Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Parents, Florida Knows Best

Joanna Pearlstein in The New York Times on the mixed-up, dangerous, and unconstitutional priorities of Gov. Batsin D. Belfry:

Parents know what’s best for their kids, except when the State of Florida does.

When Florida passed a law prohibiting children younger than 14 from having social media accounts, lawmakers crowed about the move, claiming they had to act because children don’t have the brain development to see the harm in addictive platforms.

In other words, under the new law, even if parents want their tweens to have a social media account, they’re out of luck. Florida knows better. (The state doesn’t allow parents to decide about the merits of gender-affirming care for their kids either.)

But Florida is happy to let parents make decisions about other matters of vital importance to children’s well-being. Consider: When measles broke out in an elementary school in Weston in February, Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, let parents determine whether to keep their unvaccinated children at home.

Those measles cases “received disproportionate attention for political reasons,” according to a March 8 statement from the Florida Department of Health. Or maybe it was statistical ones: So far this year the United States has recorded 64 cases of measles (more than in all of 2023); 11 of those were in Florida. Meaning that a state with 6.5 percent of the nation’s population has hosted 17.2 percent of its measles cases.

Still: “Once again, Florida has shown that good public health policy includes personal responsibility and parents’ rights,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in the March 8 statement. About 92 percent of students in Florida are fully vaccinated, according to health officials; the state is one of 45 that let parents skip their children’s shots for religious or moral reasons.

Because measles is so transmissible — nine of 10 unvaccinated people in a room will get the disease if one infected person sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — scientists estimate that 95 percent of a population needs to be immunized in order to achieve herd immunity.

Protecting children from social media is a laudable goal. It won’t be easy to kick children off social media platforms; the tech companies acknowledge they don’t really know how old their users are, and they’ve yet to fully roll out long-promised age-verification systems.

That leaves parents to rely on their elected officials, who have empowered themselves to safeguard children from digital boogeymen. But not viral ones.

How many kids have died from watching a video on Facebook?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Say It Loud And Proud

From the Associated Press:

ORLANDO, Fla. — Students and teachers will be able to speak freely about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms, provided it’s not part of instruction, under a settlement reached Monday between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys who had challenged a state law which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

The settlement clarifies what is allowed in Florida classrooms following passage two years ago of the law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. Opponents said the law had created confusion about whether teachers could identity themselves as LGBTQ or if they even could have rainbow stickers in classrooms.

Other states used the Florida law as a template to pass prohibitions on classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and North Carolina are among the states with versions of the law.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Florida Board of Education will send instructions to every school district saying the Florida law doesn’t prohibit discussing LGBTQ people, nor prevent anti-bullying rules on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or disallow Gay-Straight Alliance groups. The settlement also spells out that the law is neutral — meaning what applies to LGBTQ people also applies to heterosexual people — and that it doesn’t apply to library books not being used in the classroom.

“What this settlement does, is, it re-establishes the fundamental principal, that I hope all Americans agree with, which is every kid in this country is entitled to an education at a public school where they feel safe, their dignity is respected and where their families and parents are welcomed,” Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview. “This shouldn’t be a controversial thing.”

In a statement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office described the deal as a “major win” with the law remaining intact.

Of course DeSantis would call it a “win” because the law technically is still on the books.  But so is the 18th Amendment to the Constitution banning liquor, repealed by the 21st.  The “Don’t Say Gay” bill may still be “intact,” but it’s powerless.

This is the second time in two weeks that DeSantis’s “anti-woke” agenda has been knocked down.  Last week it was the ban on diversity in private businesses, deemed to be a First Amendment sin.

Some guys never learn, but at least the kids will.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

“A First Amendment Sin”

Gov. Batsin D. Belfry (RWN-FL) got slammed by a federal appeals court for his “Stop Woke” bullshit.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a ruling that blocked Florida from enforcing a law, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that restricts how private companies teach diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Monday that the “Stop Woke Act” “exceeds the bounds” of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression in its attempts to regulate workplace trainings on race, color, sex and national origin. The appeals court upheld a federal judge’s August 2022 ruling that said the same.

“By limiting its restrictions to a list of ideas designated as offensive, the Act targets speech based on its content. And by barring only speech that endorses any of those ideas, it penalizes certain viewpoints — the greatest First Amendment sin,” Judge Britt C. Grant wrote in Monday’s opinion.

The “Stop Woke Act” was approved by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature in March 2022. The act was one of DeSantis’s top priorities, and before he dropped out as a possible candidate for president in 2024, it was a routine talking point on the campaign trail.

Offices for DeSantis and the Florida attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night.

He ran for president bragging that Florida was the place where “woke” went to die.  Wake up, Bootsie; the only thing that died was your delusions of grandeur.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Happy Friday

Cabana Boy has been selected for the 2024 Valdez Theatre Conference, June 8 through 15 in Valdez, Alaska.

Ron DeSantis doesn’t like it when parents take him at his word and try to control what books to read or not read.

A year into Florida’s supercharged debate on book challenges, Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling on state lawmakers to take action against “bad actors” that he says are misinterpreting state laws for political gain.

“If people are abusing this process to try and muddy those waters then we have to have some reforms,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday in which he blamed activists who challenge too many books and school leaders who he claimed are “intentionally” withholding books.

The full details of the plan remain in the works. But DeSantis — who for years has made parental involvement in book challenges a key part of his political platform — said he is directing the Florida Department of Education to craft rules that will hold educators accountable if they go beyond what state law requires them to do. He also signaled support for a legislative proposal that would fine residents who file frivolous complaints.

“Let’s not let people try and hijack the process,” he said. “We don’t have time for your political agenda.”

The decision to crack down on the what DeSantis called the politicization of book challenges comes as Florida has become a hot spot in the clash over what reading material is appropriate for children, with the help of a broad state law that made it easier for parents and residents to object to instructional materials and books in schools.

To comply with the law, school districts across the state have temporarily removed hundreds of books from shelves while they review them to ensure compliance with the state’s content standards.

At least 1,400 titles have been pulled from shelves in Florida public schools, more so than any other state during the past school year, according to data collected by the group PEN America between July 2022 and July 2023. Among the titles that have been removed from circulation in some grades are encyclopedias, dictionaries, Toni Morrison’s first book “The Bluest Eye,” and the poem The Hill We Climb, which was recited by poet Amanda Gorman at the Jan. 20, 2021, inauguration of President Joe Biden.

DeSantis did not assign blame on the vague laws that have driven many of the challenges.

