23 October, 2009

Why You Won't Hear Ads That Say "Marin Is Marijuana" And Why There Shouldn't Be Ads That Say "Coal Is West Virginia"

I’m deeply offended by the West Virginia Coal Association’s “Coal IS West Virginia” radio ad "end sings". While other environment-damaging and health-harmful industries have learned to say things like “Drink Responsibly” or “We can’t drill our way out of this problem”, The West Virginia Coal Association continues to harm West Virginia and the West Virginia brand by doing what West Virginia special interests have always done: killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. West Virginia needs to be so inexorably linked to coal or any one industry the way Rush Limbaugh needs to be known only as a hypocritical drug addict who advocated throwing the book at poor drug users while his rich doctor friends kept him supplied with pills. West Virginia needs its brand shaken by mountain top explosions and drowned in polluted water the way WCHS radio needs their brand to be equated with ultra-conservative pastor and radio personality, Michael Agnello's DUI arrest.

It's been estimated that perhaps as many as 60% of Marin County, California's residents are in some way connected to marijuana business but if some trade association started running ads saying "Marin Is Marijuana", I think you'd see Chambers of Commerce, Mayors and others scrambling to refute those ads and distance themselves from them. That's because some places understand the importance of protecting their brand and understand the danger of letting themselves be defined by one industry.

These "Coal is West Virginia" ads are proof that the West Virginia Coal Association doesn't care at all about West Virginia. If they did, they would not be raising the Big Coal flag over West Virginia at a time when organizations like Create West Virginia are trying to convince the world that West Virginia is about biotech, alternative energy and much more than coal.

I’m sure that somewhere there are a few slow-witted people who actually believe that the coal industry is about to be outlawed and bankrupted by Obama and his clean, green energy pals, but just as the tobacco industry, the petroleum industry and the alcoholic beverage industry have realized that their worlds are changing, it’s time for coal to do the same. BP doesn’t stand for British Petroleum anymore, it stands for Beyond Petroleum and it no longer gives Britain and the British brand a black eye as the coal industry does to West Virginia.

Instead of continuing to serve up a West Virginia smothered in coal dust and breaded in dead fish, wouldn’t the coal association do less harm to West Virginia if they joined the search for alternatives to coal and reminded us that electric cars will be recharged by electricity from coal-fired power plants and that America will be powered by coal for a very long time while we consider nuclear power plants and while we figure out how to use solar, wind and hydro more cost effectively? To hear Big Coal tell it, coal is in danger of going out of business today – and with their unsophisticated “coal is West Virginia” jingle they perpetuate the stereotypes that make it harder for, say, Create West Virginia to get investors, inventors and entrepreneurs to think about anything but destruction when they think of West Virginia.

Since the West Virginia Coal Association has decided to trash the future of the West Virginia brand by making West Virginia synonymous with coal, no West Virginia trade groups, business groups, politicians or other forward-thinking leaders and visionaries who truly want to create a new West Virginia should ever again utter the word "coal." Those of us who care about West Virginia's future should be talking about telecommunications, biotech, advanced flexible manufacturing, education, arts, culture, diversity and alternative energy research, not coal. Big Coal is going to spend a lot of money throwing West Virginia's brand and West Virginia's future under the coal car so there's no need whatsoever for anybody else to be talking about coal since Big Coal is trying as hard as they can to make it impossible for West Virginia to be about anything but coal. Yesterday I heard a radio commercial that strongly implied that every coal job in West Virginia is in imminent danger of vanishing. It's not true. America needs West Virginia's coal and will need it for a very, very long time.

You don’t protect and promote a state’s major industries by destroying the image of that state any more than you produce more golden eggs by killing the goose that laid them. You need look no further than Lexington, KY, to see what I mean. Despite being blessed with picture post card surroundings and a workforce that is one of the most college-educated in America, Lexington has trouble attracting the talent it needs because it is in Kentucky. The Kentucky brand – which is barefoot, ignorant, toothless, obese, racist and pregnant with another illegitimate welfare baby – is stifling both Lexington and Louisville, two cities whose economies are being harmed by their association with the Kentucky brand and, in Lexington's case, by the insistence on the part of some of its leaders to hitch its wagon almost entirely to the "horse capitol of the world" star.

