Archives for category: Stupid

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee recently signed the most restrictive bill in the nation to ban drag shows, where men dress as women or women dress as men. Anyone who dares to do it will be charged with a felony and thrown in the clink. No drag shows in Tennessee!

Governor Bill Lee (R-TN) signed one of the country’s most restrictive anti-drag bans into law on Thursday, despite criticism and backlash from LGBTQ advocates denouncing the legislation as harmful and discriminatory.

The Republican-controlled legislature ran roughshod over the democratic process, pushing through an amendment to the previously passed anti-transgender bill, Senate Bill 3 ,which now includes drag performances under a category reserved for adult businesses like strip clubs.

This inclusion will make appearing in public, or “anywhere where a minor could view it,” dressed in drag a criminal offense.

While first offenses will be charged as misdemeanors, subsequent violations will incur felony charges that could land a performer in prison for up to six years.

I sure hope the hit Broadway show “Some Like It Hot” doesn’t plan to visit Nashville. The cast will be arrested.

The Hawkins County GOP must be pretty upset too. Some years back, the county Republicans put on a drag show, and it was their most successful fund-raiser ever. You gotta open the link and see the GOP leaders in drag!

And open this link to see Rudy Guiliani in drag, playing coy with Donald Trump.

John Thompson is a retired teacher and historian in Oklahoma who follows the goings-on in his state closely. I wish there were someone like him in every state: wise, experienced, intelligent, articulate.

What was Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters thinking when, this weekend, he posted on Twitter a photo of a White, blond, young woman washing her hands in a bathroom with two Black, young women in the mirror next to her? To see the photo, click here.

Walters added the message, “I will always fight for students,” and “Student Safety over liberal agenda.” But, why would Walters see the photo as a real-life portrait of Blacks threatening Whites?

Since I’m not familiar with the insides of female students’ bathrooms, I checked out the 1.3k replies to the post. One responder found the same three young women in another photo that indicates it didn’t capture a real-life interaction. Another apparently found the source of the photo, a Linkedin post by Femly, entitled Period Equity Laws: Here’s why organizations should go above and beyond to ensure their period care offering is equitable! So, it appears to me that Femly’s message is about combating the stigma and shame that surrounds menstruation, even though Ryan’s use of the photo obviously sent the opposite message in terms of race.

One response on Twitter asked why Walters would choose “a period equity ad and then present it in such as a way that it looks pro-segregation?” But another had a different answer, noting that one of the Black students “clearly has books in that backpack. I’ll bet they’re books that promote CRT—books about the Tulsa Massacre or the Trail of Tears.”

Seriously, these tweets all add support for the editorial, It’s Time for Ryan Walters to End Disparaging Rhetoric or Resign, by the Oklahoman’s managing editor for diversity, community engagement & opinion, Clytie Bunyan. Bunyan wrote the “tweet was the latest of Walters’ blatant and unapologetic insults on Oklahoma.” She also provided context:

When you’re looking at curricula and allowing European history but surgically removing Black history, that’s racism. When Walters poses for a Christmas photo with his family with a white Santa and declares “No Woke Santa this year” at a time when stories about the popularity of a Black Santa and representation from a Native American Santa are published and aired in local media, that’s racism.

Bunyan correctly noted that Walters has:

Problems with messaging. His incessant video tweets are filled with offensive racist implications. He apparently believes we, the people of Oklahoma, have given him the authority to be unabashedly racist in his dog-whistling pronouncements.

Buynan notes that the “confusing tweet” … “leaves no positive benchmark, only angst, tension and more poison spreading through Oklahoma.” So, if he can’t do more than spread discord, he should “resign.”

As was demonstrated in the previous week, Walters is not alone spewing hatred and racism. So, I wonder what was on the minds of the Republican House members who censured and removed Rep. Mauree Turner from her committees. What did they think was in the head of the nation’s first, non-binary, Black Muslim, when she spoke with Capitol law enforcement agents before giving them access to her office and a trans-gender demonstrator? As Politico explained, “the spouse of a protester who threw water on a state lawmaker sought shelter in their office.”

Politico also recounted the abuse and death threats Turner has received, and it added an Editor’s note:

Turner read aloud from an email sent to their inbox. The sender hurled racist, transphobic, homophobic and Islamophobic insults at Turner and said they should be shunned from society because they were a burden. POLITICO has chosen not to print the insults so as not to elevate hateful rhetoric.

So, what did Turner have in mind when speaking with the police? Rep. Turner has witnessed the stress created by 40 anti-trans and/or anti-LGBTQ bills that have been filed this session. The protest was against “HB 2177, a bill that would outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.” And clearly, Turner and her supporters were being treated differently than the two legislators who are being prosecuted for felonies.

And, I wonder what the Republican leadership was thinking when they failed to talk with Turner before filing the censure without warning. And I wonder what Republicans who were quietly embarrassed by it were feeling when they stripped Turner’s and her district’s representation in committees.

Of course, there are questions about what plenty of Oklahoma MAGA’s had in mind when they’ve made extreme statements. For instance, what did Gov. Stitt mean when he claimed “every square inch” of Oklahoma for Jesus? And what was Sen. Shane Jett thinking when attacking Social and Emotional Learning as a leftist plot to “psychologically manipulate children and surveil Oklahoma families under the guise of addressing trauma.”

