DeSantis: Make Kids Dumb Again, Gov. Sanders: Duh, What He Said, Santos: GOP's Walking Ethics Violation, Ohio: Block the Vote, David Crosby: Icon of the Times & More
My thoughts on the top--and top-ish--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
There is some truly villainous behavior in this week’s newsletter by some truly villainous people. Sadly, these same people—Ron DeSantis and George Santos, for example—have appeared previously. I would like to be done with them and never mention them or think about them again. Some would say that when the media keeps giving them attention, we only encourage their evil deeds, since it’s attention that they crave.
But that is naive. They crave power, which brings money, which is their only endgame. If they had any awareness of history, they would know that their legacy will not be as great statespersons who have elevated the country and preserved freedom. They will be studied in the future as tyrants, racists, and anti-democratic grifters. Trump’s legacy is already wilting in the sunlight of time and reason as some of his followers sheepishly realize they were duped. Like when the town sheriff talks down a screaming lynch mob by shaming them for betraying their morals to feed their rage. They slink off muttering, “Sorry, Sheriff.” Laster, they will deny they were even part of the group.
We, the people, make villainy possible by smugly ignoring it when it starts, arrogantly dismissing it as it grows, and foolishly giving up as it chokes the air from our beliefs. We have to keep shining the flashlight on these insects as they scurry about trying to convince us they’re dragons when they’re really just cockroaches.
Education: Propaganda Terrorism
A Primer on How to Dumb Down Our Children
On November 30, 2021, I wrote a Substack article “Critical Race Theory Wants to Marry Your Sister” in which I discusses how CRT doesn’t really exist in public education, yet it has become the modern version of a snipe hunt. Republicans whip the fearful public into frothing hysteria over a non-existent creature. It’s basically propaganda terrorism: scaring people to make them more pliable to their will.
What saddens me is that it’s more than a year since my article and the same ploy is still being used—“There’s a terrible monster coming for you and your children, which only I can stop.”—and it’s still working! The public is no better informed of this sham than before. America, how often does Uncle Benny snatch a nickel from your ear before you get that there’s not really a nickel in your ear?
The following two stories should scare you because this isn’t just performance politics in which they virtue signal in order to please the baseless beliefs of their base. This is a slow-motion assault on education, an effort to turn back the clock to the ‘50s when brainwashing children into button-downed clones was all the rage. What we learned in ‘60s and ‘70s was that all that diversity in studies brought about a cultural and scientific renaissance in America. We flourished economically and culturally.
The only people who fear education are those who know learning makes people harder to control through threats and blustering. Naturally, they want to dumb it down in order to dumb down our children. The saddest part: parents are letting them do it. It’s intellectual child abuse.
As we watch with horror as the Taliban ban education for women in Afghanistan, we shouldn’t feel too smug or superior. Censoring education so we produce only conservatives is pretty much the same thing.
DeSantis Blocks AP African-American Studies Course for Breaking Florida’s Anti-CRT Law (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has rejected a College Board request to approve an African-American Studies course in his state on the grounds that the course violates state law, according to a report. The Advanced Placement (AP) program, of which a pilot has been launched, was reportedly rejected by DeSantis’ administration in a letter to the College Board from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Articulation. The rejection letter dated Jan. 12 said ‘as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,’ according to National Review. The letter reportedly added: “in the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion. DeSantis’ controversial ‘Stop W.O.K.E. Act,’ signed into law last April, aimed in part to combat the teaching of critical race theory in Florida.”
MY TAKE: I remember the struggles in the ‘60s and ‘70s to get colleges and universities to offer African American studies courses. At the time, most people didn’t think it was a legitimate course of study. To them, Black history and culture was just slavery, pimps, and tap dancing. What more was there to say after day one?
That was the point: to broaden our children’s knowledge of and respect for a people who were nearly invisible in their history books and on their TV and movie screens (except for White-approved stereotypes). And to reclaim a cultural identity for Black students eager to learn about their own heritage.
I don’t understand how a state like Florida, which is 46.7% non-White (53.3% Non-Hispanic White) allows the whitewashing of ethnic history and culture. Florida has one of the largest Black populations in the country, but Blacks are still being treated as insignificant in education. This can only happen with the approval of other non-White groups.
I also don’t see how DeSantis has any expertise in how AP courses should be run and what has “educational value.” Should he also be telling physics instructors which formulas are relevant? DeSantis has made it clear that he’s embracing the old racist saying of the ‘60s: “If you’re White, you’re alright; if you’re Black, get back.”
FYI: Here are a few famous people with degrees in Black Studies:
Michelle Obama: the former first lady minored in African American Studies at Princeton University.
