Don’t Say Gay

April 26, 2022

a.k.a. Parental Rights in Education

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed House Bill 1557 “Parental Rights in Education” a.k.a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

DeSantis stated, “Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children.”

Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further said, “Parents should get to decide what their children are taught, not the government or teachers unions.”

And, I absolutely agree. Public schools are available to everyone, and public schools are a compromise between cost and value. For those who have unlimited resources and who want a custom experience for their children, there are a variety of private schools to choose from. And, home schooling is an option for some.

Typical governance of public schools is through an elected school board comprised of residents in the District who take an oath to represent all who are stakeholders in the District.

Thus, parents have a strong voice in deciding what and how their children are taught. Parents can get actively involved in who is running for school board, and to support candidates who most closely mirror their personal values.

Take a look at this school board Oath of Office from Illinois:

“I, (name of member or successful candidate), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors) of (name of school district), in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the laws of the State of Illinois, to the best of my ability.

“I further swear (or affirm) that:

“I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets;

“I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees;

“I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting;

“I shall abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels;

“As part of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors, as the case may be), I shall accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district;

“I shall foster with the board extensive participation of the community, formulate goals, define outcomes, and set the course for (name of school district);

“I shall assist in establishing a structure and an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework;

“I shall strive to ensure a continuous assessment of student achievement and all conditions affecting the education of our children, in compliance with State law;

“I shall serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school (or schools) to advance the vision for (name of school district); and

“I shall strive to work together with the district superintendent to lead the school district toward fulfilling the vision the board has created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills, knowledge, citizenship, and personal development.”

For those parents who desire a more hands-on role in how their children are educated, there are a number of additional options: (1) regular and active participation in PTA; (2) regular and active participation in parent teacher events, including parent/teacher night and parent/teacher conferences; (3) active and regular daily involvement in children’s homework and assignments; (4) regular and active involvement in after school activities, including sports, band, debate, theater, etc.

As to the quote from Mike Pompeo, it must be taken in context to Pompeo’s personal history and beliefs:

Pompeo is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where he has served as a local church deacon, and taught Sunday school. In talks before church groups, Pompeo has said that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world” and that “politics is a never-ending struggle… until the Rapture.”

Until the Rapture.

Yes, this is an amazing story, not quite at the top of what DeSantis is engaged in, but pretty close.

There is an old saying that, ‘there is nothing lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon wheel rut’ and DeSantis is jousting with fellow snake Texas Governor Abbott to see who will reach the bottom of the rut first.

You’ve got to hand it to DeSantis on his ability to generate national headlines, following the model perfected by P.T. Barnum in the 19th century: (1) ‘I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something’ and, (2) ‘There ain’t no such thing as bad publicity’.

Let’s not forget some of the other Governors running in the 2022 Race to The Bottom.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) recently signed a new law making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion.  Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed laws banning transgender girls from high school sports; restricting the way schools teach about race and gender; and eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently launched campaign advertisements which double down on Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ false statements about the 2020 election results.

Several other conservative incumbents who have used scorched earth strategies in their policies and practices – like it or not — now find themselves in the high visibility arena:  Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R); Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R); Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R); and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) all face primary challenges, fueled by more main-stream Republican contenders.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel probably did the best retort to the Florida math textbook situation.

He said, ‘The Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of math textbooks because they made reference to Critical Race Theory.  If you don’t know what Critical Race Theory is, don’t worry – neither does Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.’ And Kimmel’s monologue goes on from there…

[>>> Watch the Kimmel monologue here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QgdS-G8pi8

Republican Leadership 2022

The lock-step renouncement today of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by all 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee shows us that Dixiecrats still are a major factor in American politics.

Back in the day, they were called “Dixiecrats” – a tribute to their roots as southern Democrats elected to represent the lingering base of southern confederate-centric white voters, still visibly angry that the North had claimed victory in the Civil War.

Whatever political party they associated with, Dixiecrats were White Segregationists, pure and simple.

The term “Dixiecrat” dates to the 1948 States’ Rights Democratic Party, when a breakaway group of Southern Democrats objected to a civil rights agenda in the Democratic platform at the party’s national convention.