Then, what was in the minds of Republicans who voted down a bipartisan bill, HB 1028 which “would prohibit schools from administering corporal punishment to “any student identified with disability in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

As the Washington Post reported, “Oklahoma state Rep. John Talley thought his bill to bar schools from spanking children with disabilities would find little to no opposition at the state’s legislature.” After all, he “had a call with a U.S. Marshal who told me his autistic daughter got spanked three times in a day for not doing her math correctly — there’s a point when you have to step up and say ‘this is just wrong.’”

But, “what seemed like a rare bipartisan moment quickly came crashing down as other Republican lawmakers invoked the Bible to argue against Talley’s House Bill 1028, claiming in some instances that ‘God’s word is higher than all the so-called experts,’ as Rep. Jim Olsen posited during the proposed legislation’s debate.” The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported that Olsen further explained, “Somebody mentioned that American (Academy of) Pediatrics thinks (spanking) is a bad idea.” Then, “After reading Bible verses he said prove that God condones corporal punishment. ‘I disagree. And I have a higher authority.’”

In other words, every week since the Oklahoma legislature convened, rightwing extremists have continually hurled one cruel and irrational assault after another at our democracy. It seems like more Republicans are disturbed by this MAGA craziness. A few have spoken out against a few of the behaviors that they see as wrong. So, I wonder what is in the minds of Republicans who are being pressured to vote for such a brutal agenda. I wonder when they will reach a point when you have to step up and say “this is just wrong.”

John Thompson added as a postscript:

“Several people were a little nervous about voting for it because they thought they were voting against the Bible,” said [John] Talley, R-Stillwater,” and he’s working to get those Republicans to reconsider their votes.

Ron DeSantis is trying to be the Anthony Comstock of the 21st century. Do you know who Comstock was? He was the most notorious crusader against “vice” in the United States of his era or any other era. Comstock was responsible for the destruction of tens of thousands of books that he considered lewd, including marriage manuals. He was responsible for criminalizing the mailing of anything that was lewd or lascivious, anything that would cause abortions, anything that would encourage contraception. The Comstock Law, passed in 1873, may be revived if a Trump judge in Amarillo, Texas, bans the mailing of abortion pills in the next few days or weeks.

Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 – September 21, 1915) was an anti-vice activist, United States Postal Inspector, and secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV), who was dedicated to upholding Christian morality. He opposed obscene literature, abortion, contraception, gambling, prostitution, and patent medicine.

Like Comstock, DeSantis wants to make a national reputation by crusading against lewd books, abortion, and—unknown in Comstock’s day—drag queens. Comstock would have reacted to drag queens just like DeSantis: with horror and revulsion and a passion to criminalize them. Comstock wanted to control people’s personal decisions; so does DeSantis.

In another display of DeSantis’s growing zeal for control of everyone’s life, the state of Florida threatened to take away the liquor license of a major hotel that permitted drag shows where parents brought children with them. DeSantis sent an undercover police unit to watch the show when it opened at the Plaza Live in Orlando to determine whether there were any minors in the audience and whether they were exposed to lewd content; the investigators reported that there were minors, they were accompanied by their parents, and the show didn’t contain any lascivious content. No matter: the state is beginning proceedings to withdraw the establishment’s liquor license, which will likely close it down.

What about “parental rights”? Do parents no longer have the right to decide whether their minor children are mature enough to see a man dressed in women’s clothes? Will they also be forbidden to take their children to see the films starring Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” or Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in “Some Like It Hot”?

Does DeSantis know that men traditionally played women’s roles in Shakespeare plays and other live shows when women were not allowed to act in public? What drives his panic about anything gay?

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is seeking to revoke the Hyatt Regency Miami’s liquor license because one of its facilities hosted a Christmas-themed drag queen show in which the state claimed minors were present.

The event — “A Drag Queen Christmas” — was held on Dec. 27 at the James L. Knight Center, a 4,500-seat auditorium affiliated with the hotel that typically hosts concerts, graduation ceremonies and other events.

The December show was hosted by Nina West, a star from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and minors were required to be accompanied by an adult to attend.

In a 17-page administrative complaint, state regulators said the venue’s admission policies allowed minors to attend the event and as a result, they were exposed to performers who were “wearing sexually suggestive clothing and prosthetic female genitalia.”

“The nature of the show’s performances, particularly when conducted in the presence of young children, corrupts the public morals and outrages the sense of public decency,” according to the complaint, filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Sometimes, administrative complaints such as the one filed Tuesday can take more than year to resolve.

The revocation of a license is a severe penalty that is one of several possible sanctions the state could issue for violations. The state filed a nearly identical administrative complaint last August against a Miami restaurant, R House, over drag queen weekend brunch. That case remains open and the bar is still operating and serving liquor.

In December, state regulators were also scrutinizing events across the state, including Fort Lauderdale, over complaints against the same holiday show held at the Hyatt.

The decision to target the Hyatt Regency Miami on Tuesday comes as the DeSantis administration and the Republican-led Legislature intensify the crackdown on drag queen shows that allow minors in the audience.

Read more at:

On the same show in Orlando:

When the historic Plaza Live theater in Orlando hosted an event last December called “A Drag Queen Christmas,” the show drew a full house, noisy street demonstrators — and a small squad of undercover state agents there to document whether children were being exposed to sights that ran afoul of Florida’s decency law.

The Dec. 28 performance featured campy skits like “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Man Deer” and shimmying, bare-chested men who wouldn’t have been out of place at a Madonna concert. Also a hip thrust or two, similar to what is sometimes indulged in by NFL players after a touchdown. All of it was dutifully recorded by the undercover agents on state-issued iPhones.

