[guest post by Dana]
Happy Friday! Here are a few news items that might interest you. Be sure to share anything that you might think would interest readers. Also, I’m asking for book recommendations. I’ve been re-reading old stuff but would like to have some new recommendations to check out. Pre-emptive strike: There isn’t a news item on this thread regarding Putin’s war because there was an open thread on the matter put up earlier today. Thanks. Now let’s get started!
First news item
Whoa Nelly, via JVW: “the Metropolitan London Police report that their horses are having trouble crossing streets painted with brightly-colored stripes in honor of LGBTQ people. I guess sometimes there are unintended consequences to flagrant virtue signaling. A reply to their Tweet also suggests that guide dogs for blind people also struggle to navigate through those streets”:
Can you please ask for them to be changed? It isn't just horses which find the crossing a problem & it needs a voice like yours to help them.
Guide dogs have been confused by them & this could lead to a terrible accident.
Please, think of those left suffering.
— Ali L 96.5% (@Alichat66) March 31, 2022
I sat through a City Council meeting where 2.5 hours were spent discussing whether the city was going to permit a similar crosswalk to be painted with a Pride design. Everything from the size and style of lettering to the shade and tones of the paint, what the design would look like, and the liability issue (would it distract drivers and possibly cause an accident) was discussed. The only thing that I saw as a real consideration (aside from liability) was the slippery slope: Would they be opening the door to any political group or cause to be captured in a public crosswalk? Pick your poison: MAGA crossing, pro-abortion or pro-gun crossing, open borders or closed borders crossing, etc. A smart official said the city should stick with neutral and innocuous symbols that reflect our town’s unique history, thus avoiding any political/religious/divisive causes. That made sense. So naturally, we now have a Pride crosswalk. Well, sort of. The nimwits executing the project couldn’t just stick with a simple Pride flag crosswalk, they decided to get pretty artsy the design, and now it is nearly impossible to discern what exactly it is. Unintended consequences.
Second news item
None of what’s being discussed is censorship in the remotest sense of the word, since even the “banned” books remain readily available in libraries and bookstores. (In fact, Maus, originally published in collected form in 1991, vaulted to the top of Amazon’s bestsellers lists immediately after being challenged.)
But here’s the thing: Unless we want to live in a country where every curricular decision—even ones about what’s served in the cafeteria—is subject to scorched-earth scrutiny not simply by the relevant parents and (maybe relevant) taxpayers but by every cable news host, Instagram mom, Bean Dad, elected official, and citizen at large, we need to give the people most directly affected more options so they can find a school that works for them.
The problem isn’t that To Kill a Mockingbird is being pulled from—or made mandatory in—10th-grade English, it’s that the overwhelming majority of kids (and parents) who are being told to suck it have no options. About 91 percent of K-12 students attend public schools, and while there has been a significant increase in various forms of school choice such as charters, online programs, and homeschooling, the overwhelming majority of kids still go to traditional, residential-assignment grammar and high schools.
The heart of the matter isn’t about who is making what specific decisions (however moronic you or I might think they are) but who is bound by them. Until we give parents not just more input into what their kids are learning but more actual options for where to send their kids, today’s book battles are only going to get worse. Gone for good are the days when an easy consensus on just about anything but especially education can be reached. For a lot of mostly good reasons (we’re wealthier, more educated, and more skeptical of experts and authorities), all of us feel empowered to insist on our preferences, especially when it comes to education.
Embarrassing California, but related:
Reading some banned books to figure out what these states are so afraid of. pic.twitter.com/z6eJ01NZJe
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 31, 2022
Third news item
Our nation needs elected leaders like Cheney who care more about fundamental governing principles that have strengthened and saved America through challenging times, such as preserving democracy, adherence to the rule of law and smooth transition of power. Cheney embodies these founding principles and shows a willingness to lose power to defend and save America — unlike some colleagues whose highest priority is keeping their seats or pursuing a more powerful title.
Fourth news item
The State Department on Thursday announced that it will make an “X” gender marker available on U.S. passports beginning April 11, and the option to select the marker for other forms of documentation will become available next year.
