U.S. court frees Americans to ban children's library books about the Bush Administration

Well, OK, I'm starting out with implications without giving the background and rationale.

At first blush, the decision handed down by a U.S. Federal Appeals Court, described below, will be embarrassing to anyone favoring free speech and freedom of the press.

We in the Land of the Free all passionately defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as long as the freedom doesn't portray countries the U.S. government doesn't like in a favorable light. We know the founding fathers and the authors of the Bill of Rights didn't intend to extend freedom that far. C'mon. They didn't even have to say that explicitly. All we good Americans knew what they meant.

Didn't we?

And when it concerns a children's book, their intent is even clearer in retrospect. True, the book didn't talk about sex or extol drug use or criticize the U.S. for its growing homeless population or promote Communism or even mention the Cuban Revolution. It didn't plant subliminal messages about overseeing rapacious bankers or making health care available free to all citizens, though Cuba does those things.

But we don't want kids in Miami or elsewhere to grow up thinking that letting countries portray themselves in a positive light is an okay thing.

And above all, let's not forget to look on the bright side.

Now we have a precedent that allows other school boards to protect their children as they see fit. So people in, say, Burlington, VT, or Berkeley, CA, can yank books from their school libraries if they give favorable portraits of governments that in actuality have made life much harder for their citizens.

It's time remove library books that George W. Bush wrote about himself. That won't be hard; other than his token campaign autobiography published in 1999 (A Charge to Keep: Wreaking Destruction Just for the Fun of It), there don't seem to be any, even if we include ghost-written works.

But even if there are no books by him, there are some books favorable to him. And then there are the favorable books by or about Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, the whole neo-con troupe. At least, one would assume there are such books, even if one can't quite fathom who would spend precious hours reading them.

If they do exist, now that we are sinking up to our necks in the economic and ecological legacy of the propagandists who penned them, we can ban any of the ones that favorably distort the truth of what was really going on.

The Miami ruling didn't say whether book-burnings are acceptable, so we might do well for the time being to restrict the book bonfires to our own backyards until the court rules on the legality of taking that to public schools.

U.S. court sides with school board decision to ban Cuba book

Friday, February 6, 2009 | 11:56 AM ET

CBC News

A U.S. federal appeals court has sided with Miami school officials who banned a children's book about Cuba that critics say sugar-coats life in the Communist country.
The appeals court ruled on Thursday that the Miami-Dade School Board did not breach the First Amendment in 2006 when it removed Vamos a Cuba (A Visit to Cuba ) from its school library shelves.

"There is a difference between not including graphic detail about adult subjects on the one hand and falsely representing that everything is hunky dory on the other," Judge Ed Carnes wrote in the ruling.

The 2001 book presents a view of daily life in Cuba and is part of a series about different countries, aimed at children under the age of 10.

Juan Amador, a parent and former political prisoner in Cuba, launched a complaint to the board when he discovered that the book was in school libraries. Amador was outraged at the book, which he said offers an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of life in Cuba under the rule of Fidel Castro.

Featuring a picture of smiling children on its cover, the book offers a positive portrait, with no mention of Castro's revolution, the country's political and social conflicts or the government's clamping down on dissidents.

After holding a vote, the school board agreed and pulled its 49 copies from library shelves.
A Miami judge later ruled that the board's decision was political and that it should have added books that presented a different perspective rather than remove the offending title.

The American Civil Liberties Union also protested the board's decision to ban the book and challenged the move.

"We're going to take further action to prevent the shelves of the Miami-Dade school library from being scrubbed clean of viewpoints some people in the school find objectionable," Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU's Florida division, said after the appeals court ruling became public.

"Censorship is censorship is censorship."

With files from the Associated Press

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