Immediately following the national Democratic convention in 1948, the Dixiecrats organized and held their own convention. They garnered significant support from 13 Southern states, hell-bent on gaining control over 127 electoral votes, thus potentially throwing the election to the House where they could use their power to force the major parties to abandon any civil rights intentions.

Back then, Dixiecrats were powerful men — frequently featured in prominent media stories and widely quoted.  Most of them ruthlessly used their offices and esteemed titles to spread racial fear and thwart the aspirations of black Americans.

Strom Thurmond, then governor of South Carolina, was the leader of the 1948 Dixiecrats. Thurmond was elected to the Senate in 1954, and he became a Republican in 1964 reflecting a metamorphosis in political party platforms across the U.S.

Today in 2022, the party affiliation of current Dixiecrats remains consistent with Strom Thurmond’s conversion almost 60 years ago. Each of them identifies and runs as a Republican.

Although they are no longer called ‘Dixiecrats’, their staunch commitment to Confederate values, particularly focused on White Supremacy, has never been stronger.

History does repeat itself, and not necessarily verbatim. One time, it may be blue, another time red, or maybe green.

The most important lesson we can learn from history centers on the theme, “Those who are unable or unwilling to study and learn from history are most likely to become victims of a new iteration of horrible outcomes orchestrated by bad actors who adapt and/or emulate bad behaviors from the past.”

Sadism in Tallahassee

March 5, 2022

Elected Officials Running Amok

Today, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S.:   21.5 Million and growing.

Florida has an elected, part-time legislature that seems to evoke the historic governance needs back when Florida had a post-WWII population of 2.5 Million.

How can it be that a particularly malignant cabal of ignorant, callous and wicked creatures was elected to state office in Florida in 2021?

Satan apparently had a mission for them:  Enact atrocious legislation to further torment Florida residents who are poor and/or downtrodden.

The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days. That’s it.

In contrast, Tennessee has a population of about 7 Million, with an elected legislature that meets for 90 session days over a two-year period.

Arkansas, with a population of 3 Million, closely mirrors the Florida model, except it has a much broader scope of representation per capita.

The Florida Legislature managed to propose and pass a number of specious bills during their 2022 Reign of Error.

One of the most egregious bills passed by the Florida Legislature in its 2022 session – known as CS/HB 5: “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” – is a clever ruse orchestrated by hard-core religious zealots which will primarily have adverse impact on socially and economically disadvantaged women, generally members of a protected class.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, so it seems clear he is aware of the focus Harvard Law has placed on Reproductive Rights.  Through his legal education, he has been exposed to a deep and intimate knowledge of Disparate Impact, the legal theory which helps to examine the effects of laws or practices which appear on the surface to be nondiscriminatory, but which have in practice a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.

Certainly Gov. DeSantis is entitled to embrace his own personal values, beliefs and opinions.  But, he is not entitled to use his position as an elected official to impose his personal values on the people of Florida.

We would expect that if CS/HB 5 <or a similar bill> should come to him for approval, he would veto it.

Yet, as of this writing, media sources predict that Gov. DeSantis will sign the bill into law.

Some Thoughts on CPAC 2022

February 28, 2022

Has our education system failed us?

Over the past 3 decades, the U.S. has slowly lost its edge as the world leader in public education.  U.S. student proficiency in science and math – generally thought to be the foundation for independent and critical thinking – is mediocre, at best.

In a recent international comparison of achievement among 15 year old students from 71 countries, U.S. students ranked 36th in math, and 24th in science.

Some of these students — who have already been denied a rigorous education – are most vulnerable to inculcation and indoctrination.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that young adults who lack independent and/or critical thinking skills are likely to become the next generation of CPAC attendees.

Donald Trump is an expert communicator, highly skilled in techniques which are frequently cited by experts in mind control.

Trump focuses on a small number of issues which are emotionally important to a narrow group of people who feel lost or disenfranchised.

