One of the most revealing examples of the cultural divide occurred when Emmy voters determined that The Handmaid’s Tale was the best drama on television. Furthermore, Elisabeth Moss won an Emmy for her role as best actress. All told, this dreadful television program won eight awards.

Based on a novel by Margaret Atwood, this series is set in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what used to be part of the United States. Gilead is ruled by a “Christian” regime that treats women as property of the state and is faced with environmental disasters and a plummeting birth rate. To repopulate a devastated world, the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude.

The regime hangs gays, abortion clinic workers, and… wait for it…Catholics.

I admit I tried 15 minutes of Episode One a few months ago without really knowing what the program was about. Simply put, I quickly found the show offensive, including the use of Gilead, an actual region from the Bible in what is now Jordan.

The author is a feminist from Canada who writes what she calls “speculative fiction.” In The Guardian, she says, “Speculative fiction could really happen.”

That’s right. She thinks that a totalitarian government based in the United States could create a state with women as sexual slaves.

Furthermore, Atwood is virulently anti-American, seeing Canada as the only hope for North America.

According to various sources, the author is part of the animals-are-people-too brigade. In Surfacing, one character remarks about eating animals: “The animals die that we may live; they are substitute people…And we eat them, out of cans or otherwise; we are eaters of death, dead Christ-flesh resurrecting inside us, granting us life.”

This wingnut is a leftist in every sense of the word.

Atwood has received numerous awards for her books—an indication that something is clearly wrong with the sensibilities of the cultural elite.

In a related development, Axios.com, a leading political website, reported about a study of 3,500 viewers nationwide that “showed that viewers who voted for … Hillary Clinton are more interested in dark comedies and programs featuring unconventional families, antiheroes, and strong female leads … Clinton voters also like political satire.”

Trump voters “are more likely to favor shows that depict traditional family values. They prefer male leads and heroes who are not conflicted and ‘tend to do the right thing’ … They are likely to tune out entertainment shows with depictions of gay people in sexual situations, negative portrayals of religion, and political humor.”

It seems clear that the Emmy voters fall on the Clinton side of this equation. It’s scandalous that this piece of tripe, The Handmaid’s Tale, became the darling of the cultural elite. Fortunately, the series runs on Hulu, so not that many people saw it.

Well, I guess it’s time for me to get back to Shooter, The Last Ship, and a few other favorites of my fellow Trump supporters.

Footnote: I hope that Hulu does a better job with The Looming Tower, which is the best book on 9/11 and scheduled for broadcast in the next year.

Watching awards shows on television is as big a treat as having a colonoscopy without anesthesia. Well, actually, it’s worse. I’ve never had a colonoscopy that lasted three hours.

It doesn’t matter if the host is affable and funny — Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson come to mind — or amazingly irritating like David Letterman. The shows are overstuffed extravaganzas that drain your body and rot your brain.

With an attitude like that, I couldn’t wait to skip Sunday’s Emmy Awards broadcast. I couldn’t stand watching three minutes of Stephen Colbert’s past and present TV shows. Why in God’s name would I want to spend three hours with him and the croaking chorus  of Trump haters sharing the stage?

Apparently you and many others felt the same, sending the Emmy ratings to new depths. It’s good to know so many good folks have the good sense to avoid political poison masquerading as entertainment (and so few conservatives are masochists).

Meanwhile, the entertainment establishment, pink to its left-wing core, is studying birds’ flight patterns and reading beasts’ entrails to discern why viewers of its awards programs are vanishing. You don’t have to be a seer to figure out that your numbers will be weak if you don’t mind driving away half your audience. But the movers, shakers and moguls of Hollywood don’t know anybody who doesn’t think about politics as they do, so they’re simply stumped.

Just as fan disgust with Colin Kaepernick isn’t the only reason why ratings have plummeted for NFL broadcasts, partisanship isn’t the only cause for the decline in interest for the Emmys and Oscars.

Thirty years ago, cable TV was a relatively small operation, so most Americans were still stuck with the three major networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. Even poorly rated shows had a dozen million viewers. The series finale for CBS’ MASH was seen by nearly 106 million people in 1983; that audience record stood until 106.5 million viewers watched New Orleans beat Indianapolis in the 2010 Superbowl.

Cable has grown like a monster since 1983 and created a bigger stir in recent years by offering original programming. Many new shows are low-budget reality programs, but some basic cable channels — FX, USA, AMC and SyFy — offer top-notch stuff that was once the purview of HBO and Showtime.

