Amazing. 1969 and Janis Joplin had the right take on Tina Turner--and, subtly but unmistakably, on the husband. https://t.co/sNdXsZWHhT— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) May 24, 2023
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Hamburger Mary’s, the iconic burger joint found in gayborhoods across America, is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the state of Florida over the state’s new drag ban.
The Orlando branch of the flamboyant, drag-themed restaurant chain says they’ve been deprived of their First Amendment rights and are already losing customers under the state’s new rules targeting drag shows.
[. . .]
Hamburger Mary’s “simply cannot take the chance that their business or liquor licenses would be suspended for hosting a drag show where children attend,” the lawsuit states. “In addition, the criminal penalties of the law put individuals at risk of prosecution because of the content of their speech.”
The restaurant regularly hosts drag performances that include bingo, trivia, and comedy. On Sundays, children are welcomed at “family friendly” drag shows.
According to the suit, Hamburger Mary’s has lost 20% of their reservations for the Sunday shows and other events since announcing minors could no longer be in attendance while drag performers were present.
A high percentage of wait staff regularly dresses in drag, as well.
“The broad, sweeping nature of the statute, and the vagueness regarding what conduct is and is not prohibited, will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of the citizens of Florida,” the lawsuit says.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
The NAACP has issued a formal travel advisory for Florida. In an announcement Saturday, the group said Florida is “hostile to Black Americans” under Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s expected to announce his run for the 2024 presidential nomination this week.
The moves comes after Florida passed the Stop WOKE Act to restrict conversations about race in schools and businesses. DeSantis has also attacked the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course and on Monday signed into law a measure that blocks colleges from spending public funds on diversity, equity and inclusion. He also signed a slate of legislation Wednesday targeting the LGBTQ community.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement, quote, “Let me be clear — failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all.”
The NAACP was joined by the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, and the LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida.
The moves comes as tourism is one of Florida’s biggest industries.
Meanwhile, PEN America, the book publishing company Penguin Random House and several other authors and parents are suing the Pensacola, Florida, school board for banning books on race and LGBTQ issues from school libraries, saying they violated the First Amendment.
For more, we’re beginning with Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the free expression group PEN America.
Suzanne, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you explain what this lawsuit is all about?
SUZANNE NOSSEL: Sure. We are suing in Escambia County to challenge the removal of books from classroom and school libraries. There are well over a hundred books that have been put under review and taken off classroom shelves for protracted periods while review processes are underway. That’s in contravention of the best practice guidelines that the American Library Association and others say you should follow, National Coalition Against Censorship, whereby books, if there’s an objection, should remain on the shelves while those objections are adjudicated. And then, there are more than 10 books that have been banned entirely. And this effort disproportionately targets books by and about authors of color, LGBTQ narratives.
And so we’re bringing a challenge under both the First and the 14th Amendments to the Constitution, the First Amendment because these bans and removals violate children’s right to read, and the 14th Amendment because they raise equality concerns. When books are targeted based on the stories told, who’s telling the stories, what the color or the sexual orientation of the characters, that violates our protections for equality in education. And so, we’re asking the school board to put these books back on the shelves, and the court to vindicate children’s right to read.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain really what this Stop WOKE Act says and how it allows for banned books? How specific is it? Or is it that the vagueness is what is so threatening?
SUZANNE NOSSEL: It’s really the vagueness. I mean, this idea that teachings that could create racial tension or make people feel guilty on the basis of their racial identity are prohibited raise all kinds of questions for teachers and librarians about what books might be construed to fall afoul of those restrictions. If a kid reads a book and they ask a question that demands an answer that could touch upon some of those sensitive topics, does the teacher risk being disciplined? Do they risk a complaint from a parent that could run all the way up the chain?
And that’s really the way censorship works deliberately — vague laws that don’t just pinpoint what specifically is out of bounds, but rather cast a broad chill, a pall on education. It’s teaching our children that there are ideas and books that are so dangerous that they ought to be off limits, which runs counter to the very role and purpose of public schools in a democracy, to be an incubator for citizenship, where you learn how to engage with all sorts of people, all sorts of ideas.
AMY GOODMAN: From your press release, in Escambia County, nearly 200 books have been challenged; 10 books have been removed by the school board; five books were removed by district committees; 139 books remain restricted, requiring parental permission. You also write, “Children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous.” Talk more about the specific books that are banned and how exactly you plan to get these books back on the bookshelves.
