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Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Launching All-Out Assault on Academic Freedom

The new law goes after DEI, certain university degrees, and even how professors can talk about race and gender.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that launches the greatest attack on academic freedom yet.

The new law prohibits state universities from spending state or federal funds on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, which are widely recognized as crucial in combating implicit bias and providing support for students or employees who are members of a minority community. The measure also dramatically limits what professors can teach about race and gender and bans degrees in gender studies and critical race theory.

Moreover, students would be required to take classes on the history and philosophy of Western civilization, which many scholars recognize as coded language for white supremacist ideology.

“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,” DeSantis said during a press conference at the New College of Florida, in Sarasota. “And that has no place in our public institutions. This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida.”

His decision to hold the signing at the New College was particularly significant—and petty. The New College is a historically liberal enclave, not just in deeply red Florida but also in the county where it is located. The college’s board of trustees was overhauled in early January when DeSantis appointed six new conservative members. The very next month, the board ousted New College President Patricia Okker and installed Christopher Rufo, a DeSantis loyalist.

The college’s students have repeatedly protested DeSantis and his ultraconservative policies, and Monday was no different. The demonstrations against the new anti-DEI law were so loud that they could be heard during the signing ceremony.

DeSantis is desperate to establish himself as the new standard-bearer for the right wing, but he’s doing so at the cost of his constituents. Many of his policies are hugely unpopular in the state, but he’s forging ahead for political clout. Just last week, he signed a bill that will allow doctors and health insurance companies to deny care to anyone they want.

Kyrsten Sinema Thinks You Need Bougie Hotels and Limousines to Run a Marathon

And she’s using campaign funds to expense it all.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senator Kyrsten Sinema has a history of making questionable choices for personal gain. And now she seems to be strategically planning campaign fundraisers to justify bougie travel and accommodation expenses for personal competitions.

A new report from The Daily Beast found that Sinema raised $16,000 in campaign donations from a small group of Massachusetts-based donors in April 2022. That same month, her campaign paid nearly $8,500 for a stay at the Ritz-Carlton. Though the campaign filing did not specify which Ritz location, Sinema tweeted a photo of herself and a friend posing in a Ritz hotel room after finishing the Boston Marathon.

And it’s not the only time Sinema appears to have planned a fundraiser in the same place she was going to run a race. The Daily Beast found at least six other such instances since 2019, such as in May that year, when Sinema competed in a marathon in Ventura County, California. In the two weeks around the race, she raised $21,000 from PACs and donors in the state, while her campaign spent $400 on lodging in Santa Barbara.

Other campaign expenses include more than $5,200 on limo service in Boston in October 2021, when Sinema merely attended the Boston Marathon. She coincidentally held a fundraiser that month that raised $36,000 from Massachusetts donors.

The Federal Election Commission bars political candidates from using campaign funds for any expenses unrelated to running for or holding public office. By allegedly tacking fundraisers on to her race travel, Sinema is technically not breaking any rules. But her behavior is definitely shady.

“It is one thing to ask donors for money to support your campaign and get your message out to voters, it is another to ask them to bankroll your personal life,” Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director for the watchdog group Documented, told The Daily Beast. But “if an officeholder is using donor dollars to subsidize their lifestyle or finance personal expenses, then campaign contributions pose a much greater risk of corruption.”

Fischer also pointed out that athletes plan far in advance for big races, making it “highly unlikely that Sinema’s fundraising activity was scheduled as the priority,” according to the Beast.

We also already know that Sinema seems to prioritize her race training above everything else. Another Daily Beast report from December found that Sinema’s training regimen appears to take up the bulk of her time. Citing an internal memo and anonymous former staffers, the report found that Sinema should be considered unreachable during her daily training sessions. Races are scheduled into her calendar, and she requires an hour-long massage and two 45-minute physical therapy sessions each week. Actual senatorial duties are confined to specific time blocks each week.

Sinema has proudly declared she doesn’t stand for anything. She seems to have undergone a political 180 since reaching Capitol Hill, voting against measures she campaigned on, such as raising the minimum wage, and switching political affiliation to independent in what was widely seen as an attempt to improve her reelection chances.