But while the agents took photos of three minors at the Orlando drag show — who appeared to be accompanied by adults — they acknowledged that nothing indecent had happened on stage, according to an incident report obtained exclusively by the Miami Herald.

“Besides some of the outfits being provocative (bikinis and short shorts), agents did not witness any lewd acts such as exposure of genital organs,” the brief report stated. “The performers did not have any physical contact while performing to the rhythm of the music with any patrons.”

Still, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation proceeded to file a complaint against the nonprofit that runs Plaza Live, claiming the venue had illegally exposed children to sexual content. The complaint, issued Feb. 3, seeks to strip the small, nonprofit theater of its liquor license — a serious blow that would likely put it out of business.

It’s all part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide crackdown on drag shows, which could escalate further as legislators draft new laws to tighten restrictions on venues that allow minors into those performances. DeSantis has said he believes “sexualized” drag shows are dangerous for kids.

The legislature also plans to restrict the pronouns that teachers use, regardless of their parents wishes.

Read more at:

Republican lawmakers say Florida school employees should not be allowed to call students by pronouns that differ from those given to them at birth — even in cases when a parent is OK with it. The idea is moving forward in proposed legislation that would also require every public K-12 school to have a policy that says it is “false” to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to their assigned sex, which under the law would be defined as an “immutable, or unchanging, biological trait.” It is the latest salvo in the state’s ongoing battle over transgender rights in schools and society at large, as Gov. Ron DeSantis makes cultural issues a cornerstone of an expected presidential bid later this year.

DeSantis expects to win the Presidency by campaigning as the Biggest Prude in the nation.

Ron DeSantis: our Anthony Comstock.

After the massacre of students and teachers at Parkland High School in 2018, the Florida legislature raised the age for buying a gun from 18 to 21. That decision was just upheld by a federal appeals court.

However, the Florida legislature wants to lower the age back to 18, so as to restore the Second Amendnent rights of 18-20 year olds. What about the Second Amendment rights of younger children! Shouldn’t any child old enough to carry a gun and able to pay for one enjoy their rights too? Why should eight-year-olds go to the playground or to school without a deadly weapon? Imagine playing with your junior high friends after school, everyone locked and loaded.

With backing from Speaker Paul Renner, a House panel on Monday approved a bill that would lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 to buy rifles and other long guns in Florida.

The bill (HB 1543) would reverse part of a 2018 law that set the minimum age at 21 after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nikolas Cruz, then 19, used a semi-automatic rifle to carry out the attack.

The Republican-controlled House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 12-5 along party lines Monday to approve the bill. Under the 2018 law, people under 21 can receive rifles and other long guns as gifts but cannot purchase them.

“The Florida House is restoring the ability of young adults to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in a prepared statement after the vote. “Florida allows 18- to 20-year-old adults to obtain a long gun by having it gifted to them. This bill expands Second Amendment rights and improves public safety, because it requires young adults who have the intent of purchasing a long gun to go through the background check process that is consistent with Florida law.”

“The Florida House is restoring the ability of young adults to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in a prepared statement after the vote. “Florida allows 18- to 20-year-old adults to obtain a long gun by having it gifted to them. This bill expands Second Amendment rights and improves public safety, because it requires young adults who have the intent of purchasing a long gun to go through the background check process that is consistent with Florida law.”

But opponents questioned why the Legislature would reverse course five years after including the 21-year-old minimum age in a broad school-safety bill that passed quickly after the Parkland shooting. Federal law prevents people under 21 from buying handguns.

“I just find it, when we are having shooting after school shooting after school shooting, there are children who are dying in my district, and this gun violence is happening by 18-, 19- 20-year-olds, that we are slapping people in the face when we’re saying, well, let them go have a gun,” Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, D-St. Petersburg, said.

Monday’s vote came after a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of the 2018 law. The National Rifle Association has waged a long-running legal challenge, arguing that the 21-year-old minimum age violates the Second Amendment.

It is no longer safe to vacation in Florida. The state does not care about your life. Avoid Florida. Go to Puerto Rico.

Last year, the Florida legislature, acting on Governor DeSantis’ behalf, dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special arrangement created by the legislature in 1967 that allowed the Disney Corporation to take responsibility for all public services. It was punishment for Disney speaking out against DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Disney was acting at the behest of its employees. The dissolution of the special district meant that the counties where Disney World is located would be saddled with $1 billion or more of new taxes to pay for services and bond debts. That was politically unacceptable.

The legislature fixed the problem by leaving the special district intact, but putting it under the control of a new five member commission, called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. DeSantis is empowered to appoint all five members. Surprised? He chose loyalists for the board, people who share his views. Most are either big campaign contributors or Christian nationalists or both.

One of the five commissioners, Ron Peri, is a Christian pastor who leads a group called The Gathering. He is known for his hostility to homosexuality. He recently warned that drinking tap water might turn you gay. This is very alarming because most Americans drink tap water. Is he shilling for the bottled water industry?

Another appointee to the new board is Bridget Ziegler, founder of Moms for Liberty and wife of the chairman of the Florida Republican Party, the same guy who advocates eliminating the Democratic Party in the state.

Will the DeSantis board act as morality police? Will they scrutinize and sanitize every exhibit, show, and performer at Disney World? Will gender-neutral bathrooms be eliminated? Will tourists be required to display their birth certificates on entering a bathroom to ensure that they are using the gender assigned at birth? We will see.

