Sunday, September 28, 2008

Librarians Against Sarah Palin

What a great thing it was to find a Wordpress blog called LIBRARIANS AGAINST SARAH PALIN: Like Chris says, human connection ROCKS. Okay, so I paraphrased. You get the point. So check out their blog.

From this point forward, my blog may take on a BANNED BOOKS theme, focused on Chris challenges, because suddenly we've received word of three different challenges to THE SLEDDING HILL and DEADLINE. Not such a huge departure from screaming FOUL agaisnt Palin, admittedly. But this time, it's personal.
Wait until you read Mark Rogers letter to Chris -- and even better, Chris's response. It's a think of sharp witted beauty. And it should be available later tonight here, on CC's blog, his MySpace and his website. The war is on! My money's on CC and free speech.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

NYT on Palin and her Wasilla censors

Thanks Jeff, for sharing this article with me!

Today's NYTimes has an extensive article on Sarah Palin's Alaska management style, including this excerpt on her interaction with the Wasilla library:

The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

To read the whole article, follow this link:

Friday, September 12, 2008

From CBS website & ABC News

More evidence from CBS News website and an ABC News report.
Yesterday, ABC News' Brian Ross moved the ball forward a bit, with an interesting report. Ross emphasized an angle I previously hadn't heard much about.
Palin was elected mayor thanks in large part to the strong backing of her church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, which, right around the time Palin took office, "began to focus on certain books available in local stores and in the town library, including one called 'Go Ask Alice,' and another one written by a local pastor, Howard Bess, called 'Pastor, I am Gay.'"
Palin became mayor, her church was interested in censorship, and soon after, Palin asked a "rhetorical" question about how books might be excluded from the public library. When the librarian resisted, she was, at least initially, fired.
The line from the McCain campaign has been that Palin never had any interest whatsoever in banning library books.
That seems increasingly difficult to believe.

Former Wasilla Librarian speaks

In this report, McCain's camp denies Palin ever considered pulling books. But the former Wasilla children's librarian had comments of her own.

"Mayor Palin gave us some terrible moments and some rather gut-wrenching moments, particularly when Mary Ellen said she was going to have to leave," Cathy Petrie, who managed the children's collection at the time at the Wasilla public library, told The Associated Press.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Library Journal coverage

And the Library Journal also featured this story today.

Wasilla Librarian Doesn’t Recall “Banned” Titles, but Reporter Does, Vaguely
Norman Oder -- Library Journal, 9/10/2008
First public statement by former library head
Newspaper reporter recalls titles, but memory unclear
Palin’s church concerned about book on gays; mayor's role murky

More details from

The St. Petersburg Times has a GREAT and fact filled account of Palin's skirmish with her librarian, including the fact that Emmons (left, now Baker) was the president of the Alaska Library Association when the questions were asked.

Read it all, if you have time, but a few key excerpts:

The most definitive record for much of this issue comes from a Dec. 18, 1996, article in the Wasilla newspaper, the Frontiersman. In that story, Wasilla library director Mary Ellen Emmons (now Mary Ellen Baker) said that after Palin was elected mayor, she twice inquired about censoring library books.

“I’m not trying to suppress anyone’s views,” Emmons told the Frontiersman. “But I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves.”

“This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,” Emmons said. “She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.”

Palin told the Frontiersman that she had no particular books or other material in mind when she posed the questions to Emmons.

In a written statement to the newspaper, Palin “said she was only trying to get acquainted with her staff” and that the question was “rhetorical.”

Also from the story:

“Emmons said Palin asked her on Oct. 28 if she would object to censorship, even if people were circling the library in protest about a book. ‘I told her it would definitely be a problem the ACLU would take on then,’ Emmons said.

“Asked who she thought might picket the library, Palin said Monday, ‘Had no one in mind ... again, the issue was discussed in the context of a professional question being asked in regards to library policy.’ ”

A message on her answering machine states: “I have nothing to add to reports from that time. I do not want to discuss the matter. Please respect my privacy.”

But the Frontiersman reporter [Paul Stuart] who wrote that article in 1996 now says Emmons told him Palin did mention three books that she wanted removed from the shelves.

