Here's the real reason DeSantis is poisoning public education in Florida

Ron DeSantis likes to say Florida is where “woke” goes to die. If by “woke” he means tolerance, science, inquiry, free expression, and knowledge, yes, Florida is where “woke” goes to die.

Florida is where public education goes to die; Ron DeSantis is poisoning it.

Not content with installing the quack Joseph Ladapo at the University of Florida medical school or attacking the accreditation system because the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools investigated academic freedom in the state, the governor has just appointed six new ultra-conservative trustees to the board of New College of Florida in Sarasota.

They want to trash its tradition of intellectual freedom and transform it into an institution DeSantis’ base would love, a Bob Jones-style religious school funded with taxpayer money.

The governor’s office claims he chose these trustees for their “firsthand understanding of the Florida education system.”

That’s just silly. And insulting. While one of the appointees actually went to New College, the others have no expertise in public education. They are graduates of private institutions. They work at private institutions or right-wing think tanks.

New College is a public college. It is supposed to serve the students of the state of Florida, liberal or conservative, religious or secular.

The governor has a well-known antipathy to most universities and colleges, claiming that they have become captive to “trendy ideology” such as equality, anti-racism, diversity, feminism, and climate science.

So, as the governor’s chief of staff says, they mean to destroy New College as it has been known and celebrated, and turn it into “the Hillsdale of the South.”

Easy pickings

New College is easy pickings for educational extremists. It’s small, with a student body of about 700. The college has struggled to get its enrollment up (as have many institutions post-COVID) and has lost revenue. Nearly 100% of students draw financial aid.

At around 4,000, the college’s alumni base is a fraction of FSU’s or U.F.’s. But those alums include winners of the Fields Medal in Mathematics, the first Latino to serve in the Georgia Senate, the director of Peru’s National Library, several college presidents, a raft of celebrated poets, Emmy award-winners, civil libertarians, and distinguished environmental scientists.

DeSantis and his ideological demolition gang are no doubt offended by the way New College prioritizes creativity over conformity; you can craft your own major and progress is measured by “demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades.”

Not for long, alas, not if this batch of MAGA-bots get confirmed. There’s Mark Bauerlein, a Donald Trump-supporting professor at Emory; Debra Jenks, a West Palm Beach lawyer; Charles Kesler, a former member of Trump’s “1776 Commission;” Eddie Speir, founder of a Christian school in Bradenton; and Hillsdale College government teacher, Matthew Spalding.

Spalding is a prolific producer of articles for The Heritage Foundation and the National Review attacking such administrative-state atrocities as equal-pay legislation and attempts to mitigate climate change.

‘Patriotic education’

Kesler promotes what he calls “patriotic education,” the kind that instills pride in young white folks by lying to them. The thoroughly debunked “1776 Report,” which lacked expert historians or even basic fact-checking, insists George Washington freed his slaves (he didn’t) and Martin Luther King opposed affirmative action (not true).

Demonstrating an impressive commitment to nonsense, on Jan. 3 Eddie Speir tweeted that the COVID-19 vaccine might have caused Bills player Damar Hamlin’s heart attack. Speir couldn’t even get Hamlin’s name right, calling him “Devin.”

But the pick of DeSantis’ litter is a Tucker Carlson favorite, conservative activist Christopher Rufo, whose party trick is whipping up fear and loathing over critical race theory.

Rufo’s a gaslighting master, accusing educators of brainwashing the youth of America with a Marxist-based curriculum calculated to make them hate the Founding Fathers.

He’s spectacularly short on evidence, but he’s managed to convince a lot of Republicans — even ones far less obsessed with lying to their voters than Florida’s governor — that elementary school children are being force-fed lessons on transgenderism while college students are made to immerse themselves in slave narratives and bullied by sinister professors into ditching Sigma Nu for the Socialist Workers Party.

Rufo told The New York Times he means to bring a “landing team” of right-wing fellow travelers to “design a new core curriculum” and “encode it in a new academic master plan.”

New College’s stated commitment to “a balance between recognizing and celebrating difference, respectfully supporting each other’s growth, and ensuring that historically marginalized and oppressed groups are not experiencing trauma and harm” will be junked.

Rufo likens the invasion of New College to Elon Musk’s hostile takeover of Twitter. We all know how that’s working out.

DeSantis’ wrecking crew

One of the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges will become a place where you don’t talk about gender and race, you don’t confront the painful aspects of American history, and you sure as hell don’t say gay.

Rufo says the new New College will offer “an alternative for conservative families in the state of Florida to say there is a public university that reflects your values.”

In other words, none of that satanic critical race theory. DeSantis’ wrecking crew seem obsessed with critical race theory, not that any of them have exhibited the least knowledge of what it is. Eddie Speir, the Christian school huckster, assures us that “critical theory” has even infiltrated the church! It’s “pervasive and has crept into the Body of Christ in frameworks of feminism, Black theology, and other liberation theologies.”

Wouldn’t want the followers of Jesus to acknowledge the humanity of women and people of color, would we?


Unlike Speir, Rufo isn’t ignorant. He’s calculating, using the bugaboo phrase “critical race theory” to get himself on Fox.

He proclaims that it’s “an existential threat to the United States” — why should blameless white people be reminded that people of color still suffer from institutional disadvantages in education, the justice system, health care, and financial opportunities?

If DeSantis has his way, the new New College will no longer be allowed to pursue higher education’s mission to “engage in difficult conversations that consider a multiplicity of voices to build a more inclusive community.”

DeSantis says he’s against “indoctrination.” He seems to equate indoctrination with questioning authority, questioning national myths, questioning the world as it has been presented to decide what is true and what isn’t. Anyway, if progressive colleges indoctrinate students, surely conservative ones — like Hillsdale — do, too.

You have to wonder why DeSantis and his ilk are so terrified of ideas. He must have encountered “liberal” views at Yale and Harvard. He doesn’t seem to have been unduly swayed by them.

But who are we kidding? The assault on New College isn’t about educational philosophy. It’s about votes. It’s about the presidential election of 2024.

The governor of Florida will do anything to gin up his base, including trample on the rights of young people to receive the education they choose.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Sen. Rick Scott's epic fail at GOP campaign job

Nobody likes Florida Sen. Rick Scott. Dogs don’t like him. Children don’t like him. Even Mitch McConnell struggles to be civil to the man.

True, Scott’s company defrauded Medicare, though, it must be said, Republicans usually have no objection to robbing old people. He has the charisma of a week-old ham sandwich and the appeal of a palmetto bug. Still, you’d think that would endear him to other charm-challenged senators such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Lindsey Graham.

Republicans often have unsavory friends, people like Hungarian despot Viktor Orbán, white nationalist Tucker Carlson, and that petulant Oompa Loompa who kept top secret nuclear documents stuffed in a box at his beach house.

So why is Rick Scott getting hated on?

Maybe it’s his spectacular mismanagement of Republican Party campaign cash. That and seriously crap candidates.

As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott is supposed to snag donations, recruit likely winners, and run ads. A year ago, he bragged about opening new fundraising sources and claimed “historic investments in digital fund-raising are already paying dividends.”

The NRSC brought in almost $182 million. But, as of early August this year, most of that money had disappeared.


Scott blew nearly all of it on digital fundraising, sometimes spending 100 grand a day on Google and Facebook ads. That, and predatory solicitations — the NRSC blasted out tweets to the millions of people on its potential donor list squawking, “This is URGENT! Do YOU support Trump?” or “Should Biden Resign?” then demanded you “Reply YES to donate $25.”

Anyone who had ever given to Republicans through the WinRed site found their credit card had been charged, even though the messages never said to whom the money was going. The NRSC had to fork out $8 million in refunds.

Poor ROI

The upshot is that Scott blew through $172.2 million bucks to net $8.8 million. The NRSC has cancelled TV buys in key midterm states while Democrats, with nearly twice as much cash in the bank, are ramping up their ads. No wonder Republican donors feel burned.

