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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
October 1, 2022

"Statewide book bans" are coming to Florida's classrooms, enforced by the far right

(Salon) In early August, a video posted on TikTok by a Tennessee elementary school teacher went viral. The teacher was sitting on the floor of her classroom, before a bookshelf containing hundreds of slim books — a collection normally available to students if they finish their classwork early. But according to a new Tennessee law, the "Age Appropriate Materials Act," she was required to catalog every book in her classroom, then send it for several rounds of review and post a final list of approved books online for parents to scrutinize, before she could allow her students to read any of them. In the close to 14,000 comments the video received, a common theme emerges: "And people wonder why teachers are leaving in droves."

As of this week, it seems likely that teachers in Florida will be placed in a similar situation. This March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a policy, HB1467, that bans schools from using any books that are "pornographic" or age "inappropriate," and allows parents broad access to review and challenge all books and materials used for instruction or in school libraries.

In combination with other recent laws restricting public schools from discussing LGBTQ issues or racism — including Florida's 2022 "Don't Say Gay" law (HB 1557) and "Stop WOKE Act" (HB7) and its 2021 ban on teaching "Critical Race Theory" — this has led some school districts to advise teachers to box up their classroom libraries until each book is vetted. Others have instructed teachers to stop buying or accepting donated books for their classrooms until at least January, to give the district time to hire mandatory new staff to serve as "media specialists" who review each title.

As Book Riot reported in July, the new requirements are so confusing that "each district is interpreting them differently." In Palm Beach County, the district provided teachers with a checklist to assess their collections: did they have books (usually about LGBTQ characters or issues) that had already been flagged for review? Does a book "explicitly instruct" about sexual orientation or gender identity? Does a book promote the ideas that "People are racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," that people should feel guilty about things members of their race or sex did in the past, or that systemic racism exists in the U.S.? ................(more)


September 30, 2022

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida's home insurance industry

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida's already-fragile homeowners insurance market. Experts say a major storm like Ian could push some of those insurance companies into insolvency, making it harder for people to collect on claims.

Since January 2020, at least a dozen insurance companies in the state have gone out of business, including six this year alone. Nearly 30 others are on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation's "Watch List" because of financial instability.

"Hurricane Ian will test the financial preparedness of some insurers to cover losses to their portfolios, in particular smaller Florida carriers with high exposure concentrations in the impacted areas," Jeff Waters, an analyst at Moody's Analytics subsidiary RMS and a meteorologist, told ABC News. Waters said Florida is a peak catastrophe zone for reinsurers, and those with exposure will likely incur meaningful losses. .......(more)


September 30, 2022

The Most Absurd "Solution" to America's Assault on Women

The Most Absurd “Solution” to America’s Assault on Women
Even if the Equal Rights Amendment were somehow ratified today, this Supreme Court wouldn’t care.

SEPT 30, 20225:45 AM

(Slate) In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment by a two-thirds vote and gave the states until 1979 to approve it. They failed to do so. This month, however, proponents of the ERA are fighting to revive the amendment on multiple fronts. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case designed to make the United States archivist “publish” and “certify” the amendment. One week earlier, senators pressed Colleen Shogan—President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace the current archivist—on whether she would declare the ERA to be legitimately ratified.

This flurry of activity 50 years after initial congressional passage is just the latest twist in the unnervingly long road the ERA has taken on its path attempting to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If it makes it, it would guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. The people pushing for it think they have a case because three states approved the ERA long after the initial deadline—Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia in 2020—and many Democrats believe it should now be part of the U.S. Constitution. Republicans counter that actually, five states withdrew their approval already, so the math doesn’t work, and add that the deadline is long past, anyway.

The entire mess has been laid at the feet of the archivist of the United States, a position Shogan will soon take over (pending confirmation), hence the lobbying. Proponents of the amendment are also upset that the Biden Administration is taking the same slightly technical position that Donald Trump’s did: The archivist cannot certify the ERA without confirmation from either a federal court or Congress. The disappointment is, on some level, understandable: Those supporting the ERA’s resuscitation argue that it is the solution to our current political horrors—that the amendment could protect a national right to abortion and contraception, enshrine LGBTQ equality (including same-sex marriage and trans rights), and justify federal legislation protecting women from domestic violence, wage discrimination, and more. Once the archivist certifies the ERA, they argue, the federal judiciary can finally implement a full guarantee of sex equality under law. That’s why they sued the last archivist for refusing to act, and it’s why they’re pressuring the next one already.

This argument has strong emotional appeal. It is also absurd. There is nothing wrong with the ERA itself; obviously a constitutional right to sex equality would be an improvement. But the campaign to revive the ERA reveals a baffling misunderstanding about the actual contours of the ongoing fight over who has legal rights in this country. It is like bringing a butter knife to a gunfight. .............(more)


September 28, 2022

Roger Stone, Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 coup: Is a major bombshell coming?

