Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock's Symbolic Irony: Peace, Love, and Cash

The current 40th anniversary of Woodstock finds it still being glamorized. Mike Tremoglie tells you the parts that you don't usually hear

Who could forget the sitar-like harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash, the "better living through chemistry" pulsations of Sly and the Family Stone, the chanting of Country Joe and the Fish, and the wonderfully wacky, Wavy Gravy? Woodstock--a place where half a million people gathered for peace, love, and music.

The event represented a generation of youth. Well not quite. The boys (and girls) of Woodstock were not such an inclusive group. One of the myths about Woodstock is that it was some altruistic event. Woodstock was all about money. John Roberts, the Ivy League heir to the Polident fortune, financed it. He and his partners were in it for profit. They never stated otherwise.

Max Yasgur, whose farm was the site of the event and whose name was immortalized in song, was anything but a simple dairy farmer. He was an NYU graduate and one of the wealthiest farmers in the area. He also walked away with $75,000 or about $300,000 in current dollars. Not bad for the three-day rental of 600 idle acres.

The Who was paid the then-unheard-of sum of $12,000. Three groups refused to go on until they got cash first. The promoters had to get an advance from a local banker on a Saturday night in order to prevent a riot.

Woodstock was not for the poor. A ticket was approximately 18 bucks. In an era when the minimum wage was a $1.60, a ticket was two days pay. That does not count lost wages for taking off from work, travel expenses, and of course, the drugs. Total it all up and it was at least a week's pay.

"I remember building a fire one morning for breakfast. All we had was hot dogs and spaghetti," a Woodstock alumnus waxed nostalgically in a magazine article. A few hundred miles away from the concert lived people who would have loved to have had hot dogs and spaghetti for breakfast. They would have loved to have had breakfast. Over $2 million was spent staging Woodstock ($10 million in current dollars.) $10 million buys many a breakfast in Appalachia.

If there is any significance about Woodstock it is the symbolic irony of it. The Woodstock audience was composed of enlightened and compassionate liberals-- at least that is what they thought of themselves. These were people who wanted to feed the poor and help the helpless. These people are now part of the governmental social-welfare complex and are now college professors who preach social justice to their students.

Yet the Woodstock audience could not feed themselves let alone the poor. The Woodstock crowd needed to rely on the very people they spurned--the establishment-- to feed them. Specifically they needed those warmongering, baby-killing, murdering monsters of the military establishment who dropped food from helicopters to feed them. They depended on the National Guard for food! The same National Guard that is now derided by liberal Democrats as being 'Chickenhawks.' It is absolutely hilarious that some critics of President George W. Bush's National Guard service were probably those who were saved from starvation by his fellow servicemen in the Guards.

Not only were the audience of Woodstock incapable of feeding themselves, the leaders of this event were just as incompetent. The very same people who are now liberal Democrats, Naderites, and Communists, the very same people who want to plan every aspect of the economy and society could not even plan a rock concert.

The myth is that Woodstock became a free concert by the beneficent act of the producers of the concert. Although it was good PR, it was not true. No, the promoters had to make it a free concert. The Woodstock generation wants what they want--and they want it free. They wanted to go to the concert so they crashed the gate.

It was the promoters' own fault. In order to get local approval the promoters purposely furnished low attendance figures. However, they did not realize how effective their marketing would be. Twice as many people came as they expected--10 times the number they had told the locals. Good intentions did not make Woodstock a free concert, poor business planning did.

Woodstock exposed the hypocrisy of the left. A half million people either spent money that could have been donated to charity or took food. They usurped resources from the government that could have gone to the poor. Why? So they could have a good time.

Moreover, the performers weren't a collection of Mother Theresas either. They earned substantial sums for their appearances. The only money donated was to Abbie Hoffman's fanatics and only because he extorted it by stating he would disrupt the concert. They did all of this while inveighing against the capitalist system.

The boys (and girls) from the Wood' proclaim themselves "veterans." In their characteristic hubris, they want to erect a monument to Woodstock. In Washington, D.C., there is a wall there with some 50,000 names on it. The Vietnam Memorial lists the names of real veterans--of kids who did their duty. They were the real altruists. Their concerts were in places like Bien Hoa and Ia Drang. They were the ones who should define the generation.

Country Joe's lyrical lamentation asked why we were in Vietnam. His answer was found during the '70s-- in the re-education programs of Communist Vietnam; in the "boat people" who fled Vietnam on anything that could float; in the killing fields of Cambodia. The kids whose names are on the wall tried to prevent that from occurring. In 1999, some people wanted to erect a monument to Woodstock. What is there to venerate? Woodstock was nothing more than kids with no responsibilities acting irresponsibly.


