The Better Rhetor

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Better Rhetor, Tim Robbins

We'd love this exchange just for the reference to the '69 Mets. Democracy and free speech are great, too!

Dear Mr. Robbins:

The President of the United States, as this nation's
democratically-elected leader, is constitutionally bound to make
decisions he believes are in the best interests of the American
people. After months of careful deliberations, President Bush
made the decision that it is in our nation's best interests to end
the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, and to disarm Iraq of
deadly weapons which could be used against its enemies,
including the United States. In order to accomplish this, nearly
300,000 American military personnel are in harm's way at the
moment. From the first day we opened our doors in 1939, The
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum--and many players
and executives in Baseball's family--has honored the United
States and those who defend our freedoms.

In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to
his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures,
such as you, have platforms much larger than the average
American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to
have your views heard--and an equally large obligation to act
and speak responsibility. We believe your very public criticism of
President Bush at this important--and sensitive--time in our
nation's history helps undermine the US position, which
ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an
institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this

As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs
in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bull


Dale Petroskey


Tim Robbins

April 9, 2003

Dear Mr. Petroskey,

As an American and as a baseball fan, I was dismayed to read
your letter canceling my appearance at the Baseball Hall of
Fame due to my public criticism of President Bush. I had been
unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking
forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the
fifteenth anniversary of Bull Durham. I am sorry that you have
chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to
make a political statement. I know there are many baseball fans
that disagree with you and even more that will react with disgust
to realize baseball is being politicized.

As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary
for the survival of a democracy, I reject your suggestion that one
must be silent in time of war. To suggest that my criticism of the
President puts the troops in danger is absurd. If people had
listened to that twisted logic we'd still be in Vietnam. I must
remain skeptical of the war plans of Bush, Cheney and
Rumsfeld, all of whom have never been in battle, one of whom
skirted service in Vietnam for a cushy stateside job. It does not
surprise me that these men, in their current federal budget have
cut $844 million dollars from Veteran's health care. Yes, let's
support the troops. For Life.

I wish you had, in your letter, saved me the rhetoric and talked
honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan
Administrations. You are using what power you have to infringe
upon my rights to free speech and by taking this action hope to
intimidate the millions of others that disagree with our president.
In doing so, you expose yourself as a tool, blinded by
partisanship and ambition. You invoke patriotism and use words
like freedom in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so,
you dishonor the words patriotism and freedom and dishonor
the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a
place where one can freely express one's opinion without fear of
reprisal or punishment. Your subservience to your friends in the
administration is embarrassing to baseball and by engaging in
this enterprise you show that you belong with other cowards and
ideologues in the Hall of Infamy and Shame.

Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets; all
improbable glorious miracles that I have always believed in.


Tim Robbins

Reliable Biases

Now this is a huge surprise. From FAIR.

CNN's Reliably Narrow Sources
Media show's exclusive guestlist reinforces biases

By Steve Rendall

In a nation where news media are criticized from every imaginable direction, it’s reasonable to assume that a media criticism show would include guests offering a wide range of critical viewpoints. With that in mind, FAIR took a look at CNN's Reliable Sources, studying its guestlist to see how many critical voices were heard on the program that claims to "turn a critical lens on the media."

Airing weekly for more than a decade, Reliable Sources is hosted by Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. Built around guest interviews, with an average of three or four guests each week, the show also features a weekly commentary by its original anchor, journalist and former Reagan administration spokesperson Bernard Kalb.

Covering one year of weekly programs (12/1/2001=11/30/2002) with 203 guests, the FAIR study found Reliable Sources' guestlist strongly favored mainstream media insiders and right-leaning pundits. In addition, female critics were significantly underrepresented, ethnic minority voices were almost non-existent and progressive voices were far outnumbered by their conservative counterparts

For the rest, and it's worth reading, go here.

Children Thinking?
Fire the Teachers!

You know things have gone to hell when kids are writing poems and asking questions. Time to fire the teachers!

From the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center:

Free Speech Fight In New Mexico
by Buster Southerly
17 Apr 2003
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico high school teacher and Green Left Weekly writer Bill Nevins continues to fight his March 17 suspension from his teaching job.

In a letter sent to Nevins by the Rio Rancho school administration, he is accused of having permitted students to go on "field trips" to evening poetry contests without filing school forms. As these events were not under school control, and during students' own time, these were not field trips.