Of course, Netflix was a huge game changer when it threw big money into new programming and brought instant relevance to streaming video.

And therein lies a big problem for the Emmys — they’re elitist. Only a handful of this year’s nominees represented broadcast TV, and even fewer of them took home awards. The big winner, as usual lately, was HBO.

Just as people in showbiz don’t know anyone who supported Donald Trump, they don’t know anybody who doesn’t have cable TV. More importantly, they don’t know anybody who doesn’t have HBO or Netflix, where they presume the best stuff appears. As of the end of 2016, HBO only had about 49 million subscribers, and Lord knows how many of those are hotels, motels and other businesses.

As a result, a good portion of the American public has no skin in the Emmy game since the awards revolve around programs they don’t even have the ability to watch. I guess the entertainment bigwigs have written them off as deplorables.

Then, too, there’s more than one aspect of elitism in terms of the type of shows the nominators enjoy. I watch more than my share of TV, and I’m the kind of guy who won’t abide stupidity on my flat screen. Yet only a couple of my favorites — Better Call Saul, The Americans, Stranger Things — even had an Emmy nomination. Instead, the voters exhumed the long-dead corpse of Saturday Night Live and showered it with glory.

The same thing goes for the Oscars. But that’s another story.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I read Tim Imholt’s post a few days ago on this blog with great interest.  I’ve done more than my fair share of “monument blogging” to the point that I’m wary of ever writing about another monument in my life, but it is a cause I think is important.

Tim makes a great point and one I appreciate; the media wants us to be freaked out about this.  They want controversy, they want protests, they want huge crowds of protesters with signs and firearms.  Drama sells.

I watched the “protests” in Dallas, too.  It made me sad to see the statue removed. I didn’t know the Robert E. Lee replica house was back there and that makes me feel a little better.

In Shreveport, I have been a little anxious as we have a “rally” coming up in a week or so.  There’s been a “call out” on social media for attendance (on both sides) at a rally around our Confederate monument.

Our case is a little different that those we are seeing nationwide.  Shreveport’s monument is on private land that just so happens to be in front of the courthouse.  The land was given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 along with a $1,000 donation for the monument, and all this is recorded in the minute books of the governing body at the time, the Police Jury.  Our monument was commissioned in 1905 and dedicated in 1906.

So removing it is a bit more of a problem for opponents than in other cities.   The issue is now in the courts.

As far as the protests though, everyone saw what happened in New Orleans.  The problem there is that many locals didn’t want the monuments there removed.  Poll after poll proved that; of course a few did, but most did not.  The protests we saw on television and social media were driven by outside agitators.   One lady came from Oklahoma, dressed in Confederate garb and carrying a battle flag; as much as I admire her dedication and spirit, she was not from NOLA.  Another woman was from Florida and a man from Oklahoma.  These people brought protesters out in force because of their high-profile social media status and then comes the media.

What happens then is that perception is distorted.  In truth, on a local level, these monuments have stood with dignity and peace for over a hundred years in many cases. This sudden outrage is questionable.  The local people, as we saw in Dallas, aren’t outraged.  These monuments are part of their landscape and most people don’t even know what they are or who they represent, it’s just “a guy on a horse.”

A while back, an attorney in Shreveport appealed his convicted client’s case because the attorney said the monument interfered with the man’s right to a fair trial.  (He lost the appeal).

Shame on the media for perpetuating this nonsense. Let the locals decide what they want to do with their monuments and stop encouraging the frenzy.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Photo courtesy of US Navy, http://www.doncio.navy.mil/uploads/0412GDD49863.jpg

The U.S. military is well known throughout the world for being the best trained military force on the planet. But recent events are eroding that, and it should cause worry for the average American.

Continue reading “Are we building a conscript military?”

[If] you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood.    –Ezekiel 33:8

Massachusetts General Law defines abortion as “the knowing destruction of the life of an unborn child.” Further, it defines an “unborn child” as “the individual human life in existence and developing from implantation of the embryo in the uterus until birth.” Now, we can argue about whether that individual human life began at implantation or at conception, but Massachusetts law is clear that the unborn child is a life and not just a “blob of tissue.” Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in Moe vs Secretary of Administration and Finance (1981) decided that taxpayer funds must be used to kill that life if its mother so wishes.

