The Dollar Also Falls, So-called First Amendment, and Canadian Media

The US dol­lar hit 1.135 Cana­di­an today. It’s been hov­er­ing around the 1.13 mark. Gee, I used to get excit­ed when it went below 1.15.

There are oth­er things descend­ing besides Bush’s poll num­bers. Appar­ent­ly the free­dom of speech is descend­ing as well. From the web site of ABC News’s Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca today:

A Col­orado teacher who was sus­pend­ed after mak­ing con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about Pres­i­dent Bush — which were record­ed by a stu­dent dur­ing class — is fil­ing a law­suit against the school dis­trict in Auro­ra, Colo., this morning.

On the tape, the stu­dent, Sean Allen, repeat­ed­ly asks ques­tions, and teacher Jay Ben­nish actu­al­ly com­pli­ments him. But that may not be good enough for school offi­cials, who will con­clude their inves­ti­ga­tion with­in the week.

The dis­trict says the key ques­tion is whether Ben­nish vio­lat­ed pol­i­cy by fail­ing to allow ample oppor­tu­ni­ty for oppos­ing views.

On Thurs­day, dozens of stu­dents walked out of class at Over­land High School, pick­ing sides in the debate between the geog­ra­phy teacher and Allen. The con­tro­ver­sy start­ed Feb. 1, the day after Bush’s State of the Union address.

“Who is prob­a­bly the sin­gle most vio­lent nation on plan­et Earth?” Ben­nish asked his class. “The Unit­ed States of America.”

He went even fur­ther, com­par­ing Bush to Adolf Hitler.

“I’m not say­ing that Bush and Hitler are exact­ly the same, obvi­ous­ly they’re not,” Ben­nish said. “But there are some eerie sim­i­lar­i­ties to the tones that they use.”

Ben­nish told the class he was only express­ing his opinions.

“I’m not in any way imply­ing that you should agree with me,” he said. “What I’m try­ing to get you to do is to think, right, about these issues more in depth.”

Fur­ther search­es on the Inter­net reveal that what Ben­nish claimed, was that dur­ing the last State of the Union Address, Bush said: “It is our duty as Amer­i­cans to use the mil­i­tary to go out in the world and make the world like us.” Ben­nish con­tin­ues (on the tape): “Sounds a lot like what Adolph Hilter used to say.” It turns out that he was para­phras­ing Bush, and that those exact words weren’t said per se. At any rate, that’s what’ll get you fired these days in Col­orado. Ben­nish had been teach­ing at that school since 2000.

By Way of Contrast
I’m con­tin­u­al­ly sur­prised at how most of the big local news sto­ries here (radio and TV) are usu­al­ly about the dif­fi­cul­ties with try­ing to fix one of soci­ety’s ills. Two recent cas­es have been: 

  • The inquest into the death by abuse of a poor abo­rig­i­nal child, Sher­ry Char­lie in 2002, who basi­cal­ly fell through the cracks in the Social Wel­fare sys­tem, and
  • The death a few weeks ago of a frail, 91-year old woman, Fan­ny Albo, from her hus­band of 70 years just 48 hours after she was moved against her will (and his sub­se­quent death 2 weeks lat­er — he was 96).

Both sto­ries have received a lot of atten­tion as of late, but I doubt they would have even made page 2 or 3 in papers back in the US. They share the aspects of being about unknown, unglam­orous, trag­ic deaths, per­haps pre­ventable. No sen­sa­tion­al tabloid mate­r­i­al, no gun vio­lence or pro­nounce­ments by pun­dits, just an out­cry over some­thing that went wrong, either through fund­ing cuts or bureau­cra­cy. I notice the dis­tinct dif­fer­ence when I unwit­ting­ly tune into the news broad­casts of KOMO or KING in Seat­tle and start to hear about car-jack­ings, kid­nap­pings or gang attacks. It’s remark­able how the media just across the bor­der can be so dif­fer­ent — and it’s becom­ing more dif­fer­ent every day, it seems, slid­ing away just like the decent of the currency.