Mitch McConnell is not happy, letting it be known that he was “concerned” about Scott’s disappearing cash debacle as well as what he delicately referred to as “candidate quality.”

He means the passel of cretins, head cases, and oafs who got enough Trumpy votes in Republican primaries to advance to the general election in November.

Scott struck back with the imbecilic fury of a person who’d spent too many hours prostrate on that tacky carpet at Mar-a-Lago. In a Washington Examiner op-ed, he accused “smart guy” party leaders and “the DC crowd” of “trash-talking” Republican candidates. “It’s treasonous to the conservative cause,” huffed Scott.

Yep, Scott thinks the 2022 crop of Trumplet hopefuls are “great candidates,” fine folks like Blake Masters, who’s challenging Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters blames gun violence on “Black people, frankly,” while putting out an ad showing him standing in the Arizona desert brandishing a short-barreled shotgun, which is, he snarls, is “designed to kill people.”

Woke Fed

Masters got himself into a Twitter lather when the AP reported that the Federal Reserve had “more female, Black, and gay officials” than ever in its 109 years. According to him, inflation is caused by the Fed’s “wokeness.”

Speaking of female and Black, Masters assures us Kamala Harris only got where she is because of “affirmative action.”

Kamala Harris, along with AOC, Sen. Cory Booker, and other members of the “childless left” are to blame for, well, whatever, according to J.D. Vance, Senate candidate in Ohio. He likes the way Viktor Orbán gives tax breaks to women who have four or more children.

White Christian children, of course.

Vance has also endeared himself to Ohio’s large Ukrainian-American community by saying he doesn’t really care what happens to Ukraine.

Next up, noted quack Mehmet Oz, who distinguished himself in the late, unlamented Trump regime pushing hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID. Oz also owned stock in a company manufacturing, you guessed it, hydroxychloroquine.

Oz is running for the Senate in Pennsylvania, even though he’s from New Jersey. Or Turkey. Or maybe he’s just from TV — it’s hard to tell.

Nevertheless, Oz wants voters to believe he’s a regular guy, so he took himself off to Redner’s, a well-known Pennsylvania grocery, only he called it “Wegners,” to buy some crudités — which is the New Jersey name for raw vegetables.

Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin loves the American Constitution so much that on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection he tried to get Vice President Mike Pence to accept a slate of fake electors to overthrow the legitimate election of Joe Biden.

Social Security scroungers

Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes probably can’t believe his luck. Especially since the politically challenged Johnson has suggested old people should be “coaxed” back into the workforce so they can help earn their keep instead of relying on Social Security.

The multimillionaire Johnson seems to find it unreasonable that just because people pay into the Social Security system, they think they’re “entitled” to it.

It will come as no surprise to Floridians that Rick Scott agrees with him, arguing Social Security should be reauthorized every year and maybe Congress could get rid of it. I mean, if Americans just worked harder and figured out how to grift better, they wouldn’t need their money back, right?

Then there’s Herschel Walker, bless his heart. He’s running against Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia and has some really interesting ideas. Here’s the Heisman Trophy winner on greenhouse gas emissions (at least I think that’s what he’s talking about): “We don’t control the air, our good air decides to float over to China’s bad air,” he says. “So, when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So, it moves over to our good air space. And now we got to clean that back up.”

And trees: Joe Biden and the Democrats are making taxpayers cough up for planting more of those leafy bastards when, as Walker says, “They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not. Because a lot of money, it’s going to trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

It’s not nice to make fun of the impaired, but too many of these Republican candidates seem to be reality-challenged.

Dr. Oz doesn’t know how many houses he owns. When asked, he said “two,” but surprise! It’s 10.

Absentee father

Some of Herschel Walker’s children kind of slipped his mind, too. He talks often about his son Christian, a right-wing Tik Tok influencer recently in the news for demanding that a Starbucks take down its Pride flag, as if that’s his only kid.

But he forgot (or something) that he actually has three other young ’uns, by three other women. Walker likes to cluck about “absentee fathers,” even though one of the mothers had to sue for child support.

To be fair, Herschel Walker spent many years getting hit in the head. I don’t know what Dr. Oz’s excuse might be.

I guess if you want to look on the bright side, the 2022 Republican Senate candidates make Tommy Tuberville look better. The senator from Alabama could not name the three branches of government and is under the impression that the U.S. fought “socialism” in World War II.

These are the people Rick Scott thinks should be in the United States Senate — you know, the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” — passing legislation, confirming judges. He’s not in the least embarrassed by them.

But then, hypocrites are difficult to embarrass. In late August, Scott tweeted some snark about the Bidens “vacationing in Delaware.” At the time, the richest man in the Senate was basking in the Mediterranean breeze on a yacht off the coast of Italy.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH:'He has flung our country back into the Cold War era': Kremlin officials ask Putin to step down

'He has flung our country back into the Cold War era' Kremlin officials ask Putin to step

Trump was prepared to destroy the country to feed his ego — he still is

Important things we now know, thanks to the January 6th committee:

White House Chief of Staff and election fraudster Mark Meadows suggested Italian satellites may have sabotaged Trump votes.

  • The Proud Boys have nothing to be proud of. The sad camo. The backwards ball caps. The racism. They wrote up a nine-page plan to occupy congressional offices, “rushing the buildings” and targeting “specific senators” from whom they’d somehow demand an election do-over. They called it “1776 Returns.
  • Ivanka is clearly a bot. Its beige plastic skin. Its blank tar-pit eyes. It seems to be malfunctioning, too. Could be a motherboard issue: Has anybody checked under the hair for an error code?
  • Jared Kushner, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia, said the White House lawyers who summoned enough decency to threaten resignation over Trump’s seditionary lies were just “whining.”
  • The inevitable Florida connection: Publix heiress Julie Fancelli paid Don Jr.’s shouty squeeze Kimberly Guilfoyle 60 grand for a two-minute “introduction” at the Jan. 6 Reichsparteitag.
  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr is a shameless harlot whose only redeeming quality is a peculiar resemblance to the University of Georgia mascot. Barr smelled the stink rising from Oval Office gents and resigned, while praising Trump for the “unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people” — whatever he imagines those “achievements” to be. Before he turned on Trump, that is. Man’s gotta sell books.
  • Rudy Giuliani apparently was drunk when he told Trump to declare victory and they’d figure out how to steal the votes later. He’s probably still drunk. And on his way to being disbarred.
  • Trump thought it might actually be a good idea to hang Mike Pence.
  • D.C.’s Arya Stark

    The House hearings on the violent near-coup at the Capitol is the most exciting television since “Game of Thrones,” though with less sex and fewer beheadings. The whole show is a kind of House Stark versus an orange-tinted Night King: dead and wounded all over the Capitol’s marble floors, turncoats insisting they tried to stop him (honest!) while Liz Cheney, the Washington, D.C., version of the name-taking, butt-kicking Arya Stark, presents all that damning evidence.

    You don’t want to get in the way of Liz C., daughter of the equally ruthless Dick, as she exacts her revenge on those who murdered whatever credibility the Republican Party had left after 2016.

    There was a time when America was pretty good at the democracy thing. We had a decent hold on reality, at least. Presidents understood what “you lost” means. Political parties occasionally worked together.

    But since the Obama administration, eight years of decent progress on social justice, it’s becoming clear something has gone very wrong with Republican brain-wiring.

    Or as we say in Wakulla County, them people ain’t right.

    Candidate Herschel Walker is in the grip of several delusions: For one, he claims there’s some kind of mist you can walk through that kills COVID and, for another, that he’s qualified to be a United States senator.

    To be fair, the poor fellow spent years on the gridiron being repeatedly hit in the head.