Of course he didn’t assign blame because it’s him, the flaming jackass.  But this is what happens when you campaign on authoritarian ideas and pass draconian — and freedom-throttling — laws.

Sheesh.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

That First Amendment Is A Bitch, Ron

From the New York Times:

Dealing a blow to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a federal court of appeals on Wednesday ruled that he had violated First Amendment protections when he suspended a progressive state prosecutor for political gain.

The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, undercut Mr. DeSantis on an episode he has made a key credential in his presidential campaign. Mr. DeSantis forced Andrew Warren, a Democratic state attorney representing the Tampa area, out of office in August 2022 after he had spoken out against Republican policies on abortion and transgender rights.

On the campaign trail, Mr. DeSantis has used the suspension of Mr. Warren, who had been elected to his post twice, to illustrate his strong-arm approach to progressive public officials who push what he calls a “woke” agenda.

The court on Wednesday vacated a decision from a federal judge in Tallahassee in January 2023 not to reinstate Mr. Warren, who has fought the suspension in court, arguing that it violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Now, that judge must reconsider his ruling.

Testimony and records released as part of a late 2022 trial in the case revealed the extent to which the removal of Mr. Warren was motivated by a desire to bolster Mr. DeSantis’s political standing. The district court judge, Robert L. Hinkle, ruled that Mr. DeSantis did not violate Mr. Warren’s First Amendment rights when he suspended him for his own political benefit.

But in its 59-page decision, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously ruled that Mr. DeSantis did violate Mr. Warren’s First Amendment rights. The panel said Mr. DeSantis needed to prove that Mr. Warren’s performance and policies were the reason he was suspended, and not his personal views on matters such as abortion.

DeSantis has been running on Mr. Warren’s ouster as proof he’s the King Shit of Anti-Woke Mountain… and it’s falling apart as fast as his presidential campaign.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Lying About Crime

One of Ron DeSantis’s talking/bragging points about why he should be the next president is that he and he alone has lowered the crime rate in Florida to the point that it’s a paradise.

But of course it’s bullshit.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s top law enforcement officials were repeatedly warned by their own staff that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ claim that the state’s crime rate is at a 50-year low — a message he often uses as part of his presidential campaign — was based on incomplete data that makes the accuracy of the claim impossible to verify.

Despite those warnings, DeSantis continued to promote the numbers on the campaign trail, three former officials with Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) familiar with the matter told NBC News.

“The ethics of what we were reporting, we knew the numbers were bad,” a former FDLE employee told NBC News. “We foot-stomped it to leadership over and over again; they did not care. They did not care.”

“We were soldiers, though,” the person said, adding that the department’s bosses asked staff members to produce numbers even though the staff members had doubts about them — still, “we did it.”

That’s not to say that the crime rate here has skyrocketed.  It’s that the data is incomplete, and so the DeSantis campaign is using old numbers.  What’s more troubling is that the folks who are responsible for reporting the numbers are being forced to support him for the purposes of campaigning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

These Boots Were Made For Something

Humor from Andy Borowitz:

TALLAHASSEE (The Borowitz Report)—Faced with mounting campaign bills and dwindling donations, Ron DeSantis revealed on Friday that he had been forced to sell his beloved white go-go boots.

The Florida governor appeared anguished by the loss of his go-go boots, which aides disclosed were by far the most cherished footwear he owned.

DeSantis said that he had tried to make cuts elsewhere to preserve his ownership of the boots but that, “in the end, the numbers didn’t add up.”

“In a perfect world, I could run for President and own white go-go boots,” he said. “Sadly, we do not live in that world.”

He’s gonna have to settle for Jimmy Buffett’s old flip-flops.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Taking It To The Street

The monthly board meeting of Miami-Dade County Public Schools had some voices on the street.  From the AP:

MIAMI (AP) — Dozens of teachers, students and labor leaders marched to a Miami school district headquarters Wednesday to protest Florida’s new standards for teaching Black history, which have come under intense criticism for what they say about slavery.

The protesters who marched to the School Board of Miami-Dade County objected to new curriculum standards that, among other things, require teachers to instruct middle school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has repeatedly defended the new language while insisting that his critics, including Vice President Kamala Harris and two leading Black Republicans in Congress, are intentionally misinterpreting one line of the sweeping curriculum.

“These new state standards that DeSantis has come up with will not be tolerated in our schools. We will not let our children be taught that slaves benefited from their slavery. That’s a lie,” said march organizer Marvin Dunn, a professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University.

About 50 protesters who started the 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) trek from Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami’s historically Black Overtown neighborhood chanted, “What do we want? Truth. When do we want it? Now. What if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”

They were greeted by another 50 protesters at the school board building, where speakers addressed the crowd. Among them was Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson who was propelled into the national spotlight after being expelled from the Republican-dominated legislative body for leading a gun control protest on the House floor. He was reinstated by local officials and then won a special election.

“The true history is that Black people have always fought to make America what it ought to be, and it has always resisted what it could be,” Pearson told the crowd. “We’ve always fought for the America that we know is possible. That is not here yet.”

Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president, traveled to Florida last month to condemn the curriculum. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is the chamber’s sole Black Republican and is also seeking the White House, issued a direct rebuke of DeSantis.

Critics said the new school standards are the latest in a series of attacks on Black history by the governor’s administration. At the beginning of the year, DeSantis’ administration blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it was contrary to state law.

DeSantis also has pushed through the “Stop WOKE Act,” a law that limits discussions on race in schools and by corporations, and banned state universities from using state or federal money for diversity programs.

It’s a bit ironic that the white patriarchy right-wingers want to end diversity programs in Miami, because white folks are in the minority in Miami-Dade County.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Sunday Reading

“Don’t Speak The Speech, I Pray You…” — Charles P. Pierce on DeSantizing the Bard.

The state of Florida is still under the nominal political control of its meathead governor, Ronald DeSantis, who currently is wandering the gentle hills and green pastures of Iowa, rehearsing his Homo sapiens imitation. (It still needs work.). But his spirit rocks on in the effort to make sure the state produces a generation of historical and literary illiterates. The latest target— that woke bastid William Shakespeare. From the Tampa Bay Times:

Students will be assigned pages from the classics, which might include “Macbeth,” “Hamlet” and the time-honored teen favorite, “Romeo and Juliet.” But if they want to read them in their entirety, they will likely have to do it on their own time. School district officials said they redesigned their instructional guides for teachers because of revised state teaching standards and a new set of state exams that cover a vast array of books and writing styles. “It was also in consideration of the law,” said school district spokeswoman Tanya Arja, referring to the newly expanded Parental Rights in Education Act. The measure, promoted and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, tells schools to steer clear of content and class discussion that is sexual in nature unless it is related to a standard, such as health class.