School prayer charges stir protests

Educators face jail in Florida

Students, teachers and local pastors are protesting over a court case involving a northern Florida school principal and an athletic director who are facing criminal charges and up to six months in jail over their offer of a mealtime prayer. There have been yard signs, T-shirts and a mass student protest during graduation ceremonies this spring on behalf of Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and school athletic director Robert Freeman, who will go on trial Sept. 17 at a federal district court in Pensacola for breaching the conditions of a lawsuit settlement reached last year with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I have been defending religious freedom issues for 22 years, and I've never had to defend somebody who has been charged criminally for praying," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based legal group that is defending the two school officials.

An ACLU official said the school district has allowed "flagrant" violations of the First Amendment for years. "The defendants all admitted wrongdoing," said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for its freedom of religion program. "For example, the Pace High School teachers handbook asks teachers to 'embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.' "

The fight involving the ACLU, the school district and several devout Christian employees began last August when the ACLU sued Santa Rosa County Schools on behalf of two students who had complained privately to the group's Florida affiliate, claiming some teachers and administrators were allowing prayers at school events such as graduations, orchestrating separate religiously themed graduation services, and "proselytizing" students during class and after school.

In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious. "She was the first student body president in 33 years not allowed to speak," he said. In response, many members of the 300-plus-member student body taped crosses to their mortarboards and stood for an impromptu recitation of the Lord's Prayer during the ceremony.

Mr. Mach responded, "We believe students have the constitutional right to pray voluntarily in public or private. Constitutional problems arise only when public school officials promote or endorse prayer or specific religious views."

The criminal charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail term, originated with a Jan. 28 incident in which Mr. Lay, a deacon at a local Baptist church, asked Mr. Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project. Mr. Staver said no students were present at the event, which was held on school property but after school hours. "He wasn't thinking he was violating an order," he said. "Neither did the athletic director. He was asked to pray and so he did."

Mr. Mach said the event was during the school day and that Mr. Lay, the school's principal, has said in writing that students were present. "Decisions about the religious upbringing of children should be left in the hands of parents, not school officials," he said. As to whether prayer constitutes "religious upbringing," he said, "If school officials were promoting non-majority faiths and religious viewpoints, I suspect there'd be an uproar." The ACLU brought the matter to the attention of U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who issued a contempt order for the two men.

Meanwhile, members of the small community of Milton, Fla., where Pace High School is located, have contributed more than $10,000 toward a legal defense fund for the defendants. Anti-ACLU T-shirts are also being sold and the proceeds donated.

Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

"She didn't do the blessing; she asked somebody to do it," Mr. Staver said. "The ACLU is sending people to school to monitor things happening on campus and see if there is anything encouraging religious activity, then running to the court if they see anything."

Her trial, which could result in a fine, is scheduled for Aug. 21.


Three big stories the media's 'homers' missed

By: Mark Tapscott

Sports writers who never have a harsh word for the local team are called "homers," but one doesn't have to look far in the news sections or broadcasts of the mainstream media to realize that this problem starts on the front page. Take, for example, these three significant stories that got little or no play in The Washington Post, The New York Times or the network news outlets.

First, remember that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "report" warning of the danger of domestic terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists? With only a few exceptions, major mainstream media outlets uncritically repeated the report's assertions, which were allegedly based on credible intelligence from official sources.

It was left to a conservative non-profit, Americans for Limited Government (ALG), to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the documentation used by DHS to prepare the report. And guess what ALG found? Instead of intelligence reports, DHS used unverified allegations and speculations it found on the internet.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's researchers liked one particularly apocalyptic web site so much that they cited it 11 times in their report. This site - called "What It Means" - often warns that the world is about to end, as with this recent headline: "Deaith Star Pandemic of 2009-2012: End of Age Begins."

Sleep tight tonight, folks, because your government knows what it all means.

Then there is the rebellion exploding within the ranks of AARP, the 40-million member Goliath of Washington lobbying on behalf of more government programs and spending. You might never know it from reading the Post or Times, but the liberal Democrats who run AARP's Washington office have gotten themselves into one heck of a mess.

They've spent millions of dollars collected from their members in an online, print and broadcast propaganda campaign for a government-run health care system - even as they hypocritically deny having endorsed any specific legislation in Congress.

But judging by the latest Gallup poll, most AARP members want no part of Obamacare or any other health care "reform" that takes billions of dollars away from Medicare and denies seniors the right to keep their doctors and their private health insurance.

Seniors aren't stupid and they recognize the crock they're getting from AARP's Washington leaders. That's why legions of them have cancelled their AARP memberships in recent months. When I asked AARP's Drew Nannis last week how many cancellations have been received, he promised to get right back to me. I'm not holding my breath.

Finally, did you know a government commission on civil rights is threatening to investigate the U.S. Department of Justice for its failure to prosecute what must be the most blatant violation of voting rights since Sheriff Bull Connor last unleashed his water hoses and dogs?