    And gym rat Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene may be suffering from ’roid rage. Over Memorial Day weekend, she put out a statement that fake meat grown in what she called a “peachtree dish” will be forced on us by Bill Gates who will somehow be able to “zap” you from inside your guts should you be so bold as to eat a real cheeseburger.

    ‘Dead horse’

    Hostility to the truth is now the Republican brand. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz continues to bang on about how the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, while Gov. Ron DeSantis dismisses the whole thing: Trying to overturn the 2020 election? So 2021. “Why are they constantly beating this dead horse?”

    No doubt DeSantis also thinks Watergate was just another equine corpse not worth talking about.

    But this 2020 pony looks pretty lively: It’s landing sharp kicks on many a Republican posterior.

    Of course Il Duce needs to play down the insurrection. He’s hardly going to diss the Christian nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Oath Keepers, and latter-day confederates who did their damnedest to destroy the fairly elected government of the United States. They’re his core voters.

    There are now at least six Proud Boys on the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee.

    Republicans seem to have decided they just don’t like the democracy thing. Or the free thought thing. All that challenging of America’s greatness and goodness and God-favoredness. All that annoying science getting in the way of destroying the planet for money. All that equality stuff. All that voting by unsuitable (read: Black, Latino, Native American, poor, elderly) people.

    Authoritarianism is so much easier. So much more profitable.

    They don’t care if the U.S. government is a criminal operation and the president interested only in enriching himself. The entire Cheez Doodle regime was a feast of treasonous acts, murderous thoughts, epic lies, reality-denying, grift-enabling, tantrum-throwing, finger-pointing, back-stabbing, psycho-coddling, and ass-showing.


    Trump knew that he lost the 2020 election. Everyone around him knew it, too, from his feral children to his congressional toadies to his alarmingly unglued “lawyers” such as John Eastman, who admitted that even if Mike Pence had decided he had the power to hand the presidency to Trump, the con man from Queens would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court.

    By then the country might be in flames.

    From Hannity to Rupert, Mitch to the My Pillow Guy, they knew there was no real voter fraud, no manipulation of voting machines by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez (dead since 2013), no suitcases full of votes in Georgia, no bamboo-infused ballots illicitly flown from Asia to Arizona.

    Trump lost. But he was prepared to destroy the country to feed his ego. He still is.

    2024 is coming.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    NOW WATCH: They are nuts' Conservative slams Texas GOP's 'mess' of a party platform

    Conservative slams Texas GOP's 'mess' of a party

    GOP’s approach to gun violence: Stupidity, cruelty, fear of ‘replacement’

    It took Ron DeSantis 11 days to say anything publicly about the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde (and Tulsa and Ames and Chattanooga and Philadelphia).

    Maybe he was too busy disenfranchising Black voters or boasting about how Florida is rolling in money (a lot of it courtesy of Joe Biden) while also vetoing contraception programs for poor women, a food bank in Florida’s poorest zip code, and Everglades restoration funds.

    Finally, at a press conference last week, he went on a reality-challenged and often-incoherent rant short on empathy and even shorter on solutions to the routine slaughter of Americans.

    DeSantis apparently had some kind of telepathic communication with the Buffalo shooter who told him, “I’m going places where I don’t have to worry about people, conceal carry, or anything like that.”

    Actually, the suspect in Buffalo, a racist who believes in the “great replacement theory” (as pushed on Fox “News,” DeSantis’ favorite channel), went to a place where there were lots of Black people to murder.

    We don’t talk about lethal white supremacy in Florida. It hurts Republicans’ feelings.

    To be fair, DeSantis did build on Florida’s 2018 “red flag” law, widely regarded as a success, ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to develop a “Threat Assessment Strategy.”

    He’s also signed a “school safety” bill which mandates at least 80 percent of school personnel undergo youth mental health training and requires law enforcement to be “present and involved” in active shooter drills.

    This is all fine as far as it goes — which isn’t very far.

    The root of the problem

    Despite galloping gun terrorism across the nation, DeSantis refuses to get to the root of the problem: guns.

    After 17 students and staffers died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, former governor Rick Scott — yes, that same guy who is now Florida’s waste-of-space U.S. senator — read the room and signed a package of laws including the “red flag” provision, raising the age for buying a gun from 18 to 21, and instituting a three-day waiting period.

    DeSantis says he would have vetoed both of those laws.

    Ron DeSantis is not a stupid man, but he plays one in public, perhaps because he knows his political base is allergic to thinking and largely motivated by pure hatred of anything or anyone they define as “woke” — you know, anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-science, pro-rationality, pro-human decency.

    They get off on cruelty. And they don’t care if DeSantis often makes no sense.

    In his press conference the other day, he deflected blame to those darn libs, serving up a past-its-sell-by-date word salad garnished with absurdity: “It just seems like in our society now if you commit like some infraction against, like, political correctness you will have the mob descend on you. They will try to get you fired from your job and all that other stuff.”

    You’d think he’d at least pretend to be interested in serious solutions for mass shootings. DeSantis has three young children, two of whom are school-aged. Maybe they’ll go to a school with resource officers, surveillance cameras, steel gates, pistol-packing math teachers, bullet-proof glass — the full NRA diversionary package.

    Full body armor

    But unless they go in full body armor, they won’t necessarily be safe. We’ve seen children killed despite armed SROs, big fences, 911 calls, and constant lockdown drills. There was a veritable army of law enforcement outside Robb Elementary in Uvalde, failing to intervene. A Texas police spokesman said that if they’d gone in, “they could’ve been shot, they could’ve been killed.”

    Or maybe they could have done their jobs and maybe saved two teachers and 19 fourth-graders.

    The alleged “good guys with guns,” couldn’t handle one disturbed 18 year old, so why do these barrel-licking Republicans think that teachers will miraculously become sharpshooters capable of taking out somebody with an assault rifle?

    If DeSantis and the other worshipers in the Church of the AR-15 really gave a damn, they’d admit America has a deadly cultural problem.

    Why do Republicans (and the NRA) resist universal background checks? Safe storage laws? A ban on assault-style weapons?

    There are more guns than people in the United States — an estimated 400 million. The GOP-NRA argument is that people need them for “self-defense.”

    Yet states with higher gun ownership have more suicides, more gun murders, more accidental killings, more women shot by domestic partners.

    Second Amendment zealots claim they must have unlimited rights to guns, because, you know, freedom. The reliably ridiculous Sen. Ted Cruz has said guns are “the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.”

    Yeah. There’s you, Joe Citizen, shooting iron at the ready, facing down the United States government which has (checks notes) rocket launchers, machine guns, grenades, anti-tank rifles, guided missiles, lethal drones, attack helicopters, armored bulldozers, plus hundreds of other fun ways to kill.

    ‘Other’ people

    The real answer to why so many Americans have so many guns is fear. White men especially have convinced themselves they will be victimized by all those “other” people, the people who aren’t “real” Americans.

    This goes all the way back to the drafting of the Second Amendment with its provision for a “well-regulated militia.” During the 18th century and up until 1865, that militia was also the slave patrol, designed to put down revolts.

    There’d already been slave rebellions in Cuba, Jamaica, and the American colonies — the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina and the “Great Negro Plot” in 1741 New York — plus the 1791 Haitian Revolution, white people’s worst nightmare, when the slaves won and kicked white people off their island.

    Ron DeSantis probably learned about this doing History at Yale or in law school at Harvard.

    But acknowledging the racist history of our gun obsession would go against his brand.

    Florida Democrats are calling for a special session to do something about gun violence: regulating high-capacity rifle magazines, mandating universal criminal background checks for all firearms and expanding so-called red flag laws.

    Sensible stuff.

    But don’t get too excited. The governor and his legislative minions prefer a “constitutional carry” Florida: no training, no permits, no limits, just guns and ammo as far as the eye can see, a sad and ultimately doomed attempt to prop up white male insecurity.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    Conservative white men are on a rampage

    Republicans are angry.