What on earth does this leave us with? Romeo and Juliet never going past first base? A eunuch Macbeth and his sexless wife? Benedick, hanging his actual bugle in an actual — not invisible, not metaphorical — baldric? No rape in Titus Andronicus? No woodland canoodling in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? No cross-dressing in Twelfth Night? Perhaps the greatest writing in the English language parceled out to students piecemeal?

There are ways that students can read these works in their entirety, district officials said. If a student can obtain a copy of one of the books or plays, perhaps with the help of their parents, they can do so. But teachers are advised, during class lessons, to stay with the approved guidelines, which call for excerpts. If not, in extreme circumstances, they might have to defend themselves against a parent complaint or a disciplinary case at their school.

I don’t know what this is, but it’s not education. And neither is this, god knows. From Slate:

Despite its name, PragerU isn’t a university—or any kind of accredited educational institution. It was founded in 2009 by Dennis Prager, a conservative talk show host previously known for being a less inflammatory voice of the right. Prager, convinced that the key to a brighter future was to instill college students with conservative values, first dreamed of an actual university. But he and his co-founder soon realized that the venture would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, PragerU, a nonprofit, pivoted quickly to creating free, slickly produced educational videos as conservative counterprogramming. Its “5 Minute Ideas” videos proved particularly popular, relying often on misleading or even outright false claims about U.S. history, and racking up millions of views on YouTube. High school and college students across the country meet on campus in support of PragerU content and gather at annual conferences. A host of prominent right-wing figures, including Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro, have supported PragerU, either by speaking out in support or appearing in the content itself. It earned some $20 million in net revenue in 2021—largely from contributions.

I am in the wrong damn business. In any case, the heirs to Frederick Douglass probably have a cause of action here.

In another video, Frederick Douglass teaches the children the virtues of patience and compromise in activism. The children get upset when seeing activists call for abolishing the police and protesters destroying cars on TV. (Leo also complains that his math teacher has given him a social justice assignment.) Douglass—another person born into slavery—reassures the children that “our founding fathers knew that slavery was evil and wrong and they knew it would do terrible harm to the nation” but that they were forced to be patient. “I’m certainly not OK with slavery, but the founding fathers made a compromise to achieve something great: the making of the United States,” Douglass says. He, like Washington, boasts of America’s role in ending slavery worldwide and complains about “radical” abolitionists. “Our system is wonderful, and the Constitution is a glorious liberty document,” he says. “We just need to convince enough Americans to be true to it.”

In what we like to call reality, Douglass was nothing like this. He did business with John Brown, who was as radical as abolitionists got prior to the Civil War. In 1881, Douglass delivered a memorable address in Brown’s memory at Harpers Ferry, which is where Brown’s most famous act of abolitionism took place. Douglass said,

“Did John Brown fail? Ask Clement C. Vallandingham, one other of the inquisitorial party; for he too went down in the tremendous whirlpool created by the powerful hand of this bold invader. If John Brown did not end the war that ended slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery. If we look over the dates, places and men for which this honor is claimed, we shall find that not Carolina, but Virginia, not Fort Sumter, but Harpers Ferry, and the arsenal, not Col. Anderson, but John Brown, began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. Until this blow was struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one of words, votes and compromises.

“When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone – the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union – and the clash of arms was at hand. The South staked all upon getting possession of the Federal Government, and failing to do that, drew the sword of rebellion and thus made her own, and not Brown’s, the lost cause of the century.”

Hell, Afro-Sheen treated Douglass’ memory with more respect than Prager’s poisonous intellectual history porn does. And certainly with more respect than Hillsborough County is treating Shakespeare. Once more into the ditch, dear friends.

Doonesbury — Help is available.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

The Right Kind Of Indoctrination

Gov. Ron DeSantis bullied the state of Florida’s educators into removing any kind of instruction that had the whiff of left-wing indoctrination, which in his mind is anything that tells the truth about the history of America and slavery.  To replace such instruction, he staffed it out to a right-wing propaganda unit.

The Tampa Tribune:

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly says he opposes indoctrination in schools. Yet his administration in early July approved materials from a conservative group that says it’s all about indoctrination and “changing minds.”

The Florida Department of Education determined that educational materials geared toward young children and high school studentscreated by PragerU, a nonprofit co-founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager, was in alignment with the state’s standards on how to teach civics and government to K-12 students.

The content — some of which is narrated by conservative personalities such as Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson — features cartoons, five-minute video history lessons and story-time shows for young children and is part of a brand called PragerU Kids. And the lessons share a common message: Being pro-American means aligning oneself to mainstream conservative talking points.

“We are in the mind-changing business and few groups can say that,” Prager says in a promotional video for PragerU as a whole. He reiterated that sentiment this summer at a conference for the conservative group Moms for Liberty in Philadelphia, saying it is “fair” to say PragerU indoctrinates children.

“It’s true we bring doctrines to children,” Prager told the group. “But what is the bad of our indoctrination?”

The governor’s office and the Florida Department of Education declined to say how PragerU’s mission and statements align with state law and DeSantis’ vow to ensure Florida classroom instruction does not indoctrinate or persuade students to accept a specific viewpoint.

PragerU is not an accredited university, and it publicly says the group is a “force of good” against the left. It’s a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that produces videos that touch on a range of themes, including climate policies (specifically how “energy poverty, not climate change” is the real crisis), the flaws of Canada’s government-run health care system (and how the American privatized system is better), and broad support for law enforcement (and rejection of Black Lives Matter). In some cases, the videos tell kids that their teachers are “misinformed” or “lying.”

Some videos talk about the history of race relations and slavery. In one video, two kids travel back in time to meet Christopher Columbus, who tells them that he should not be judged for enslaving people because the practice was “no big deal” in his time. Columbus argued to the kids that he did not see a problem with it because “being taken as a slave is better than being killed.”

In another video titled “A Short History of Slavery” and narrated by Owens, she says that the first thing kids need to know is that “slavery was not invented by white people” and that it also took place in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She also says “white people were the first to put an end to slavery” when it was abolished by Britain in 1834.

At least they’re upfront about calling it indoctrination instead of “alternative facts.”

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Sunday Reading

No Way To Teach History — Charlie Pierce.