Prior to Moe, the state operated under the Doyle-Flynn Amendment – the state-level equivalent of the federal Hyde Amendment, which has been upheld repeatedly by the US Supreme Court – which prohibited taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions. But in 1981, the SJC took it upon itself to go beyond the federal Roe v. Wade decision and decreed that taxpayer funds must indeed be used to pay for abortions for poor women under the guise of “equal protection.” Why the legally-recognized life in the womb is not also due equal protection of the laws is not clear, but the SJC ruled that since state Medicaid funds were used to pay for legitimate maternity care and other health care for indigent women, Medicaid must also pay for abortions.

As did Roe v. Wade, this decision clearly overstepped the judicial role of interpreting the Massachusetts Constitution and enshrined a policy decision with the weight of a constitutional amendment, thus prohibiting the legislature from even debating the issue. Legally, the only proper response is an actual constitutional amendment that the SJC cannot misinterpret to its own ends. The Alliance to Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortion has taken up the challenge and is currently gathering signatures with the hope of bringing this question to Bay State voters in November 2020.

The amendment as proposed reads “Nothing in this Constitution shall require taxpayer funding for abortions.” Note that it does not make abortion illegal in MA. It only permits the legislature to debate whether taxpayer funds should be used to pay for them.

The amendment process in Massachusetts is extraordinarily difficult. The first step is to gather 64,750 signatures by November, 2017. In actuality, this means we need to gather close to 100,000 signatures because it seems like the Secretary of State’s office looks for any excuse to reject valid signatures. If there is a stray pen mark on a sheet with 25 valid signatures, the entire sheet may be thrown out. So, volunteers – including my wife and I – are being very careful with the signed sheets.

Assuming we get the required signatures, the motion must be approved by 50 members of the state legislature in two consecutive sessions in order to be put on the ballot in 2020 to allow citizens to vote on the amendment. Assuming it passes, Massachusetts will be in line with the federal government  and the legislative history of the state in letting the legislature decide whether taxpayer funds will be used to pay to knowingly destroy the life of an unborn child.

There are many ways you can help. Of course, you can volunteer, or donate to the Alliance, and if you’re a registered Massachusetts voter, please sign a petition. And please keep our efforts in your prayers.

Update: Stacy McCain talks about this (and a few other things) here.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Despite what anyone tells you, Common Core is alive and well across the country.  It’s not always called Common Core anymore because of all the negative connotations and observations after its launch, but it’s still there.

Some states have renamed the program.  In Louisiana, it’s called Louisiana Believes.  In New York, it is now called Next Generation.  Iowa now calls it The Iowa Core.

It’s still Common Core; the standards and tenets are still there.

It is an endless barrage of scripted lessons, mindless graphic organizers, and multiple standardized tests.  It’s mind-numbing.

In districts with scripted lessons, teachers must follow the script, use the pre-written slides, and read prescribed texts.

Yes, they’re called simply “texts” now, not stories, novels, or literature.  Students read predominately non-fiction now; treatises on how microbes work in the human body (in an ELA class), or foundational speeches.  There are a few token fiction pieces, but there is little opportunity for students to read “stories,” to get lost in the prose of Eudora Welty or Harper Lee.

Even worse, under a scripted curriculum, teachers lose the freedom to be inspiring.

Note this article in The Atlantic by one teacher about her experience. Her district was using a strict curriculum:

The sense of urgency in the building was palpable, and the pressure on teachers to increase student achievement was often overwhelming. The district required us to teach a curriculum rigidly aligned with a 15-year-old reading textbook containing outdated articles about Ricky Martin, ice fishing, and cartography in an attempt to provide relevant, entry-level reading for students. I refused to teach from this text on the grounds that it was both condescending and uninteresting. But district personnel insisted that teachers use the textbook, citing evidence that it brought up test scores.

And she rebelled.  She and her co-teacher used a variety of outrageous, engaging strategies to inspire their students:

A body of research illustrates the self-evident reality that students’ interest in what they’re learning is critical to their achievement. And student engagement, according to various studies, is often a direct result of teacher engagement. When Alice and I decided to teach outrageously, our attitudes about our work improved, which data suggests improved our students’ attitudes.