Strong suspicion has arisen among parents and students that the suspension was because Nevins, who coaches the Rio Rancho school poetry team, did not prevent students from publicly performing poems that opposed the US attack on Iraq and criticised the US government. Nevins was suspended soon after an anti-war poem — "Revolution X" — was performed over the school's closed-circuit TV system.

Students report that the school administration has virtually put the student poetry club out of business. They have been intimidated by school officials' interrogations of student poets and an interim coach has not been appointed in Nevins' absence.

Students state they are afraid of "what this means for free speech, not just in our school but in the whole USA". They have been forbidden to read poems aloud at the school. However, a number of New Mexico adult poets have "adopted" "Revolution X" and are reading it at open poetry sessions around the state.

Meanwhile, at least seven other New Mexico teachers have been suspended or disciplined for anti-war-related matters. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Nevins' and many of the other suspended NM teachers' cases.

A legal defence fund has been established. Donations, words of encouragement and especially poems are very welcome and can be sent to Nevins/Poetry Defence Fund, 625 15th St NW, Albuquerque NM 87104.

From Green Left Weekly .

And here’s the offending poem:


Bush said no child would be left behind
And yet kids from inner-city schools
Work on Central Avenue
Jingling cans that read
Please sir, may I have some more?
They hand out diplomas like toilet paper
And lower school standards
Underpaid, unrespected teachers
Are afraid of losing their jobs
Funded by the standardized tests
That shows our competency
When I'm in detox.
This is the Land of the Free ...
Where the statute of limitations for rape is only five damn years!
And immigrants can't run for President.
Where Muslims are hunted because
Some suicidal men decided they didn't like
Our arrogant bid for modern imperialism.
This is the Land of the Free ...
You drive by a car whose
Bumper screams
God bless America!
Well, you can scratch out the B
And make it Godless
Because God left this country a long time ago.
The founding fathers made this nation
On a dream and now
Freedom of Speech
Lets Nazis burn crosses, but
Calls police to
Gay pride parades.
We somehow
Can afford war with Iraq
But we can't afford to pay the teachers
Who educate the young who hold the guns
Against the "Axis of Evil"
Land of the Free ...
This is the land
If you're politically assertive
They call you a traitor and
Damn you to ostracism.
Say good-bye to Johnny Walker Lindh
And his family.
Bye Bye.
American Pie.
So maybe
My ideas about this nation
Don't resolve around perfection
But at least I know
Education is more important
Than money.
Land of the Free . . .
If this was utopia
We'd have to see each other naked
Before we got married
But instead, we see each other naked all the time
Because the government has my social security number
And the name of my dog!
And then we make babies,
But don't worry, they won't be left behind
And they grow up saying
God bless America!
But they don't know who Bush is
Because they never learned the Presidents.
And they will ride the ship Amistad
To our dreamland shores
Bearing the same shackles as us.
I'm here to say that
Generation X
Is pissed and we are taking over,
Ripping down the American illusion of perfection
We are the future generation
I have my qualifications
I know it looks like Angel Soft paper,
But don't worry
It's a diploma
Do I look qualified?
You can take our toilet paper,
But you can't take our Revolution.

For more, go here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Victory And Killer's Remorse 
Wise Nations Do Not Exult In Military Conquests

Here at Better Rhetor, we take great delight in exposing the lies, inanities, and downright bad faith in much contemporary rhetoric. Every so often, though, we encounter a Better Rhetor, one whose language can inspire, heal, hearten, and make strong. Here is one such example from Better Rhetor Shepard Bliss.


By Shepard Bliss

America's celebration of our military victory in Iraq has left out something important. Our country needs to temper its euphoria with humility or pause for the killing that was done in our name and with our tax dollars.

It's not just that we risk further alienating our allies and the international community, whose support improves our security in the post 9/11 world. Victors in wars face certain dangers, most notably when they fail to reflect and exercise restraint, but instead seek new conquests without addressing war's aftermath for both victors and victims.

Indeed, there are better and worse ways for a nation to conduct itself in victory. Simply celebrating military prowess is not what wise nations do. Wiser leaders and those who know the human costs of combat and seek a return to civil society try to be humble.

For the rest, go here.