We live in interesting and challenging times.  Democracies, home and abroad, are under assault from radical right wing autocrats.  They are about gaining power any way they can, including: War, Violence, Lying and Cheating.

Following are a few dots that call for connecting.  McCARTHY, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, secretly and exclusively, gave TUCKER CARLSON (an admitted liar and conservative propagandist) some 40,000 hours of surveillance film of the January 6 insurrection.  This partisan act compromised confidential security and reduced the Capital’s safety.  The obvious objective is to enable Carlson to erase truth, cherry pick, edit and create something fictitious that justifies the violence and shifts blame away from  Republicans.

FOX NEWS (FNC), Carlson and many of their reporter/propagandists are being sued for damages for more than $1 billion, caused by their intentional lies to the American people. No democracy can survive the demise of truth.  Without professional journalists dedicated to facts and truth, there is no “government of the people . . .”

Recently, CARLSON encouraged and allegedly helped finance a group of protesters in Washington, DC that held a protest march that was pro-PUTIN, pro-Russia and anti-support for Ukraine and President Zelenskyy.  This is amazing in the 21st century, because it’s the equivalent of Americans marching around the Lincoln Memorial in support of Hitler – during WWII.

Another dot that needs connecting includes former president TRUMP, ambitious presidential candidate Governor DESANTIS, and conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor GREENE.  They want autocratic power so much that each praises and supports PUTIN !- the most dangerous individual since the 1940’s.

Connecting dots should help Americans grasp the seriousness of this moment in history, and remind us that freedom isn’t free. In our past, the US succeeded by choosing good leaders, uniting and then following our better angels. We must do that again.


The Supreme Court (SC) is our highest court, and currently has 9 Justices.  Its job is to interpret and apply the US Constitution.  Chief Justice John Roberts says he wants the American people to respect and trust the SC, allegedly the sole non-partisan third branch of our government, even when they disagree with a SC decision.

Knowing this, you would assume the SC would do things that stimulate trust and respect, and avoid those things that don’t.  Unfortunately, the SC seems determined to do the opposite.  In addition to the partisan political decision to overturn Roe v Wade (that for 50 years was settled law), and stunning rulings that benefited the right wing wealthy but defied common sense (ruling that money is speech and corporations are persons), there is the Justice Thomas case.   Justice Thomas’ wife played an active role in the insurrection’s attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, yet Thomas refuses to recuse himself and continues to rule on cases involving that issue. 

Every federal judge in the US, except for the 9 supremes, must comply with a code of ethics. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest requires recusal by  judges – except for 9.  The question is: Why not the SC?  The answer is: There is no good reason for the SC NOT to have an enforceable ethics code.  This obvious and outrageous flaw, and the obvious and outrageous failure to correct it, threatens the legitimacy of, and support for, the SC.

It’s time for the SC to stop stalling and whining and start improving transparency and equal accountability.  Only when ethics rules apply to every judge, will the SC earn the trust and confidence of the American people.


Spying, it is humorously claimed, is the second oldest profession.  It is an essential part of international relations and national security.  Everyone does it and the US has some 17 separate organizations involved in “intelligence”.  Like football, there is an offense and a defense, called “counter-intelligence”.  We have come a long way since an American president said “Gentlemen don’t read other people’s mail” some 100 years ago.

The facts aren’t clear yet, but the American people need to understand that a president can’t reveal or discuss many aspects because that would allow China and others to know what intelligence capacities we have and don’t have. Since we have sophisticated jamming capacities, it’s unlikely that the balloon was very successful from an intelligence perspective.  What is clear is China violated US sovereignty and committed a dangerous and provocative act that could make America more aggressive vis a vis China on issues like it’s support of Russia and North Korea, its threat to Taiwan, and China’s aggressive military expansion in the South China Sea. This balloon incident could be a big win for the US, and a big embarrassment for China and its leader.

One unanswered question is: If the balloon was really weather related China was obligated to inform us in advance and request cooperation.  And China knew that we would know what they were doing.  So what were they thinking, what was their objective and who was making the decisions? The world does not need the two biggest and most powerful economies and militaries to increase serious conflict.  Both countries must avoid escalation.

Book Banning in Florida’s Schools

There will be a lot of headlines regarding Education legislation this spring, and little of it will be good for public schools. 

Currently, our schools are still reeling from the impacts of LAST year’s legislation, particularly HB7 (Stop WOKE Act), HB1557 (Don’t Say Gay) and HB 1467 (Instructional Materials). The Florida State Board of Education recently approved the new Librarian Training program, which instructs school librarian on how to select materials for the library and get rid of so-called pornography. The training was mandated in HB1467 and was created by a fantastic group of devoted media specialists, one reasonable parent and 3 angry conservative mom’s, who didn’t care if a book had literary value – if it talked about sex, especially LGBTQ sex, or CRT, they wanted it banned. The resulting training is here (Spoiler Alert: the angry mom’s won, in many ways): https://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/20102/urlt/2223FASTFactSheet.pdf

You can read more about it here: https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2023/01/18/state-education-officials-pass-rule-on-library-book-choice

Last year was just one more legislative session aimed at labeling school libraries, and therefore public schools, as dangerous for children in the hopes that families will leave public schools for private options. When DeSantis was elected governor in 2018, he appointed to his Education Transition team two founders of the Florida Citizen’s Alliance. The Florida Citizen’s Alliance has been behind the series of “book banning” bills we have seen in the last 4 years. In 2021 the released the “2021 Porn In Schools Report” outlining books they found objectionable and encouraging individuals to challenge their presence in school libraries.

Our very own Senator Ana Maria Rodriquez filed a bill for them in 2021 (https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/410/Analyses/2021s00410.pre.cj.PDF) which initially required families to “opt-in,” in writing, to sex education classes, required districts to pro-actively remove “objectionable materials” from school libraries and would charge librarians with a felony if students were allowed to check out such materials from school libraries. The book banning portions of Senator Rodriquez’s bill were amended out in 2021 but passed during the 2022 session in HB1467.

This fall, the State Board of Education used their rules process to expand HB1557 (Don’t Say Gay) and deemed that any teacher found to violate Don’t Say Gay was breaking the law and could have their teacher certification taken away. They also threatened school librarians with a 3rd degree felony if books on the shelves were deemed “harmful.”

THE GOOD NEWS: To date, Monroe has had NO book challenges. (This is the formal process for challenging a book in MCSD: https://www.keysschools.com/cms/lib/FL02202360/Centricity/Domain/2779/MCSD%20Instructional%20Materials%20Petition%20Form.pdf)


  • In the current political climate, teachers and librarians are concerned regarding the risks to their careers these laws pose. 
  • There is rumor that a conservative group out of the Lower Keys is gearing up to challenge the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, which is currently found in several of our middle and high schools. (https://www.amazon.com/Hate-U-Give-Angie-Thomas/dp/0062498533)

It is my belief that book banners have never been on the right side of history and children should be encouraged to read everything they can get their hands on. I also believe parents have a responsibility to oversee their own child’s reading but they should not be able to restrict books from other children.

There are several organizations currently following trends in book banning across the state and nation:

I would love to have a local group of individuals who would be willing to write letters to the school board or speak at school board meetings if (when) books are challenged in Monroe. In the meantime, please be aware of the challenges we face.

Stay tuned.

Sue Woltanski.

Sue is a member of the Monroe County School District. Her views here do not necessarily reflect those of the Board.