Frankly, if I were Mayor of Lexington I would start a mock secessionist movement. I’d run ads in New York and Washington that announce Lexington is seceding from Kentucky and I’d appear on camera flanked by executives from companies that offered to fund a hi-tech scholarship plan that was voted down by the good ol’ boy council members who don’t think it’s a tragedy that Lexingtonians with college degrees are waiting tables or mucking out horse stalls because Lexington can’t attract more employers like Cypress Semiconductor or IBM due to its unfortunate association with the state of Kentucky.

Are you reading this, Danny Jones? Maybe you should start a mock secessionist movement. Start by denouncing the West Virginia Coal Association. Show some of Charleston’s non-coal success stories. Publicly call out the West Virginia Coal Association for needlessly harming the West Virginia brand then deliberately distance Charleston from the West Virginia brand.

Maybe Huntington Mayor, Kim Wolfe, would like to lead a mock secessionist movement, too. Perhaps Wolfe and Jones could get together to condemn the West Virginia Coal Association, denounce West Virginia's hillbilly image and "secede" from West Virginia in some satirical TV ads. And , as we all know, they wouldn't have to actually buy the airtime. All they need to do is make the ad then leak it and let the media give them free exposure.

19 October, 2009

Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go And When He Is Old Theocrats Won't Have To Stone Him To Death

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a good woman I never met. I know she was a good woman because she and her husband raised three good kids one of whom I mischievously refer to as "the only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust."

As minister and family stepped to the lectern and told stories about my good friend’s mother, I listened closely to discover the secret to her success as a mother. Was it her Baptist faith? No, I know other parents who shared her Baptist faith who did not succeed at parenthood. Was it her perky, positive, cheerful demeanor? Well, it didn’t hurt. Everybody said she had a way of bringing sunshine with her wherever she went but I’ve known people like that who couldn’t seem to raise even one child you’d want as a neighbor, employee or boss.

I’m at that age where the generation that raised me and my friends are being buried and what I fear is that their parenting secrets are being buried with them. My good friend whom I call “the only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust” doesn’t know this but had I been able to return to WV before his mother’s illness, I had planned to interview her –with her surviving husband, of course – to see if I could uncover some common denominator, some common parenting trait or style that successful parents all share.

It’s not politics. “The only evangelical, conservative, Baptist, Republican I trust” had one Democrat parent and one Republican parent. I’m a liberal Democrat and I would like nothing better than to find a strong correlation between being a good person and being raised in a liberal home but the truth is, I know a lot of liberal Democrats who failed as parents, whose own kids hate them and whose friends and neighbors hate them for raising the kind of kids they raised.

I’m not an expert but, right now, if I had to hazard a guess as to what all good parents did in common I’d have to say it has something to do with spending time with their kids, communicating with their kids and being involved in their kids' lives. I didn’t use the word “love” because even parents who failed to raise good kids think they love their children – and maybe they do, but I once heard a “parenting expert” say that, to kids, “love” is measured in time and attention.

I hope to get to know my friend’s dad.

And I hope to interview my friend and ask him why he thinks he and his sisters turned out to be good, productive people.

I have no children so this is easy for me to say, but I think if you bring another human being into the world you have a responsibility to society, as an act of good citizenship, to raise that child to be a good member of the human race. To do otherwise is, I think, no different than to expose your friends and neighbors to dangerous toxins. You see, I don't think you get to raise a kid for 18 years then, when he grows up to become an embarrassment to his parents and a burden or threat to society complain that the kid wasn't raised to be that way. My position is - and a lot of people won't like this - oh, yes he was. Unless you can show that wolves raised your child or that you didn't have nearly total control of your child's life for, say, 5 or 6 years then at least partial control for another 12, the kid turned out exactly as he was raised to turn out.

I'm a systems thinker. I know that every outcome is produced by a system that is perfectly designed to produce the outcome it produces.

If I were a judge, I would use the bench to, in some way, punish not only the young ruffians and scofflaws but also their parents. Here's my reasoning: If I plant a tree which eventually overhangs my neighbor's house, becomes diseased, and I then falls on my neighbor's house, I am responsible for the damage caused to my neighbor's house. The same goes for raising children who become threats, burdens or nuisances to society.

Do you remember the teenage reprobates in Pike County, KY, who used a truck to chase a herd of horses to exhaustion then shot the horses? Oh, buddy, if I were a judge and those reprobates appeared in my court their parents would be on trial, too. They may not have actively taught their kids to torture animals but, somehow, they raised kids devoid of any compassion or conscience and unleashed these monsters on an innocent herd of horses and on a community that probably knew the teens were monsters but could expect no protection until the monsters did something that attracted media attention and forced law enforcement to step in.