“Mary Ellen told me that Palin asked her directly to remove these books from the shelves,” Stuart said. “She refused.”

ABC News: "Pastor, I am Gay" book challenge

ABC News featured the first statements by Mary Ellen Baker (married name), the Alaskan librarian caught in the Palin book challenge controversy today. The lead, by Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz and Anna Schecter says:

"The librarian at the center of a 1996 controversy with then-Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin says she can't recall any effort by Palin to ban specific books from the town library."

But the article goes on to explain there was a push to remove a book from a bookstore when Palin posed the censorship question "rhetorically." Twice.

"Palin's church...had been pushing for the removal a book called 'Pastor I Am Gay' from local bookstores, according to the book's author Pastor Howard Bess, of the Church of the Covenant in nearby Palmer, Alaska.

"'And she was one of them,' said Bess, 'this whole thing of controlling information, censorship, that's part of the scene,' said Bess. "

A local reporter remembers it a little differently, according to ABC.

The local newspaper reporter who covered the controversy, Paul Stuart, claims he was later told by the librarian that Palin wanted three specific books removed from the library.

In her statement to ABC News, the librarian said, "I am unable to dispute or substantiate the information Paul Stuart provided to you."

Stuart said he was confident of his memory. "She may have said that but that's not how it was."

Read the whole article for an objective look at what actually happened.

For more about "Pastor, I am Gay," follow this URL:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ed Koch backs Obama & librarians

According to the Washington Post, one time Bush and Giuliana supporter Edward Koch will back Obama in part because Sarah Palin, "Scares the hell out of me."

According to reporter Keith B. Richburg:

In a telephone interview, Koch made clear that one reason for his support for his Obama was the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket. "She scares the hell out of me," Koch said. "She wanted to censor books at the local library" in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was mayor, Koch said. Palin asked the librarian who refused the censorship request to resign but later relented and the librarian kept her job.

Read the rest of Koch's reasoning here:

CBS News on Palin and Book Banning

CBS reporter Steve Benen dipped his pen into the Palin/banned book story today, saying the McCain camp was denying the list we'd all confirmed was bogus days ago. But he also raised a really good question. He said...

I can understand why the McCain campaign is pushing back against a bogus list that's making the rounds. Deceptive claims are deceptive claims, no matter who the target is. But as long as McCain aides are talking about this issue, maybe they can answer a couple of additional questions, such as, "Why did Palin try to fire the librarian in the first place?" Or how about, "Why did Palin broach the subject of book-banning if she had no intention of trying to ban books?"

Great question, Steve. Anyone wanna calculate the odds of Palin honestly answering, if she wasn't hiding from the press? What else IS she hiding?

To read the whole article, look here:

More on Palin and the Wasilla librarian.

Today's Boston Herald reprinted a piece by Seattle Times reporters Ken Armstrong and Hal Bernton, headline: SARAH PALIN HAD TURBULENT FIRST YEAR AS MAYOR OF ALASKA TOWN.

In it, they reveal that Palin offended so many of her 616 voters a recall was threatened. The straw that nearly broke that camel's back was the threat to fire the town police chief and the head librarian for disloyalty after she strongly opposed the idea of banning books. Twice.

"After notifying the librarian that she was fired, Palin backtracked and decided to keep her on. Palin had twice asked this librarian what she thought about banning books, to which the librarian responded it was a lousy idea, one she wouldn’t go along with. Later, Palin told the local paper that any questions she’d raised about censorship were only 'rhetorical.'"

Rhetorical? Twice?

More of this powerful article:

"Palin put in place what the local paper called a gag order, prohibiting top city employees from talking to reporters unless she cleared it first.

"After Stambaugh [police chief] and the museum director were fired, two of the four remaining department heads quit. One, the public-works director, accused Palin of undermining him by meeting secretly with contractors and employees.

"When three women who worked at the city’s museum were asked to decide among themselves which one should be let go, all three quit.

"Palin tried to fill two vacancies on the City Council herself, even though an ordinance said that wasn’t her prerogative. It was the council’s. After the city attorney stopped Palin, the mayor said she’d merely engaged in a ploy. 'It was brilliant maneuvering I had to do to deal with the impasse,' she told the Frontiersman.

