Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
Let’s do it!
First news item
Polk County Public Schools Regional Assistant Superintendent John Hill and several of his colleagues spent Tuesday morning going to area middle and high schools to gather 16 books out of media centers after County Citizens Defending Freedom, a conservative political group, complained to Superintendent Frederick Heid that the novels, graphic novels, autobiographies, and sex education books contain pornographic material harmful to children.
Heid sent an email Monday evening to middle and high school principals and media center librarians, stating that a “stakeholder group” is alleging that the books may be in violation of Florida Statute 847.012, which deals with distributing obscene or harmful materials to children.
“While it is not the role of my office to approve/evaluate instructional or resource materials at that level, I do have an obligation to review any allegation that a crime is being or has been committed,” Heid wrote in the email. “It is also my obligation to provide safeguards to protect our employees. The district will be taking the following steps to ensure that we address this issue honestly, fairly, and transparently.”
When discussing the fact that Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” depicts the brutal rape of a boy by a teenaged boy, Nelson was asked if all books containing rape should be banned.
“I’m not going to go into that with you,” Nelson said. He became irritated when it was pointed out that the Bible and William Shakespeare plays contain rape, incest and adultery, and asked if he wanted the Bible or Shakespeare removed, too.
“It makes no difference to the story,” Nelson said. “You want to paint it in that light. You want to twist things.”
When asked where the line was between what was acceptable and what was not, Nelson said, “I don’t know where I can necessarily define that for you. When you know something’s wrong, you know it’s wrong. … No one has suggested banning Shakespeare. Our issues with these books are clear — Shakespeare’s not on the list.”
It’s like these people were never teenagers. Tell a high schooler NO to something, and the first thing that high schooler is going to do is go search out or try whatever elicited that NO. Also, these teenagers already have, at their fingertips, unfettered access to the entirety of the internet: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the very ugly. I’m guessing that what’s described in these books isn’t really anything new to today’s teenagers. For better or worse.
Anyway, there seems to be a trend:
Art Spiegelman’s once-controversial and now-canonical graphic memoir Maus has been removed from the McMinn County, Tennessee, school curriculum in a unanimous decision by the local Board of Education.
It was an unexpected irony for the news to hit this week, today being Holocaust Remembrance Day. Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-winning book, with its enormous cultural impact and reader-friendliness, has been a, perhaps the, primary pop vehicle of such remembrance over the past few decades. Spiegelman’s mother and father were both Auschwitz survivors, and Maus portrays him learning his parents’ Holocaust experiences and retelling them—in a riff on classic animal-comics tropes—with Jews as mice and Nazis as cats.
Oh come on, parents, get a grip:
I'd like to note here that this is what the "nudity" in "Maus" looks like. pic.twitter.com/JrJfDKEpxx
— Jane Coaston (@janecoaston) January 26, 2022
Oh come on academia, get a grip:
The Telegraph is reporting that the “Approaches to Literature” module (is that like a course?) presented by the English department of the University of Chester is warning undergrads that the J. K. Rowling book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.), which is the first, simplest, and most child-friendly book in the entire series, may unleash “difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class and identity” and encouraged students to “get in touch” should they have “any issues with the content” of the course.
A spokesman for the university declined to elaborate to the Telegraph’s reporter, but since the book in question is hardly objectionable, this appears to be an example of another passive-aggressive attack on Rowling’s reputation driven by her public profile as a so-called “*TERF.”
(*trans-exclusionary radical feminist)
Second news item
Unfortunately, more indicators:
Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine has expanded to include supplies of blood along with other medical materials that would allow it to treat casualties, in yet another key indicator of Moscow’s military readiness, three U.S. officials tell Reuters.
Current and former U.S. officials say concrete indicators — like blood supplies — are critical in determining whether Moscow would be prepared to carry out an invasion, if Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to do so.
The disclosure of the blood supplies by U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds another piece of context to growing U.S. warnings that Russia could be preparing for a new invasion of Ukraine as it masses more than 100,000 troops near its borders.
These warnings have included President Joe Biden’s prediction that a Russian assault was likely…
The Pentagon has previously acknowledged the deployment of “medical support” as part of Russia’s buildup. But the disclosure of blood supplies adds a level of detail that experts say is critical to determining Russian military readiness.
Ukraine president tells U.S. to calm down:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Joe Biden to “calm down the messaging” about the threat of a Russian invasion because it was stirring panic, CNN reported, citing an unnamed Ukrainian official.
Biden told Zelensky on Thursday that a Russian invasion could happen as soon as February, when the ground freezes over, tweeted Emily Horne, White House National Security Council spokesperson.