SUZANNE NOSSEL: Yeah, sure. Look, it’s a long list of books. And it’s quite shocking to see things like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye or Judy Blume’s Forever. You know, that’s a book that I grew up with, that, yes, was a little bit edgy in my time, but decades have passed. These are things that have been on the shelves, that have been treasured by young people for long periods of time, works of literature, Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate in literature. So, to ban her books, you know, the idea that they have no value, no redeeming value for children, is outrageous.
There are also books like And Tango Makes Three, which is a story about same-sex penguins in the Central Park Zoo that raise a baby penguin, and this is being objected to because it’s seen as promoting LGBTQ lifestyles, or Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, about a child whose uncle gets married to a man. And so, it’s a real effort to both expunge books that are seen as contravening a very traditional, rigid conception of what family life ought to look like in America, and then books that are construed as sexually provocative. They’re being labeled pornography, even though they don’t bear any resemblance to the legal definition of pornography. So, it’s painting with a very broad brush.
And most of these objections have been brought by a single teacher in the school district. This is not a groundswell of parents who are raising these objections. It’s a single individual. And on the basis of that, in many cases, as we outline in our complaint, the school board has overridden the considered opinion of its own review panel. So, it has an empowered review panel of experts that it has designated to read books when there is an objection, to take a look and decide whether there is value for children, whether these books ought to remain in the classroom. And the pattern in Escambia that’s so disturbing is a political override of that expert opinion. So their own designated panel is being brushed to the side, and politics and ideology are ruling the day.
“I’ve been cross-dressing since long before these clickbait-junkie dupes were out of diapers,” he told The Messenger. Keenan went on to explain that he was simply riffing on a look he wore onstage in the ’90s. “It’s pretty crazy the technology and the prosthetics nowadays, how they’ve come along, and I just was considering bringing the look back. And that’s really all there is to it. I’m not a political fella -- had nothing to do with Florida.”
Still, the father of two made it clear that he opposes drag bans like the one in Florida. “I think limiting people’s access to anything is absurd,” he said. “Good parenting allows you to teach your kids how to be reasonable and reason and puzzle things out and decide for themselves what the f**k they wanna see or not wanna see.”
Asked whether he identifies with drag performers, Keenan said, “I guess so, yeah.”
“On occasion, I am a drag queen; I’ve been a drag queen,” he explained. “I’m casual, so the hardcore people are going to dismiss me as being a tourist.”
He also expressed “solidarity with people who are not afraid to express themselves.”
“People that want to express themselves in whatever f**king way they want to express themselves, as long as they’re not physically directly hurting someone? Yeah, go for it. I’m all for ya.”
Numerous police officers lured to new jobs in Florida with cash from Governor Ron DeSantis’s flagship law enforcement relocation program have histories of excessive violence or have been arrested for crimes including kidnapping and murder since signing up, a study of state documents has found.
DeSantis, who is expected to launch his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination this week, has spent more than $13.5m to date on the recruitment bonus program, which he touted in 2021 as an incentive to officers in other states frustrated by Covid-19 vaccination mandates.
“This will go a long way to ensuring we can have the best and the brightest filling our law enforcement ranks,” Florida’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, said in April last year as DeSantis announced one-time $5,000 bonuses for new recruits.
However, among the almost 600 officers who moved to Florida and received the bonus – or were recruited in state – are a sizable number who either arrived with a range of complaints against them, or have since accrued criminal charges, the online media outlet Daily Dot has discovered.
They include a former trainee deputy with the Escambia county sheriff’s office charged with murdering her husband; an officer with the Miramar police department fired for domestic battery and kidnapping; and a former member of the New York police department (NYPD) who was hired by the Palm Beach police department having once been accused of an improper sexual proposition.
That officer, named by the Daily Dot as Daniel Meblin, was also part of a $160,000 settlement by the NYPD for violence at a 2020 protest against the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in which officers were accused of beating Black males without provocation.
A Palm Beach police spokesperson told the Daily Dot that Meblin – who had complaints against him including abuse of authority and sexually propositioning a teenager – had disclosed his background during the hiring process, according to the NYPD watchdog 50-a.org.