Mae Jemison: this NASA astronaut received a B.A. in Afro-American Studies from Stanford University.
Angela Bassett: the award-winning actress has a B.A. in African American Studies from Yale University.
Aaron McGruder: the creator of the popular comic strip The Boondocks earned a B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Gloria Naylor: National Book Award Winner for The Women of Brewster Place has an M.A. in Afro-American Studies from Yale University.
Further Reading: “Outcry Grows After DeSantis Rejects AP African-American Studies Course (Daily Beast),” “Florida Rejects A.P. African American Studies Class” (NYT)
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks information on transgender university students” (New York Daily News)
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is seeking information on university students who have sought gender-affirming treatment, according to a survey released Wednesday.
“In a request sent to 12 state universities, top officials with the Republican governor requested data on the number of students who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who have received treatment in university clinics across the state.”
MY TAKE: Not to be upstaged by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton’s requesting information on transgender people from the Texas Department of Public Safety (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago here), DeSantis wants to make sure we all know he’s just as committed to violating the civil rights of transgender students as he is in shredding the education of all Floridian students.
If his goal is to make transgender students feel threatened, attacked, and not welcome in Florida, he’s succeeding. I wish Floridians would do the same for him.
SUMMARY: “The new Republican Governor of Arkansas, Sarah Sanders, said the move to ban critical race theory in public schools in her state was a preventative measure.
“‘It’s incredibly important that we do things to protect the students in our state,’ she told Fox News Sunday. ‘We have to make sure that we are not indoctrinating our kids and that these policies and these ideas never see the light of day.’”
MY TAKE: What does it say about Sanders as a politician that one of her first acts is to ban something that isn’t taught in her state’s schools? Of course she doesn’t think racism exists in a state with only 15.7% Blacks. They aren’t the ones voting for her.
She also banned the burning issue of using the term “Latinx” (defined by one expert proponent as “a gender-neutral term to describe US residents of Latin American descent.” You know, like the term “American” instead of “Americman.”)
This is part of the Republican strategy for performative governing, which means taking most their time focusing on hot-button culture wars issues rather than actually improving the lives of their constituents. Governors Ron DeSantis (FL) and Greg (TX) Abbott are loudly sending migrants to other states, harassing transgenders, restricting women’s rights, and banning books—all to further their political careers (at taxpayers’ expense). Sanders has joined that group. The time and money spent passing these bills that have no practical use but to promote careers (Is Sanders primping for a VP call from DeSantis?) is what the people of Arkansas should be worried about.
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Kareem’s Video Break
About six months ago I posted this video from the Indian movie RRR because I liked the dance (and the movie). Since then, the song won a Golden Globe so I thought I’d run it again for all the new subscribers who missed it. I love dance-offs as in West Side Story and Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s an intro to this scene in which the smug White colonialists ridicule “brown” people for having no art in their culture. See that scene here. This dance is their response. If this doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, nothing will.
Politics: Strange Bedfellows Indeed
Republicans Are Defending This Guy?
The Mysterious, Unregistered Fund That Raised Big Money for Santos (The New York Times)
Report: George Santos, Supporter of Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws, Participated in Drag Shows and Went by the Name “Kitara” in Brazil (Vanity Fair)
George Santos Shows Early Signs of Tilting to the Hard Right (The New York Times)
Ex-George Santos roommate details how ‘delusional’ George Santos would flash rolls of cash despite being broke (New York Post)
Embattled lawmaker George Santos assigned to two House committees (The Washington Post)
MY TAKE: There’s no point in summarizing all these articles featuring new accusations against George Santos this week alone (this isn’t even all of them). The only thing that matters is that EVERYONE knows he’s a liar and conman who lacks any qualifications, either educational or moral. Yet, the GOP has chosen to not only defend Santos, but assign him to two House committees, the Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. It’s like putting Hannibal Lecter on the Preventing Crime Committee: “Sure, I know he ate people, but only when he was hungry. Or bored. Or testy. Or…”
I don’t think the Republicans defending him understand how ethics work. Ethics require hard choices because doing the right thing can cost you in other ways. That’s what makes being ethical such a valuable—and rare—trait. They wish to defend him in order to maintain his seat as Republican so they have more power in the House, even though he tarnishes the entire party. What makes me worry is that they are so blatant about their lack of ethics because they think that none of the voters in their own party will care. Are they right?
Voting Rights: Haters Gonna Hate
SUMMARY: “Ohio Republicans quietly enacted a measure earlier this month that imposes sweeping new restrictions on voting access in the state, including more stringent voter ID requirements, cutting the early voting period and giving voters less time to return their mail-in ballots.