    So very, very angry.

    Deranged White Man Syndrome has not yet been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it’s just a matter of time.

    Seriously, these dudes (and they are mostly male-gendered persons) are on a rampage of rage and loathing which cannot be healthy.

    U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham stormed out of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings twice. He was practically foaming at the mouth, demanding she rate her faith and shouting about Brett Kavanaugh, child molesters, and how Jackson is a Black woman, fine, but she is the wrong kind of Black woman.

    To which I say: Get help, son.

    J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” used to do a decent imitation of a sane conservative. Now he wants to join Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and the rest of the mentally-deformed white boys in the United States Senate, and can be found stomping around Ohio declaring the desperate asylum-seekers at our southern border constitute a way worse problem than genocidal Russians in Ukraine.

    ‘Not our fight’

    One of Vance’s campaign ads intones, “Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans, with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”

    Ukraine, he says, is “not our fight.”

    Hospitals bombed, civilians executed, children shot, women raped, Western democracy under siege, but hey, who cares? We have these terrifying impoverished brown people yearning to be free and constantly bugging us about it.

    Some Republicans detest brown people even more than they love white people, but Black people remain the most loathed object of their racist obsessions.

    They hate having to ever hear about slavery or Jim Crow or the Rosewood Massacre or all those lynchings in Florida. They hate the idea that children might read books by Toni Morrison or James Baldwin or Nikole Hannah-Jones or Ibram X. Kendi, causing white parents to feel a trifle itchy about America’s foundational racism.

    Republicans can’t stand seeing Black folks in positions of power (unless it’s Clarence Thomas). Witness Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to destroy two “Black opportunity” congressional districts and pushing bills to make it harder for people of color to vote.

    Thinking about how they’ll soon have to address a Black woman as “Justice” probably has them hitting the Coors extra hard.

    Fundamentalist minority

    Republicans don’t just hate Black women, though. They hate most women.

    Not Justice Amy Coney Barrett, of course. She’s the Republican pin-up, white, pretty, a wife, a mother, a religious fanatic. When the Supreme Court rules later this year, she’ll almost certainly vote to destroy reproductive rights in the United States, the dearest wish of the fundamentalist minority. Good girl!

    Meanwhile, in Texas, abortion is banned after six weeks. If Oklahoma’s governor signs a new bill (as is likely) doctors performing an abortion will be charged with a felony. In Florida, abortion after 15 weeks likely will be verboten, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

    If a high schooler’s future is destroyed by having an unwanted child, or a girl falls deeper into poverty because of a baby she can’t afford to raise, or if women die from backstreet abortions just like in the Good Old Days pre-Roe when men were men and women were ladies, well, that’s the wages of sin.

    Republicans shrug: If you’re raped or trafficked, too bad. If the contraceptives fail, that’s your fault. You shouldn’t have been having sex in the first place.

    Almost no one should be having sex, except straight white men. Gay sex freaks them out and the thought that gay kids even exist infuriates them so much they’re going the extra mile to be cruel.

    Which brings us to Rep. Randy Fine, R-Hell.

    This man must get up every morning spitting brimstone, looking for minorities to insult and vulnerable people to hurt.

    Fine has called schools “cesspools” of “leftist leftism,” Muslims “monsters” and “terrorists,” and called for Palestinians to be annihilated. Democrats are “human feces.”

    Harvard, his alma mater, must be so proud.

    Tormenting trans kids

    Now he’s on a mission to torment trans kids.

    Fine pledges to introduce legislation hitting doctors with a “felony child abuse” charge if they provide gender-affirming care and suggests maybe they could lose their medical license to boot.

    So, no puberty-blocking drugs for a kid wrestling with their gender; no counseling for gender dysphoria. Evidently the high rate of depression and suicide among trans kids is of no interest to Randy Fine. The crucial social and moral issue of our time is clearly that trans girls be banned from women’s sports.

    Or civilization as we know it will crumble.

    Republicans, too frightened to confront reality, use the parade of xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, anti-intellectual yahoos provided on Fox “News” to comfort them. Tucker Carlson leads them in the liturgy of Orwell’s “two minutes hate” and, for a little while, they feel better.

    Then they can go back out in the scary world and do what bullies do: punch down.

    Randy Fine recently tweeted his views on gender: “I can say I’m a porcupine, but that doesn’t make it so.”

    Too true, Rep. Fine. You are a rodent-like mammal covered in sharp points, but porcupines are intelligent creatures whereas you are a hate-filled, irascible idiot. Beware of Karma: You may one day have a gay child, a trans niece, a brown daughter-in-law.

    Living in a constant tantrum must be exhausting for Republicans. I suspect that somewhere in the deep recesses of their brains, they know that while they may hold power at the moment, the world is changing.

    And they can’t stand it.

    Let’s hope they get serious therapy: This is a sick, sick, sick bunch of people.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    NOW WATCH: Repair shop owner knows of 'multiple attempts' to 'insert questionable material' into Hunter Biden's laptop

    Shop owner says 'multiple attempts' to 'insert questionable material' into Hunter Biden's

    Ron DeSantis getting cozy with the wingnut alliance comprising Clarence, Ginny Thomas

    It must be love.

    Ron DeSantis has a major man-crush on Clarence Thomas, calling him our “greatest living justice and one of the greatest public servants in America.”

    We haven’t yet heard the famously reticent justice pour his heart out regarding Our Dear Governor but, according to Thomas’s wife, we know the two of them have been emailing back and forth “on various things of late.”

    And Virginia Thomas obviously digs Ron’s show, so much that last year she invited him to speak at Groundswell, a group of unglued rightwingers convinced that America is being destroyed by the nonwhite, the unchristian, feminists, socialists, environmentalists, book-readers, and what she called “transsexual fascists.”

    “We start and end each meeting with prayer,” she said, and hoped DeSantis would “pick us up and refocus us.”

    Ron and Mrs. T. clearly got a thing going on, too.

    If we lived in a nation in which integrity and decency mattered half as much as we claim they do, Clarence Thomas would have resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court and retired to Florida.

    I’m sure the local heterosexual fascists would be thrilled.

    Instead, he shows no sign of even recusing himself from cases in which he has a conflict of interest, such as anything to do with the attempted coup on Jan. 6.

    As we now know from all the texts she fired off at Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas is up to her pearls in cheerleading the insurrection.

    Virginia 'Ginni' Thomas is up to her pearls in cheerleading the insurrection.

    Yes, the spouse of a justice is allowed her or his own views, career, and political persuasion, but given how the Thomases constantly insist they are actually one being, each calling the other “my best friend,” it’s pretty reasonable to assume that he knew she was promoting “Stop the Steal.”

    She joined the mob on the Ellipse, but insists she “got cold” and went home before Donald Trump took to urging his white nationalist rabble to “fight like hell” at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Deranged texts

    She didn’t go kick in windows at the Capitol (that kind of thing can be injurious to one’s pantyhose), but she did her part by sending that slew of incendiary and increasingly deranged texts about magically “watermarked” ballots, castigating Republican congressmen for not taking to the streets, and exhorting Meadows to “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

    Meadows may have dabbled in a little heisting himself: The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations is looking into why he’s registered to vote in Virginia but also in the Tarheel State, where he listed a house trailer he never owned or lived in as his address.

    Yet Justice Thomas not only failed to recuse himself from the Supreme Court case dealing with the release of Trump White House records, he was the lone dissenter.

    Worse, Thomas is under no obligation to recuse himself from future Jan. 6 cases, even though his wife texted out delusional stuff assuring Meadows that Democrats, Deep Staters, and journalists would soon be rounded up by the Forces of Righteousness:

    “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc.) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

    If the White House could just hold on, she suggested, a vast Trumpist army would appear and keep Hairpiece Hitler in power. “Do not concede,” she told Meadows.