Writing in VICE, Anna Merlin describes the internal squabbling in the anti-vaccine world. Vaccine skeptics are denouncing one another, suing one another, accusing the others of lying.

The pro-vax blogger “Misinformation Kills” says “The Cranks Are Fighting! Grab your popcorn” and watch the anti-vax leaders destroy each other.

Full disclosure: I am fully vaccinated and boosted.

In an effort to appear more “inclusive,” the Mars corporation that sells M&Ms offered a new package, with green, brown, and purple M&Ms. In the company’s advertising, the green and brown candies are shown as female, while the purple one (a candy-coated peanut) is obese. In the ad, the green and brown candies were sitting close together and holding hands. Innocuous, FOX commentators wondered, or are those two candy lesbians?

Conservatives began attacking the brand after it announced the release of candy packages with only the female characters Green, Brown, and the new Purple.

The limited edition packages show the three female characters upside down with the message “Supporting women flipping the status quo.” The packages would only contain green, brown, and purple M&Ms.

A chyron on Fox News on the show also noted that Green and Brown had once held hands in a 2015 ad and could be lesbians.

Fox host Tucker Carlson – who famously flipped out last year when the Green M&M was redesigned to be less sexy – called the new packaging “woke” and said that the Green M&M “is now a lesbian maybe?”

“And there’s also a plus-sized, obese purple M&M,” he said, referring to the new Purple character who is supposed to be a peanut M&M.Mars announced that it was withdrawing the inclusive campaign and had hired the “beloved Maya Rudolph” to act as its spokesperson.

The retreat from FOX hysteria was red meat for Twitter commenters, who laughed at the candy makers for retreating.

Dana Milbank, my favorite columnist at The Washington Post, wrote about the chaos that has been normalized in the House of Representatives, now that it’s controlled by the Republican Party.

Ryan Zinke stepped up to the microphone and into the Twilight Zone.

“Despite the ‘deep state’s’ repeated attempts to stop me, I stand before you as a duly elected member of the United States Congress and tell you that a deep state exists and is perhaps the strongest covert weapon the left has against the American people,” he told the House. The Montana Republican, who has returned to Congress after a scandal-plagued stint in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, informed his colleagues that “the deep state runs secret messaging campaigns” and is trying “to wipe out the American cowboy.”

Yee-haw! Zinke was speaking in support of a new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, or, as Democrats call it, the “Tinfoil Hat Committee.” In substance, it’s the QAnon committee, with a remit to probe the “deep state” and other wacky conspiracy theories. With the panel’s creation, QAnon completes its journey from message board for the paranoid to official policy of the House Republican majority.

After the chaos of the first week of the 118th Congress, many Americans wondered: If it took them 15 ballots just to choose a speaker, how could Republicans possibly govern? Now we know. They are going to govern by fantasy and legislate on the basis of fiction.

On Monday, their first day of legislative business, they voted to repeal funding for a fictitious “87,000 IRS agents” who don’t exist and never will. On Wednesday, they approved legislation purporting to outlaw infanticide, which is already illegal and always has been. In between, they set up the deep state committee.

What next? Sorry, that’s secret. And therein might be the biggest falsehood of all. After numerous promises of “transparency” from the new leaders, they are refusing to reveal multiple backroom concessions Kevin McCarthy made to secure the speakership. You might even call it a conspiracy of silence.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the GOP conference chair, boasted this week that “we passed the most … transparent rules package in history.” McCarthy tweeted that the new rules would “increase transparency” and that “Republicans are keeping our commitment to make Congress more open.”
Alas, the transparency claims could not survive the light of day. Punchbowl News reported that McCarthy’s team had inked a secret three-page “addendum” to the rules package outlining the giveaways he bartered with holdouts blocking him from becoming speaker.

McCarthy, in a caucus meeting Tuesday, reportedly denied the addendum existed. Alas for McCarthy, other Republican lawmakers claimed to have read the document whose existence McCarthy denied.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) told Axios he was personally reviewing the document. Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) acknowledged that “it has to be out there.”
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), leaving the caucus meeting in the Capitol basement Tuesday, told a group of us that there remained “questions that I think many of us have about what side deals may or may not have been made.”

On the floor, where Democrats were hollering about the “secret three-page addendum,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), who negotiated much of the deal, countered that it was “classic swamp speak” to be “talking about secret deals.” But negotiating such secret deals is totally fine?

One change Republicans did reveal is the gutting of the Office of Congressional Ethics (it won’t be able to hire new staff when current employees leave), which will help shield lawmakers’ wrongdoing from public scrutiny. Also made known: a commitment to vote on abolishing the IRS and eliminating income taxes.

The one beacon of transparency in this sea of opacity? McCarthy’s leading critic, Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). He wants to free C-SPAN cameras to film the House floor the way they did during last week’s speaker-vote chaos — during which the incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee was physically restrained from lunging at Gaetz.
Steve Scalise is the ideal majority leader for the post-truth era.

Boasting to reporters about passage of “the bill to repeal those 87,000 IRS agents,” he claimed that the Congressional Budget Office “confirmed” that those agents would “go after people making less than $200,000 a year,” including “the single mom who’s working two shifts at a restaurant.”

In reality, the IRS is only hiring about 6,500 agents — and that’s over a decade. In reality, the CBO said that only “a small fraction” of revenue from increased enforcement will come from taxpayers earning less than $400,000 a year.