Scripted curriculums are proving to be a large cause of teacher burnout and contributing to an exodus of veteran teachers from the profession as it becomes clear than anyone can read a script and their veteran experience is no longer valued:

“…letting an ill-equipped teacher do what she pleases isn’t smart policy. But does a top-down trickle of scripts and mandates detached from students’ day-to-day lives really improve a teacher’s effectiveness? It could have the reverse effect, forcing educators who might otherwise gain a real knack for teaching over time come to rely on others to make decisions for them and become stunted in their ability to improve.”

There’s nothing wrong with rigorous standards or high expectations for both students and teachers, but these scripted curriculums should be used as a platform for teachers to pull from rather than as a rote teaching experience.  Students don’t all learn the same way and teachers don’t all teach the same way. After years of Harry Wong and Kagan, Jane Schaffer models and others, it’s clear that this is just another fad or flavor of the month in education, but at what cost?

Even the creator of LearnZillion indicates that teachers should retain some autonomy in their classrooms and that these scripted curriculum programs should be used to ease the burden of creating a curriculum rather than stifle teacher creativity, but not all districts use it that way.

The endless testing in and of itself is stifling to kids.

As parents we need to be aware of what’s happening in the classroom.  Just because it doesn’t say Common Core doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

When I purchased my first home, I intended to use a VA loan. I thought that the VA loan was one of those awesome military benefits, but my realtor talked me out of it, saying it would take too long. I thought it was odd at the time, but I went ahead and pursued a conventional loan.

Years later, I’m finally getting ready to close on a new construction house, and I chose to use my VA loan. Unfortunately, everything that realtor said about VA loans came true.

Continue reading “All those VA “Benefits””

Many college students have become increasingly strident in their views about the U.S. Constitution despite understanding little about the document.

These trends have grown more troublesome in the past few years in the media law course I teach. In the past, most students recognized that they didn’t know too much about the U.S. Constitution. Now many think the most important treatise in U.S. history got many things wrong.

This generation–known as iGen–were born between 1995 and 2012. These young people have spent much of their lives with a smartphone in their hands. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has written about this generation–many of whom populate today’s colleges and universities. “Opposing viewpoints can’t just be argued against; they have to be shut down,” she wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. For the most part, it appears that these viewpoints come from the social justice warriors they had as teachers.

In an online discussion for my law class, some students said they simply want to do away with the U.S. Constitution and start over. “The Constitution is America’s sacred cow,” one student wrote. “It was written by a bunch of rich, white men to protect other rich, white men. The framers did not trust ‘ordinary’ people to make every day decisions. It is a racist document, although others would argue this. It is completely ambiguous. It was written in 1787 and it is now 2017 and we still refer back to this document and debate what the framers truly meant…. Progressives want government to change things while conservatives favor the status quo.”

The student was nonplussed when I pointed out that 12 states—almost all controlled by Republicans—have passed legislation to call a constitutional convention. The central focus of the bid to rewrite the U.S. Constitution comes from people who want to limit government power. For more information, see http://prospect.org/article/march-toward-constitutional-convention-slows-crawl

The argument that the U.S. Constitution is racist and sexist was a constant theme in the students’ responses.

A typical response came from one student. “It was stated that slavery was not prohibited, and it basically encouraged taxing on these human beings that were deemed as property. One simple section made way for racism, prejudice, and everything in-between…. Since this was the foundation of our country, it has obviously led to more issues involving race hundreds of years later.”

It was rather ironic when I asked if anyone in class whether they could describe the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments for me. No one could. These amendments eliminated slavery and provided the power to enforce the change. No one could name the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment–let alone provide the protections of more than two or three amendments. Alas, that is probably true for many Americans.

Other complaints centered on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment—a constant meme from leftists, including many educators.

“[T]here is no reason a regular citizen needs an assault rifle for ‘protection,” one student wrote. “It is too vague and has allowed for people to get away with literal murder in some cases because they can invoke their ‘right to bear arms.’”

Anti-Trump sentiment appeared in many comments. Many students thought that the Electoral College should be abandoned because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016. One student argued that the law should require that presidential candidates must have political experience.

Another student maintained that no one over 50 years old should be allowed to seek the presidency.

“If anyone under the age of 35 is considered too young, then anyone over the age of 50 should be considered too old,” the student argued. “They are still yearning for the good old days, and they try to replicate their youth or young adulthood. They are not in touch with the changes that are going on around them, or they refuse to accept the changes.”

I pointed out that such a requirement would violate laws—much like those against racism and sexism—under which age cannot be used as a criterion for discrimination.