However, Zelensky told Biden in the call that Ukraine did not agree with the US assessment, and that it was bringing panic that could later bring economic hardship to Ukraine, CNN reported, citing a senior Ukrainian official.
Zelensky also told Biden to “calm down the messaging,” CNN reported, citing the official.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has reached out to 8 senators with a list of security and sanction requests:
“Ukraine speaks from centuries of experience. We understand Russia,” Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk wrote in the letter, which also thanks Congress for ongoing bipartisan support. “We know what will and will not deter the occupants of the Kremlin.”
Details: The four requests were approved by Zelensky’s administration, according to two sources familiar with the matter. They are:
“Expedited and higher-impact security assistance, including air defense, anti-ship and anti-armor capabilities, and flexible loans and financing mechanisms.”
“Immediate, mandatory sanctions” against the operator of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which the letter calls “no less an existential threat to Ukraine’s security and democracy than the Russian troops on our border.”
“A clear trigger” for sanctions based on Russia’s actions, with a lower threshold than what has been outlined in the current Democratic-sponsored legislation under consideration.
“Mandatory pre-trigger and post-trigger sanctions against all of Russia’s most significant financial institutions.”
President Biden said Friday he plans to send a small number of U.S. forces to Eastern Europe in the “near term” amid growing fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said Friday he plans to send a small number of U.S. forces to Eastern Europe in the “near term” amid growing fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I’ll be moving troops to Eastern Europe in the NATO countries in the near term,” Biden told reporters at Joint Base Andrews upon returning from a trip to Pittsburgh. “Not too many.”
…Most of the troops are expected to join a NATO rapid response force in Eastern Europe.
Third news item
If you were judging by much of the mainstream press coverage, you would think that CRT is just a movement to ensure that the history of slavery, racism, and Jim Crow is not neglected in America’s classrooms. But 1) large percentages of both Republicans and Democrats favor teaching those things, and 2) that’s not what CRT is.
Democrats often object that CRT is “not taught in K-12 schools,” which is evasive. It’s true that third graders are not being assigned the works of Kimberly Crenshaw or Ibram X. Kendi, but affinity groups, “anti-racism” (in the sense of rejecting the ideal of color blindness), and other CRT-adjacent ideas are making their way into classrooms. New York City has spent millions on training materials that disdain “worship of the written word,” “individualism,” and “objectivity” as aspects of “white-supremacy culture.”
As is their wont, some Republicans have made things even worse. A conservative group is suing a school district in Tennessee because its second grade curriculum included a “Civil Rights Heroes” module that included a picture book about Ruby Bridges. The parents claim that the unit violates Tennessee’s new anti-CRT law and contains material that is “Anti-American, Anti-White, and Anti-Mexican [sic].”
Fourth news item
Caught in competing Covid narratives:
The division is easy to state and readily observable in the real world. From the moment that Donald Trump said—almost exactly two years ago, on January 22, 2020—–that COVID is “one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine,” a pattern was set. Republicans minimized the threat of COVID, and Democrats did the opposite.
Not all Republicans and not all Democrats, of course, but the numbers and the patterns of behavior don’t lie. As The New York Times’ David Leonhardt wrote last year (relying on a Gallup and Franklin Templeton survey of 35,000 Americans), “both liberals and conservatives suffer from misperceptions about the pandemic—in opposite directions. ‘Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them.’”
The best available evidence demonstrates a dreadful reality: Vaccine reluctance and death rate have correlated with votes for Trump. Since the date when vaccines “widely became available,” the higher the percentage of Trump votes, the lower the vaccine uptake and the higher the death rate. As NPR reported in December: “People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.”
Fifth news item
Arizona’s leading candidate for governor:
NEW! From @AccountableGOP.
The next governor of Arizona?
Yup, if Donald Trump has his way.
Which he shouldn’t.
Say no to @KariLake.
Say yes to democracy.pic.twitter.com/jioP2NYivj
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 27, 2022
Maybe not the leading candidate for long…
Sixth news item
Demands to fire Ilya Shapiro for a bad tweet:
Georgetown University’s Black Law Students Association is demanding the firing of Ilya Shapiro, a director of constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, from his brand new position at the university. Shapiro was slated to start work as executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution next week, but a poorly worded tweet about President Joe Biden’s pledge to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court has landed him in hot water.
Shapiro agrees that the tweet was not great.
“I regret my poor choice of words, which undermine my message that no one should be discriminated against for his or her gender or skin color,” Shapiro tells Reason.
On Wednesday, Shapiro tweeted the following:
Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Even has identify politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?