So maybe it’s not that she doesn’t stand for anything. Maybe it’s that Sinema only stands for herself.

Paul Gosar’s Staffer Is Reportedly a Follower of Neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes

A new report reveals the close ties between the far-right Arizona representative’s digital director and white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes.

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Arizona’s far-right Representative Paul Gosar

With how drastically extreme the conservative movement has become, it is sometimes easy to forget how radical the Republican Party truly is, and what kinds of vicious ideologies it is welcoming. Talking Points Memo has revealed the extent this has come to: Far-right Republican Representative Paul Gosar’s office has been infiltrated, or perhaps in his eyes enhanced by, a devotee of a prominent neo-Nazi.

Gosar’s digital director since 2021, Wade Searle, is a follower of white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes, according to TPM.

Fuentes leads what is known as the “Groyper Army,” a loosely organized far-right group dedicated toward white nationalism and hate. TPM has found Searle, a loyal Gosar staffer, to be a strong subscriber to Fuentes and his white supremacist movement.

Searle denies the allegations. TPM says it stands by its reporting.

On Fuentes’s America First streaming show, for instance, Searle was a fervent listener and even moderator of the chat room, says the TPM report.

“You are our voice!” Searle allegedly boasted to Fuentes during an online stream. Searle paid $150 to plaster the note onto Fuentes’s screen during his stream—after joining hordes of other viewers in pledging their fealty to Fuentes and his movement.

Here’s how Fuentes directed Searle and other viewers through the pledge:

Raise your right hand. “I swear my undying allegiance to Nicholas J. Fuentes and the America First movement, so help me God.” Raise your hand. Hold it high. “I swear I will defend the white race, my nation America, and my savior Jesus Christ, and my loyalty to the America First movement, Nicholas J. Fuentes, so help me God.”

Such a crazed pledge is concerning, given the gravity of such a movement and what it stands for.

“The Groypers are essentially the equivalent of neo-Nazis,” Nicole Hemmer, a historian and expert on the far right, told TPM. “They are attached to violent events like Jan. 6. Nick Fuentes, as sort of the organizer of the Groypers, expresses Holocaust denialism, white supremacy, white nationalism, pretty strong anti-women bigotry, he calls for a kind of return to Twelfth Century Catholicism. They’re an extremist group that is OK with violence.”

And this is the type of ideology that Searle allegedly embraces: the type of ideology Gosar has always flirted with and now spends taxpayer dollars to employ.

“A kind of even sub rosa identification of Groypers as congressional aides is the same as having Holocaust deniers, or alt righters, or, you know, Aryan Nations people,” Hemmer continued. “It’s as extreme and as racist as you get in the United States.”

Tellingly, the far-right staffer started the very day after Gosar was removed from House committees for posting a video depicting him cutting Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword. A censure like that is generally meant to rein someone in, but Gosar dug his heels in further, hiring Searle, who bows down to a man who has proudly said he’s “just like Hitler.”

But the story here is not just about Gosar hiring someone with close ties to a major neo-Nazi; it’s also about how he himself has had such ties, too. Gosar has appeared at Fuentes’s two most recent “America First” conferences—in person in 2021, virtually in 2022. In July 2021, Gosar used congressional letterhead to write directly to the FBI and complain about Fuentes’s inclusion on the no-fly list. Gosar has referred to Fuentes as “Nick,” in formal statements before—not something a member of Congress would do if they lacked familiarity or connection.

If there is to be any scarlet letter in politics, it ought to be for Nazis. Instead, Gosar has snuggled up warmly toward that exact movement.

This article has been updated.

Republicans Have Lost Their Informant in Fake Biden Corruption Investigation

Representative James Comer admitted that he can’t seem to “track down” their informant.

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House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer and other Republican members of the committee

The Republicans’ trumped-up investigation into Joe Biden has gone from bad to worse, as a top informant has apparently gone MIA.

