard more laughter from the nearby car. My face turned red again. I slumped down low in the seat and stayed that way till it was dark and the show started.

Drive-in memories …

The Riverside Drive-In on Fort Worth’s north side. By the 70s, they were showing porno movies and there was a high wooden fence around the place. Genitals on the screen as big as Buicks … In Denton, the Town-and-Country Drive-In. Passing around the Oat Willie’s Power Hitter, watching Death Race 2000 … And the last time I went to a drive-in. It was in Austin in the late ‘70s. A re-release of Jason and the Argonauts was playing …

The best drive-in I remember was the Pike in Fort Worth in the 1950s. On the screen tower was a huge painted mural of cowboys on the range at sundown. It had been trimmed with animated neon. One cowboy moved a skillet back and forth over flickering flames, another on horseback twirled a lasso. I would look up at it from the backseat of our blue white-topped Ford as we drove up to the ticket box.

Inside, at the foot of the screen, was a playground, with a slide, swings, see-saw, jungle gym, and—what was that thing called, the round metal platform that spun around so fast? I haven’t seen one in years. Maybe they stopped making them. Too many kids jumping or falling off and getting hurt. Too dangerous, I guess. But it sure was fun.

We would play on the playground till the screen lit up with the first cartoon. At the first sight of Woody Woodpecker and the sound of his cackle echoing from all the window speakers, all the kids would scream with delight. Then the moms and dads would herd us back to the cars, and we would watch cartoons, not on a small screen in black-and-white the way we saw them at home, but huge and blazing with color. Then the movies would start. Technicolor John Wayne epics, Jerry Lewis, Hercules, Forbidden Planet. And the smells from the snack bar, popcorn and hot dogs, wafting through the summer night, and the distant sigh of highway traffic while the movies played. It was wonderful ...

Later, the neon was taken down from the mural, leaving only the painted portion. This was happening at drive-ins everywhere. Birds would build nests in the neon tubes and it was too expensive to maintain. So all the neon was coming down. Then, in the 60s, the Pike closed. I don’t know why. Drive-ins were still thriving at that time. But, for some reason, the Pike was unable to make a go of it. The grounds became overrun with weeds and the paint on the mural faded and the plaster cracked and started breaking off, till finally you could barely make out the cowboys on the range.

The Pike Drive-In stood on a hill overlooking the cemetery where Lee Harvey Oswald was buried. In the early 70s, I would drive past the cemetery every day to go to work in Arlington, and I always thought of Oswald lying over there in his grave, and wondered what secrets were buried with him. And sometimes I would also glance at the Pike Drive-In, or what was left of it, and remember those summer nights in the ‘50s.

One day, as I was driving past, I noticed the screen tower was gone. Something else was built there, I forget what. Whatever it is, I’m sure most people these days have no idea there was once a drive-in theatre there. And, now that the Fort Worth Twin has fallen, there will come a time when no one will remember there was anything there but gas wells.

Surprisingly, there are a few old drive-ins still in business, scattered around the country. Also, over the past few years, new drive-ins have been built, such as the Galaxy south of Dallas. The screens are not gigantic like the ones of old, and there are no elaborate murals, but you can still have the experience of watching a movie from your car, or in a lawn chair under the stars.

It is good to know the drive-in is not dead. One of these days, soon, I believe I will go to the nearest one. We may have to drive a couple of hours, but it would be worthwhile to relive the experience once again. I don't even care what’s showing. I want to roll down the windows, smell the popcorn and hot dogs in the breeze, crank up the speaker, and watch the screen light up against the starry sky, while the traffic sighs on the highway …