Monthly Archives: April 2009

Student activists to lead upcoming Wheaton forum on Second Amendment

Rosanna Pulido, who ran as the Republican candidate for Illinois’ 5th Congressional District earlier this year, sent me this morning an update on the upcoming gun-rights forum with the theme, “Education is our best defense.”

Here is her e-mail:

“At Wheaton City Hall council chambers [303 W. Wesley St.], our future student leaders/high school students who are Second Amendment supporters invite Wheaton and neighboring communities to a forum on Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Various students will talk about their future as it relates to the right to bear arms, as well as why they are actively involved in training and education as it relates to the Second Amendment. Their featured speaker of the evening is Dr. Paula Bratich, Second Amendment Sisters co- coordinator, Illinois Chapter. She will address concerns of women who deserve the opportunity to defend themselves. Don Castella will update us on conceal and carry efforts in respective counties.

“We invite people who would like to ask questions and discuss their supporting or opposing views. We will offer time at the end of the forum for open discussion. This forum is free. If you need more information, please call (773) 250-3399 and leave a message.”

This is a clever move by organizers to demonstrate what some local high school students think about gun-control measures. The forum is being held in response to one organized last week by the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. That event, planned primarily for students at Wheaton North High School, prohibited the nearly 200 people who attended to challenge assertions made by presenters about the effectiveness of proposed gun-control measures.

I’m looking forward to getting a front-row seat at the forum. See you in Wheaton next week.

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Political group uses twisted logic to criticize local official

One political organization was a tad misleading in the “robocalls” it made recently to constituents of U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-13th District, of Hinsdale.

Accountable America paid for robocalls made April 15 to people living in the 13th Congressional District. According to the story by Nathaniel Zimmer in the April 24 edition of the SouthtownStar, the calls focused on “pay raises for troops and limiting bonuses for executives of financial firms bailed out by the government.”

The story quoted an e-mail that Biggert issued saying the calls “blamed us for executive bonuses and made some outrageous claim about troop funding levels.”

“Biggert joined with Democrats to vote for a 90 percent tax on bonuses of executives of American International Group and other financial firms that received bailout money,” the SouthtownStar story reported. “Even so, [Accountabe America President Tom] Matzzie indicated [in an e-mail] the calls focused on her vote against a nonbinding resolution that lambasted AIG executives and praised President Obama’s handling of the financial-industry bailout.

“He also cited the recent vote on the president’s budget blueprint, which Biggert and the rest of House Republicans opposed. The president’s budget, he noted, included a pay raise for troops. [Biggert spokeswoman Zachary] Cikanek scoffed at the notion that Biggert opposed a pay raise for the military, pointing out she voted for a Republican version of the budget that included more funding for defense and veterans.”

It appears that Accountable America tried to make it look at though Biggert opposed pay raises for military personnel because she opposed Obama’s proposed budget, which included pay increases. But as Cikanek pointed out, the House Republicans supported an alternative budget that had more money for military personnel.

Biggert also didn’t support a nonbinding resolution that slapped AIG executives on the wrist and praised Obama. Please! This is political nonsense that means nothing.

“I also wanted to take a moment to talk to you about a phone call that many of you received [two weeks ago]. That call, paid for by a liberal front group, lied about my record on some important issues,” Biggert said in an e-newsletter on her Web site. “I have always staunchly supported our military and veterans. Recently in Washington, I supported a measure that would have provided $5.5 billion more for our veterans and active duty personnel than an alternate proposal Congress adopted.”

According to the SouthtownStar, Matzzie is the former Washington director of MoveOn.org. He should take his old company’s advice and move on to something that’s actually important.

Do you want to leave him a phone message and tell him this or should I?

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Video clips of recent gun-control forum in Wheaton made available

An enterprising reader called Illinois Patriot sent me video clips of the April 21 gun-control forum held in Wheaton by the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. This will allow people who weren’t in the Wheaton City Hall this past week for the event to get a sense of what happened.

As a reminder, another forum will be held by gun-rights advocates at Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St., from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. Call (773) 250-3399 for more information.

Here is Illinois Patriot’s message in its entirety:

* * *

VIDEO!!!