On State Department public forms, the “X” gender marker will be defined as “Unspecified or another gender identity.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the definition “is respectful of individuals’ privacy while advancing inclusion.”
Fifth news item
U.S. intelligence officials are privately bracing for a massive influx of more than 170,000 migrants at the Mexico border if COVID-era policies that allow instant expulsions during the public health emergency are ended, sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.
The response under way includes a newly created — and previously unreported — Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), essentially a war room to coordinate an interagency response….Border officials have used Title 42 more than 1 million times to rapidly expel migrants at the southern border without hearing asylum claims. But the Trump-era order wasn’t set up to be permanent, and senior Biden officials are preparing for its end as the virus is brought under control.
Department of Homeland Security intelligence estimates that perhaps 25,000 migrants already are waiting in Mexican shelters just south of the border for Title 42 to end.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will order an end to the Title 42 policy this week… A draft of the new order reviewed by the [Wall Street] Journal states that “there is no longer a serious danger” that migrants could spread Covid in border detention facilities.
The implementation of the new order will be delayed until late May, to give the administration time to prepare for a potential rise in migrants seeking to cross the southern border illegally.
Officials within the Department of Homeland Security have reportedly warned that rescinding the order could result in an influx of illegal border crossings.
Over 2 million migrants were detained at the southern border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in 2021, the first year of President Biden’s term in office. That was more than double the 921,812 migrants detained in a 2019 surge in illegal crossings.
Meanwhile, border agents encountered 164,973 migrants in February, up over 60 percent from February 2021.
Sixth news item
As President Donald J. Trump’s tenure came to an end, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House snapping pictures, notified Mr. Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book collecting some of her most memorable images.
This was hardly a radical idea: Official photographers from every White House since President Ronald Reagan’s have published their own books. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were so supportive that they wrote forewords for them.
But like so much else involving Mr. Trump, the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm.
First, aides to Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment, in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book, according to former associates of Mr. Trump.
Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to hold off on her book project to allow the former president to take Ms. Craighead’s photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which is now selling for as much as $230 a copy.
That the profits from Ms. Craighead’s labor are now going into Mr. Trump’s pocket has left several of Mr. Trump’s former aides upset — but not exactly surprised.
I feel bad for Craighead because these photos and her role as an historic documentarian
is not just her job, but it is her art, her vision, her labor, and her labor of love. While what he has done isn’t illegal, it is certainly typical of his greed, selfishness, and money-grubbing way of life.
Seventh news item
Fewer people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States now than at any other point in the pandemic, but hospitals and staff continue to feel the strain.
As of Friday, there are 16,138 people in the hospital with Covid-19 — fewer than there have ever been since the US Department of Health and Human Services first started tracking in July 2020. Just 2% of hospital beds are currently in use for Covid-19 patients.
Previously, the lowest point was in late June 2021, just before Delta became the dominant variant in the country. Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a peak in January 2022 amid the Omicron surge, when more than 160,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 at one time.
While the strain on the US hospital system directly related to treating Covid-19 patients has been significantly reduced, experts say that many hospitals are still burdened by staffing shortages and other patients who are coming in sicker after postponing care during the height of the pandemic
At CNN, Peniel E. Joseph complains about Ben Sasse’s “jaw-dropping” use of the word “winsome” to describe Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson:
“This lack of grace and empathy was evident in some of the jaw-dropping language used by members of the committee to describe Jackson — for instance, Sasse told Jackson she was “incredibly likable and winsome.” It seems impossible to imagine the Senator – or others of his colleagues, who praised Jackson’s performance in a similarly gendered terms – speaking these words to a White, male nominee. It sounded for all the world like she was being congratulated for not being an Angry Black Woman.”
As Charles C.W. Cooke wryly notes:
…in 2018, Sasse used exactly that “gendered” term to describe “White, male nominee” Brett Kavanaugh…
win·some | \ ˈwin(t)-səm \
Definition of winsome
1: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence
a winsome smile
2: CHEERFUL, LIGHTHEARTED
Other Words from win
Have a great weekend!