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Public Eye



It's never too soon for politicians to start with the posturing and publicity stunts, even if the election is a year away. Or in the case of U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, three.

Now, we've tried to keep our mouth shut over the Boulder Public Library's recent U.S. flag/penis exhibit controversy, honest. But we just can't. It's just too irresistible. Everyone involved needs a reprimand, with the possible exception of artist Susanne Walker, who created the display designed to raise awareness of domestic violence. For those who have been blissfully unaware, earlier this month the director of the Boulder Public Library, Marcellee Gralapp, refused to hang a large American flag at the public building, claiming it might offend some people's sensibilities. For shame.

When citizen Bob Rowan heard about the flag ban, he went to the library and stole 21 ceramic penises that were hanging along a clothesline inside the library's art gallery. The display, called "Hanging 'Em Out To Dry," was part of an exhibit to call attention to the terror of domestic violence; it was hung, not in the kids' or any other general section of the library, but in a separate gallery. The admitted thief, who left a calling card announcing "El Dildo Bandito was here," later explained his rationale: "It's a real kick in the groin to our boys overseas." Rowan deserves a stern lecture for his pigishness and grandstanding.

The Boulder police department initially declined to charge Rowan with any crime, drawing ire from the Boulder County chapter of the ACLU, which demanded the penis thief be arrested to protect Boulder citizens' First Amendment rights. A rap with a nightstick to the Boulder cops, who never seem to get around to arresting anyone (Rowan was eventually charged with tampering), and another to the ACLU chapter for cashing in on the publicity and not finding more important civil liberties violations to attack.

But the biggest admonishment goes to U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who weighed in by sending a letter to Boulder Mayor William Toor in which Campbell claims that he, the senior U.S. senator from Colorado, is the true stamper-outer of domestic violence. Campbell accompanied the letter with an American flag that has flown over the nation's Capitol -- a gesture of good will, he said, to the people of Boulder.

"While I cannot personally imagine who would be offended by the display of our flag, as an artist, I find it contradictory that the manager of [the] Boulder Public Library initially refused to fly the flag for fear of offending some members of the community but decided the display of artistic images of male genitalia would not violate the sensibilities of some, especially the youngsters who use the library," Campbell, who also makes jewelry, lambasted in his letter, which was dispatched to the media. Hmmm. Campbell, who is proud of his Native American ancestry, just can't imagine anyone who might be offended by the American flag. Hmmm.

Anyway, his note was also accompanied by a press release, ludicrously headlined "Campbell stamps out domestic violence," announcing his legislation to create a semi-annual postal stamp designed to raise awareness about domestic violence. Similar to the popular breast cancer stamp that was introduced earlier this year, the stamp will cost slightly more than its actual value, with additional funds going to federal Health and Human Services programs for victims of domestic violence.

A worthwhile cause, but the timing of Campbell's pomposity was annoyingly self-serving.


Speaking of big-headedness, don't miss Rick Stanley's upcoming Big Event. The Libertarian Stanley plans to get arrested for carrying a loaded pistol in a holster outside the state Capitol in Denver on Dec. 15 while celebrating the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Stanley is running against incumbent Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Tom Strickland for the U.S. Senate next year. But you wouldn't know it by reading the Rocky Mountain News, which declined to publish third party candidates in its voters' guides last year, prompting a noisy Stanley protest in front of the newspaper's Denver headquarters.

"Please stay away if you are a coward, a psycho, a liberal whiner, or a citizen who just wants to be safe and comfortable; or who doesn't have the time to defend your Constitution, which is the basis of the American Republic," noted Stanley in a press release announcing his impending arrest.

That's the kind of talk that really translates into votes.


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