Wheaton, IL Anti-gun meeting, 21 APR 09. Watch how the liberal lawyer tries to bully everyone into submission with the threat of ejection by officers of the Wheaton Police Dept. Things get ugly quick. A good reason that all of you should start going to these meetings!

1 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP6LSQsdKdk

2 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQqjvQPjd2g

3 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6Gh7WUfVQo

4 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Gkgu4Td3oE

5 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STVFxKHdqYM

6 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNIB_9DXZ0U

7 of 7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcxmwNqODjE

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WAY PAST EXCELLENT: Diersen and Pulido to present ‘The Other Opinion’ in Wheaton on issue of gun rights

Free speech may be in trouble in Naperville, but it’s thriving in Wheaton these days.

Community members showed earlier this week they wouldn’t walk away quietly from the issue of gun rights during a forum held in the City Council chambers in City Hall. Members of the League of Women Voters held the forum, originally designed for Wheaton North High School students, to promote gun control measures they’d like to see enacted in Illinois.

However, comments from audience members who support gun rights were not allowed; an elderly woman was escorted out of the chambers by several police officers. So now my incredibly close, personal friend Dave Diersen of Wheaton has secured City Hall to host what someone in the city clerk’s office said organizers were describing as “The Other Opinion.”

The event will be held at the Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St., from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. Diersen, editor of the Web site GOPUSA Illinois, is organizing the event with Rosanna Pulido, who recently ran as the Republican candidate for Illinois’ 5th Congressional District.

“What we wanted to do was to organize a meeting and offer people who disagreed with our position a chance to speak. So we will have the last half-hour of the event open to debate, if not longer,” Pulido said. “I was at the meeting (held Tuesday). What I did was ask people who attended that forum if they’d like to attend another meeting where people were given the chance to talk, and many said they would. So I collected a lot of e-mail addresses from people wishing to attend our meeting.”

Pulido said she met a man at this week’s forum who knew about a women’s marksmanship club. So she is working to have a representative of this group make a presentation at the May 5 event, she said.

“We wanted to make a special outreach to women at this event,” Pulido said, given that Mother’s Day will be held next month.

Call Pulido at (773) 250-3399 or Diersen at (630) 653-0462 for more information

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SURPASSING OUTLANDISH: Diersen’s Freudian slip is showing

A friend with a sharp eye alerted me to not one but two faux pas in today’s edition of GOPUSA Illinois. Edited by my longtime buddy Dave Diersen of Wheaton, the daily list of news articles and blog postings begins today with this item:

NAPERVILLE SUN
— DIERSEN HEADLINE: VERY SAD: 14 CITED FOR PUBIC URINATION IN DOWNTOWN NAPERVILLE: …

A few items later, Diersen includes this tidbit:

RENEW AMERICA
— OUTRAGEOUS: Americans who reject Marxist socialism are castigated as ‘right-wing extremists’ – Marie Jon  (DIERSEN: BEYOND OUTRAGEOUS: In Illinois, Illinois Republicans who support the Illinois Republican Party (IRP) platform are castrated as ‘right-wing extremists’ by many IRP leaders elected under the current system. All of those castrators oppose SB600.)

I suggested to my friend that given the legal/punitive implications of these items, perhaps Diersen is suffering from penal envy. Ouch!

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League of Women Voters members ill-equipped to debate gun-control issue

One of my favorite biblical verses is from 1 Peter 3:15:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

While this admonition is directed at Christians, it could well apply to anyone who is advocating some cause. For if they can’t address why they hold this belief, they’re not likely to persuade others. And what’s the point of advocating a cause if you can’t convince others that you’re right?

This is what happened last night in the Wheaton City Hall as members of the League of Women Voters stumbled through a forum on “sensible laws to prevent gun violence.” Organizers said the forum was originally planned only for students at Wheaton North High School. But word of the meeting spread, and nearly 200 people packed the City Council chambers to have their say.

The Illinois League of Women Voters has opted to advocate some gun-control measures to “close gun law loopholes.” Yesterday’s forum was organized by several local chapters of the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a project of the San Francisco-based public interest law firm Legal Community Against Violence.