House Republicans have been investigating the president and his family for months but have been unable to provide any actual evidence linking Biden to any wrongdoing.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer has led the charge, releasing a 65-page memo last week accusing the Bidens of influence peddling in Romania, and Biden’s son Hunter of having business deals in China. All of those claims are based on information the committee says it has received from anonymous sources.

Except … one of those sources has now gone missing. “Well, unfortunately, we can’t track down the informant,” Comer told host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday. “We’re hopeful that the informant is still there. The whistleblower knows the informant. The whistleblower is very credible.”

Even Bartiromo seemed a little confused. “Hold on a second, Congressman. Did you just say that the whistleblower or the informant is now missing?” she asked.

Comer said he was “hopeful” they could find the informant again, and said that informants are “kind of in the spy business,” so they could be difficult to keep track of.

Comer has repeatedly said Biden was involved in shady business dealings, but when pressed, he has always had to admit that he has no actual proof. Since releasing the memo last week, he has insisted that his informants will provide him with concrete evidence soon.

While Bartiromo seemed content to take Comer’s words at face value, her colleagues have not been so forgiving. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy called out Comer’s lack of evidence last week.

“You don’t actually have any facts to that point. You’ve got some circumstantial evidence,” Doocy said Thursday morning. “And the other thing is, of all those names, the one person who didn’t profit is—there’s no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally.”

And now that an informant has gone AWOL, we may never get that so-called evidence.

Is Biden About to Cave on the Debt Ceiling?

A couple new reports have some troubling signs on how negotiations are going.

Joe Biden
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The United States is barreling closer and closer to defaulting on its debt. Will President Joe Biden cave in negotiations with Republicans?

So far, the president has maintained he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling, but the closer we get to the deadline, the less clear that is.

Reuters reported late Thursday, citing two anonymous sources, that White House officials think they will have to accept some spending cuts or spending caps in order to make a deal.

Biden also may have been hinting at budget cuts himself in an event this week. “We should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis, in a responsible way,” he said at an event in New York on Thursday.

The president postponed a meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy originally scheduled for Friday. But aides for the White House and the House and Senate leaders met Friday and will meet over the weekend, according to presidential spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, who said there was “progress” in the talks.

During her daily press briefing, she did not say what had been discussed during negotiations, but she said that Biden remained firm in his refusal to compromise on the debt ceiling more generally.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the United States could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 1, earlier than initially anticipated, unless the debt ceiling is raised or suspended. In a letter to Congress two weeks ago, she said it was “imperative” for the government to act as soon as possible.

Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a protracted battle over the debt limit, which the GOP has indicated it’s willing to hold hostage in order to reduce government spending. Biden has staunchly maintained that the U.S. has to pay its bills, but there have been indications in recent days that he is willing to compromise on budget cuts.

Jean-Pierre said Friday that the budget negotiations are separate from discussions about the debt ceiling. But it would be disappointing if Biden did compromise on his budget. His plan included ambitious goals for expanding childcare assistance, health insurance, and wealth taxes—all things that would benefit the U.S. but that Republicans want to slash.

But with the deadline moving ever closer, can he pull it off?

Ron DeSantis Bans Credit Card Companies From Helping Track Gun Criminals

The Florida governor seems determined to sign as many dangerous bills as possible into law.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Just weeks ago, Ron DeSantis made it legal in Florida to conceal-carry a gun without a permit, training, or even a background check.

And on Friday, he signed a bill to prevent credit card companies from tracking the sale of firearms and ammunition. The bill stops companies from helping track suspicious weapons purchases—an increasing concern while the United States is flooded with random shootings and mass shootings essentially every few hours.

Instead, DeSantis in rapid succession has made it easier for potentially violent people to conceal-carry guns with abandon, while making it more difficult for law enforcement to proactively respond when those carriers may have nefarious intentions.

Companies found in violation of the bill will be fined up to $10,000.