In an effort to provide cover and comfort to church members who raised homosexual children or liberal children or atheist children, I once heard a fundamentalist preacher say that Proverbs 22:6 is mistranslated and does not promise (or threaten), as it appears to, that kids will eventually turn out the way they were raised to turn out. I can't read Proverbs 22:6 in the original Hebrew nor can I put my hands on the "original manuscript" (neither can your pastor) so I can't comment on whether or not "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" is a mistranslation but I do know this: while parents of atheists or liberals or homosexuals may be looked upon as parental and Christian failures by their contemporaries at certain fundamentalist and evangelical churches, Bible-quoting parents of gay or liberal or atheist kids are not the ones with some explaining to do up at the Bible Center Church. No, it's the parents of straight, church-going kids who grow up to rob their employees' retirement funds and neglect and ignore their kids or torture animals who should be ashamed of their parental handiwork.

Oh, and people who say they want our nation "run according to biblical principles" might be surprised to learn that Deuteronomy 21:18-21 prescribes that parents of incorrigible children take their bad seed to the elders of the city and have them stoned to death. The text reads: "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and, though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones: so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." (ASV)

I think the cure for all this theocratic foment on the Republican right is more Bible reading. Yes, I am convinced that if more Republicans read their Bibles there would be far less enthusiasm for a return to biblical public policy.

And while I’m looking for that common denominator that all good parents share, I will also be looking for an opportunity to get to know some of my other friends’ parents before their parenting secrets are buried with them. And I’m happy to say that one of the parents I hope to get to know is a retired chemical engineer who has been driving conservative, evangelical Kanawha Valley pastors crazy with his 28-page tracts proving, beyond doubt, from Jesus’ own words that Jesus was an economic liberal. This tractarian raised a fine son whose selfless work for the underprivileged and total lack of regard for his own supplication has led me to call him “the man with one pair of pants.”

But when I have interviewed fine parents and their kids, liberals and conservatives, believers and unbelievers, I don’t expect to find that good parenting has anything to do with faith or politics. I expect to find that it has something to do with paying attention to and spending time with their children.

Remembering L T Anderson

Instead of watching Mad Men last night I read the packet of old L T Anderson columns Gazette Editor, Jim Haught, was nice enough to send me. I got to chat with Haught at the "Textbook Wars" discussion at the Culture Center and mentioned to him that I was a huge L T Anderson fan and that I was looking for any collections of the late columnist's work. Jim graciously mailed me a huge packet of Anderson's stuff - mostly from 1971, 72 and 73, the same period in which I was a Gazette delivery boy in St. Albans and started every day reading the Gazette opinion pages before I delivered my papers.

I had forgotten how many anti-war columns Anderson wrote and how many of his columns held up what passes for Christianity to ridicule because of its failure to oppose war, indeed, for its Old Testament style eagerness to cast America in the role of Old Testament Israel - the good guys - and anybody some American president happens to declare war on in the role of Philistines or other Old Testament bad guys. And L T didn't just excoriate what passes for Christianity these days for its failure to oppose the Vietnam war until practically all the godless opposed it first, L T knew that what passes for Christianity these days is an enthusiastic military recruiter and PR department for the old, white, rich politicians who send poor young men off to war by invoking God and justifying their sacrifice by assuring grieving parents that their children died "defending freedom" or "defending their country" and were not sacrificed in vain.

I had also forgotten how much fun L T Anderson had with faith healers like Charleston's "Lacy The Stranger" and with "Honk If You Love Jesus" bumper stickers.

And I had forgotten that L T shared my love of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

What I had not forgotten was that L T Anderson was, in Jim Haught's words, "a genius". Haught told me he used to send Anderson's columns, ten at a time, to the Pulitzer Prize Committee. Twice a finalist, Anderson never won the Pulitzer though his many fans think he was robbed.

Anderson died in 2004 at the age of 83. I wish he could have lived long enough to lampoon today's version of what passes for Christianity but the absence of Andersonian theological commentary on what passes for Christianity today is less tragic than it would have been had Anderson not predicted that paunchy, red-faced Baptist preachers would still be lap dogs for old, rich, white politicians who want to send their parishoners off to be maimed and killed.
The columnist whose sardonic wit made me giggle with every folded paper I threw in the 70s, would not have been the least surprised that the church of the 21st century campaigned for a president who used a terrorist attack as a pretense for attacking a country that had nothing to do with attacking the US.

