There's an oil barge winding through the Ohio Legislature.
The Ohio state Legislature is taking its own shot at eliminating all the liberal indoctrination Republicans are certain is running amok in universities, with a bill that not only prohibits most diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and "implicit bias" training, but also requires that instructors not promote any particular view on any "controversial topic" like climate change, diversity, abortion, or foreign policy, among others. The bill has already passed in the state Senate, and is now being considered in the state House, which has a Republican supermajority. The official title of Senate Bill 83 is the "Higher Education Enhancement Act," but I'm just going to call it the Flat Earth Equal Time Act if you don't mind.
For all "controversial "topics, instructors would be required to "allow and encourage students to reach their own conclusions" and "shall not seek to inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view." Should be fun when a student sues to have openly white supremacist materials included in a syllabus. Or an oil company sues over climate science being taught accurately.
When he introduced SB 83 in March, state Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Did We Have To Say?) explained that
it was his idea to include climate change as a “controversial” belief or policy, and that he “didn’t actually consult with climate people.”.
“My agenda was not to use this bill to impact energy policy,” Cirino said. However, he also said, “What I think is controversial is different views that exist out there about the extent of the climate change and the solutions to try to alter climate change.”
So yeah, that translates to "let's not actually limit greenhouse emissions, because as the copyrighted 2009 cartoon by Joel Pett in USA Today asked, 'What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?'"
Naturally enough, actual scientists are aghast at the bill, pointing out that there really is no "other side" to the fact that humans have caused global warming by burning fossil fuels, which add carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, causing dangerous heating of the planet. There also isn't any actual controversy over what's needed: We need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and eliminate them altogether — as quickly as possible.
There are plenty of discussions about the best way to achieve that goal, which we suppose may fit Cirino's suggestion that there's "controversy" over "the solutions to try to alter climate change," but not a single one of the options includes "keep burning coal and oil." Really!
Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, warned that if the law is enacted, it's "going to have a chilling effect" on science education, since many instructors might decide it's safer to not say much about climate change at all if they think they have to include climate denial nonsense and "alternative" views. Jeez, you scientists, isn't some chilling exactly what we need to counteract all this warming?
The bill's language is particularly vague and circular when it comes to even defining what topics are "controversial" and in need of both-sidesing in classes. It specifies some, but the language is very open-ended:
"Controversial belief or policy" means any belief or policy that is the subject of political controversy, including issues such as climate policies, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion.
Got it? A controversial topic is any topic that "is the subject of political controversy," so tread carefully and include all sides. Including, we guess, advocacy of plural marriage and mandatory abortion? And of course, many evangelicals consider evolution controversial, so Ohio biology curricula could be in for a surprise.
Hilariously, though, another provision of the bill makes clear that some "foreign policy" matters should have only one side, since it limits a wide range of cooperative agreements with China, and specifies that Ohio universities "may endorse the congress of the United States when it establishes a state of armed hostility against a foreign power."
Another section of the bill shoehorns in the now-familiar cookie-cutter prohibitions on "divisive concepts" that must not be taught, like the very ideas of inherent bias, white privilege, or systemic racism.
Previously In The Syllabus:
The bill's multi-pronged attack on diversity, equity, equity, and inclusion also led to widespread condemnation, obviously, because most university faculty, students, and officials aren't consumers of rightwing media who are worried about the Great Replacement conspiracy theory.
That said, Dayton TV station WKRC did manage to scrape up one professor at the University of Cincinnati, criminologist John Paul Wright, who fretted about the school's diversity and inclusion webpage, and who claimed he heard a colleague say they "will never hire another white male." Dude is a proponent of some seriously racist "science," and has called for more research on "the role biology plays in criminal behavior." I'd say that this guy and his calipers account for all the "intellectual diversity" Ohio universities can stand, honestly.
Shortly before the Ohio Senate passed it, The Board of Trustees of The Ohio State University officially opposed SB 83, stating that it raised First Amendment issues and warning that it could harm the university's ability to "attract the best students, faculty, and researchers." It further said the bill could affect "the quality of higher education at all Ohio public universities," even the ones that don't insist on having a capitalized definite article in their names.
During debate on the bill, however, Cirino insisted Ohio wouldn't experience any such brain drain, and would actually make Ohio schools more gooder by attracting ... well, people with calipers, basically:
“When all is said and done here, our universities are going to be better,” he said. “We are going to attract more people who have been turned away because of the liberal bias that is incontrovertible in our institutions in Ohio.”