Roger Stone, Donald Trump and the Jan. 6 coup: Is a major bombshell coming?
Did the master of Republican "black arts" finally go too far? It may be Roger Stone's time in the barrel at last


(Salon) If there is one prominent through-line connecting the two most corrupt presidents in U.S. history, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, it would have to be the person of Roger Stone. The man has been at the heart of every election scandal for the past 50 years and he's still at it, even today. It's quite a legacy for the guy who has Richard Nixon's face tattooed on his back. It's lucky he left his chest clear for his last great cause, Donald Trump. Stone's work on Trump's behalf provides the perfect coda to a legendary career as a political dirty trickster and world-class black-ops conspiracy-monger.

Stone has had his fingerprints on every nefarious deed the Republicans have pulled in the last half century, starting when he was a kid working on Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, and given the job of spying on rival campaigns and finding devious ways to embarrass them in the press. He has said that during the day he was a scheduler but at night, he was "trafficking in the black arts."

In 1977, at age 24, Stone was elected president of the Young Republicans with the help of his buddy Paul Manafort, after they had reportedly compiled "whip books," or files of personal information, on all 800 delegates to the convention. He went on to work on all of Ronald Reagan's presidential campaigns doing what he does best. Stone has claimed, for example, that he served as a go-between when Roy Cohn — the infamous mob lawyer and mentor to Donald Trump — got liberal Republican John Anderson on the New York general election ballot as a third-party candidate in 1980, splitting the vote and allowing Reagan to win the state. Stone has hinted that he delivered a suitcase full of money to a lawyer to make that happen.

Stone then teamed up with Manafort, Charlie Black and the infamous Lee Atwater to form a lobbying and consulting firm that became known as "The Torturer's Lobby" for its willingness to represent the world's most infamous dictators, along with such right-wing luminaries as Rupert Murdoch. He worked with Trump for years, as an adviser and lobbyist for his gambling interests and later as manager of Trump's brief campaign for the Reform Party's presidential nomination in 2000.


Setting aside the unbelievable fatuousness of Stone's proclamation that "we've never cheated," which is deeply absurd coming from him, this pretty well lays conspiracy to overturn the election, three months before it was executed. He knew Trump was behind and likely to lose. The question before the House committee now is whether or not Roger Stone and Donald Trump were plotting this together and whether Stone was colluding with the violent extremists with whom he associated to start the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. ................(more)


September 25, 2022

Leonard Pitts Jr.: We believe Herschel Walker

By LEONARD PITTS JR. | lpitts@miamiherald.com | Miami Herald
September 25, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, meet Herschel Walker, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Here he is on the Inflation Reduction Act: “A lot of money, it’s going to trees. . . . We’ve got enough trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

And on school shootings: “What about gettin’ a department that can look at young men that’s lookin’ at women that’s looking at just social media? What about doing that?”


Through such acts of gibberish, Walker has shown us who he is and then some. So when the would-be Georgia senator said last week, “I’m not that smart,” well, it’s not like anyone fainted from shock. Unless it was shock that he spoke the truth, something with which Walker — who has claimed both a college degree and FBI experience he does not have — has little acquaintance.

He was answering a reporter’s question about his preparation for an Oct. 14 debate with incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. “I’m this country boy,” said Walker. “I’m not that smart. And he’s that preacher, he’s a smart man, wear these nice suits. So he’s gonna show up and embarrass me.”

Some observers considered this an effort to lower expectations, so that Walker “wins” the debate by pronouncing his own name right when he takes the stage. That’s at odds, though, with the fact that Walker keeps claiming Warnock is afraid to debate him. For the record, it was Walker who declined an Oct. 13 date because, he said, he didn’t want to be scheduled against Sunday night football. ..............(more)


September 25, 2022

Compared to oil and gas, offshore wind is 125 times better for taxpayers

Compared to oil and gas, offshore wind is 125 times better for taxpayers
A new report finds per-acre revenue from offshore wind blows oil and gas out of the water

(Grist) Not only is offshore wind power better for the planet compared to oil and gas, it’s also better for taxpayers. That’s according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy research institute.

“Americans are getting significantly more return on investment from offshore wind energy lease sales than they are from oil and gas lease sales” per acre, said Michael Freeman, a conservation policy analyst for the Center and author of the report.

Offshore leases are essentially patches of publicly-owned waters rented out by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for energy production — a process governed by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The money made from these leases goes to the U.S. Treasury Department, and, through public program funding, back into the pockets of taxpayers.

From 2019 to 2021, the average winning bid from offshore oil and gas lease sales was $47 per acre. By contrast, the average winning bid for a wind lease sale was 125 times higher — just over $5,900 per acre. And that number is likely to get even higher given the American wind industry is still in its relative infancy, said Jenny Rowland-Shea, the Director of Public Lands for the Center for American Progress. ..............(more)


September 24, 2022

A tour inside Detroit's Masonic Temple, the largest in the world


(Detroit Metro Times) This month marks 100 years since the first cornerstone was laid for Detroit’s majestic Masonic Temple, a hulking building at the corner of Temple Street and Second Avenue in Detroit’s Cass Corridor that constructed by the Freemasons, a spiritual fraternity with lodges across the world dating back to the 13th century. Constructed for $6.5 million at the time (about $87.9 million in today’s dollars), Detroit’s Masonic Temple also happens to be the largest in the world, boasting 16 floors and 1,037 rooms, some of which were never completed. We recently took a tour of the building — here’s everything we saw.