Because Biden said he’s only consider[ing] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.
He subsequently apologized and deleted the tweeted after receiving significant criticism.
The phrasing “lesser black woman” was particularly ugly by itself, of course, but is being misconstrued by those calling for Shapiro to be fired. Members of the Georgetown community are not wrong to demand more precise wording from someone of Shapiro’s stature, but given that he has apologized, the university should accept this and move on. If Georgetown’s administration were to fire Shapiro, it would be tacitly endorsing the unfair smear that he is a racist and a sexist.
Seventh news item
A 26-year-old transgender woman who, at age 17, sexually assaulted a child will serve a two-year sentence in a juvenile facility rather than a jail for adults, a judge ruled Thursday.
The case of Hannah Tubbs, who has admitted sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in 2014 in the bathroom of a Denny’s restaurant in Palmdale, has thrown a spotlight on Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s refusal to seek the transfer of juvenile defendants to adult court. Gascón has argued that the brains of juveniles aren’t fully developed and that the proper setting to rehabilitate people who commit crimes while underage is a juvenile treatment facility.
Although Tubbs committed the sexual assault in 2014, she was not arrested and charged with the crime until January 2021, when Gascón was in office. In the interim, she had been arrested for battery, drug possession and probation violations in Idaho and Washington and convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Kern County, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials. She was also arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor but wasn’t prosecuted for the alleged offense, according to court records.
In November, Tubbs admitted sexually assaulting the 10-year-old girl, an attack that law enforcement officials said stopped only when someone else walked into the bathroom. Prosecutors, however, never filed a motion seeking to transfer her case to adult court, where she could have faced a longer sentence that would be served in a prison or jail that houses adults.
“I want to be clear,” Superior Court Judge Mario Barrera said at a hearing Thursday in a Lancaster courtroom. “The filing of a transfer motion is entirely within the discretion of the district attorney.”
Gascón previously told The Times that the victim, who has moved away from California and remains in therapy, did not want to testify at a trial. He also expressed concern that as a transgender woman, Tubbs could be victimized in a jail for adults. In a youth facility, he said, she could receive treatment and therapy.
Eighth news item
These are all @NBA players who are sponsored by Chinese companies that produce their products with slave labor.
Unfortunately many sports media outlets & journalists are controlled by #NBA
Have some courage & ask these athletes about their ignorance.
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) January 28, 2022
Human rights activists issued a call to action against the Beijing Olympics on Friday, imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call the “genocide games.”
Speaking at an online press conference organized by the rights group Human Rights Watch, activists representing Chinese dissidents and the minority Uyghur and Tibetan populations urged international attendants to voice their opposition to China’s hosting of the Games, which begin next week.
“The 2022 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the genocide games,” said Teng Biao, a former human rights activist in China who is now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.
“The CCP’s purpose is to exactly turn the sports arena into a stage for political legitimacy and a tool to whitewash all those atrocities,” he added, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Activists have failed to achieve a full boycott of the games, but have continued to speak out.
“Your silence is their strength. This is what they want more than anything: that the world will play by China’s rules, that we will follow China’s lead, that we will look away from these atrocities and crimes for the sake of business as usual,” said Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, at the press conference Friday.
She appealed directly to athletes from the U.S., UK, France and others to speak.
“I personally believe that you should use your platform and your privilege and this historic opportunity. You have to speak out against the wave of genocide,” she said
I would certainly understand if athletes from the West decline to speak against the CCP. After all, they’ve been warned:
Yang Shu, the deputy director of international relations for the Beijing organising committee, told a press conference on Tuesday that “dedicated departments” would investigate athletes’ comments at the Games.
“Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected,” Yang said.
“Any behaviour or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”
So far, the corporations don’t seem ashamed at all. Google and Apple put the Chinese government’s flawed app in their app stores without disclosing the risks to users. The Warriors organization distanced itself from Palihapitiya’s comments, but neither he nor the team mentioned the Uyghurs in their subsequent statements. By both action and inaction, they are helping the Chinese government cover up its repression, mainly because it is in their financial interest, said Michael Sobolik, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
“When your bottom line depends on a genocidal regime, you become a de facto apologist for a genocide,” he said. “The only difference between Chamath, the IOC and companies like Apple is the degree of how brazen they are.”
It may seem expedient now to claim “nobody cares” about the Uyghur genocide. But the actions of the athletes, companies and international organizations at the 2022 Beijing Olympics will be remembered for generations, as they were after the Games in 1936. Each of them — and each of us — must think hard about which side of history we want to be on.
Have a great weekend.