17 October, 2009

There's No Whining In Recruiting

Over the past few days I've spoken to several people who tell me that, in spite of the recession and the high unemployment rate, they still have trouble recruiting "good people" so I've decided to post "There's No Whining In Recruiting" which first ran in the "Higginbotham At Large" newspaper column March 22, 2008.

There's No Whining In Recruiting.

Management can’t control the recruitment and selection process then whine about the low quality and poor performance of the people they hire. Everywhere I go, business owners and managers are complaining that today’s job applicants don’t have the right skills, don’t have the right experience, can’t pass a drug test and can’t pass a background check. And don’t get me started on what they say about “Millennials.”

“The right people” are out there. Your competitors are hiring them. If you’re not hiring your share of “the right people,” then stop micro-managing the sales guy and devote some time and thought to figuring out recruiting. Why do you think your company is paying you the big bucks? If you can’t recruit and hire the right people, you can’t manage.

Some common recruiting mistakes:

1. Relying solely on “passive,” advertising-based recruitment. Sometimes the talent you’d like to hire hasn’t written a résumé and isn’t reading job ads. If your so-called “recruiter” simply runs ads then waits for self-selected and unemployed people to send in résumés, you aren’t even getting to talk to people who aren’t looking for a job.

2. Treating recruitment like it’s a Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 job. You’re the one with the need, so why should job applicants have to take a vacation day, miss an hour and a half of pay, lie about their whereabouts or call in sick to interview with one of your 9-to-5, Monday through Friday recruiters? And do you really want to hire someone who called in sick or lied to her boss to interview with you? If you aren’t willing to come in early, stay late or schedule some interviews on the weekend, then maybe you shouldn’t be in management, because management means working whenever necessary to achieve the desired results. You don’t get to control the recruitment/hiring process, then whine about the results you achieve. There’s no whining in management.

While we’re talking about hours, let’s talk about those job fairs some of you like so much. Like managers, job fairs should work the hours necessary to deliver the desired results. Most job fairs are designed to deliver only those job candidates who can be at a hotel or convention center during normal business hours. Some of the people you’d like to recruit are working during the job fair and can’t take time to come downtown, find a place to park, and wait in line to talk to a “recruiter” because your booth is understaffed. And after all that, too often the person in the booth is grumpy and doesn’t seem to know she’s there to recruit people. Not only are these job fairs always held during normal business hours when much of the potential talent pool is at work, the so-called “recruiters” behave as if they consider job fair duty as some kind of punishment. The next time a radio station or newspaper tries to sell you a booth at a job fair designed to deliver only unemployed people and people who can come downtown between the hours of 10 and 5, act like a manager and tell the job fair seller you need a job fair that is open in the evenings or on weekends. Managers get paid the big bucks to buy what the company needs, not what it’s convenient for somebody to sell you. If management demands recruitment solutions that deliver a previously untapped share of the potential candidate pool, somebody will sell it. Good managers don’t squander company resources on job fairs that don’t deliver the right applicants.

3. Pre-judging what a jobseeker might do or how much she might do it for. I’ve recruited some people who happily took huge pay cuts to work for my client. It’s not always about the money. Here’s some top secret, headhunter stuff: you can’t tell what a candidate might do, where she might do it or how much she’ll do it for by looking at her résumé. I once got an engineer to (happily) take a nearly 20 percent pay cut because the job I was offering him was simply more interesting to him than the job he had. The employer calls him “Superman,” because there’s almost no kind of civil engineering this guy can’t do, unless his employer won’t let him do it — which is why I was able to recruit him. You can’t tell by looking at them. If there’s something wrong with your offer, what’s the worst that can happen? The candidate might say no. But she might say yes.

4. Entrusting recruitment to unqualified people. A recruiter at one of Lexington’s largest employers once admitted to me he felt like a “fraud” because he didn’t even understand most of his company’s job descriptions, never mind what skills and qualifications he should be looking for in candidates.

“The right people” are out there. Your competitors are hiring them. If you’re not getting your share, stop whining. There’s no whining in recruitment when you control the recruitment and selection process. If you can’t recruit and hire “the right people,” you can’t manage.

15 October, 2009

Résumé Redux

As regular readers know, employment entrepreneur, John Meyers, multiple-blogger, Deb Hildreth, and I have been discussing the Holy Grail of résumés , what we’re calling a “transparent résumé” that doesn’t obscure the candidate’s true skills and aptitudes behind a bunch of irrelevant industries, job titles and companies that can actually mislead more than illuminate the reader.