......much more at the link......

September 24, 2022

The right loves to say "politics is downstream from culture," but on the right the opposite is true

The right loves to say "politics is downstream from culture," but on the right the opposite is true
Tim Pool's "music" and Ben Shapiro's "movies": No one would consume this stuff, if not to "own" the liberals

Senior Writer

(Salon) For those living in that blessed intersection of hyper-aware of the music charts but totally ignorant of the world of far-right politics, it was no doubt a mystery: A comically terrible rock song called "Only Ever Wanted" by a band called Timcast had hit #2 on the iTunes music chart. It's a song so bad that it provokes retroactive respect for the songcraft and musicianship of the mid-2000s cut-rate emo bands that it's ripping off.

Unfortunately, the answer to the mystery is far more terrible than "a lot of people have bad taste." Timcast is the, uh, brainchild of Tim Pool, a YouTube personality who pretends to be a liberal to give cover to what is, in fact, a steady stream of fascistic propaganda. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, while claiming to be a "disaffected liberal," Pool has "pushed his commentary in an extreme hard-right direction in recent years," amplifying figures like January 6 organizer Ali Alexander, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Infowars founder Alex Jones. As Daily Beast documented, Pool has garnered more than a billion views for his videos hyping far-right conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideas.

In other words, people aren't listening to this embarrassingly subpar emo "music" because they like it. They like white nationalism and think that, by listening to this song, they're helping support the cause. For most people, what they like in a pop song is if it has a good beat and you can dance to it. For the far right, however, the only question is "does this song trigger the liberals?"

One of the shibboleths of the increasingly fascist American right is a quote commonly attributed to the decade-dead Andrew Breitbart: "Politics is downstream from culture." It's a notion that drives a lot of the relentless right-wing whining about "woke Hollywood." The belief, which isn't entirely irrational, is that the more people see same-sex couples, drag queens, Black hobbits, and female superheroes onscreen, the more tolerant they'll become of the idea that one can be a person while not being a straight white male. For the right, that can't be countenanced, which is why mobs of aggrieved bigots diligently review-bomb popular shows and movies with diverse casts, in hopes of scaring Hollywood into believing the mantra "go woke, go broke." (Sadly, the campaign appears to be working on Warner Brothers, threatening the future of many of the best shows on TV.) ...........(more)


September 24, 2022

Leaked Study Shows Exxon, Partners Overspent by $138 Billion

(Bloomberg) Oil and natural gas projects that Exxon Mobil Corp. invested in between 1998 and 2017 ended up costing $138 billion more than early-stage estimates, potentially due to mismanagement by operators and poor planning, according to an internal analysis seen by Bloomberg.

The 2020 study, reviewing 110 projects in which Exxon took a stake over two decades, suggested two theories for the overspend: the sheer complexity of large-scale developments and “human biases” that resulted in “overoptimistic” plans designed to win approval from senior executives for funding. Twenty-one of the projects accounted for 93% of the overspend, according to the analysis. The worst ended up costing more than six times an early estimate.

The $138 billion overspend is a gross figure that includes partners’ stakes in the projects, meaning Exxon didn’t shoulder the excessive costs alone. Exxon spokesperson Matt Furman said that the so-called Gate 2 early-stage estimates used as a comparison in the study were “rough sketches” and that the company’s share of the costs above the more important “Gate 3” final investment decision amounted to $20 billion during the period. Of that total, only $6 billion was attributable to projects that Exxon actually operated, representing a margin of error of just 1.5% compared with the total capital invested, he said.

The entire energy industry suffered large cost overruns during the 2010s, made worse by the 2014 oil price crash, one of the worst in the history of the crude market. The Kashagan project in Kazakhstan, funded by a group of major oil companies including Exxon, went considerably over budget. Gorgon, a massive Australian gas operation run by Chevron Corp. and in which Exxon has a minority stake, also saw costs spiral. Other examples abound. ..........(more)


September 24, 2022

DC: A First Look At The New Metro Map, Featuring Silver Line Extension And Name Changes

(DCist) Metro is rolling out a new version of its iconic Metrorail map today ahead of the Silver Line Phase II extension opening later this fall, potentially in November.

The transit agency says it has 5,000 paper maps in stations and on trains, so it will take time to swap them out. The new map is now the official version and will soon appear on Metro’s website and elsewhere.

“It will take several weeks of planning and preparation for Metro to print and replace every map of various sizes, fare tables, and customer brochures,” Metro said in a statement.

WMATA is also posting new signs at several re-named stations and switching out signs with the Silver Line’s new end line stations, Ashburn and Downtown Largo (formerly Largo Town Center). .............(more)


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