Specifically, league members are promoting laws to require background checks on all gun purchases and mandate that all gun thefts be reported. Organizers of last night’s forum also lamented the lack of limits on how many guns someone may purchase in a given time, so I’m sure they’d also like to see this measure implemented.

Michelle Jordan is an issues specialist with the Illinois League of Women Voters who serves as state counsel for the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. She moderated last night’s forum but didn’t do a good job.

When she wasn’t on script with her presentation, Jordan appeared defensive and dictatorial. She set the time right at the beginning of the event by telling audience members, “If you disrupt this forum, you will be politely asked to leave. And if you don’t leave, you will be escorted out by one of the police officers.”

And when people interrupted the proceedings, Jordan instructed a few of them to leave. At one point, an elderly woman was ushered out of the City Council chambers by several police officers for reminding audience members that they were Americans and had the right to have their say.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of gun rights, you have to admit that this was an ill-advised use of law enforcement power. Police officers were all over the place in City Hall during the forum.

I understand that organizers want to have someone who can control anything that seems to be getting out of hand, but there’s a huge difference between people who merely want to speak their minds and those who want to incite violence. Using officers to escort an elderly woman out of the City Council chambers for committing the “crime” of voicing her opinion is absurd.

This made league members look as though they wanted to bully people into silence. If their goal is to ensure a safer community, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the police officers on the street catching criminals instead of intimidating peaceful but vocal residents inside City Hall?

Organizers also refused to allow audience members to ask questions of the presenters or challenge the information being presented. In a stunning declaration, Jordan told the residents, “This is a league forum, and this is not a place for debate.”

Granted, organizers felt their little party was crashed by people who weren’t invited to the festivities. They had intended to stage their presentation exclusively for the high school students, but they ended up with an impassioned crowd. So that organizers seemed a tad flustered is understandable.

But they could have taken a few steps to make things run more smoothly.

First, league members probably shouldn’t have planned this for high school students only. This gives opponents the idea that they’re out to indoctrinate young, impressionable minds with their ideology without the benefit of having their beliefs challenged.

But if they wanted to hold a forum only for the students, they should have held it at the school rather than City Hall. The school offers a more controlled environment where they would have been able to turn away people who weren’t invited.

The City Council chambers, however, is the primary meeting place in Wheaton for residents to gather and debate issues. This is the people’s meeting room, and anything held there dealing with public policy should be open to the people.

This is why I was shocked when Jordan said, “this is not a place for debate.” If members of the community can’t debate important issues here. where should they go?

Once they discovered that residents would be attending the forum, organizers should have altered the event’s structure somewhat. They should have struck a bargain with audience members: If the residents will allow the participants to offer their presentations uninterrupted, the forum will be opened to questions and comments afterward for the time they had left (I heard from someone at City Hall that organizers had the chambers for two hours, yet the event lasted about 40 minutes).

League members and as many participants as possible should have agreed to stay in the room and address the issues posed to them by residents. This would made it appear as though organizers valued the audience’s input and wanted to carry on a dialogue.

But by cutting off any debate, league members looked as though they weren’t prepared to answer the challenges made by residents. If they’re so unsure of themselves regarding the proposals they’re making, how do they intend to implement these ideas?

These are serious issues worthy of a healthy debate. But you have to be willing to have your ideas challenged if others are to take them to heart. In this instance, the League of Women Voters failed this test.

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Community members had the right to protest Ayers’ visit to school, but not to point of coercion

An ongoing debate about free speech in Naperville has caused a lot of talk.

A few weeks ago Naperville North High School had offered an invitation to Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, to speak to a class of seniors. Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville also scheduled a book-signing event featuring Ayers the same night.

But a backlash from people who heard about the planned events compelled officials with Naperville Community School District 203 to withdraw the invitation to Ayers, who grew up in Glen Ellyn. Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshop, said she feared for the safety of her employees and canceled the book-signing after receiving numerous threats.

In response to the controversy, Anderson’s Bookshop held a forum Monday to address the issue of free speech. The event featured several panelists who discussed specific questions and answered concerns expressed by audience members.

The forum drew a standing-room-only crowd to the bookstore in downtown Naperville. Anderson said the goal 0f the event was to solicit a variety of opinions through a civil dialogue.