In an effort to make my own résumé more transparent, I tried a little experiment and even though I haven’t used this “new” format enough yet to draw any conclusions, I wanted to share this with my readers just in case I’m on to something and others would like to try their own experiment.

After sending out dozens of conventionally formatted résumés that garnered no responses from employers, I wrote a résumé formatted like a press release and got an immediate interview. I tweeted this information and several people tweeted or emailed to ask me what a résumé formatted like a press release looks like so, for those of you who aren’t in PR or media, let’s review what a standard press release or media release looks like. Here’s one common media release format I’ve used to announce events or “inform” the press for years. The basic elements of the release are: 1. a line that says when the release should be aired or published. 2. who sent the release. 3. “headline” of the release. 4. body of the release. 5. Contact info for the sender or person with whom media should follow up if they want more info. Put it all together and a standard press release might look like this:

For Immediate Release

From: Joseph Higginbotham

Living Liberally Chapter of Kanawha Valley Re-Organizing and Re-Launching

Living Liberally groups provide attendees with a venue at which to meet, socialize, strategize and synergize with other liberal groups and individuals.

For more information about Living Liberally groups, go to www.LivingLiberally.org

If you’d like to attend an organizational meeting at which meeting place and time will be chosen, call Joseph Higginbotham at (304) 550-6710.

“Decisions are made by those who show up.” – Aaron Sorkin, creator of TV’s The West Wing


Joseph Higginbotham

P.O. Box 75186

Charleston, WV 25375-0186

(304) 550-6710

So what would a résumé look like in media release format? Just substitute your own “executive headline” or “qualifications summary” for the press release headline and your own professional story for the body of the press release like this:


From: Your Name Here

Your Executive Headline or Qualifications Summary Here

Tell your professional story here. Write it like a newspaper article or simply list your qualifications. Has a former boss or client said nice things about you? Put that quote here, too.


Put all your normal contact info here.

11 October, 2009

What Anton Chekhov Can Teach TV's Mad Men

Although I watch it faithfully, I think the AMC network's Mad Men might be the most overrated show on TV.
During Mad Men's first season, I was immune to the hype. I'd seen some trailers and I didn't think I'd like reliving a time when women, gays and blacks didn't enjoy full citizenship. I lived through it for real once and didn't want to watch it in a TV drama.
But one holiday weekend when I was desperate for something to watch, I tuned into one of those weekend marathons where they were showing the entire first season. Nothing but Mad Men from morning 'til night. I got hooked because I am a sucker for shows whose main characters lead double lives in some way. I like Breaking Bad, in part, because the main character, a mild-mannered high school science teacher, makes the highest-quality illegal drugs in the Southwest. I like Big Love because the main character is a polygamist and has three families right under his unsuspecting neighbors' noses. I loved The Riches whose main characters were "travelers" who stole another family's identity.
Mad Men's main character, Don Draper, is really Dick Whitman and, in the first season, Mad Men writers made character development promises they couldn't keep by showing us flashbacks of Dick Whitman's life and how he became Don Draper.
Then Mad Men jumped the shark. Draper has affairs with every woman he meets. Draper blew off a California business meeting to go have hippy sex with a free spirit half his age and to visit the real Draper's widow. Though he was AWOL for days, he didn't lose his job. In fact, he got a partnership.
And in last night's episode, Draper starts an affair that was all too predictable and then supports the unjust firing of one of the most potentially interesting characters in the show, Salvatore Romano, who is, himself, living the double life of a gay man who is married to his high school girlfriend. If Sal's firing sticks and he is written out of the show, it's as if the Mad Men writers have said "Why do some actual character development and plot twists about a truly interesting character when all we have to do to attract viewers is throw Don Draper into bed with a new woman every episode." or as if they said "Gee, this character development thing is too hard. Say, is there anybody in the writing room who knows how to write a gay character?"
And Mad Men doesn't give me even one character I can really like. Even the Draper children are unlikable. Is it because the Mad Men writers are misanthropes whose dim view of humanity can't allow them to give us even one character who strives to be a better person?
At the very least, Mad Men writers have forgotten “Chekhov’s Gun”, the principle that "a pistol on the wall in the first act must be fired by the last act." What Chekhov was telling us about plot also applies to character development. You can’t show us the pistol named Dick Whitman stepping out of his old life and reinventing himself as Don Draper without also pulling the trigger that shows us why. You can’t show us a gay character, masquerading as a straight, married man of the 60s without showing us how difficult it is for him and his poor unsuspecting wife. You can’t show us the beautiful, college-educated, Italian-fluent Mrs. Draper without showing how she got to be so immature, self-absorbed and ditzy.
I think the reason I didn’t give up on Mad Men several episodes ago is because of the recurring themes of sociopathy and mind blindness. For example, there’s the scene in which the one-dimensional, mind-blind Campbell doesn’t know how he’s supposed to feel when his dad dies. Draper, who makes his living knowing, if not experiencing, the feelings of others, tells Campbell to go home from work because “it’s what people do.”
And there was the scene where silly, selfish Peggy aborts a baby none of her co-workers knew she was carrying. Draper tells Peggy how to “move forward” and never tell anybody about the abortion.
Draperganger, as I sometimes call Don Draper, may not feel genuine empathy for others but he knows what empathy looks like and he uses the appearance of empathy to manipulate others and to create ad campaigns that make people buy stuff.
I think I’ll give Mad Men one more episode. If they don’t start firing some of those character pistols they’ve strewn around the script, I’m going to go to bed early on Sunday nights.