At the end of the week, the Florida Board of Education approved new standards for how American history should be taught to that state’s students in that state’s public school. This, of course, is a direct result of Governor Ron DeSantis’s “War On Woke,” on which he’s attempting to ride to the White House, but which the available evidence says won’t even get him to Cedar Rapids. However, the damage he can do to Florida is serious, deep, and ongoing. The new standards by which American history will be taught look as though they were devised by Strom Thurmond on some very good mushrooms. From CNN:

The new standards require instruction for middle school students to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” a document listing the standards and posted in the Florida Department of Education website said. When high school students learn about events such as the 1920 Ocoee massacre, the new rules require that instruction include “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.” The massacre is considered the deadliest Election Day violence in US history and, according to several histories of the incident, it started when Moses Norman, a prominent Black landowner in the Ocoee, Florida, community, attempted to cast his ballot and was turned away by White poll workers. Similar standards are noted for lessons about other massacres, including the Atlanta race massacre, the Tulsa race massacre and the Rosewood race massacre. 

I was particularly intrigued by the instruction that the curriculum include “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.Given that the list provided by the Board is composed entirely of violence by white mobs against Black citizens — Tulsa, Rosewood, and the turn of the century race riots in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. — this equivocation reeks of trying to apply the standards of Both Sides Do It to racial violence. Even if you count Nat Turner, and that’s very arguable, this is a preposterous way to teach history, but it’s a great way to teach profitable ignorance. I know that first-hand, about which more anon.

The only reason I can come up with for that curious “and by African Americans” equivocation is that it might distressingly be referring to attempts by the victims of those bloody episodes to fight back. For example, the Ocoee Massacre, which occurred on election day in 1920. Armed members of the Klan prevented Black citizens from voting. A man named Mose Norman was particularly insistent to the point that the Klan and its affiliates went looking for him at the home of July Perry, a influential man among Ocoee’s Black community. From the Florida History Blog:

The group’s leader, a military veteran and former police chief of Orlando named Sam Salisbury, knocked on the door of the wood-framed home. Perry knew they were cornered and reluctantly answered the door. The officer insisted that Perry must come with him, to which the 51-year-old replied, “Yes suh, boss, let me get my coat.” At that moment, Salisbury grabbed Perry by the arm and put him in a headlock, thinking he might run. Perry’s daughter Coretha responded by placing a rifle in the officer’s belly. Salisbury instinctively brushed the weapon aside. In that intense moment, the gun fired, shooting the officer in the right arm; he retreated out of the door and rolled on the ground to escape.

With only Perry’s family inside, a volley of gunfire erupted in both directions. Two of Salisbury’s men, Elmer McDaniels and Leo Borgard, were killed when they tried to storm the house by kicking in the backdoor. Coretha was also shot in the arm, possibly by a stray bullet from her father’s gun. Though the wound was not life-threatening, she had a scar for the rest of her life.

The story goes that the family so valiantly defended their home that some were convinced there was a large group inside. The mob retreated temporarily to get reinforcements and manpower from Klan members in surrounding cities. 

The Perry family used the two or three-hour respite to escape the house. July had been seriously wounded during the incident and fled, with the help of his wife, into a nearby sugar cane patch. While her two young brothers hid in the barn, Coretha remained in the house to tend to her injuries alone.

By the time it was over, an estimated 58 Black citizens were dead, their community centers and churches were burned to the ground, and July Perry had been lynched on a telephone pole outside a country club. Now, this would be a helluva discussion topic in a history class — the role of violence in self-defense against oppressors. Was Coretha Perry right to draw down on the cops trying to haul her father away? Of course, to have that discussion, you would have to describe in some detail the oppression against which someone like Coretha Perry was defending herself. And that would be, I guess, “woke,” and we can’t have that.

What’s really distressing to me is the knowledge that what DeSantis and his hirelings on the Board of Education are attempting to bring back is the truncated, bloodless American history that I was taught in elementary and in high school. I am the product of 11 years of Catholic education — seven with the Sisters of St. Joseph and four with the Xaverian Brothers. I treasure what I learned from all of them. (I still remember the day in sixth grade when Sr. Marie de Paul told me, “Charles, maybe you should be a writer when you grow up.” Made it, Sis! Top of the world!) But the history they taught left an awful lot out. All of the European history I learned was tangled up with an equally pale version of Church history.

(Why did I have to wait to be almost 40 to learn about the Cadaver Synod, perhaps my favorite historical event of all time?)

American history taught me that Manifest Destiny was largely an unusually clever land deal and that indigenous people were natural obstacles to it, like rivers or coyotes. The Civil War was about a clash of economic systems, and a dispute over states rights. Reconstruction was a matter of carpetbaggers and scalawags looting the defeated South. We skipped from the Industrial Revolution (America is on the move!) to World War I (A noble cause) to the Depression to World War II. And then everything went sideways while dealing with the Soviet Union. It wasn’t until I got to my senior year in high school, with the Vietnam debacle at high tide and some of the Xaverian Brothers having turned hippie on us in the wake of Vatican II, that it was intimated that the United States had lost quite a bit of its mind over Communism.

I’ve been filling in the gaps ever since, all the way through college and beyond. I have found American history to be richer and fuller and, God knows, more ambiguous in its morality than I was led to believe. (In college, I took a history course from a professor who taught the American Revolution from the British perspective. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but I stood by my ancestors and refused to rise when he played God Save The Queen.) I now know as much about Denmark Vesey and Crazy Horse as I do about Paul Revere and Ulysses Grant. And I am so much the better for it.

Woman, said I, I’ve heard that every fellow in this place is called Jams O’Donnell. If that’s the way it is, it’s a wonderful world we have and isn’t O’Donnell a wonderful man and the number of children he has.

— Flann O’Brien, The Poor Mouth (An Beal Bocht)

Bonaparte O’Coonassa, the hapless hero of the novel, is beaten with an oar on his first day of school by a schoolmaster who insists Bonaparte’s name is Jams O’Donnell. It turns out that he has insisted this was the case for every child in the benighted burg of Corkadoragha. Erasure of this sort is the first tool of colonial oppression. There are very few African Americans who know what their true family names are. Native American children were shipped off to boarding schools operating on the principle of, “Kill the Indian. Save the man,” and some of them never came back. Throughout my adult life, talented historians have worked to fill in the gaps in our common humanity that were torn by centuries of colonial oppression. It was an energizing process of simple validation through understanding and empathy. Plus, it was absolutely fascinating.  And now it is under direct assault by the likes of Ron DeSantis and his pet Board of Education, who evidently want to take our future generation back to the amnesiac history that people of my generation were taught.