The moderator of the forum was Stephen Maynard Caliendo, associate professor of political science at North Central College in Naperville. Panelists were Steve Macek, associate professor of speech communication at North Central College; Keith Carlson, communication arts teacher and faculty adviser for the school newspaper at Naperville Central High School; Jane Barnes, president of the Naperville League of Women Voters; Celia Kokoris, the incoming editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at Naperville North High School; and Gary Bolt, deputy chief of the Naperville Police Department.

Each panelist addressed three specific issues:

1) Did the School District and Anderson’s Bookshop do the right thing by canceling their scheduled events with Ayers? Was free speech threatened?

2) What about this larger issue of freedom of speech: Should there be other limits? Who can speak, and who decides?

3) Does this set a precedent for restricting free speech? Could this lead to blacklisting or worse?

Most panelists believed District 203 officials were wrong to withdraw the invitation to Ayers. A Naperville North student said Kermit Eby, the history teacher who organized Ayers’ visit to the school, received permission from both the school principal and district superintendent to host the event.

The panelists also believed that Anderson was within her right to cancel her event with Ayers due to concerns about the safety of her employees. However, Bolt said that Anderson wouldn’t have needed to cancel the event had she notified the Police Department about the threats. Members of the department would have done everything possible to ensure a safe event, he said.

It was good that Anderson organized this forum to discuss free speech and the ramifications of this controversy. She had a large but cordial audience in her store, and people felt free to express their viewpoints.

The only change I would have made in the forum would be to include a panelist who opposed Ayers’ scheduled visits to the school and bookstore. Despite the many hateful comments she received from people, I’m sure someone who objected to the events could be found who could express his or her opinion in a reasonable manner.

Before discussing my views on the forum, I must offer one caveat: I was only able to stay for the first round of questions, so some of my concerns may have been addressed after I left.

That being said, I was struck by two thoughts as the panelists and audience members spoke.

First, the people who opposed Ayers’ scheduled visit to Naperville North represent the “public” in “public high school.” They provide the revenue necessary to construct and maintain the school building; fund the salaries for staff members, teachers and administrators; and purchase supplies used in the classrooms. Without the public, there would be no public high school.

I don’t think objections to the planned event were handled well at all. As some of the panelists said, opponents deprived students the opportunity to make up their own minds about Ayers and his activities in the 1960s and ’70s.

I’ve been told by people that Ayers has disavowed his former group’s use of violence to protest the Vietnam War. In a column I wrote a few weeks ago, I said that if he is sincere about repudiating his involvement in domestic terrorism, his presence at local schools shouldn’t stir such opposition. That’s because he has admitted he was wrong to use violence as his group did.

But all of that rests, as I indicated in my column, on Ayers’ sincerity. And if he has been telling students that his decisions were wrong, he is sending a different message than he did years ago.

Despite his stated regrets, I’d still be very reluctant as a teacher to invite him into my classroom because I don’t know what’s in his heart. Rather, I’d invite a veteran journalist who covered the Weather Underground and/or a federal law enforcement agent who tracked members of this group to provide a context of what went on during this period of U.S. history.

However, it’s not for me to decide who should be invited to Naperville North. Members of the public should have made their objections known and respected the decision of administrators. That’s why the School District employs these people, so they can make such decisions.

On the other hand, community members have a right to express themselves on such matters given that their money makes the school possible. For some panelists to suggest that opponents don’t have a say in what goes on in their school is misguided. Their right to free speech is no less significant than that of the students, teachers or administrators.

Community members crossed the line, though, in attempting to coerce the school and Anderson’s Bookshop through intimidation. Once they threaten violence, they engage in an act of terrorism — the very thing that Ayers’ group did.

In this way, opponents become the very thing that they’re protesting. Now they’re no better than Ayers, and their objections to his visits lose all meaning.

So to sum it all up:

Community members have a right to express their concerns over a scheduled appearance by Ayers, but not to the point of coercion. They must allow administrators to make this decision without any threats of violence. The high school seniors who wanted to attend Ayers’ visit should be allowed to make up their own minds (isn’t this what high school is all about?). Parents who objected to the event had the chance to keep their children from attending, and it it should have been left at that.

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