Friday, March 23, 2007

Congratulations Aggies

As his many fans know, Harrogate for some time now has been consumed by the spectacle of March Madness. A&M's loss to Memphis last night was one of the bitterest pills Harrogate has ever swallowed as a sports fan. The controversial ending didn't help matters, but 'tis time to let that go.

What is in order is congratulations. And gratitude to an Aggie basketball team that made the sport matter in College Station, and likely set the stage for it to matter for years to come. In the middle of their incredible accomplishments this year was the incomparable Acie Law, depicted above walking off the court after last night's heartbreaking loss. His is without a doubt the most important basketball player Texas A&M ever had, and he will be a fine NBA player as well; likely he'll wind up with several championship rings on his finger by the time his career ends.

Bottom line, the tournament is cruel. Very Highlander. In the blink of an eye you are irrevocably gone. Only one team can win its last game. The thing to do as a basketball fan, then (that is if you want to stay sane), is to allow yourself to appreciate what your team accomplishes, rather than what it doesn't. Even perennial powerhouse North Carolina "only" has two national championships following Michael Jordan's magical shot in 1982.

So, A&M, thank you for the season.

And like cruel Nature herself, the Tournament will now March on without thee.

Enjoy the catastrophic finale to come, Readers. Enjoy.

Fundamental Anxiety in the Republic

I am reading through Sanford Levinson's book, Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It).

As I read is, I keep thinking of something my advisor discussed in multiple classes. What is your fundamental fear of the republic? Do you fear power within the hands of the few or do you fear power in the hands of the masses?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Uses for the Confederate Flag

The Mary Brogan Museum of Art in Florida has a controversial exhibit, the John Sims Exhibit. One of the exhibits shows a Confederate Flag hanging from a noose. The title: "The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”

The Local Chapter of the SOns of the Confederates wants the exhibit removed. They claim the tax-assisted museum should not be using its money to display this, especially since there is an ordinance, that prevents the desecration of the Confederate Flag. (If there were an ordinance, there is no way it would hold up under Texas V. Johnson).

The Museum states the ordinance allows for the decrative or patriotic display of the flag and will not take the exhibit down. For more, here: here.

Here is a copy of the image:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bong hits for Harrogate, I mean Jesus

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. The case involves a student who displayed a 10' sign that stated "Bongs for Jesus" while watching the Olympic Torch by in a parade. It seems that Frederick's High School let the students out of school to see the Olympic torch pass. Frederick wanted media attention and to annoy the school administrators so he created a banner and used a prase that he saw on the bottom of a snowboard. Fear not: he accomplished both goals; and, in the process, told us a lot about the culture of snowboarders.

The controversy involves a free speech claim that seems frivolous and meaningless versus the school's ability to punish a message that discredits its ability to denounce drugs as being bad and the war on drugs as being good. If Frederick wins, then individuals possess the right to exercise free speech even if the speech is less than meaningful; if the school wins, then the school can limit any speech that the school believes interferes with its "educational mission."

The arguments seem quite comical. According to Dana Lithwick at Slate:
Starr insists that "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" promotes drugs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asks whether a sign that said "Bong Stinks for Jesus" would be more permissible. Souter asks whether a simple sign reading "Change the Marijuana Laws" would also be "disruptive." Starr says that interpreting the meaning of the sign must be left to the "frontline message interpreter," in this case, the principal. Then Starr says schools are charged with inculcating "habits and manners of civility" and "values of citizenship." Yes, sir. In the first six minutes of oral argument Starr has posited, without irony, a world in which students may not peaceably advocate for changes in the law, because they must be inculcated with the values of good citizenship.

Chief Justice John Roberts wonders why students should be allowed to set the classroom agenda when teachers are trying to teach Shakespeare and Pythagoras. Starr says that in the Vietnam protest case, the school tried to "cast a pall of orthodoxy" by banning student protest. Whereas, he suggests—again without a whiff of irony—that students should be able to offer no dissenting opinions here because drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are bad....

Scalia begins to bogart the argument [from Frderick's lawyer] at this point and asks whether a school that held an anti-drug rally in the gym would have to permit a student to wear a button that says, "Smoke pot. It's fun." Mertz repeats that student protest can't be "disruptive." Scalia retorts that "undermining what the school is trying to teach" is pretty disruptive. Kennedy asks about a student sporting a button that says, "Rape is fun." Mertz says students may not advocate violent crime. This sets Scalia off again. "So, they can only advocate non-violent crime?" he snorts. "Like, 'Extortion is profitable?' " He adds that "this is a very, very, with all due respect, ridiculous line."

On an interesting side note, religious groups are siding with the ACLU and the student. The reason: there is another case that worked its way through the Courts that focused on whether or not a student, who openly defined himself as being very religious, could wear a shirt that was anti-homosexual but pro-religious. According to SCOTUS Blog:
The case involves an incident in April 2004 when a sophomore at Poway High School in Poway, Calif., a community of about 50,000 located north of San Diego, was suspended for a day for wearing a T-shirt with an anti-homosexual message on it. The youth, Tyler Chase Harper, believes that homosexuality is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, his attorneys told the Court. His T-shirt, on the front, read: "I will not accept what God has condemned." On the back, it said, "Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:27." [He wore the shirt in the Day of Silence, which was meant to encourage tolerance for gays.]

His appeal contends that he was suspended after school officials told him that the message was inflammatory. His father was told later that only positive community messages from students were allowed under school policy. The youth has since graduated from high school, but his sister, Kelsie, is still a junior at the high school. Because of her brother's graduation, the appeal suggested that the case may be moot. But, on Friday, attorneys for the sister asked the Court to allow her to intervene to keep the appeal alive. The attorneys said she desires to engage in the same kind of expression that led to her brother's suspension.

The Supreme Court vacated this decision, making the lower court's decision [The Ninth Circuit] null and void. The problem is that though Tyler Chase Harper graduated, his sister is still in the school and plans to deliver the same message via the t-shirt. In this case, you have student speech even though some find it tasteless versus a school's right to exclude messages that may disrupt the educational process (though there was no disruption at the school).

I am not sure on either decision. Any thoughts?

The Mind of Harrogate

According to Slate we will soon be able to examine the minds of others. Once we here at the rhetorical situation have that technology, we will broadcast how harrogate perceives the world.

Stay Tuned.

Depressing Thought for the Day...

While political parties rely on "talking points." From Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism:
"The effectiveness of this type of propaganda [totalitarian propaganda] demonstrates one of the chief characteristics of modern masses. They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experiences; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at one universal and consistent in itself. What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably a part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the masses’ inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important only because it convinces them of consistency in time,” (351).

Enjoy!!! Happy Monday!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sweet 16

With the Texas A&M Aggies now in the Sweet 16, I am compelled to reflect back on their season. In doing so, I must admit that the win against Kansas was a pivotal moment for the team.

Billy agrees...