    Not rational

    OK, your average MAGA is crazy as an outhouse rat and has all the impulse control of a teenager at an open-bar party. But Ginni Thomas, Washington insider, lawyer, wife of a Supreme Court justice, surely understands that you should at least look like you have a nodding acquaintance with rational behavior.

    Except she ain’t rational.

    Remember that time she called law professor Anita Hill and demanded Hill apologize for “what you did with my husband”?

    What Hill “did” was testify — reluctantly — to how Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her, refused to take “no” for an answer, and tried to discuss his porn-watching habit with her, name-checking his favorite star, Long Dong Silver.

    More recently, Mrs. T. acted as an unsolicited employment adviser for Donald Trump, constantly showing up at the White House to demand Trump fire those she deemed insufficiently loyal and hire people she favored, including a suspected spy, a guy who worries credit card companies are in league with socialists, and Frank Gaffney, a professional Islamophobe who thinks the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the United States government.

    This lady needs help.

    This lady needs help. And her husband needs to have a little chat with a legal ethicist, a kindly priest, or anybody who could make him see that, while he doesn’t have to recuse himself from cases in which his wife’s eruptions might figure, he ought to.

    He should do it if for no other reason than to prove the justices aren’t all “partisan hacks,” as that partisan hack Amy Coney Barrett put it.

    He won’t.

    He doesn’t have to.

    There’s no mechanism to make him. He knows he won’t be impeached. His fan club will continue to support him. And his whack-job wife will carry on undermining American democracy.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    The GOP displayed its inner bigot during Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings

    Just when you think conservatives have reached their nadir, the absolute bottom of the stupidity barrel, they start slinging poop like a bunch of over-stimulated chimps.

    During the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Republican senators picked up all kinds of rhetorical turds to hurl. They only soiled themselves, wallowing in victimhood and Q-Anon innuendo about her supposed affinity for pedophiles.

    White men have been yelling at black women for 400 years. Judge Jackson handled their display of Fox “News” pandering with predictable calm grace.

    Of course, this orgy of made-for-television tantrum-throwing is not really about her; it’s all about the coming elections. For Republicans, yelling at a black woman is a voter base booster.

    Republican senators spent much of their allotted time (and more) whining about how mean Democrats have been to past nominees.

    That nice Robert Bork, Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre henchman, whose only crime was disliking democracy.

    That poor beer-loving Brett Kavanaugh, treated so badly he had to shout and cry merely because he was credibly accused of sexual assault.

    And what about Clarence Thomas, that oppressed Catholic reactionary who was just engaging in good-natured banter about pubic hair and porn with Anita Hill?

    Also that lovely Janice Rogers Brown, an African American nominated by George W. Bush to the D.C. Court of Appeals? Yes, she was hostile to civil rights, untroubled by torture, and called New Deal social programs “the triumph of our own socialist revolution,” but that’s nothing to the way Judge Jackson has represented accused criminals as a public defender and even spoken approvingly about diversity, equity, and inclusion!

    ‘The 1619 Project’

    Sen. Ted Cruz charged Jackson with unrepentant wokeness. She has called “The 1619 Project” and its lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones, “provocative.” She sits on the board of Georgetown Day, a private school founded in 1945 by a group of interracial families opposed to segregation, which her daughters attend. Seems this bunch of pinkos encourage students to read the works of Ibram X. Kendi, a National Book Award winner who writes about antiracism.

    Funny coincidence: The private school in Houston that Ted Cruz’s daughters attend also teaches anti-racism and includes Kendi in its library. Maybe Cruz, lately known as “Cancun Karen,” was especially nasty owing to his recent fracas at a Montana airport on his way back to Washington for the hearings. He missed his flight and abused gate staff. They called security.

    Sen. Josh Hawley, the unlovely senator from Missouri, jumped into the deep end, trying to get Judge Jackson to confess to a partiality for child sex offenders because she sometimes gave them to lower sentences prosecutors (who are always right) wanted.

    The truth is, Jackson’s sentences for child porn viewers are in line with 80 percent of judges — including a gaggle of Trump appointees.

    But when has Josh Hawley allowed reality to impede his presidential run?

    Sen. John Cornyn, of the White Fundamentalist Republic of Texas, banged on and on about how gay people have too many damn rights, like getting married. What about people who “may believe as a matter of their religious doctrine or faith” that same sex marriage is an abomination?

    And what about people who believe that interracial marriage is bad? Indiana senator Mike Braun, who is not on the Judiciary Committee, said it would be fine by him if the Supreme Court overturned the 1967 ruling allowing it.

    Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is on the committee but whose legal training consists of a bachelor’s in Home Economics, said it would be fine with her if the court overturned their 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut.

    That’s the one that legalized contraception.

    The Constitution doesn’t say anything about contraception. Or gays. Or marriage. Or health care. Or Twitter. Or semi-automatics. Or prayer before football games. Or women judges.

    ‘War criminals’

    Cornyn went on to charge Jackson with calling George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals.”

    Leaving aside the clear evidence that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are, in fact, war criminals, having authorized waterboarding and other forms of torture, that’s not what she did.

    As a public defender, assigned to represent a Guantánamo detainee, she signed a petition for habeas corpus on his behalf, alleging that those in charge, Bush as president and Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, authorized “the torture and other inhumane treatment of petitioner Khiali-Gul,” which “constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity in violation of the law of nations under the Alien Tort Statute.”

    The problem here is the Republicans think even being a public defender, representing powerless, often minority, people means Jackson is “soft on crime” and a tool of the “radical left” — not so much a racist dog whistle (black folks sympathize with criminals!) as an entire brass band concert of racism.

    Never mind that Jackson’s brother and two uncles are cops; never mind that she’s been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.

    Apparently, Republicans missed the part about how you’re innocent until proved guilty, one of the great principles of our legal system. So what if the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel?

    And speaking of white people, how about South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham? He assured Judge Jackson that her hearing “wouldn’t be a circus,” then drove his custom clown car into the hearing.

    He hollered, he stamped his foot and, when he didn’t get his way, he stormed out of the committee room.

    He had a list of grievances. Joe Biden picked the wrong black woman. Jackson is an “activist” (as opposed to the loony tunes comprising the Supreme Court majority). He huffed that it’s easy to get onto the high court “if you are a person of color, a woman, supported by liberals.”

    He demanded she rate her faith on a scale of one to 10, then pitched a hissy fit so epic Veruca Salt would be envious, ordering her to participate in re-litigating Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings, shouting over her when she tried to speak.

    Despite pious pledges of “respectful” behavior, Republicans are going to war against Judge Jackson and the diversity she represents. Donald Trump Jr. called her a “pedophile apologist.” Someone from the demented right-wing outfit Judicial Watch tweeted, “A vote for Judge Jackson is a vote for CRT in schools, leniency on child porn crimes, abortion on demand, the definition of ‘woman,’ undermining Second Amendment, etc. @Sen_JoeManchin, @SenatorSinema, what do you think?”

    Weirdly enough, the best description of these Republican white men came from a Republican white man, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

    He called the whole unedifying spectacle “jack-assery.”

    Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin thanked him. The sane half of America also thanks him.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    The casualties are piling up from the Republican Party’s War on Knowledge

    Just in time for Black History Month, Florida’s dimmer bulbs — you know them as the state Legislature and their salad-brained co-religionists — mean to clamp down on educators who dare tell the truth about racism.

    Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. of Hialeah is convinced someone somewhere is teaching white kids to hate themselves.

    Not that he has any evidence that such a thing is happening — because it isn’t — but says some senators heard some stuff from “individual parents,” and, by God, that’s proof enough for him.

    Florida’s school system already faces critical teacher vacancies and shortages, exacerbated by high pandemic case numbers and low pay: Nationally, Florida’s average salary for public school teachers ranks in the bottom 10 percent, down there with Mississippi and South Dakota, though to give him his due, Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to push for higher starting pay for Florida teachers.