In addition to the gross limitations on academic freedom, which are lawsuit bait if we ever saw it, just like Ron DeSantis's "Stop WOKE" law, SB 83 would ban strikes by academic workers, require all students to take a course in American history of government — presumably, only the GOOD parts — cut the terms of university and college boards of trustees so they can be replaced by patriots, and would weaken tenure protections.
And if it passes in the state House, will GOP Governor Mike DeWine sign it? How's this for some impressive waffling? Earlier this month, before it passed in the Senate, DeWine simply said it was still "a work in progress" and that "I have not seen the latest version." Sounds to us like he wants to follow the spirit of the bill and not take any particular position at all. We'd like to hope the near-universal condemnation of the bill, which will dumb down another great university system, might put his feet to the fire — as long as it's burning green hydrogen, of course.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month so we can keep you up to date on the vast wave of stupid in this country. And remember, the Wonkette Book Club is reading Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future,so join us Friday to chat about Chapters 2 through 30 (they're short chapters!) More details and Part One of our book club discussion here!
Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry For The Future, Week 1.
We're starting off our summer 2023 edition of the Book Club with a book that's about as timely as you could hope for: Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 novel The Ministry for the Future, which imagines a very near future of catastrophic climate change and a decades-long process of humanity's attempts to bring the climate crisis ... well, not under control, but to at least to remake politics and economics in a direction that's better suited to survival of the Earth's inhabitants.
For this week, I asked you to read the first chapter, which is fairly short, and and tends to stay with you after you read it. If you just got here and want to catch up, the publisher, Orbit Books, conveniently posted Chapter 1 in full right on the interwebs for free! The discussion from here will involve spoilers for the first chapter, so take a few minutes to go read it ... or maybe the discussion here will make you want to go read it.
Last summer, novelist Monica Byrne tweeted for a lot of us who have read the book:
\u201cIf you haven\u2019t\u2026.you should. Because I basically can\u2019t think about my future without it now.\u201d— Monica Byrne (@Monica Byrne) 1628265324
I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t.
If you haven’t….you should. Because I basically can’t think about my future without it now.
Let's jump in, shall we? In this brief chapter, we meet one of the novel's many main characters, Frank May, an American everyliberal from Florida who's working at the local office of an unnamed relief NGO in a small city in Uttar Pradesh state in India. A perfect storm of atmospheric conditions leads to a long heatwave, with heat and humidity at levels — a "wet bulb" temperature of 38 degrees C (103 degrees Fahrenheit) at dawn, with 35 percent humidity — that's right on the edge of what human beings can survive.
Then the overstressed electrical grid goes down, all over the region. Things go from bad to worse. No one is coming to help. Frank does what little he can for several local families, inviting them into the clinic where he works, where there's a single window air conditioner connected by an extension cord to a portable generator on the roof. He keeps for himself the last of the water in the clinic's refrigerator, in a thermos jug he's careful not to let anyone see.
The toilets back up, the temperature keeps rising, the oldest and the youngest start dying. On the second day with no power, a group of young men break in and point a gun at Frank, telling him they'll be taking the AC and the generator.
“We need this more than you do,” one of them explained.
The man with the gun scowled as he heard this. He pointed the gun at Frank one last time. “You did this,” he said, and then they slammed the door on him and were gone.
And really, dear reader, Frank did. So did you. So did I. America and Europe filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases for 150 years, and then other countries, like China, began adding their own greenhouse emissions. The countries already suffering from the worst effects of climate change — such as last year's floods in Pakistan, which killed over 1,700 people and left millions homeless — are not the countries that caused the climate disaster.
By the end of the chapter, everyone in the city except Frank is dead. He's the only person still alive in a shallow lake filled with corpses.
I'm reminded of the end of Flannery O'Connor's story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (spoiler coming!), where the murderous serial killer the Misfit says of the grandmother he's just killed — after her sudden realization that all humans are family to each other — "She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
The first chapter of The Ministry for the Future may just be the gun we all need pointed at our own heads to make us pay attention.
So let's discuss a few things!
1) How are you doing? This chapter hits hard, but I also want to shake every elected leader in the country and tell them they have to read it. At Slate, Rebecca Onion, in an interview with Robinson, told him that the first chapter "gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic."
I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger.
2) Did it work? That is, did the chapter make climate change more real to you? Or did it squick you out so badly that you stopped reading? (If so, do you think you'll pick it up again?)
3) As you'll see as we go along, this isn't whizbang laser gun science fiction. There's almost no technology we don't have today — Robinson doesn't even cheat by bringing cheap infinitely abundant fusion power online a decade from now. If anything, I think the "science" being fictionalized is about equal parts sociology and economics. Gee, I guess that was more a comment than a question.
