From the Editor's Desk
Nobody Asked Me, But …
...The Orthodox Jewish community in the neighboring Nassau County town of Lawrence has taken over the local school board, with all but one lone dissident member, who is not Orthodox. You might well ask why the Orthodox Jews are interested in serving on a public school board when few of their children attend public school. The answer is simple: It's the money, honey. While public money cannot be spent on religious education, it can be used for such amenities as busing, textbooks, special education services and the like. In May, the voters approved a plan that would bus 275 yeshiva pre-K students to their schools at no charge to the parents. A group of non-Orthodox parents appealed to the State Education Department and Commissioner Mills ordered that the district stop using its own money to pay for Pre-K busing. A Nassau court judge affirmed the order, ruling that the school board had little chance of overturning the education department's ruling. Yet, the school board voted to use large amounts of funds to overturn Mills' ruling. The school board, however, is willing to plow $200 per hour into a fight that it cannot possibly win, experts say. One secular Jew who lives in Lawrence and who asked not to be identified because he still has to live there for a short time, recently told me that he looking for a home further east, because he does not feel welcome any longer in his home community and because, "The Orthodox are draining resources from the public schools, and they will destroy one of the best districts on Long Island if they continue."
…In 1969, a number of high school students in Des Moines, Iowa, showed up at school wearing black armbands to protest the war in Vietnam. They were immediately suspended. Their case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled, "Students do not shed their rights to freedom of expression at the schoolhouse gate." That case, "Tinker v. Des Moines," was the seminal case in a long line of school freedom of speech cases. The basic doctrine was that speech (as well as actions that were part of that speech) was protected as long as it did not interfere with the safety and educational progress of the school. As it always does, however, the lines were blurred. In 1986, a student in the Bethel (Connecticut) school district gave a speech that included what was termed "an extended, but not explicit sexual metaphor." The student was expelled, and the court ruled that it was an appropriate function of the school board to "prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive" speech. What does that mean? Only the courts were sure. In a later case, a federal appeals court ruled that a student could not wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt to school because the musician and his band promoted "destructive conduct and demoralizing values that are contrary to the educational mission of the school." Where does that leave the law? Two weeks ago, two students showed up at a Bayonne (New Jersey) elementary school wearing buttons emblazoned with a picture of the late and unlamented Hitler Youth with a line through a circle and the words "No School Uniforms" in an attempt to keep the school from implementing a uniform dress policy. A federal judge ruled that the buttons were protected speech, and that wearing them "did not materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school." Like anything else, vulgarity and political correctness is in the eye of the beholder.
…If you really want to find out what kind of President Rudy Giuliani would make, read Bill Bratton's book. You might remember that Bratton was the New York City Police Commissioner under Giuliani, the one who started the city down the road to the reduction in crime we enjoy even today. CompStat came from his administration, as did community policing. When Bratton appeared on the cover of a national magazine, however, he was called to Gracie Mansion to explain why it was him, and not Giuliani who was on the magazine. Aweek later, he was gone. You also have to remember that, in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Giuliani sought a ruling that he could cancel the upcoming election and keep control of the city, under the theory that we were in the middle of a crisis that only he was capable of handling. You'll remember that Bloomberg won that election when it turned out that there was no legal basis for Giuliani to keep the job. The fact that he attempted the power grab, however, is an indication of what he might be if ever elected president.
…City Councilman James Sanders took a positive step last week by holding a closed-door, black and Hispanic men-only meeting in Far Rockaway. Sanders closed the meeting, he said, because he and the "folk" at the meeting needed to "get down and dirty about the problems in the community and about some possible solutions." He didn't want anybody holding back or posturing because the press was in the room, and I agree. Let's hope that something productive comes from the meeting. Sanders said that the community has to take "little, successful steps" before it can run.
…The great majority of crime in Rockaway comes from the public housing complexes that line the peninsula and drugs and guns drive the great majority of crime in those projects. That is why the takedown of 34 alleged gang-members last week is so important, not only to Rockaway as a whole, but to the thousands of good people who live in those housing projects, often held hostage by the gangs. Robert (Dead Eye) Bailey, the reputed leader of the local Bloods crew (called a "set"), was reportedly grossing three-quarters of a million dollars a year selling cocaine, marijuana and heroin to street dealers around the Edgemere Houses. Bailey was a wanna-be rap star, who called himself "The Boss of Far Rock" on his rap singles. His Lieutenant, Lowell Fletcher, was reportedly a member of the "G-Unit" of rap star 50 Cents. So much for rap being benign.
...Perhaps it is time for us to take another look at what we are trying to promote in Iraq. It is clear that the people in that nation do not want a democracy. Rather, they want a Muslim theocracy. Why not partition the nation into its three legitimate constituences -- Shia, Sunni and Kurd. Then, pull out and let them sort it out.