Credit card companies had expressed willingness to adopt the gun-tracking practice, which pretty much involves ascribing a distinct four-digit “merchant category code” for sales at gun businesses. Such codes are already used to distinguish purchases from oft-frequented places like grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

Consequently, while DeSantis claims the bill is a defense against big government, it really is just a stake he is laying on the issues of guns. If he was really so concerned about government overreach or mass data surveillance, he would ban the use of such codes outright. But the very limited purporting of principle is DeSantis’s entire brand. Also this week, he again escalated his war against Disney and its monorail, going not against universal corporate immunities or misdeeds but just Disney specifically—because he doesn’t like that it spoke out against his infamous and repressive “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Russia Wants to Build a Safe Space for Conservative Americans to Move To

The village would also be open to Canadian conservatives upset by the politics in their country.

A man shovels snow outside his home
A village outside Moscow

Russia is pining to build on its budding relationship with American conservatives—literally.

Amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and the American Republican Party splitting on its support for the defending nation, Russian authorities apparently are launching construction of a special village outside Moscow dedicated to conservative-minded Americans and Canadians.

State outlet RIA Novosti reported the news Thursday. Timur Beslangurov, a Russian immigration lawyer, said the village would harbor the likes of some “200 families [who] want to emigrate for ideological reasons.”

That’s not all, apparently. Beslangurov claims tens of thousands of people with no Russian roots would like to move to Russia.

“The reason is the inculcation of radical values: Today they have 70 genders; it is not known what will happen next,” he said.

The Russian lawyer claimed that some of those tens of thousands want to move to Russia because they are traditional Catholics who “very strongly believe in the prophecy that Russia will remain the only Christian country in the world.”

According to the lawyer, the future expats would help fund the village.

Beslangurov’s remarks—manifesting from lazing in an armchair and letting late-night fruitcake programming blare mindlessly at you—mirror the broader posturing of Russia’s government as “traditional” in comparison to the West’s supposed loose liberalism. The red-in-the-face finger-pointing at America has led to some pretty exaggerated propaganda in the past:

On the other hand, Americans are in fact expressing increased desires to flee the United States—not because there are “70 genders” or too many vegetarians, but because of relentless and widespread attacks on abortion rights and LGBTQ people’s civil rights.

Conversely, Russia’s own “traditional” posturing has resulted in policies like policing the “demonstration” of LGBTQ “behavior,” banning Russians from suggesting that being gay is “normal,” and outlawing all forms of media that could be seen as promoting such “propaganda” (violations of the law could incur punishments up to $33,000 in fines, while nonresidents could be expelled from Russia). None of this includes the growing crackdown on free speech, especially when it comes to criticism of the government and the invasion of Ukraine.

Not a very warm environment for non-Russians to move to.

Good Luck: Judge Orders Trump to Attend Lecture on Not Harassing Witnesses

Trump has a “long-standing history” of attacking people in his legal cases, prosecutors said.

Donald Trump speaks with a mic in front of him
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Former President Donald Trump will have to attend a hearing specifically to be told to stop trying to intimidate witnesses.

The judge presiding over Trump’s Manhattan criminal case, on the alleged payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, issued a protective order Monday stating that the people involved in the lawsuit are not allowed to share evidence from the case on social media. Prosecutors initially sought the order shortly after Trump was arrested, arguing he has a “long-standing history” of attacking people involved in his legal disputes.

For good measure, on Thursday, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan also scheduled a hearing for May 23, to make sure Trump understands the rules. During the virtual hearing, Merchan will go over the restrictions of the order with Trump and make clear that if the former president breaks the restrictions, he risks being held in contempt of the court.

The hearing date was set just days after Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and battery against writer E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s, and for defaming her when she accused him of assault decades later. He owes her $5 million in damages.

During the trial, Trump repeatedly attacked Carroll on social media, earning him multiple rebukes from the judge presiding over that case, including on the day of the verdict. The next day, Trump participated in an absurd town hall event with CNN, during which he repeatedly insulted Carroll and decried the legal process. Carroll is reportedly weighing whether to sue him for defamation again in light of his comments during the town hall.

Merchan said he was not issuing a gag order because “the last thing I want to do is infringe on [Trump’s] or anybody else’s First Amendment rights.”