Here’s what else CBO said: The Republicans’ bill to cut funds to the IRS — the new majority’s first legislation — would add $114 billion to the deficit. So much for fiscal responsibility.

But Republicans spent the entire debate repeating the outright falsehood that 87,000 “agents” would “target American working-class families” (Jason T. Smith, Mo.) and “harass and spy on middle-class and low-income families” (Michelle Steel, Calif.). Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) falsely said the CBO had projected “as many as 700,000 more audits, [of] Americans making less than $75,000 a year.”

Beth Van Duyne (R-Tex.) added the inventive claim that the fake agents would “make the IRS larger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and Border Control together.” The Defense Department alone employs about 3 million people.

Former majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the House it was the “most dishonest, demagogic rhetoric that I have seen.” But he hadn’t yet witnessed the infanticide debate.
“If a baby is born alive, outside the womb, alive, how could you kill that baby and that be legal?” Scalise asked during debate on the Republicans’ “born-alive” abortion bill. “And yet in a number of states, it is legal and happening today.”

No, it isn’t. Infanticide, of course, has always been murder, and a 2002 “born alive” law affirmed that.
The dispute is limited to rare cases, typically involving a fetus born or aborted with a medical condition that isn’t survivable: Should it be treated with heroic measures or compassionate care? Infanticide isn’t on the table.

The bill was one of three antiabortion measures House Republicans prioritized in their first week of legislating: New House rules promising a vote on permanently banning federal abortion funds, a denunciation of violence against antiabortion groups and the born-alive bill.

It was a curious response to the 2022 elections, when voters angered by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade propelled Democrats to better-than-expected results, and abortion rights supporters prevailed even in red states such as Kentucky and Kansas. “We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we’re going to operate in the first week,” complained Mace, the South Carolina Republican. “What are we doing to protect victims of rape and victims of incest? Nothing.” She said her GOP colleagues were only “muddying the waters and paying lip service.”

Perhaps that’s to be expected from a GOP leadership in which, as Business Insider pointed out, there will be more guys named “Mike” running committees — six — than there are women in charge of them (just three of the 21 chairs). The old boys of the House Republican caucus might benefit from a Mike drop.
What will be the priorities of this new House majority? Well, let us take them at their word.
Fox News host Sean Hannity visited the Rayburn Room off the House floor this week where, under the watchful eye of a George Washington oil portrait, he broadcast interviews with McCarthy and his leadership team.

Total mentions of inflation: 1.
Total mentions of jobs: 1.
Total mentions of the economy: 2.
Total mentions of investigations: 20.

“Thank you, brother,” McCarthy said to Hannity before they got down to probing all of the planned probes: investigating the FBI, DOJ, China, the “weaponized” feds, the Afghanistan pullout, covid-19’s origins, Anthony Fauci, the “Biden family syndicate,” Hunter Biden’s laptop and more.
And now: President Biden’s handling of classified documents. Intelligence Committee Chairman Michael R. Turner (Ohio), who dismissed Trump’s hoarding of classified documents as a “bookkeeping issue,” now demands “a full and thorough review” of Biden’s conduct. Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (Ky.), who said probing the Trump documents would “not be a priority,” said of Biden’s documents: “We’re probing it.”

Oversight is important, but the deep state committee in particular goes beyond oversight and into the realm of vengeance. Under the chairmanship of the voluble Jim Jordan (Ohio), it gives lawmakers powers to interfere in active criminal investigations — including, potentially, investigations into themselves. (Six House Republicans requested pardons from then-President Trump for their role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.)

On the floor, the committee’s proponents didn’t hide their conspiracy beliefs. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) meandered into remarks about the FBI spying on Frank Sinatra before proclaiming: “Mr. Speaker, today we are putting the deep state on notice. We are coming for you.”

House Republicans gave themselves another tool of vengeance by reviving the Holman Rule, which allows lawmakers to cut the salaries of individual federal employees. They’re also planning to kick Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) off the Intelligence Committee, explicitly as punishment for handling Trump’s first impeachment.

By contrast, McCarthy has promised committee assignments to George Santos (R-N.Y.), who won election on a fabricated life story and résumé. Santos faces multiple investigations, and New York Republicans (including members of Congress) have called him a “fraud” and a “joke” and demanded he resign.

But McCarthy is having none of it. “He is seated,” said the man who chose to seat Santos. “If there is a concern, he will go through Ethics,” said the man who just disemboweled the Office of Government Ethics. McCarthy’s logic is as obvious as it is unprincipled: Without Santos, his four-vote majority would become a three-vote majority.
Even the four-vote majority is confounding McCarthy. House Republicans had planned this week to vote on a pair of symbolic resolutions expressing support for law enforcement. But they had to pull the bills from the floor; they didn’t have the votes.

If McCarthy can’t get his fractious caucus to agree on the easy stuff, what happens when he has to avoid defaulting on the federal debt in a few months? McCarthy, who promised not to approve a debt-limit increase without massive spending cuts, has no room to maneuver — and he has legislative rookies running key committees.

House Republicans and their usual allies in the media had already been trading epithets: “fraud.” “Harlot.” “Benedict Arnold.” “Insurrectionists.” And now comes word that Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and other Republican moderates, in a sign of their lack of faith in McCarthy, have begun talks with Democrats about a “discharge petition.” That would circumvent GOP leaders, increasing the debt limit without them.