    And why would trained education professionals want to work in a state gleefully embracing censorship in the classroom?

    Sen. Diaz is pushing legislation he calls the “Individual Freedom Act,” which is a strange name for a bill that would restrict the freedom to learn real history.

    Such as how slavery was the chief economic engine of antebellum America, necessary for the prosperity of the nation.

    Or how 400 years of dehumanizing of non-whites has resulted in a playing field so unlevel it resembles the southeast ridge of Mount Everest.

    Or how white supremacy fueled the genocide of First Peoples in the name of “Manifest Destiny.”

    Diaz’s bill says the U.S. Constitution will be the core of “required instruction,” along with “the history and content of the Declaration of Independence, including national sovereignty, natural law, self-evident truth, equality of all persons, limited government, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property.”

    Will teachers be allowed to point out that 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders?

    How about that, when Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he didn’t mean Native Americans (referred to in the Declaration as “merciless Indian Savages”), Black people, or women of any hue?

    To be fair, the bill allows for teaching that fosters the “investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity.”

    But that part is about Holocaust history, not American history. This dumb bill proclaims, “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.”

    None of that “interpretation” nonsense! No asking uncomfortable questions! No exploration of the paradoxes of a nation that congratulates itself for its commitment to equality while enshrining so much inequity.

    Along with attempts to zero out the salaries of school board members (most of whom are women), attacks on the University of Florida by DeSantis’ political pimps, and proposals to give parents the power to challenge any lesson by any teacher, this bill is part of the regime’s War on Knowledge.

    ‘Freedom,’ schmeedom

    The governor — who bleats the word “freedom” every time he opens his mouth — actually seems to hate freedom.

    Florida teachers can’t discuss gender and sexuality — because, as we all know, even saying the word “gay” will transform a kid into a Friend of Dorothy.

    And won’t it be special when parents storm the principal’s office, demanding their children’s delicate ears are never sullied with the facts of evolution or Japanese internment or lynching?

    The DeSantis-loving and proudly clueless “Moms for Liberty” are already terrorizing school board meetings.

    In Brevard County, a gang of Karens attacked “social-emotional learning” (which promotes creativity, sensitivity, communication skills, and critical thinking) because the training course educators might enroll in once cited a blog post by Ibram X. Kendi (scary Black academic!) on “How to Raise Anti-Racist Kids.”

    Obviously, we don’t want to raise anti-racist kids — are you some kind of communist?

    Whatever finally happens in the Legislature or in the courts, this aggressive embrace of ignorance and bigotry is already having the desired effect.

    A gaggle of outraged Polk County white folks called the County Citizens Defending Freedom are demanding that “pornography” be removed from school libraries.

    The “pornography” includes two novels by Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison as well as Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” some LGBTQ-affirming books, and a graphic novel called “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier, which contains shocking scenes of adolescents kissing once or twice and also putting on a school play.

    A reporter from the Lakeland Ledger asked a member of the CCDF if the Bible should also be consigned to literary perdition, what with it being full of incest (Lot and his daughters), rape (David and Bathsheba, Ammon and Tamar, Shechem and Dinah, etc.), epic drunkenness (Noah, King Elah, and those boozy Corinthians) and straight-up smut (the Song of Songs).

    The man got oddly annoyed over the idea.

    But never fear, that sink hole of stupidity, Sen. Joe Gruters, has a bill to help parents protect their precious darlings from the sick and weird likes of Shakespeare (teenaged sex), Maurice Sendak (naked children roaming around at night), and whatever is going on in “Frog and Toad Are Friends.”

    Aided and abetted by DeSantis and his band of the willfully uneducated, the Sunshine State grows increasingly benighted.

    On Jan. 22, a historian was supposed to give a seminar on the Civil Rights Movement to Osceola County teachers.

    The school district canceled it, frightened that some Republican thug would accuse them of promoting critical race theory.

    Professor Michael Butler, author of “Beyond Integration: The Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980,” who was to lead the seminar, said, “It seems to me this whole movement is an attempt to eliminate the Black experience from American history.”

    Just another casualty of Florida’s War on Knowledge.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    Republicans in Florida have charted a course that is both utterly stupid and startlingly dangerous

    Well, that got stupid fast.

    The legislative session is only two weeks old and the reliably witless Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Somewhere Up Trump’s Rump) is moving a bill to fine professional sports teams if they don’t play the national anthem.

    Wait, you say, aren’t the Heat and the Magic, the Bucs and the Jaguars, the Rays and the Marlins and the rest of the millionaire menagerie already playing the national anthem?

    Sure! But why would you expect sensible ideas from Florida’s ruling idiocracy? Gruters is the guy who pushed legislation in 2019 to ban “sanctuary” cities in Florida, even though there were no “sanctuary” cities in Florida, and is co-sponsoring an urgent measure to replace the mockingbird as Florida’s state bird.

    If you’re wondering why we must have the national anthem in the first place — I mean, these are sports teams, not soldiers going to war — the answer is that here in Florida, the Hong Kong of North America, patriotism isn’t optional.

    In other pressing legislative news, elected representatives are debating whether strawberry shortcake should become the state dessert.

    Your tax dollars at work, people.

    Of course, there’s a sound argument to be made that it’s better they occupy themselves with this sort of nonsense than carry on enacting our thug governor’s agenda.

    A bill outlawing abortion after 15 weeks (identical to the one from Mississippi now awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision) looks likely to sail through on a wave of misogyny.

    The bill makes no exception for rape or incest, but, like, so what? Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Care and founder of “Latinas For Trump” Ileana Garcia says that doesn’t matter because only “perhaps one percent” of pregnant rape victims seek an abortion.

    So that’s all right, then. The state of Florida will not interfere with a rapist’s freedom to impregnate his victim.

    Nor will your elected representatives give up their freedom to decide what’s best for you — no matter what you think you want.

    Rep. Mike Beltran, (R-Harvard Law School — he really likes people to know that about him) thinks that citizens really shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about amending the Florida Constitution.

    His HJR 1127 would confine citizen ballot initiatives to “matters relating to procedural subjects or to the structure of the government.”

    Over the past two decades, Floridians have been fed up to the back teeth with the Legislature’s refusal to deal with issues that matter to them — what the aptly-named Rep. Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers called “frivolous things” — small stuff such as protecting the state’s environment, restoring ex-felons’ right to vote, raising the minimum wage, and allowing the use of medical marijuana.

    Citizens launched petitions, collected signatures, got their proposals on the ballot, and voted them in.

    Republicans claim these citizen initiatives are the sinister work of “special interests” and “out-of-state money.”

    But political abstractions don’t vote: The people of Florida do.

    Beltran says the Constitution is a “revered document.”

    By whom is it revered? Not the Florida Legislature.

    In 2002, the people of Florida demanded smaller classes through a ballot initiative. The Legislature’s been ignoring this constitutional imperative for 20 years.

    In 2014, 75 percent voted for the amendment to spend some of our documentary stamp revenue on buying conservation lands.

    Our Republican masters have fought that in court for eight years.

    They think only they should have the power to amend the Constitution. You, insignificant little citizen-loser, should sit down and shut up.

    CRT boogyman

    Unless you want to destroy public education in Florida. Then by all means show up to a school board meeting, scream, and demand that your children be protected from the unhappier chapters of American history.

    The Florida Senate returned from the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and honored the great civil rights leader by taking up a bill that tries to shield children from certain unpleasant facts.

    Like how slavery was central to creating American wealth, white settlers stole Native American land and Jim Crow robbed generations of African Americans of economic opportunity.

    God forbid kids should discover that those injustices still haunt our police, our courts, our universities and our financial institutions.

    It might hurt a kid’s (a white kid’s) feelings.

    America is the greatest country in the universe and everything is fine now.