4) Colonialism is a running theme in the novel, not only as a historical backdrop but, as is the case right now, in terms of how the damage from climate change hits less wealthy nations who had virtually nothing to do with wrecking the planet's atmosphere. And yet our focus character for Chapter 1 is Frank, an American in India. We don't get the perspective of any of the Indian characters, just the white outsider who witnesses their deaths. He's also close to death, but he is the lone survivor. As we keep reading, I'd like to hear your thoughts on how Robinson navigates questions about affluent nations and the parts of the world that have climate change landing on them like a million-pound shithammer.
Those are just starters, of course, it'd be terribly boring if y'all only address those like essay questions. Feel free to disregard them if you want to talk about other stuff, including just your visceral reactions to the story — one of the things I loved about Glen Reed, my American Lit professor at Northern Arizona University, was that on the day we discussed "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," he didn't start off with the standard stuff about O'Connor's work, her Catholic faith, and the way her stories often rise to a crisis and a "moment of grace." Instead, he said that every time he'd read the story, it just scared the hell out of him to think of his own family in such a situation: having a car wreck out in the middle of nowhere because of a bad turn, and then the person who finds you is a killer. I loved him for that.
So let's also talk about this chapter, and climate change, as humans. Let's talk about the whole book that way.
Your assignment for next Friday is a lot more than for today: Let's read through Chapter 30 (they're mostly short chapters, some only a page or less).
And if you haven't read the book (THIS week you can go do the reading right now of course), always feel free to join the conversation. It's not a class and there won't be a quiz. Also, no worries about spoilers, since for the most part this is an idea-driven book, not a plot-driven one. (We'll talk about that more next week, including the fairly common complaint from some readers that after that holy shit first chapter, the rest of the book reads like a collection of white papers, not a novel.)
The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to save 'em for the open thread in a couple hours, please. I'd honestly like to keep the conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!
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It won't prevent dirty dreams though.
The rumors of Laura Ingraham's cancellation are greatly exaggerated, unfortunately. A Drudge Report story Wednesday about a post-Tucker Carlson shuffle of the nightly Fox News schedule didn't include a slot for Ingraham, leading to speculation that Ingraham may have been axed, but a Fox News spox said that was naught but "wildly inaccurate" tweets by "left wing activists," and that Ingraham "is now and will continue to be a prominent host and integral part of the Fox News lineup." Hey, remember when Donald Trump said he supported cabinet members 100% and that was like the kiss of death for their careers? [Deadline]
House Republicans voted unanimously to avoid actually voting on whether to expel indicted weaselboy George Santos. [Daily Beast]
Wackadoodle Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Florida) introduced (or at least tweeted) a resolution to expel Adam Schiff (D-California) because Durham Report and Schiff "lied" about Trump and Russia NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION, YOU'RE THE COLLUSION. Fuck, with this crowd, it might even succeed. [Daily Caller]
The Supreme Court punted on an "emergency" petition demanding that an Illinois ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines be put on hold while the challengers try to get the law overturned. Maybe someone had an emergency need to shoot up their office, and now they'll have to go to a branch in another state. The Court denied the petition without comment, and also without any of the justices dissenting, so we don't know what the actual vote was apart from some kind of majority. Illinois enacted the ban after last year's July 4 massacre of seven people at a parade in Highland Park. [AP]
Everyone knows that Donald Trump is lying when he says he magically declassified all the documents he refused to turn over to the National Archives. Now the Archives is preparing to hand over 16 documents to Special Counsel Jack Smith, showing that Trump and his White House staff were repeatedly briefed on the proper procedures for declassifying documents, none of which include mentally wishing them to be declassified. [CNN]
Here, enjoy a list of awesome 17th and 18th Century Quaker names, including "Jane Quitquit," "Elizabeth Poope" (one of a trio of Poopes), and "Experience Cuppage," the original title of Jimi Hendrix's groundbreaking album. [Isabella Rosner on Twitter]
\u201cI've come across A LOT of good 17th- and 18th-century Quaker names over the past 3.5 years, as I've worked on my thesis. Now that my thesis is done and submission is near, it's time to share the more than 90 wildest early Quaker names I've found (in alphabetical order):\u201d— Isabella Rosner (@Isabella Rosner) 1684265073
After ProPublica ran a million and two stories on just how terrible online tax prep companies are, especially TurboTax, the IRS is going to do a pilot program for its very own free-filing program. That's only possible because ProPublica's coverage got enough people good 'n' mad enough to kill a 2019 proposal that would have prevented the IRS from ever developing its own free-file tool that might compete with TurboTax. Nice time! [ProPublica]
Another county in Oregon has voted in a nonbinding resolution for the rightwing "Greater Idaho" pipe dream, in which 14 mostly rightwing counties in eastern Oregon would secede from the Always Raining State to join the Militia State. 12 of the 14 counties have voted to join Idaho, but nahh, It's not any more likely to really happen than "fetch." [Idaho Statesman]
At least two Republicans in the Louisiana state Legislature sent letters to federal regulators explaining why they very enthusiastically supported a new liquid methane gas storage project. It turns out the letters were actually ghostwritten for state Sen. Mike Reese and state Rep. Les Farnum by lobbyists for Sempra LNG, a gas company that has been trying to develop the project since 2006. Is it legal? Dunno! It's also not clear how much influence, if any, the letters had in last fall's decision to approve the gas storage project. At least the letters weren't generated by ChatGPT. [DeSmog]
Hey, you literate people! Wonkette's Book Club returns tomorrow, as we read the first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future. You can still snap up the ebook using the linky right there, which gives Yr Wonkette a small cut of sales.