Republican leaders are right to be paranoid about “weaponization.” But the biggest conspiracy might come from within.

Utah’s House passed a voucher bill, even though the state voted against them by 62-38% in 2007. Republicans in Utah are determined to bypass a referendum, as they are in other states, because voters have never passed one. Voters don’t want to defund their public schools.

You can bet that 70-80% of the students who get vouchers are already enrolled in private religious schools. That’s the proportion reported in every state that has vouchers. The small number who ask for vouchers will lose ground academically and eventually return to their local public school. The research is unequivocal: vouchers do NOT improve academic achievement. They are a gift to parents whose kids are already in private schools.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

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Utah House pushes through controversial voucher bill after suspending rules

HB215 would allow taxpayer funds to be spent on private schooling and home schooling. The largest teachers union in the state is opposed. 

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Riverton, sponsor of HB215, is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Her bill was approved by the House on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, after less than 24 hours of consideration.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Riverton, sponsor of HB215, is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Her bill was approved by the House on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, after less than 24 hours of consideration.

By Courtney Tanner

A controversial bill to create a taxpayer-funded, $42 million school voucher program in Utah — the most expansive in state history — was pushed through the House on Friday under suspended rules that allowed lawmakers to approve it without the required wait time.

The Republican-led proposal was approved on a 54-20 vote that came during the final minutes of floor time of the first week of what’s already shaped up to be a fast and wild legislative session.

“This is the beginning of us reinventing public education in Utah,” declared Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, the sponsor of HB215.

The bill sets up what Pierucci has called the “Utah Fits All Scholarship” that would allow students to use public money to attend private schools or be home-schooled. It’s touted as a way to give parents and kids more choice in education.

Pierucci’s proposal also includes an ongoing $6,000 salary and benefits raise for teachers across the state — made contingent on approving the vouchers.

The measure is opposed by the largest teachers union in Utah, which has said educators feel devalued by having their paycheck tied to a voucher program many don’t support and many worry will further hobble Utah’s public schools. Per pupil funding in the state is already among the lowest in the nation, passing only Idaho.

An attempt by Democratic Rep. Angela Romero of Salt Lake City to split the bill into two was voted down Friday by the conservative-majority body. Romero argued that teacher raises shouldn’t be a bargaining chip to pass other policies.

“I think these are two different issues, and they need to be discussed in two different bills,” she said.

Democrats and a few Republicans stood with her, including Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield. He called it “disingenuous” to connect the issues as a way to force support.

But Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson, who is a public school teacher, voted in favor of the bill with the raises — even after calling it “one of the biggest bribes.” He said he’d like to see more work done before any final passage of the bill, which will go next to the Senate.

The vote to pass the bill Friday was supported only by Republican lawmakers. All 13 Democrats in the House, along with seven Republicans, voted to oppose. Still, the vote was enough to represent two-thirds of the body. If the bill passes with the same margin in the Senate, it’s secure from both a veto or referendum.

Pierucci has insisted on the two issues of teacher pay and vouchers remaining together as a funding package. She believes it shows that even though the state wants students to be able to explore other education options, it also still supports public school educators; she talked about her own experience growing up attending public schools in Utah.

After the bill passed in committee late Thursday, she made a few changes before it was heard on the House floor Friday morning.

Her amended bill capped the amount allocated each year for the program at $42 million, instead of allowing it to grow with the annual adjustments to the weighted pupil unit amount, or WPU — which has caused problems in other states with similar programs. The WPU here, which is currently set at about $4,000, is what each public school is given by the state for each child enrolled there (not counting additional add-ons for students with disabilities).

But Pierucci didn’t change the amount her scholarship would allocate per student, which has been a source of heartburn. The Utah Fits All Scholarship is an $8,000 award — which is double the WPU set by the state.

Pierucci said she arrived at the figure by combining the roughly $4,000 WPU with the average amount spent by each Utah school district on students, which is about another $4,000. That second portion is collected locally, through property taxes, and is subject to local control and decision making on how to spend it.

Some have argued that isn’t a fair setup and values the scholarship students more than those who elect for public schools. And for every student who leaves a public school to enroll elsewhere, they said, the school no longer gets their WPU and essentially loses funding and state support.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said she doesn’t believe the bill supports low-income families, as Pierucci has argued.

Pierucci says students in households living below the poverty line will be prioritized for the scholarship.

But Hollins said many of those families wouldn’t be able to use it anyway because they don’t have the transportation to go to a private school and wouldn’t be able to pay the difference between the scholarship and private school tuition. The average tuition at a private school in Utah is roughly $11,000 a year.

“It doesn’t give every student equal access,” Hollins said, noting people in her district are choosing between paying for the bus to go to work, buying new shoes and keeping the lights on.

Others said they were worried about sending public dollars to private institutions that have no requirements by the state to hire licensed teachers or to teach a set curriculum. Most of the schools are religious. And there’s no obligation for private schools to help students with disabilities.

“Because it’s public money it should go to public schools,” which are held publicly accountable, said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, a former public school teacher.

The biggest concern raised by the largely Democratic opposition, though, was the rush to vote on the bill. The rules in the House typically require a bill to be on the calendar for 24 hours before a vote, giving lawmakers a chance to read through it before debate. It was only 19 hours after the bill passed in committee that the full House voted on it Friday, after suspending the rules.