This is a threat to freedom, exactly the kind of “tyranny over the mind of man” that Thomas Jefferson swore eternal hostility “on the altar of God.” And, thanks to those historians — like, for example, the great Annette Gordon-Reed — that DeSantis wants to ignore, we have a better idea of TJ’s deeply flawed humanity and we are better for it. As the Irish playwright Brian Friel wrote in his masterful Translations, his play about colonial erasure of the Irish language and culture.

It is not the literal past, the ‘facts’ of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language…we must never cease renewing those images; because once we do, we fossilize.

Doonesbury — Free at last.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday Reading

Slapping DeSantis Silly — Charles P. Pierce.

It used to be easier to mock the Republicans for their unyielding loyalty to their corporate masters. It was a straight line from the executive suite to the executive branch. It was the basis for Lewis Powell’s famous memo that suggested in 1971 using the party’s big-money connections to create what we now know as the permanent wingnut-welfare apparatus, which is now in its sixth decade of producing young, ambitious conservatives for employment in Congress, in the administrative agencies, and in the federal courts. Operating under the premise that American corporations were beset by leftists, Powell wrote:

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible. In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it.

The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed. But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

Just being good citizens just wasn’t going to cut it with Lewis Powell anymore. Building libraries, and bankrolling Little Leagues, and creating jobs wasn’t enough anymore. Not for Lewis Powell. Not with William Kunstler and Ralph Nader on the prowl. Not with universities chock-full of history professors in Bakuninite drag. This memo was the financial bedrock on which the intellectual charlatanism of modern conservatism was able to build and thrive, and Powell ended up on the Supreme Court for his trouble, where he worked to further cement Republican Party, and the conservative movement that energized it, to the people paying the bills. Once on the Supreme Court, Powell gave the recipients of his memo a clear demonstration of what he was proposing.

In 1978, writing for the majority in First National Bank v. Bellotti, Powell cut the first few yards of the path through the country’s campaign-finance laws that led, eventually, to the regime of sanctified influence-peddling established by Citizens United v. FEC. In doing so, he helped supply the quo to the quid his memo had suggested. He wrote:

We thus find no support in the First or Fourteenth Amendment, or in the decisions of this Court, for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its business or property. The “materially affecting” requirement is not an identification of the boundaries of corporate speech etched by the Constitution itself. Rather, it amounts to an impermissible legislative prohibition of speech based on the identity of the interests that spokesmen may represent in public debate over controversial issues and a requirement that the speaker have a sufficiently great interest in the subject to justify communication.

Corporations are people, too, suckers.

So, down through the years, corporate America and the Republican danced a mutually beneficial slow dance that so successfully transformed American politics that elements of the Democratic Party got sufficiently jealous and tried to cut in, an era for which that party is still paying a price in division and debate.

Now, along comes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who, somewhere in his deeply deluded mind, fancies himself a president and, further, fancies that the way to do it is to make culture war on a giant, world-famous Florida corporation. And, on Wednesday of this past week, the corporation struck back hard. From The New York Times:

“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said on an earnings-related conference call with analysts last week. On Thursday, Mr. Iger and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, showed that they were not bluffing, pulling the plug on an office complex that was scheduled for construction in Orlando at a cost of roughly $1 billion. It would have brought more than 2,000 Disney jobs to the region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The project, near Lake Nona Town Center, was supposed to cost $864 million, but recent price estimates have been closer to $1.3 billion. Disney had planned to relocate as many as 2,000 employees from Southern California, including most of a department known as Imagineering, which works with Disney’s movie studios to develop theme park attractions.

For the benefit of readers who may have forgotten, DeSantis is the governor of Florida. His primary — hell, his only — current political duty is to the citizens of that state. But his “feud” with Disney, in which he is clearly out-gunned, out-financed, and out-brained, betrays that obligation in the currying of favor in Iowa and New Hampshire. Lewis Powell would have slapped him silly.

The feud began quietly enough. DeSantis rammed through his now-infamous Don’t Say Gay bill and Disney employees, including some from management, expressed their disapproval. Whereupon DeSantis lost his mind. From The New York Times:

Disney World, the 25,000-acre complex near Orlando, has a special tax status that began in 1967 and lets the megaresort essentially function as its own county government. Although the theme park is sandwiched between two counties, it operates as a special zone — formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and now the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District…The Florida Legislature allowed Mr. DeSantis to take away Disney’s special status in 2022 until it realized that the abolishment of the district — set for June 1, 2023 — would require taxpayers in Orange and Osceola Counties to pick up the tab for Disney World services like fire protection, policing and road maintenance. The district also carried roughly $1 billion in bond debt. If the district had been abolished, that debt would have been transferred to the counties.

This was a preposterous fight for DeSantis to pick. It didn’t make him look like a moral crusader, or a brave populist standing up to corporate greed. It made him look like a half-bright dilettante being jerked around by some political sharpies, a not particularly useful tool. Disney pressed its advantage.

The company had also pushed through a development agreement that would limit the new board’s power, a little-noticed move that was only belatedly discovered by the governor’s appointees. At a public meeting held in early February, the previous, Disney-controlled board passed restrictive covenants and a development agreement that gave the company widespread control over future construction.

The agreement, effective in perpetuity, also prohibits the tax district from using Disney’s name, Mickey Mouse or other characters without the company’s approval. Disney can sue for damages for violations. The change drew widespread attention only in late March. “It completely circumvents the authority of the board to govern,” Brian Aungst Jr., a member of the new council, said on March 29 at the group’s second meeting. “We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it.”

Being outfoxed by a Mouse is no way to run for president, son.

The fact is that, without the active cooperation and support of the money power, Republican politics is as dead as Kelsey’s nuts. Its policy proposals are incredibly unpopular and even its control of the judiciary is contributing to that unpopularity. Which is why any public mopery about “conservative populism” is to be ignored, because anybody proposing it is as doomed as DeSantis is. The very success of modern conservatism mitigates against any genuine conservative move against the money power. It is quite literally fcking with its own heartbeat.

DeSantis will continue to beat his chest and yell about the rising tide of Wokeness. Disney will continue to be richer and more powerful than DeSantis ever will be. What gets applause in Waterloo and Ames causes destruction in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. And being governor of Florida requires that you fight against the presidential candidate that you see in the mirror every morning.