His communications are intended to provide understanding, comfort and answers to his audience, thus to gain their trust, despite often vague solutions to the identified problems.  Here are a few actual and verified Trump communiques (in no particular chronological order) which may have helped rally and solidify his audience:

  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
  • “I am the only one who can make America truly great again.”
  • “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
  • “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
  • “We need a president with tremendous intelligence, smarts, cunning, strength and stamina.”
  • “Obama and his attack dogs have nothing but hate and anger in their hearts and spew it whenever possible.”
  • “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  • “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
  • “I have a great relationship with African Americans, as you possibly have heard. I just have great respect for them. And they like me. I like them.”
  • “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
  • “[John McCain is]… not a war hero. He’s a war hero – he’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
  • “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in 3 years!”
  • “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it… If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia.”
  • “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
  • “We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.”
  • “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” [post-Charlottesville, VA; 2017].
  • “Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations.” [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; 2017]
  • “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” [Re: Covid-19:  Jan. 2020]
  • “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
  • “So, look, all I want to do, is I want to find 11,780 votes.”
  • “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
  • “This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
  • “Nobody has done more for Christianity or for evangelicals — or for religion itself — than I have.”
  • “They say, ‘Trump said Putin’s smart.’ I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars’ worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
  • “As grave as the dangers are abroad, it’s the destruction within that spells our doom. Our most dangerous people are people from within. These are people that must hate our country because they make us weak. They indoctrinate your children to hate their parents while calling you a hateful racist. They use big tech to censor you. They use the deep state to spy on you. They use the intelligence agencies to frame you. They use the media to slander you. They use the legal system to persecute you. It is a persecution. They use rigged elections to disenfranchise you and destroy you and ruin your lives.”

Yes, Mr. Trump.  If we follow your lead, we must fear the left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders from within.  Some have said that these dumb political leaders are ‘truly evil people’ who are ‘afraid to do the right thing.’

Meanwhile, others have singled out a contingent of Republican elected officials – including: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee; Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana; Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma; Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and several more.

Concurrent with the CPAC conference, Rep. Greene distinguished herself as a speaker at a white supremacist event — the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) – also held in Florida.

Guests at the AFPAC conference openly cheered Russian President Vladimir Putin, and approved comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler, while calling the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “awesome.”

Despite a subsequent statement from the RNC Chairwoman saying “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party,” there was no rebuke of Marjorie Taylor Greene by name.

Yes, Mr. Trump.  There may be some left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders who were elected as Democrats.  If you could take just a moment to identify them and accurately describe their aberrant behavior(s), that would really be great.

Yet, we have irrefutable media evidence of public officials who were elected as Republicans and who have gone out of their way to favor Mr. Putin over our elected president.

Best I know:  This is clear essence of sedition, perhaps emanating a whiff of treason.

Perhaps, Mr. Trump, you will take a few moments to respond to these conclusions drawn from real facts?

Ron DeSantis: ‘We are right, and they are wrong.’

Ron DeSantis is a bully, and he has proved to be an awful Governor.

DeSantis thrives on political theatre, and he specializes in public events which use inflammatory tactics to rally a base of confused, uninformed and/or angry voters.

Since taking office in January 2019, DeSantis has:

  • Signed a sweeping voter suppression bill into law, citing baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Proposed a special police force to oversee state elections — the first of its kind in our nation — intended to protect Florida from nonexistent threats.
  • Opened pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites in wealthy Florida neighborhoods where his donors live.
  • Let nearly a million COVID-19 tests expire.
  • Appointed a science and medical contrarian (Lodapo) as Florida’s Surgeon General.
  • Occluded Florida COVID-19 data by firing DOH scientist (Jones), then sending armed tactical police to raid her personal residence.
  • Actively promoted the use of monoclonal antibody treatments as an alternative to vaccine.
  • Consistently refutes FDA guidance creating confusion and putting Florida residents at increased risk from COVID.
  • Orchestrated a fundraising tour across America while the Delta variant sickened and killed Floridians.
  • Signed laws restricting abortion access (2020).
  • Supports an oppressive abortion bill (SB 146 and HB 5) like the one in Mississippi.
  • Urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Refused to accept that climate change is an existential threat to our state.
  • Failed to prepare Florida’s coastal communities for rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.
  • Ignored the “red tide” algae bloom that scares off tourists, risking the engine which supports 1.6 million jobs and contributes over $96.5 Billion to the Florida economy.
  • Actively and aggressively created tension in our public education system resulting in a mass exodus of teachers and staff from Florida schools beginning in spring 2020.
  • In 2021, he targeted eight large school districts for defying his order prohibiting schools from enforcing mask mandates, helping to create toxic conditions for school district superintendents. This led to highly politicized and public confrontations and an unusual exodus of qualified and experienced leadership.