The most recent draft with Pierucci’s amendments “was numbered at 10:00 this morning, introduced and debated under suspension of the rules at 11:15, and passed at about 12:30. For no good reason,” wrote Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, on Twitter after the vote.

He added: “Voting by an informed body and public could just as easily have been done Monday morning. #abuseofpower”

Pierucci and others, though, said it was largely the same bill with a few small changes that she’d been working on this week — and had tried to pass last year but failed.

The other changes she made include allowing a student to attend public school part time and then get a partial scholarship to get private tutoring or do home schooling for the remainder.

Rep. Karen Peterson, R-Clinton, said she liked that addition, suggesting it opened up the scholarship to more students living in rural areas that might not have access to a nearby private school (most of those are concentrated on the Wasatch Front).

The other change was what Pierucci is calling an added “accountability measure.” In the original bill, the test scores of students leaving public schools for private schools was not allowed to be tracked. Opponents wanted that provision to be able to study the success of the program.

In the version passed Friday, students on the scholarship have the option to take an assessment at the end of the year or submit a portfolio of their work in school to the scholarship administrator as proof of their education. Peterson believes that will help see if the vouchers “move the needle.” Others said it wasn’t strong enough.

Peterson said the bill supports the Republican values of creating choices and a competitive market for schools. And she likes the “guardrails,” too, for the administrator that will oversee the program.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, agreed, adding that in recent years he’s talked to parents with concerns about the books being taught in public schools — which he ran legislation on last year. And he didn’t like that schools required masking at times during the pandemic and feels parents should have a choice outside of that.

Pierucci said her impetus has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said proved to her that not all students thrive in public schools.

“The last couple of years,” she said, “have highlighted that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every child.”


The Washington Post reported that the anti-vaccination movement has prompted the return of diseases that were previously thought to be eliminated. The anti-vaccination folk are mainly Republicans, and their antipathy to vaccines has been encouraged by their party’s leaders, like Ron DeSantis, who has banned vaccine mandates in Florida. Republican members of Congress forced the abandonment of mandatory vaccinations for the military.

Veteran reporter Lena H. Sun wrote:

A rapidly growing measles outbreak in Columbus, Ohio — largely involving unvaccinated children — is fueling concerns among health officials that more parent resistance to routine childhood immunizations will intensify a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Most of the 81 children infected so far are old enough to get the shots, but their parents chose not to do so, officials said, resulting in the country’s largest outbreak of the highly infectious pathogen this year.

“That is what is causing this outbreak to spread like wildfire,” said Mysheika Roberts, director of the Columbus health department.

The Ohio outbreak, which began in November, comes at a time of heightened worry about the public health consequences of anti-vaccine sentiment, a long-standing problem that has led to drops in child immunization rates in pockets across the United States. The pandemic has magnified those concerns because of controversies and politicization around coronavirus vaccines and school vaccine mandates.

More than a third of parents with children under 18 — and 28 percent of all adults — now say parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) to attend public schools, even if remaining unvaccinated may create health risks for others, according to new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-care research nonprofit.

Public sentiments against vaccine mandates have grown significantly since the pandemic, said Jen Kates, a Kaiser senior vice president. A 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center found that less than a quarter of parents — and 16 percent of all adults — opposed school vaccination requirements.

The growing opposition stems largely from shifts among people who identify as or lean Republican, the Kaiser survey found, with 44 percent saying parents should be able to opt out of those childhood vaccines — more than double the 20 percent who felt that way in 2019.

Adam Moore, a father of three in the Detroit suburbs, said none of his children — 9, 12 and 17 and enrolled in private school — have received routine childhood immunizations, let alone vaccines for the coronavirus or flu. He values personal liberty and says the government has no right telling people what to do with their bodies.

“I find it a hard argument when the government says we’re all for individual liberty on abortion rights and all this other stuff, but when it comes to vaccinations, there’s no such thing as ‘my body, my choice,’” said Moore, 43, an account manager for a marketing company.

Moore, who describes himself as Republican-leaning, said he does not view childhood diseases such as measles and polio, which have resurfaced in recent years, as threats. But if the deadly Ebola virus were circulating, he said, he would want his children to get vaccinated.

Other parents who oppose school immunization mandates echo long-standing misinformation about vaccines that continue to spread via anti-vaccine groups.

Bianca Hernandez, a 37-year-old dog breeder in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, described concerns about the link between vaccine ingredients and autism, a view that has been extensively disproved. She said her two youngest children receive religious exemptions from school vaccination requirements.

Support for immunization mandates has held steady among Democrats, with 88 percent saying that children should be vaccinated to attend public schools because of the potential risk for others when they are not.

Overall, 71 percent of all adults still support school immunization requirements, compared with 82 percent in 2019.

“The situation about increasing negative sentiment about childhood vaccination is concerning, but in absolute terms, vaccines remain the social norm,” said Saad Omer, director of Yale’s Institute for Global Health and an infectious-disease expert who has studied vaccine hesitancy.

Anne Zink, chief medical officer for Alaska’s health department, said that even in a state with historically lower vaccination rates, childhood immunization rates have yet to return to their pre-pandemic levels. In the years before the pandemic, about 65 percent of Alaskan children 19 to 35 months old had completed their routine childhood immunizations. By the end of 2021, 46 percent had.

A few weeks ago, Zink, an emergency room doctor, saw her first case of chickenpox when a young woman walked into the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center in Palmer covered in large, painful lesions. The woman said she and her family did not believe in vaccinations and told Zink she thought chickenpox no longer existed.