Why would anyone put a bar of soap in their bed? Allegedly prevents leg cramps, but way back in 2005, Snopes went with "unproven." We saw the headline this week all the same. [Snopes]
Did you say you needed a picture of Thornton? Sometimes that lad is so cute I could plotz.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month so we can keep this little mommyblog chugging along. And if you're shopping at Amazon, the linky below gives Yr Wonkette an itty bitty cut of all purchases.
Rural utilities won't even have to teach CRT, so it's quite the deal.
The Biden administration is rolling out another part of its effort to speed up America's transition to renewable energy, announcing Tuesday that $11 billion in grants and loans are now available to rural areas to ditch old inefficient fossil fuel plants and replace them with affordable clean energy.
The aid comes in the form of two Department of Agriculture programs: The "Empowering Rural America" or “New ERA” program will provide $9.7 billion in grants for rural electric cooperatives to "deploy renewable energy systems, zero-emission and carbon capture systems," and the "Powering Affordable Clean Energy" (PACE) loan program that will provide another billion dollars in partly forgivable loans to a range of rural and tribal energy entities to "help finance large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower projects and energy storage in support of renewable energy systems."
The administration has been very diligent in pointing out that this is the biggest federal investment in rural energy infrastructure since Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act in 1936, although the announcements have also been fairly careful not to put the words "green" and "New Deal" anywhere near each other.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release,
The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to cleaner energy provides rural communities with an affordable and reliable power grid, while supporting thousands of new jobs and helping lower energy costs in the future. These investments will also combat climate change and significantly reduce air and water pollution that put children’s health at risk.
The funding for the two programs comes from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and is just one of a series of interconnected strategies to finally get the USA off the fossil fuel teat and transition to a clean energy economy. The two programs start accepting letters of interest in June and July, and once the grants start going out to help build clean energy projects, count on a whole bunch of press releases from Republican members of Congress who'll brag about how they're helping their communities, even though they voted against the infrastructure bill.
The New ERA program for rural electric cooperatives, Vilsack told reporters on a press call,
will help rural electric cooperatives reach parity with private utility companies who have already begun significant investment in clean energy. [...]
"We have a climate crisis that requires all of America to participate in reducing emissions to get to the net-zero future," Vilsack said.
Rural electric co-ops, which currently serve about 42 million Americans, get about 22 percent of their power from renewable sources, so the new funding should help boost that. At a White House event announcing the new programs, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who chairs the Senate Ag Committee, said the clean energy funding is
"an important piece of how we commit to rural America."
"This is really about saying to people in rural America, we want you to stay there, we want your kids to come home there, and to have a quality of life there," she said.
In the Ag Department news release, the administration notes that the PACE loan program is in keeping with Biden's "Justice40" initiative, which is aimed at making sure 40 percent of the help from climate spending goes to "disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution."
That's been a running theme in Biden's climate policy, because disadvantaged communities have historically been hit the hardest by fossil fuel pollution, and continue to be disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change. While we're at it, let's give props yet again to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made environmental justice a central part of his 2020 climate plan, which Biden adopted and has stuck with from the start of his administration.
Also too, this is a good place to remind you all that the Wonkette Book Club is back, and for this Friday, we're going to read the first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future. You can read more about the book club right here. If the UN ever does establish an agency similar to the novel's imagined ministry, we'd want Jay Inslee running it, please.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please help out with a monthly $5 or $10 donation. If you haven't grabbed a copy of The Ministry for the Future yet, the linky right there gives Wonkette a small cut of any sales. And if you were planning on shopping at Amazon for other things, the link below does the same!