Doonesbury — In the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

True Or False – Florida Sex Obsession

Here are two stories from recent articles.  See if you can spot the real one versus the sarcastic take.

Story 1:

A third-grade teacher in Pensacola, Florida, has been arrested for showing her students a Disney movie featuring a boy character with a girl’s name, school-district officials have confirmed.

The teacher, Carol Foyler, claimed that she thought it was “O.K.” to show the incendiary film because the character in question was a deer.

Governor Ron DeSantis, however, begged to differ, arguing that Florida’s children were being “indoctrinated to emulate the deer’s sick life style.”

“Students in Florida’s schools have not been taught to distinguish between themselves and deer,” he said.

DeSantis also objected to a controversial scene early in the film in which the main character’s mother is shot and killed. “I will not rest until Florida’s schools are rid of such blatant anti-Second Amendment propaganda,” he vowed.

Story 2:

The Florida Department of Education could visit a K-8 school in Hernando County as early as Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into a fifth-grade teacher’s decision to show a Disney movie featuring a gay character in her classroom.

A letter sent home to parents Friday and obtained by the Miami Herald indicated a representative from the Office of Professional Practices of the state’s education department “will be on campus on or about Wednesday, May 17, 2023.” If the parent has no objection, the representative “may interview your daughter/son in connection with an investigation of a Florida certified educator,” the letter read.

Karen Jordan, public information officer for the Hernando School District, confirmed the letter was sent home to parents and said the school administration “was made aware of the visit last week.” Jordan did not confirm if the visit would occur Wednesday or at a later date.

Winding Waters K-8 has made national headlines in recent days over teacher Jenna Barbee’s decision to play the 2022 movie “Strange World” — which features Disney’s first character who is out and gay, and is rated PG — and the Department of Education’s decision to investigate her after a school board member allegedly reported the incident.

Okay, class, pens down.  Which one is from the Miami Herald, and which one is from The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz?

Hard to tell, isn’t it?  How sad is that?

Monday, May 15, 2023

Soviet Republicans

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

Can you remember when Republicans still believed in the free market?

It was sometime before Donald Trump started routine attacks on the “globalists” of Goldman Sachs and the leaders of large U.S. corporations; before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used tax policy to attack the Walt Disney Co. because it dared to disagree with his “don’t say gay” legislation; before congressional Republicans harassed social media companies and book publishers over alleged “censorship” of their views; before they threatened Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Major League Baseball over their support for voting rights; before they vowed to use federal resources to retaliate against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for backing a few Democrats; before Republican governors enacted laws overriding private employers’ coronavirus vaccination policies; and before GOP-led states moved to disrupt interstate commerce to block abortion access and morning-after pills.

This week brought the latest evidence that the former party of laissez-faire capitalism has reimagined itself in the image of a Soviet State Planning Committee. Republican lawmakers are now telling investors which businesses they can and can’t invest in — and which investment criteria they will be permitted to consider.

The House Oversight Committee staged a hearing to denounce asset managers for using “environmental, social and governance” criteria, or ESG, when making their investments — and to plot ways to stop investors from doing this terrible thing.

“An unelected cabal of global elites are using ESG, a woke economic strategy, to hijack our capitalist system,” declared an overwrought Steve Marshall, Alabama attorney general and one of two GOP expert witnesses at the anti-investor hearing. For those who didn’t understand him the first time, Marshall used the word “elites” 13 times and “woke” 20 times in his opening testimony.

The other GOP witness, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, declared that there exists a “conspiracy” of ESG-minded investors. He was particularly worried that “asset managers who collectively own significant percentages of utilities’ stock are improperly influencing the operations of those utilities.”

Imagine that! The shareholders who own a company are trying to influence its operations! Will nobody rid us of this capitalist menace?

Legislatures in several red states have passed laws, championed by oil, gas and coal companies, that essentially pull state pension funds from investment managers unless they invest in — you guessed it — oil, gas and coal companies. Similar laws bar pension plans from working with investment firms that use ESG standards when deciding whether to invest in companies that trash the planet, abuse their workers or kill their customers. Led by Marshall and Reyes, 25 state attorneys general sued the Biden administration to block a regulation that allows retirement-plan investors to consider ESG standards. The rule doesn’t mandate that investors do so. It merely gives them the option.

[…]

In the end, the GOP’s anti-capitalist binge is about culture, not economics. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) expressed his concern that ESG considerations would work against “certain disfavored groups in our society. People don’t like men. People don’t like people of European background.” ESG investors, he argued, “are the type of people who judge people by where their great-great-grandparents came from.” Other Republicans on the panel used their time to denounce the perceived “woke” wrongs of JPMorgan Chase, Nike, Anheuser-Busch and others.

Frerichs, a Democrat, pointed out the absurdity “of me defending the free market against a Republican legislature trying to have a planned economy mandating what businesses have to invest in.”

But the irony was lost on Comer, who tried to draw a link between his anti-capitalist crusade and his simultaneous attempt to prove wrongdoing by President Biden and his family. “We just had a press conference and showed bank records that showed the Biden family getting millions of dollars from places like China,” he said. “I wonder what types of ESG policies China” has.

China doesn’t have ESG standards, Mr. Chairman. It’s an authoritarian country with a state-run economy. Our free-market economy, which lets investors make choices free of the heavy hand of government, is vastly superior. I remember when Republicans used to think so, too.

Florida used to be a free-market/small-government state, but that was before Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis decided that the local governments were supposed to take orders from them, not the voters or, Dog forbid, the constitution of either the state or the federal government.  So a systematic purge of city and county rules and officials became the norm: no setting of rules regarding dealing with the pandemic or what’s taught in the public schools, and absolutely nothing but fealty to the whims of the governor by corporations such as cruise lines or entertainment facilities.  Josef Stalin couldn’t have done it better.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

DeSantis’s Version Of “Freedom” By The Book

From the New York Times:

Florida has rejected dozens of social studies textbooks and worked with publishers to edit dozens more, the state’s education department announced on Tuesday, in the latest effort under Gov. Ron DeSantis to scrub textbooks of contested topics, especially surrounding contemporary issues of race and social justice.

State officials originally rejected 82 out of 101 submitted textbooks because of what they considered “inaccurate material, errors and other information that was not aligned with Florida law,” the Department of Education said in a news release.

But as part of an extensive effort to revise the materials, Florida worked with publishers to make changes, ultimately approving 66 of the 101 textbooks. Still, 35 were rejected even after that process.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, has campaigned against what he has described as “woke indoctrination” and a leftist agenda in the classroom. Last year, the state rejected dozens of math textbooks, saying that the books touched on prohibited topics, including critical race theory and social emotional learning, which have become targets of the right.