    Last summer, some woman accused a Dunedin high school teacher of seducing young people into pinkoism: “Call it CRT or whatever you want,” she barked. “It’s still Marxist indoctrination of our youth.”

    Seems she objected to her kid reading distinguished historian Nell Irvin Painter’s “Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present.”

    Pretty sure that woman wouldn’t know Nell Irvin Painter’s work from a barrel of dead squirrels.

    Also pretty sure she just saw “1619″ in the title and her head exploded.

    Teacher Brandt Robinson was not, in fact, trying to foment revolution.

    As he says to his students, “My job is not to teach you what to think. It’s to help you be a better thinker,” part of “preparing citizens to be functional wonderful citizens in a democracy.”

    That’s where he went wrong. The rulers of Florida don’t really like democracy.

    And the governor and Legislature sure as hell don’t want you to go around thinking.

    That’s dangerous.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Fulton County DA gets her 'special grand jury' — here's what it means for Trump

    Fulton County DA gets her 'special grand jury' — here's what it means for

    Gov. DeSantis seems hellbent on taking us back to the ’60s — only it’s the 1860s

    And just like that, it’s 1861.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis likes to call this the “Free State of Florida.” If he hasn’t yet wrapped himself in the Tenth Amendment or threatened secession, it’s only because he’s been too busy playing soldiers, organizing his private battalion, rewriting the past, and trying to destroy democracy.

    Give him time. You have to lay some groundwork if you want to be the next Jefferson Davis.

    Step one: that little militia. Yes, other states also have them. Other states, however, do not have a governor who acts like Victor Orban with a bad case of acid reflux.

    DeSantis announced his new Praetorians flanked by sofa-sized gents in camo in front of a sign that read “Let Us Alone.”

    (Note: that “Let Us Alone” thing does not apply to the $9 billion from the feds now plumping up Florida’s budget).

    The governor probably likes the historical precedent of gubernatorial troopers. Three days before Florida officially left the Union, and three months before Fort Sumter kicked off the party in earnest, a local militia took St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos from the feds.

    Those boys answered to Gov. Madison Perry, not Washington, and certainly not that dangerous radical Abraham Lincoln who’d been elected in 1860.

    Wonder what the Brigata DeSantis uniform will look like? Brown shirts? Helmets with kevlar Mickey Mouse ears?

    Maybe the Brigata DeSantis will help enforce the governor’s determination to silence public school teachers who might sully the ears of precious white children with the dreaded Critical Race Theory.

    Not that DeSantis would recognize Critical Race Theory if it knocked him upside the head.

    Not that any public K-12 school in Florida teaches Critical Race Theory: It’s law school-level stuff, a means of exploring how race has shaped our legal, governmental, and social systems beginning with enslaving Africans and continuing through Jim Crow, criminal justice, school funding, redlining, and a whole slew of other demonstrably discriminatory practices feeding white supremacy throughout American history.

    Certainly, this might be a bit much for 5th grade social studies — which is why you won’t find it there.

    But why let reality get in the way of demagoguery? DeSantis’ gauchely named new Fox-bait proposal, Stop WOKE (“Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees”) Act, will allow parents to sue schools if “pernicious ideologies” show up in the classroom.

    He seems to think that examining the reality of historical racism will “scapegoat someone based on their race” and make people see themselves as “inherently racist, to say that they are an oppressor, or oppressed, or any of that, and that’s good and that’s important.”

    His point, if you can pick though the word salad, is that you can’t go hurting white people’s feelings talking about racism, never mind that people of color experience racism every day.

    DeSantis must long for those good old antebellum days when Southern states banned expressing disapproval of slavery and made disseminating abolitionist literature a felony.

    White folks knew how to run a white folks’ country back then: A piece in the Richmond Enquirer from 1856 exhorts schools to make sure children learn that slavery “is the common, natural, rightful, and normal state of society.”

    DeSantis’ updated version insists children learn that America is an exceptional nation founded on “universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” — “universal principles” that included slavery.

    According to this spurious understanding of history, only individuals can be racist, not systems, not institutions.

    The white men who have run the country since 1619 learned one really important thing during Reconstruction: Certain people have no business voting. They don’t do it right.

    To that end, the governor’s new elections-crime office will help curb excessive democracy.

    The plan is to hire 45 investigators to look into all those elections infractions that are not actually happening, unless you count the Republican woman in Lake County who falsified voter registration forms changing party affiliations from Democrats to Republicans, or those three Trumpers in the Villages who voted twice.

    And how about those Republican-funded “ghost candidates” who stole elections from Democratic candidates?

    But that’s not what DeSantis means by election crimes; he means “ballot harvesting,” taking your grandmama’s ballot along with the ballots of several of her friends and depositing them at the supervisor’s office.

    He’d like the Legislature to make that a felony. He’s already signed the law that restricts the use of drop boxes and absentee voting.

    We breathlessly await literacy tests and poll taxes.

    Here, in the “Free State of Florida,” DeSantis is happy to take federal money while preaching distrust of the federal government, rather like the way South Carolina’s Sen. John C. Calhoun declared that states could ignore any federal law they deemed “unconstitutional” in 1832.

    No doubt the Great Nullifier would agree that 62,000 Florida dead of COVID is a small price to pay for DeSantis’s heroic defiance of Washington on vaccines and masking.

    DeSantis seems to think Florida should only tangentially belong to the United States.

    The “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” says a state can choose to be “separate and independent” with “full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”

    That was Dec. 20, 1860. We all know what happened next.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    DeSantis reveled in University of Florida's status -- now his minions threaten its academic freedom

    Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to attend college in Florida. Higher education is under serious threat here.

    Y'all will recall that last session Gov. Ron DeSantis and his legislative minions jammed through a bunch of policies restricting the use of drop boxes, restricting voter registration drives, and making it harder for voters to get absentee ballots.

    I guess the logic is, if more people vote, fewer Republicans win.

    Anyway, those who still believe in democracy, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, the NAACP, and Common Cause, have filed suit against this assault on the franchise, and three University of Florida professors, experts in voting rights, were set to testify.

    But U.F. President Kent Fuchs said no — until bad publicity forced him to back down.

    The damage, however, has been done. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the body that accredits the university, says they'll investigate.

    No accreditation, no federal funding. Not a good look for a Top Five public institution.

    (UF is tied for 5th place among public colleges and universities along with UC Santa Barbara and UNC Chapel Hill according to 2022 rankings from U.S. News & World Report.)

    U.F. is a center of vital research and great creativity, but it's embarrassed itself with this tawdry episode. It may cost U.F. donors; it may also cost the university some of the best and brightest students and faculty.

    U.F. brass originally proffered a basket of nonsense about how, if these experts — who, like thousands of other academics, have testified in court many times — were to tell the truth in a court of law, it might be a “conflict of interest to the executive branch of the state of Florida."

    Translated, that means intellectual freedom, the right of scholars to pursue the facts, might harm the interests of Ron DeSantis and his political ambitions.

    As a university professor for nearly 30 years, now teaching at Florida State, it's news to me that our job is to please or defer to the governor — any governor of any party.

    Of course, colleges are always somewhat at odds with government.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, the Legislature established the infamous Johns Committee to root out “communists" and homosexuals from Florida's colleges.

    In the early 1970s, FSU's innovative Center for Participant Education, a student-run “alternative university," tangled with Democrats in the Legislature and conservative FSU president J. Stanley Marshall over a course called “How to Make a Revolution."

    Pushing the boundaries, interrogating orthodoxies, questioning authority: These are among the things faculty and students should be doing.

    But if you produce only work that you think will pass muster with your political overseers, you are no scholar. You're a lackey.

    Fuchs now claims that all he meant was that the professors had to testify on their own time and that U.F. was committed to “our most sacred right as Americans, the right to free speech, and to faculty members' right to academic freedom."


    Yet, this isn't the first time U.F. has tried to suppress its faculty.