“The new law puts Ohio among a handful of states with the strictest voter ID rules in the country. The state had already required voters to show identification at the polls, but allowed an exception for voters who couldn’t produce one, allowing them to present a bank statement, paystub or other document to prove their identity. The new law gets rid of that exception and only allows someone to vote if they provide certain forms of photo ID.
“Those new restrictions will make it harder for people who tend to lack identification – elderly people, the disabled and the poor – to vote, voting rights advocates said.
““Black and brown communities have higher numbers of those communities who don’t have ID,’ said Camille Wimbish, the election administration director at Ohio Voice, a civic engagement advocacy group. “This is gonna impact Black and brown voters, students, rural voters, military voters, seniors. I mean there’s really everyone who’s gonna be impacted by these substantial changes.’”
MY TAKE: The theory of American democracy is that each party presents their platform of ideas and then lets the people vote on which ideas appeal to them the most. They don’t try to prevent people who they think will disagree with them from voting. That announces to the world that you have unpopular ideas and therefore must cheat to win. It’s like in old boxing movies where the mobster puts a sedative in one boxer’s sweat towel so that when the bell rings he stumbles out disoriented and gets pummeled.
Their justification that Republicans are protecting the integrity of elections could only convince those who don’t follow the news, which has repeatedly shown study after study that concludes there is no relevant voting fraud. Except for the GOP committing voter fraud by hampering Americans they don’t like the opportunity to vote.
Kareem’s Short Takes
Franklin, first Black ‘Peanuts’ character, gets his due just in time for MLK Day at Piner High School in Santa Rosa
SUMMARY: “…Two weeks before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Franklin Armstrong — the first Black character to appear in the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip — made his debut, mid-stride and confident, on the Piner High campus.
“That debut comes almost six decades after the comic strip Franklin made his other debut, becoming friends with Charlie Brown on a beach on July 31, 1968.”
MY TAKE: A few months ago, Marta Kaufman, the co-creator of the sitcom Friends (1994-2004), expressed her regret that the show did not have ethnic diversity. As a result, she donated $4 million to her alma mater, the Boston area’s Brandeis University, to establish an endowed professorship in the school’s African and African American studies department (“‘Friends’ lack of diversity ‘embarrassed’ its co-creator. So she made a $4-million decision”). In 1968, when Peanuts creator Charles Schulz introduced his first Black character, Franklin, he also was acknowledging that there were voices missing from his world.
I’m not mad that neither was aware of the lack of diversity when they created their works. They saw the world that they were familiar with and populated it with the people they hung out with. Eventually, both realized that maybe their world had been too narrow and that audiences deserved a broader perspective.
You’ll have to click the headline link to see the statue, which is funny and happy. I hope it inspires the students with the kind of joy that Peanuts has brought to so many millions, including me.
Tony Dungy Deletes Tweet Promoting Anti-Transgender Rhetoric (Sports Illustrated)
“The Daily Wire, a prominent conservative website, tweeted a video of a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives discussing the possibility of placing menstrual products in men’s restrooms, ostensibly geared toward transgender men.
“In response, Dungy tweeted, ‘That’s nothing. Some school districts are putting litter boxes in the school bathrooms for the students who identify as cats. Very important to address every student’s needs.’”
MY TAKE: Remember months ago when Joe Rogan had to apologize for spreading this same lie (“Joe Rogan Admits He Lied About Schools Using Litter Boxes”)? That means Dungy is either deliberately lying or doesn’t bother with facts when forming opinions. Of course, his ill-informed comment merely perpetuates the stereotype of athletes and coaches as dumb, arrogant jocks.
In Memorium: David Crosby (1941-2023)
David Crosby Was in Harmony with His Music—And with His Times
David Crosby, who died this week at 81, played with two iconic rock bands that defined the ‘60s and ‘70s: The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (which sometimes included Neil Young). He wrote many great songs, including “Eight Miles High,” “Guinnevere,” and “Wooden Ships.” But it was “Almost Cut My Hair” that I would think about whenever I was weary of the struggle for social change. The protagonist admits he almost cut his hair and he had a good excuse, but he didn’t because “I feel like I owe it to someone.” That was when long hair was a symbol to many people that we who had long hair were in the fight for social equity together. Now, most of us have no hair, but we’re still in the fight.
I chose the “Teach Your Children” video not just because it highlights their wonderful harmonies, but because it could be the soundtrack for today’s newsletter as we witness politicians like DeSantis and Saunders gorge on the carcass of education as if they were starving jackals. I guess they are: starving for personal power. I’m pretty sure “Teach Your Children” is not on their playlist.