Remember the YouTube video of two New Black Panther Party members blocking people from entering a Philadelphia polling place last November? Both of the Panthers were dressed in paramilitary outfits and one of them carried a night stick. Both flung repeated racial slurs at people they were clearly intimidating.

Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department declined to prosecute the Panthers, in part because the defendants failed to respond to the charges brought against them and out of concern for their freedom of speech!

As The Washington Times reported last week, members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights were dumb-founded by the Justice decision not to prosecute. A search of the Post and New York Times archives turned up no coverage or commentary on this controversy in the past month.

Each of these three stories provided valuable information and insight that contradict ed the conventional wisdom being continually spouted in Congress and the White House, on college campuses, throughout the non-profit activism community, and across the mainstream media.

In Washington, government is the home team and media's homers aren't going to report stories that make the home team look bad.


Australia: A big attack on free speech and freedom of the press in the name of "privacy"

It's a great pity that Australia has no equivalent of America's First Amendment to block this sort of thing. People harmed by unfair or incorrect publicity should obviously have some recourse but one would think that existing libel and defamation laws provided that. Will it now be impossible for the media to expose crooks in case the crook's "privacy" might be violated??

The NSW Law Reform Commission reckons the trouble with freedom of speech is that it comes up trumps too often. But the commissioners yesterday released plans to do something about it: give those whose privacy has been violated by the press wider and less-constrained rights than any in the world to sue for damages.

I need to confess I was one of a bunch of advisers to the commissioners as they pursued their terms of reference, "To inquire into and report on whether existing legislation in NSW provides an effective framework for the protection of the privacy of an individual." In particular they were asked to consider "the desirability of introducing a statutory tort of privacy in NSW". Their answer was a mighty yes, and nothing I said otherwise had any noticeable effect.

In the face of outrageous violations of privacy by the media, journalists are hard put to argue that those whose lives have been trashed can't turn around and sue. The hunt for some basis in law to do this has been on for some time in the courts of the English-speaking world. A very bad result for the press was the Naomi Campbell case in 2004.

The Daily Mirror in London illustrated a story about the grumpy mannequin's drug addiction with a photograph of her leaving a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous in Chelsea. Though the picture was taken of a public figure in a public place, the House of Lords ordered the paper to pay Campbell damages of £3500 and costs of £350,000, essentially for violating her privacy.

Impossible to define, ceaselessly abused by governments and thrown away by kids on Facebook, privacy is being offered fresh protection in the courts. The drift appears irresistible. All that's really been at issue round the world in the past decade or so is how to ground this new action in law while protecting free speech.

The great protection offered in countries going down this track are solid guarantees of free speech in bills and charters of rights. We have nothing like that in NSW, which frankly pleases the NSW commissioners: a former judge, James Wood, a current judge, Kevin O'Connor, and Professor Michael Tilbury. It lets them lower the bar. They write: "We can think of no reason why in Australian law freedom of expression or any other interest should be privileged above privacy."

Courts elsewhere have developed a second great protection: only those "highly offended" can sue. That formula was developed in the US and refined in Britain, New Zealand and even here in the musings of the former chief justice Murray Gleeson, who thought being "highly offended" set "a useful practical test of what is private".

But that's too tough for the NSW commissioners. They want mere offence to be enough. What's more, their report Invasion of Privacy makes it clear this wider test would include people who suffer no more than "annoyance and anxiety" at the hands of the media.

I'm not here to defend The Sunday Telegraph for publishing photographs thought to reveal Pauline Hanson in her underwear. Nor am I going in to bat for those vaudeville characters Kyle and Jackie O interrogating children on air about their sex lives. Awful stuff. But a responsible, free media annoys people all the time. Happens day in, day out. We publish things about people they'd prefer didn't see the light of day and they get annoyed. But the commissioners are suggesting the courts - after balancing all the circumstances and rejecting the merely trivial - should allow people who are annoyed with the press to sue us even when we get it right. It's quite a prospect.

They also want to do away with two ground rules: what happens in public can be photographed and what's already on the public record can be republished. Neither are absolute rules any more, but the exceptions have, hitherto, been very carefully defined. No longer. Pity the poor investigative journalist - or biographer - working under threat of a Hong Kong principle approved by the commissioners, "That the law should take account of the 'practical obscurity' of personal information that is held in public registries or that has already been disclosed." What is buried must remain buried.

The commissioners are polite, intelligent men who have lived their lives around the courts. They're happy to leave to judges the case-by-case task of working out what is "private" and who has "a reasonable expectation of privacy" and whether claims for privacy are outweighed by "competing public interest".

None of those issues are now clear. Defining them would take many years. Meanwhile, newspapers would be published and news bulletins broadcast in a strange new world where the courts could punish the media for annoying people by honestly reporting accurate material contained in public documents.

Footnotes to their report reveal opposition to the proposals from the Law Council of Australia, the media Right to Know Coalition, the Law Society of NSW and the Press Council. And, for what it's worth: me. We were all ignored.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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