Trump is facing 34 counts of business fraud in Manhattan for his alleged role in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. Separately, he is under investigation in Georgia for his actions following the 2020 presidential election, as well as for his role in the January 6 insurrection and for his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Conservatives: It’s “Anti-Hero” to Arrest Daniel Penny for Killing Jordan Neely

The mental gymnastics needed to justify a 15-minute choke hold are wild.

A woman riding the subway looks at a protestor carrying a “Justice for Jordan Neely” poster walking on the platform.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
A protester in the New York City subway on May 8

The right is jumping to the defense of Daniel Penny, somehow arguing that arresting someone for manslaughter is actually “pro-criminal.”

Penny surrendered to New York City authorities on Friday for a charge of second-degree manslaughter, after he was filmed placing Jordan Neely in a fatal choke hold on the subway for 15 minutes.

Since the announcement of charges against Penny, right-wing figures have advanced ludicrous and vicious ideas about it all, claiming the arrest of Penny to be unjust—the most bizarre among them being that to arrest Penny is to be pro-crime.

“It’s pro-criminal, it’s anti-hero,” Fox host Greg Gutfeld said on Thursday. “It’s time for us to get this progressive pro-crime ideology to walk the plank,” he continued, implying that Neely, the person who was strangled to death, was the real criminal.

Jack Posobiec retweeted a claim that society is now a “sinking ship” because “morally upright chads like Daniel Penny” have to submit to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (the far-right’s favorite boogeyman for Trump-related reasons).

Numerous other right-wing and conspiratorial figures, like Mike Cernovich and Collin Rugg, have stuck to a broader line of calling the killer a “good Samaritan.” They are advancing the notion—sans brain or soul—that Penny’s arrest symbolizes the state punishing an individual for being a hero and for sticking up against evil.

The continuous smearing of Neely, a man already dead, follows Fox’s previously cruel coverage of the murder: They laugh, encourage jeering, and blame the murder on anything but the actual culprit.

If there’s anything repressive or authoritarian about this case, it’s not that someone is being charged for killing. It’s our reaction to the already senseless killing of a homeless man who embodies the millions of people our society fails and leaves in the dust. Just days ago, the police arrested a journalist trying to record them violently repressing people protesting that Penny—who, again, was caught on film killing someone—had not yet faced consequences.

There are corrupt power structures to be confronted in our society; do try looking for the ones that pit you against your fellow human beings, the ones happy for you to assume the worst in others who are more like you than you realize.

Alabama Republicans Want to Charge People Who Get Abortions With Homicide

House Bill 454 would take Alabama’s anti-abortion laws to the next level.

Protestors participate in a 2019 rally against bans on abortions in Montgomery, Alabama.
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A pro-abortion rally in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2019

Alabama Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would charge people who get abortions with homicide, an outrageous move that mimics similar bills in other states.

Abortion has been banned in Alabama since Roe v. Wade was overturned, with exceptions only to save the life of the pregnant person. The new bill leaves those exceptions in place.

But the measure, which was introduced in the House Tuesday, would expand the definition of “person” to state that life begins at fertilization. This would allow prosecutors to charge anyone who gets a nontherapeutic abortion with homicide.

The bill’s sponsor said that the measure was not meant to criminalize people seeking abortions but to deter people from trying to get an abortion in the first place. Classifying abortion as a homicide would significantly deter people from seeking the procedure, but it could also put their health at risk.

A study published in November by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that abortion bans at both the state and national level will result in significant increases in maternal mortality rates. The United States already has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed nations, according to the World Population Review.

Frighteningly, this is not the first time that a state has tried to classify abortion as homicide. Republicans in Kentucky and Georgia introduced similar bills in February, and South Carolina Republicans introduced a bill in February that would have made getting an abortion punishable by the death penalty. All three of these bills were deemed so extreme that even other state Republicans condemned them.

These measures are also hugely unpopular among voters. The vast majority of Americans support abortion access, as they have repeatedly shown at the ballot box. But Republicans keep forging ahead with restrictions on human rights.