The state’s review of social studies textbooks, which is conducted every few years, was widely expected to raise similar objections.

The state education department released a document outlining several revisions that it said publishers had made at its request. But the document did not list the titles or publishers of the revised books, making the claims difficult to independently verify.

So, in a state where the governor proclaims that it is the “free-est” of them all, students will not be able to learn about people and their efforts to gain…freedom.

How long will it be until they outlaw irony?

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

They Have No Idea

The board appointed by Gov. DeSantis to bully Disney counter-sues.

A district board appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis countersued Walt Disney World on Monday in state court, escalating a bitter feud over control.

The 188-page lawsuit asks the 9th Judicial Circuit in Central Florida to render “void and unenforceable” the loophole Disney created to maintain control of its land, calling it “riddled with procedural and substantive defects.”

The lawsuit specifically targets an arrangement Disney set up with the former board on February 8, in which the company invoked an obscure property law about King Charles III. The agreement essentially would have given Disney control of its land virtually in perpetuity.

The counter-lawsuit comes after Disney sued the governor and the board in federal court last week, alleging that DeSantis and his office have engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against Disney that was “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”

“We have no choice now but to respond,” Martin Garcia, chairman of the board for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, said of the motion to file a lawsuit that he put forward during an emergency board meeting on Monday. “We will seek justice in state court here in central Florida where both it and Disney do business. Yes, we’ll seek justice in our own backyard.” All five board members supported the motion to file a lawsuit.

The choice by the board to file the lawsuit in in the 9th Circuit in central Flordia stands in contrast to where Disney’s decision to file its own lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. That case was assigned to Judge Mark Walker, an appointee of President Barack Obama who previously blocked a DeSantis-backed law that restricted how workplaces instituted diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

They have no idea who they are tangling with, but in the spirit of the happiest place on earth, I’d say they’re bringing cupcakes to a pie fight.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Some People Never Learn

Ron DeSantis may be more disciplined than Trump — which is like saying that Hannibal Lecter is more in control than Charles Manson — but he still doesn’t know when to stop being a bully.  Then again, bullies never learn: Don’t mess with the Mouse.

Florida Governor Ronald (Three-Fingers) DeSantis may be too shellshocked at this point to realize it, but shit back home just got real. He now will be conducting his sagging political campaign with a multi-million dollar weight around its ankles. Ronald DeSantis fcked with the wrong cartoon mouse. From the Washington Post:

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida came the same day the governor’s handpicked board declared a Disney-friendly deal null and void. Disney and DeSantis’s office have been tussling privately for the past year, but the frequency and intensity of their sparring has intensified dramatically in recent days.

In its filing, Disney reminds us all that the whole dispute started because DeSantis is a thin-skinned petty tyrant manque, and Disney failed to respect DeSantis’ authori-tah!

The standoff, which could have major political and economic consequences, began in early 2022 when Disney leaders criticized a controversial education bill advanced by DeSantis and other Florida Republicans. Disney’s resorts in Florida are some of the state’s prime attractions, but DeSantis expressed outrage that the company dare criticize the education bill and he began attacking the company, saying it had received preferential treatment for too long.

So far, Disney has outmaneuvered DeSantis at every turn, not that it’s necessarily difficult to do so. (DeSantis was considered to be a big bag of hammers during his days in the House of Representatives and has not improved noticeably since he’s been governor.) Now, he’s managed to get crossways with perhaps the most successful media empire on an issue of protected speech. I wouldn’t hire this guy to mulch my yard.

In its legal complaint, Disney accused DeSantis of punishing it for protected speech, threatening its business operations, jeopardizing its economic future in the region and violating its constitutional rights.

“Having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution,” the complaint said, “the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”

That part of the case seems ironclad. DeSantis went after one of the most important private institutions in his state for an opinion its executives expressed on a purely political issue, and he used the powers of his office to do so. Apparently, he thought there was a political upside to having done so. Unfortunately for the governor, as somebody, somewhere once said, a dream is a wish your heart makes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Florida Flunks Out

Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post.

It’s no coincidence that Republican governors who have weaponized government against vulnerable populations represent states that are spectacularly failing their residents on a wide range of issues. There’s no better illustration than Ron DeSantis’s war on education.

The Florida governor seems to view schools as the battleground for his war on inclusivity and truth. Whether it is Desantis’s “don’t say gay” law or his vendetta against African American and gender studies, his obsession with telling teachers what they cannot teach far outweighs his concern for how students are performing.

And as it turns out, that performance is pretty lousy.

While Florida officials — including DeSantis — have boasted about the state’s relatively high proficiency scores among fourth-graders, they have largely ignored how quickly those scores drop as students grow older. As education journalist Billy Townsend writes in an opinion piece for the Tampa Bay Times, “No other state comes close to Florida’s level of consistent fourth to eighth grade performance collapse.”

In the last three state rankings of reading and math proficiency by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (in 2017, 2019 and 2022), Townsend writes, “Florida ranked sixth, fourth and third among states in fourth grade math. In those same years, Florida ranked 33th, 34th and tied for 31st in eighth grade.”

Moreover, the rate at which they drop below their peers in other states is accelerating. Townsend explains, “Florida’s overall average NAEP state rank regression between fourth and eighth grade since 2003 is 17 spots (math) and 18 spots (reading). But since 2015, the averages are 27 spots (math) and 19 spots (reading).” In fact, the deterioration in Florida schools “matches and mostly exceeds the negative impact of COVID” nationwide, he writes.

Florida’s embarrassing drop-off in performance cannot be understood without examining its 20-year-old policy to hold back lower-performing third graders, which means many students take the fourth-grade test when they are at least the age of fifth graders. While it’s unclear how many students are kept back in third grade, Townsend writes that it is “significant,” which likely temporarily boosts the fourth-grade numbers.

But that only delays the inevitable cratering of scores in the eighth grade. Perhaps that is one reason many Florida politicians are shying away from standardized testing.

One likely reason for the shoddy eighth-grade performance: The state ranks 48th in teacher pay, so it’s bound to get rotten results. Right now, few seem motivated to pin down the problem and fix what’s wrong.

And if that isn’t distressing enough, consider what is happening to higher education in Florida. Michael A. MacDowell, president emeritus of Misericordia University, warned in a piece for Florida Today last year that enrollment in the state’s colleges was projected to decline by 5.5 percent in the 2021-2022 academic year.