    Last year, four law school professors who signed onto a court brief opposing a state law making it even harder for former felons to get their voting rights restored were told they could not identify themselves as U.F. faculty — the only ones out of the 93 law professors from across the nation also supporting the brief who did not specify their affiliation.

    This past summer, Jeffrey Goldhagen, a pediatrician and professor at U.F.'s Jacksonville College of Medicine, was forbidden to submit a sworn statement in a lawsuit challenging DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools.

    He did it anyway: “I've always made decisions based on what's best for children."

    DeSantis denies any involvement in this debacle, using his habitual you-going to believe-me-or-your lying-eyes defense. A mendacious spokesmuppet declared, presumably with a straight face, “This is an internal U.F. issue and not the sort of thing that the executive branch would be involved in."

    She added, “Gov. DeSantis has always championed free speech, open inquiry, and viewpoint diversity on college and university campuses."


    No doubt it's mere coincidence that many members of the U.F. Board of Trustees are big donors to DeSantis and the Republican Party. The trustees' chair, developer Mori Hosseini, pushed U.F. to give Joseph Ladapo, the quack anti-masker nominee for Florida surgeon general, a highly paid gig at U.F.'s College of Medicine.

    Republican anti-educationalists all over the state are trying to control what their faculty think and do. Trustees at Florida Atlantic want to take tenure decisions away from people who know the field and hand it to political appointees of the governor.

    A proposal to institute a five-year post-tenure “review" is also making the rounds.

    That would be the end of academic freedom — which may well be the governor's goal.

    If DeSantis knew anything (or cared) about higher education, he'd understand that we review faculty all the time. If you don't produce or if your research is faulty or you're a terrible teacher, you are penalized.

    Just not on ideological grounds.

    DeSantis has made it clear he thinks universities are the enemy, that campuses in Florida are “intellectually repressive," hostile to conservatives, and that “liberal professors" try to indoctrinate our students into some kind of Marxist dogma.

    We must be really bad at it: Florida keeps electing Republicans.

    There are no votes in higher education. DeSantis knows that he can attack us with impunity.

    It's a political ploy, a way to energize the base. But it's also another power-grab, the kind of attempt to control or repress every entity that might challenge his authority.

    Xi Jinping would be proud.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

    Abortion foes are playing a dangerous game

    Americans like to say we don't leave Americans behind.

    We don't abandon people to be oppressed and victimized by a bunch of gun-toting yahoo zealots who hate freedom and hate science and think they have a direct line to God.

    So, when do we start evacuating women and girls from Texas?

    Women and girls in Texas no longer have meaningful control over their own bodies. They no longer enjoy full citizenship.

    Now that the United States is out of Afghanistan, we've got a bunch of C-17s sitting around. I say gas them up and go.

    A woman's rights are now subordinate to a collection of cells which cannot live outside her body. She's a mere host for this volition-less thing growing inside her. A handmaid.

    The new law bans abortions after roughly six weeks.

    Six weeks is when the Texas Brown Shirts say the “fetus" has a “heartbeat."

    Rubbish. 1) At six weeks it's not a fetus: It's an embryo. It looks like a tadpole. 2) That's not a “heartbeat." There is no functional heart until around 10 weeks. Any sound is electrical activity generated by embryonic cells.

    And 3) The law is unconstitutional.

    The Texas Brown Shirts know this. That's why they're trying to evade Roe v. Wade — still the law of the land — by offering vigilantes 10 grand to bring a lawsuit against anyone performing an abortion or “aiding and abetting" a woman who might get an abortion.

    There's no exception in the law for incest and no exception for rape.

    Say you're an anti-choice idiot in Texas, and you suspect that woman next door might have been pregnant. You saw her get into an Uber. You saw her return sometime later. What if that shameless hussy got an abortion?

    Sue the doctor you think might have helped her. Sue Uber while you're at it, and the person answering the phone at the health clinic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot and the rest of those sniveling Republican hypocrites who dare to call themselves “pro-life" even as they pitch hissy fits over vaccine mandates and mask-wearing during the worst pandemic in 100 years will pay you a nice little bounty.

    Congratulations, Texas: You've created a Lone Star Stasi.

    Neighbors can sue neighbors, people can rat out each other, gossip and rumor will run as free as the Delta variant.

    This is contagious hatred.

    Florida's own Brown Shirts are envious. It took state Senate President Wilton Simpson, an egg farmer, (in Florida the jokes write themselves, y'all) about three seconds after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas' War on Women law to declare that the Legislature was “already working on" something similar.

    When a reporter asked for his reaction to the Texas measure, Simpson texted back a smiley face in sunglasses emoji. Simpson represents Citrus and Hernando counties and part of Pasco in the Legislature.

    Rep. Anthony Sabatini, the Matt Gaetz Mini-Me and gun freak, has announced that he will file a Texas-style bill to stop all terminations in Florida, no doubt figuring it will help win the Trumpist vote in his campaign for Congress.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis was a little more coy, calling the Texas bill “interesting," declaring that of course he's “pro-life."

    Indeed, so “pro-life" that his goon of an education commissioner is docking the pay of school board members who dare to try protecting children and teachers from a deadly virus with a mask mandate.

    If the United States actually operated according to its own Constitution, the Texas law would have been slapped down by the Supreme Court. Instead, five theocrats — the three Trump appointees plus the paleo-reactionaries Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — simply do not care what harm they cause real life women and trashed what we quaintly used to call “the rule of law."

    In a blazing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “Last night, the court silently acquiesced in a state's enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents," and allowed Texas to “prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights."

    So much for the court calling “balls and strikes," as Chief Justice John Roberts (who joined the court's three remaining progressives in dissent) famously put it. This non-ruling ruling denies that the game has any rules at all. If you want to beat the pitcher with your bat, have at it.

    Since constitutional rights apparently mean so little, what's to stop, say, Oklahoma trying to outlaw the right to same-sex marriage by crafting a Texas-style statute in which the citizenry gets paid to turn in gay couples looking to get hitched? Or another state doing this with guns or due process or any other constitutional right Americans assume we have?

    Some legal experts have opined that the Supremes are waiting for some doctor or some taxi driver or some women's health operation to get sued by some pro-birth fundamentalist for allegedly participating somehow in an abortion and then must argue in court that Texas' law is unconstitutional.

    Or maybe they're holding off on hearing a real argument until Mississippi's no-abortions-after-15-weeks law, now blocked by a lower court on the ground that it conflicts with Roe, comes before the court sometime this fall.

    While the women of Texas wait for the right court case, some will have had to travel out of state to get the health care they need. Many can't afford that. Some will be forced to give birth against their will. Some will seek unsafe, illicit abortions. Some could die because Texas forced them back to the pre-Roe world of coat hangers and back alleys.

    Abortion will always be with us. The question is, will it be safe?

    The wives and daughters of Texas' elites — including those of the misogynists in the legislature and the governor's office — will never be unable to get an abortion. They're “nice girls" who may have made a “mistake," unlike the less white and the less affluent who are probably just sluts who use abortion as birth control.

    The “pro-life" Right doesn't care about babies. As has often been pointed out, they oppose social programs from food aid to fair housing to early education, all of which benefit young children.

    What they care about is control. For centuries — millennia, even — conservatives fought against extending women property rights, denied women the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to autonomy, and the right to reproductive freedom.

    Some anti-choice types favor declaring a fertilized human egg a person with full constitutional rights, and some even oppose contraception.

    The human woman whose uterus may or may not be tenanted by a zygote is of less importance.

    The United States evacuated thousands of Afghan women so that they would not be killed or imprisoned or denied the right to an education under a repressive Taliban regime. It's a bitter irony that now, as many of them begin to start new lives in America, our democracy is faltering, our rights are being eroded, and the document on which we base our liberty is under assault from the very lawmakers and judges who have sworn to uphold it.

    No one is coming to rescue us. We have to do it ourselves.

    Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.