"The Frontiersman ran blistering editorials, condemning Palin’s philosophy 'that either we are with her or against her.' The newspaper accused Palin of mistaking the 616 votes she received as a 'coronation.' "

And here's the topper. About this job, the one she now says prepared her to step in if proposed President McCain is unable to serve:

"When asked how she would run the city without experienced department heads, she responded, ’It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.’ "

PLEASE read the rest of the article HERE, and please vote wisely:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Palin's Alleged Censorship Caper, Part II

According to a Detroit Free Press article dated September 5, there MAY not have been a list of offending books behind Palin's challenge to the Wasilla librarian.

Many publications have reported an incident early in her tenure when she asked the library director about censoring books in the library's collection. The town’s Frontiersman newspaper said Palin didn't ask about specific books. "I told her clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves," library director Mary Ellen Emmons told the paper at the time.

Palin later described her inquiry as "rhetorical" and a way to get to know the city employees.
Emmons soon was among a group of employees Palin sought to fire, but was allowed to keep her job. A letter circulated to newspapers including the Free Press by Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny says Emmons kept her job because residents rallied to her support.

I'll keep looking, since Emmons isn't quoted in support of the alleged explanation.

Sarah Palin vs Free Speech

On Wednesday, September 3, I accidentally broke a listserv rule when I posted this statement:

From the People for the American Way (I've found three other sources to back this up in news archives)

People For Response to Revelations of Palin’s Attempted Book Banning

Time Magazine today reports that Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to ban books from her local library as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and then threatened to fire the librarian who stood up to her for not giving “full support” to the mayor. People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement:
“People can disagree about a lot of things, but censorship is completely beyond the pale. Our democracy was founded on the belief that government shouldn’t tell people what kinds of books to read or what kind of beliefs to hold. No one with that kind of history should be anywhere near the White House. Sarah Palin needs to clarify her stance on freedom of speech immediately, and John McCain needs to explain why he chose a running mate with so little regard for the Constitution.”

Rather than cause further frustration on that list, I promised to post updates here on my blog. I was concerned by the concept of censored expression at first, but it's probably better to post here, in the long run.

The three sources I sited that supported the post are these:

Time Magazine

Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

New York Times

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.
The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

Anchorage Daily News

February 1997

(pay per view, but I did pay to r eview this article)

Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin fired the city's police chief and the library director without warning Thursday, accusing them of not fully supporting her efforts to govern. Irl Stambaugh and Mary Ellen Emmons said letters signed by Palin were dropped on their desks Thursday afternoon telling them their jobs were over as of Feb. 13 and that they no longer needed to report to work. Emmons has been the city's library director for seven years. Stambaugh has headed the police department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he served 22 years with the Anchorage Police Department rising to the rank of captain before retiring. While both struggled with Palin when she was first elected in October, they said the letters caught them off guard.

Anchorage Daily News

February 1997

(a second pay per view article)

City librarian Mary Ellen Emmons will stay, but Police Chief Irl Stambaugh is on his own, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin announced Friday. The decision came one day after letters signed by Palin were dropped on Stambaugh's and Emmon's desks, telling them their jobs were over as of Feb. 13.

The mayor told them she appreciated their service but felt it was time for a change. ''I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment ...'' the letter said.

Palin said Friday she no w feels Emmons supports her but does not feel the same about Stambaugh. As to what prompted the change, Palin said she now has Emmons' assurance that she is behind her. She refused to give details about how Stambaugh has not supported her, saying only that ''You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.''Emmons, who has been the city's library director for seven years, would not comment about the affair.

These are only allegations, and while I've tried to track down a list of supposedly offending titles, I have been unsuccessful. One list was circulated but included Harry Potter titles not yet published in February of 1997. I will keep searching for information but unless I find three reliable sources supporting the "facts" I won't post about it here. I studied journalism. Trying to be accurate matters to me, though we all come up short from time to time.

I did find a new report in today's New York Times that offers one possible explanation. I'll post it next.

Many thanks to the authors, editors and other book professionals who supported me. And my apologies to anyone I upset.