07 October, 2009

What The Textbook Wars Forum Made Clear

“It started off about one thing and ended up about everything”. That’s how Calvin Skaggs, documentary maker and producer of "With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America", summed up the 1974 Kanawha County textbook controversy that others have called the “opening salvo” in the culture wars.

Skaggs offered this summary at last night’s Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society Forum "The Great Textbook War".

Throughout the evening and almost as if to validate and prove the accuracy of Skaggs’ observation, “anti-textbook” conservatives cited the “filthy” textbooks as the cause of such societal ills as out-of-wedlock pregnancies, violence in schools and sexual misconduct of schoolteachers with their students. The textbook controversy started off as one thing and ended up about everything.

Though I had graduated from St. Albans High School a year earlier, I lived through the “textbook wars” as did the entire Kanawha Valley and eventually the nation so I remember well how a controversy that started as objections to newly adopted textbooks ended up as a launching pad for the congressional career of “B1 Bob” Dornan, a cause celeb for the KKK. Everybody who lived in the Kanawha Valley at that time remembers that Rev Marvin Horan went to prison on charges related to the bombing of schools. What started off as objections to some non-standard English and some quotations from controversial writers ended up about politics and race and bombs and even “college-educated, South Hills liberal elites” against "ignorant, Bible-quoting rubes."

Five things became clear to me as I listened to remarks from both panelists and audience members. First, it became obvious to me that, even after 35 years, not much has changed. The “anti-textbook” protesters still think the 1974 textbooks were un-American, anti-Christian and dirty. The “pro-textbook” folks still suspect that protesters just didn’t want their kids exposed to the writings of feminists, blacks and, well, to multi-culturalism.

The second thing that became clear to me is that Republicans will continue to use these wedge cultural issues to get poor disenfranchised whites to vote against their own economic interests by electing Republican candidates – many of whom don’t attend church and don’t know doodly squat about Jesus or the culture the textbook protesters wanted to protect – who will further disenfranchise them. Not long after “B1 Bob” Dornan came to Kanawha County to establish his conservative bona fides, he was elected to the House of Representatives in Orange County, California.

The third thing that became clear is that you and I may have never heard of the conservative Heritage Foundation had they not skillfully used the textbook controversy to raise a lot of money. Dr. Kenneth Underwood, Kanawha County School Superintendent during the textbook wars, got the Heritage Foundation’s Connie Marshner to admit as much during the panel discussion last night.

Incidentally, Marshner was rude to the other panelists, interrupting them and taking their time at every opportunity. I was disappointed that moderator, Hoppy Kercheval, didn’t insist that Marshner shut up and let somebody else talk and I couldn’t help wondering if Kercheval would have allowed a liberal panelist to behave that way.

Fourth, Marshner made it clear that, if conservatives get their way, only rich people will be able to educate their kids because Republicans would be allowed to take their kids and their tax money out of the public schools effectively de-funding public education, the only kind of education poor kids can afford. Throughout the evening, Marshner missed no opportunity to indict public schools for failing to educate kids and kept talking about charter schools and school vouchers which, as all good liberals know, are just another way for conservatives to opt out of paying for something that might potentially benefit black people, poor white people, liberals or society as a whole.

And finally, I learned that the reason the textbook controversy started as one thing and ended up about everything is that these occasional battles in the “culture wars” have really always been about everything. Liberals and conservatives have two entirely different visions of what this nation should be. We always have. We always will.