MacDowell explains, “The implications of declining college enrollments here in Florida and nationally will seriously impact individuals and the economic viability of Florida and the country.” Non-college-educated people tend to be poorer, live shorter lives and pay less taxes. MacDowell also notes that they are “more likely to avail themselves of government subsidies and the wide variety of services that federal, state, and local governments provide” than college-educated Americans.

Yet DeSantis, who has two Ivy League degrees, seems to be cheering for failure. Amid reports in 2021 that men were making up a smaller portion of students attending college, he declared, “I think that is probably a good sign.” So he must be thrilled that Florida’s college enrollment is dropping like a stone.

College administrators are trying to puzzle out why Florida’s decline is so pronounced. It might be an affordability issue. Alternatively, with the White population shrinking in the state, DeSantis’s war on “wokeness” has made college campuses less welcoming to younger, more diverse Floridians — the same people the state needs to educate to maintain a vibrant economy. Whatever the cause, DeSantis doesn’t seem interested in finding a solution.

DeSantis’s bullying of vulnerable populations and pandering to White grievance are morally objectionable and anti-American. But they also come at a price: accelerating the decline of the state’s education system. Do we really want DeSantis to do for America what he’s done to Florida?

Maybe if he spent less time worrying about other people’s sex lives and more about how he’s screwing over the children of the state in the process, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  But as long as his meddling in local school boards and appointing his cronies goes on, this will not happen.  And it will have everlasting damage.

The Florida Book-Of-The-Month Club

Barry Blitt, the cartoonist for many covers of The New Yorker, talks about banned books.

For the cover of the March 6, 2023, issue, the cartoonist Barry Blitt takes aim at the latest battlefield of the culture wars: education legislation. Conservatives—most notably, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis—have embarked on a campaign to denounce the influence of schools and libraries. DeSantis’s crusade has included passing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which banned the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade, in March of 2022; spearheading the state’s Stop WOKE Act, which prohibits any education that has the potential to cause a student to feel guilty about their race or sex; and commandeering the board of trustees, and the curriculum, of Florida’s public liberal-arts college.

“DeSantis’s culture-war campaigns,” as Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote for this magazine recently, “have operated in American politics like a spooling synth loop: it keeps coming around.” Last July, Florida passed a bill that allows for school media specialists to determine what books are included in the state’s public schools; early this year, schools in the state reported library shelves that have been emptied and papered over.

Though DeSantis has become a figurehead for the conservative book-banning spree, he is far from the first—or the only—politician to seize upon education regulation under the guise of protecting “personal spheres of influence.” But his inflammatory rhetoric has undoubtedly contributed to the moral panic that appears to be spreading across the nation: PEN America found that 2,532 books were banned during the 2021-22 school year, most of which feature characters of color or L.G.B.T.Q.+ characters. And those are only the known ban statistics: administrators have also been discovered to be quietly taking books off the shelves of school libraries all across the country. I talked to the artist about his relationship with books and libraries.

What were your favorite books as a kid growing up in Montreal, and do you think any of them would be banned today?

I can’t remember much of anything from my childhood (not since a traumatic Doobie Brothers concert I attended in my teens). I do recall that I used to devour Hardy Boys books, but no details have stuck with me—not the characters’ names, their activities, or their affinities. I assume the stories were wholesome and bland. But perhaps a politician somewhere is deeply enraged about the boys’ engaging, plucky misadventures.

Easier for me to recall are the children’s books I read to my son when he was young. A particular favorite was a wonderful story from Quebec, “The Hockey Sweater.” Charming and folksy and funny, it used the love of the sport to explore the complicated relationship between French and English Canada, a fraught topic that invites trouble for an author, yet was handled elegantly and with humor. (I’m not going to Google it to see if it has been banned anywhere.)

Were libraries a large part of your life as a child? Do you use them now?

I did hang out at the local library as a kid. I used to get dropped off there for the afternoon, to do homework, or to look at art books or joke books. I think there was a slang dictionary that was particularly popular with my social circle when we were nine or ten years old. But it has been a while since I spent much time at a library. When I lived in Toronto, and later in New York City, I used the city libraries for their great picture collections—it was invaluable photo reference material for an illustrator. But Google has made those trips no longer necessary.

You have illustrated books for kids. What do you think makes a good children’s book?

At nine or ten years old, I would have suggested the slang dictionary. Laughs are important; hilarity is always a good place to start. But, also, a book that depicts an unfamiliar world within which the young reader still finds some familiarity in. Oh, and also lots of cool illustrations that can be stared at for hours at a time.

Actually, I just remembered a book I began working on several years ago that may be relevant here: I had signed a contract with a large publisher (I’d rather not name them) to illustrate a children’s book about the leader of the Third Reich (I’d rather not name him). It was a cautionary biography about a bad man—not a joke. It would have been a very daring kids’ book to actually publish, and I got as far as submitting finished sketches before various marketing people intervened, and the project was scrapped.

 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The State Of Freedom In Florida

Ron DeSantis claims that Florida is the State of Freedom.  As long as you agree with him.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The DeSantis administration now requires events held at the Florida state Capitol to “align” with its mission, a recent change that is sparking concerns that the governor’s office is trying to censor events it doesn’t like.

The Department of Management Services, the administration department that oversees state facilities, over the past few months has changed rules for groups or individuals who want to reserve space inside the Capitol. The changes require organizations seeking to reserve areas to make their requests through specific administration officials or legislative leaders and require they line up with the mission of the state.

“One material change to the Rule is that events must align with state agency missions and applications must come from an agency sponsor,” read the Department of Management Services letter, copies of which were provided to POLITICO by multiple groups trying to plan events at the Capitol. “Once a sponsorship has been obtained, the state agency shall submit the required application to DMS on behalf of the requestor.”

[…]

The DMS letters caught by surprise several groups that have for years requested space in the Capitol to host education events for their particular mission. There are dozens of annual events during the legislative session that include state universities having advocacy days, or specific advocacy groups holding informational and educational days in the Capitol during session to increase awareness of their issues of concern. Most events are uncontroversial and not tied to protesting specific issues being considered, or any specific piece of legislation.

“It seems counterintuitive to our rights that you have to ask an agency to ask on your behalf to use space at the Capitol to simply educate the Legislature,” said a lobbyist who for years has planned Capitol events for clients. “And only if your mission lines up with the agencies’ mission is having space for displays on DMS property potentially allowed.”

Kim Jung-un would be so proud.