This is Ron DeSantis. He currently is Public Enemy Number One in the State of Florida.

George Orwell was right.

January 30, 2022

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

The School Board in McMinn County, Tennessee recently announced a decision to ban author and creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from their eighth-grade curriculum.

McMinn County, TN may be a poster child for the current divisiveness in America.

This rural county is home to just 54,000 residents and until very recently, was over 90% white.

As a whole, the State of Tennessee has been, and remains, predominantly Christian. About 81% of the population identifies as Christian, and 52% of Tennessee residents identify as Evangelical Protestants.

Plagued by the legacy of a mediocre public education system, poverty is rampant in McMinn County: Over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, including 24% of children (under 18) and 12% of seniors (65 and over).

The McMinn County School Board recent action helps to reinforce the notion that adults who themselves are products of a mediocre public education system are often incapable of making sound and fully informed decisions based on solid facts.  Or, we might say that these folks have been deprived of critical thinking skills due to the inadequacy of their public school system.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming increase in public displays of frustration, rebellion and even violence among adults who are constrained by the toxic combination of extreme religious ideologies and vulnerability to unreliable or false sources for (mis)information.

George Orwell was correct, and only WE can prevent the vociferous minority from subsuming the will of the majority.

The Dangerous Intersection of Evangelical Christianity with White Supremacy

White supremacy sometimes manifests as colorism, a persistent issue within India, Latin America, Africa and nearly every community of color. When a mother tells her children not to play out in the sun because their skin will get too dark, she is reinforcing the myth of white supremacy by encouraging proximity to whiteness via lighter skin.

The most dangerous combination seems to occur at the intersection of Fundamental (Evangelical) Christianity and White Supremacism – the belief that Caucasians are superior to all other races.

Fundamental/Evangelical Christianity states that ‘only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation’.

White Supremacists adhere to the aberrant beliefs that (a) Whites must have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; and (b) White people are genetically superior to other people.

In a 2019 nationwide survey, 86% of white evangelical Protestants and 70% of both white mainline Protestants and white Catholics said that the “Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride than of racism”; nearly two-thirds of white Christians overall said that killings of African-American men by the police are isolated incidents rather than part of a broader pattern of mistreatment; and more than 60% of white Christians disagreed with the statement that “generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”

The Southern Baptist Convention itself was organized prior to the Civil War in Georgia by Southern Baptists who were strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery. It delivered the invocation when Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy.

Today, the Southern Baptist Convention has a membership of over 16 Million, and is thought to be the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S.

When I came of age in the late 1960’s in Buffalo, NY – a true northeast rustbelt city – we really didn’t have time for any of this nonsense, and I naively believed that our nation had progressed beyond the foolish notions of the Confederacy.

Four decades later, Donald Trump and his loyal following of ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian voters truly surprised and shocked me, and many others.

Robert Jones, a graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, may have said it best when he stated that Trump inspired White Christians, “not despite, but through appeals to white supremacy,” attracting them not because of economics or morality, “but rather that he evoked powerful fears about the loss of White Christian dominance.”

You can deny if you like, but denial doesn’t change reality.

This is the year 2022, and there is no turning back.

We are competing in a 21st Century World Economy, and it is high time for those of us who don’t have time for all of this foolish nonsense to call the bluff of the revisionist Confederate Civil War re-enactors.

Here in the U.S., we need to move on; come together; find common ground; join hands; and work side by side to strengthen our technology and innovation capabilities and return to a leadership role by influencing international economic, scientific, trade, and security institutions.

Alternatively, we could continue to allow petty and insignificant micro-inequities to distract and divide us domestically, which will encourage other nations to move aggressively to assert leadership and shape the direction of global rules and institutions.

The Florida bill which would severely impact the ability of women to make personal choices about their own reproductive health (known as HB5) passed its first House committee hearing on January 19, 2022, and it is now heading to new committees for further discussion.  (The companion bill in the Florida Senate is SB-146).  Among other things, the bill will place severe restrictions on women’s access to abortions in Florida.

Florida Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) perhaps said it best, “This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low-income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion. It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”

Kudos to Rep. Driskell for speaking out clearly and eloquently on basic human rights.

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.