“I think there is more mistrust of the government, there’s more questioning of vaccines, and we’ve been having a harder time getting people vaccinated,” said Zink, who is also president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

“I was like, ‘Well, it really doesn’t when all of us choose to get vaccinated, but you aren’t vaccinated, your family’s not vaccinated, and the people you hang out with are not vaccinated. Chickenpox has been spreading in your community, and now you’re really sick,’” Zink recalled.

In the past, Zink said, herd immunity would have protected the woman against such childhood diseases. But that protection has waned as anti-vaccine sentiment grows, she said.

To distance its push for vaccination from the current political narrative, the Alaska health department recently brought back images and language from a 1960s promotion for polio vaccination. The new social media campaign uses the vintage Wellbee cartoon and rocket — “Get a booster!” — to remind people that immunization has always been part of the country’s history.

It is too early to see the effects of eroding public support for school vaccination requirements on childhood immunization rates because federal data typically lag by about two years. During the pandemic, routine vaccination rates slipped because of school closures and because children were not going to the doctor.

The growing negative attitudes about school immunization requirements are troubling for health workers. Kentucky officials are urging that people get flu shots after six children — none of whom were vaccinated — died after contracting influenza. South Carolina officials had also promoted childhood vaccinations after two chickenpox outbreaks in March — the first since 2020 — affected nearly 70 people.

A case of paralytic polio in a New York man this summer prompted worry that low childhood immunization rates and rising vaccine misinformation could result in the disease’s resurgence, decades after vaccination had eliminated it in the United States.

“There is definitely a group of parents who have shifted their attitudes,” said Jennifer Heath, immunizations program coordinator for Minnesota’s health department who works on vaccine hesitancy and outreach. “Part of it is true attitude shift. But part is a disconnection to the primary care provider, the human being who’s telling you that vaccines are important.”

School vaccination requirements are among the most effective tools to keep children healthy. All states and the District of Columbia require children to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as measles, polio and whooping cough, to attend public school. All states grant exemptions based on medical reasons; a growing number allow religious or philosophical exemptions.

D.C. also requires students 12 and older to be vaccinated against covid-19 but has delayed enforcing the mandate until the 2023-2024 school year. California has a pending statewide student coronavirus vaccine mandate that will not take effect until after July 2023. Nearly two dozen states have some form of ban against student coronavirus vaccine mandates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose between 4 and 6 years old. One dose of the vaccine is about 93 percent effective in preventing measles, one of the most infectious pathogens on the planet that can cause serious complications, including death. Two doses are about 97 percent effective at preventing the disease.

In the Ohio measles outbreak, only three of the 81 children had received a single dose of vaccine, according to state data. None were known to be fully vaccinated.

“I think some of these attitudes were here before the pandemic, and then we probably picked up some additional community members who were accepting of vaccines before but now maybe are more critical about vaccines as a result of what transpired with the coronavirus vaccine,” Roberts said.

Some of the cases occurred in Columbus’s large Somali community, the second-largest Somali population in the United States after the Minneapolis area, Roberts said. Parents have said they “intentionally delayed” giving their children the measles vaccine because of their fear of autism, she said, despite considerable research disproving any relationship between vaccines and autism.

Those fears echoed similar concerns of parents in Minnesota’s Somali community during a 2017 measles outbreak that infected 75 children, mostly unvaccinated preschool kids.

Minnesota is also battling a new measles outbreak — 22 cases — as vaccine hesitancy around the MMR vaccine continues to be an issue, said Doug Schultz, spokesman for the Minnesota health department.

Officials are bracing for more cases in the coming weeks as families travel and gather indoors for the holidays. At least 29 of the Ohio children have been hospitalized, some so sick they required intensive care.

Most of the sickened children — 78 percent — are Black, 6 percent are Asian, 6 percent are White, and 4 percent are Hispanic, according to Columbus officials.

Because the measles virus is so contagious, an overall community vaccination rate of about 90 to 94 percent is needed to keep the virus from causing large outbreaks, according to infectious-disease experts. In the United States, nearly 91 percent of children have received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by age 2. In the Columbus area, Roberts said, the measles vaccination rate is estimated at 80 to 90 percent, but health-care providers are not required to report data to Ohio’s vaccine registry.

Even if overall coverage in a community is high, measles can transmit easily in clusters of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated people. The Columbus outbreak began when one or two unvaccinated people traveled to countries where measles is still common between June and October and infected others in the community, Roberts said.

In recent years, many of the measles cases reported to the CDC have occurred in underimmunized, close-knit communities, where anti-vaccine misinformation has gained a foothold. In 2019, the United States reported the highest annual number of measles cases — 1,294 — in more than 25 years; three-fourths of those cases occurred among New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities. Outbreaks have also occurred among the Amish in Ohio and Eastern European groups in the Pacific Northwest.

After consulting with counterparts in Minnesota, health officials in Ohio have been working closely with the Somali community to increase vaccination uptake without stigmatizing them. Columbus public health workers have hosted vaccine clinics at a community center and a mosque and are conducting home visits to provide shots. They have also reached out to schools, day-care centers and grocery stores about the importance of vaccination.

The efforts appear to be making a difference.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus recently saw a 20 percent increase in the number of parents seeking the MMR vaccine, Roberts said. The health department, too, has seen a small uptick in vaccinations.

“They are trickling in,” she said, “slowly but surely.”