Simply put, the attitudes in the discussion struck me as a fundamental change in the views of my students. I think these attitudes are largely a result of the increased number of social justice warriors in academia.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t impose my conservative views on my students. Nevertheless, I do try to point out the logical fallacies of many of the positions leftists take about the U.S. Constitution.

It appears that I have a lot of work to do this semester.

The greatest unreported achievement of President Trump is that he’s knocked income inequality — the most divisive, yet silliest, issue in recent years — off the radar screen.

Spurred on by the thuggish Occupy mob, the predecessor of today’s even more thuggish Antifa gang, income inequality became the main obsession of Democrats and other elements of the Left in recent years. Throughout the 2016 campaign, the double “i” words were on all leftish lips. But then Trump became White House-bound, and “income inequality” vanished from the public forum even quicker than “The era of Big Government is over.”

You can’t blame the Dems for ginning up a brouhaha over income inequality. It’s the perfect weapon to wield when class warfare’s your game and dividing the country’s your aim.

The most important thing to know about income inequality is that it was never about helping the unfortunate poor. Most people mired in poverty are far too busy trying to simply survive to join protest movements. The spearhead of this egalitarian drive was forged from people of privilege whose social level was stages above the mere middle class.

But, to be fair, the allies egging on the hordes against the 1 percent did have their grievances. Their rage was stoked by frustration — they’d never have that plush Manhattan apartment, Ivy League cred for their spawn or vacations in the south of France on an annual household income of only $250,000.

It just plain wasn’t fair that corporate CEOs, hedge fund managers and investment bankers could afford such trifles, while folks earning a quarter-million bucks a year who considered themselves middle-class stalwarts were shut out of the good life.

Similar outrage was evident each step down the line, as people who were financially well off howled over the status of those who had just bit more (and obviously didn’t serve it).

Complaining about income inequality was a game anyone could play except maybe Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett. It united the Democrats like no other issue.

The protesters who claimed to represent the 99 percent of American society constantly accused the 1 percent of greed. In actuality, the activists were guilty of envy, which is considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins because it can corrode the soul itself.

The foolishness of getting angry over someone else’s wealth came home to me as I was mowing my lawn in the summer of 1996. I was minding my own business when my neighbor motioned me over to the fence. After I turned off my mower, he launched into a 15-minute diatribe about Michael Jordan’s new contract.

It was, indeed, a monster of a deal that boosted His Airness’ salary from $3.85 million to an unprecedented $30 million — giving him more money than the combined salaries of entire NBA teams. I listened politely and nodded occasionally but wondered why he was so mad. After all, not a penny of Jordan’s pay was coming out of our pockets. Then it hit me: He was a Democrat.

When I got back my mowing, I couldn’t help but chuckle. My neighbor and his wife were both teachers whose combined pay was three times my annual salary — yet he was the one blowing his stack over a stranger’s good fortune.

Yes, income inequality, as an issue, has left the building, primarily because Democrats and the media are too busy raising a clamor over Trump, Russia and Melania’s stiletto heels. But while it’s gone, don’t expect a farewell tour.

It all boils down to envy, and that’s always in style for some people.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In a move that should be a surprise to no one at this point, the Orpheum Theater in Memphis has pulled the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind, from its annual summer screening after 34 years, citing complaints from offended citizens.

In a statement to the New York Times:

Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theater Group, said … “The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”

The slippery slope is now in our rear view mirror, folks.  We’re done here.

We can’t screen certain films because they are “insensitive to a large segment” of the local population?  Just imagine where this will now lead.  Let your mind wander and just imagine the films that could be offensive to any large group of people.  The list could be staggering.

I expect we won’t be seeing To Kill a Mockingbird on television or in libraries anymore, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or even Harry Potter, because certainly people might be offended.

Let me guess – these are probably the same people walking around in their Che Guevara t-shirts.

The merits of the film are long established and don’t need my small voice to vouch for it; it won ten Oscars including one for Hattie McDaniel who was the first black woman to win an Oscar.

Margaret Mitchell once said that the theme of her novel is survival.  “What quality is it that makes some people able to survive catastrophes and others, apparently just as brave and strong, go under?”

I’m not sure the history of our nation will survive censorship.

The point is less the film itself but that our selective outrage has moved from statues to film.  We truly are in Ray Bradbury’s world.  When will the book burnings begin?

As for The Orpheum I would have applauded them had they had the nerve to stand up to intimidation and rejected censorship.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.