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Now Ron DeSantis Wants to Put Mickey Mouse in Prison

The Florida governor’s war on Disney continues.

Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis’s latest plan to get back at Disney is so bad, it’s criminal.

The Florida governor has been engaged in the weirdest back-and-forth with Disney World since 2022, after the company’s then-chairman condemned DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis retaliated by stripping the park of its autonomous governing powers and installing a leadership board of allies.

Disney, in turn, snuck a clause into the development agreement that dramatically limits what the new board can actually do. Apparently, all board members failed to read the contract. And now, in a pettiness masterclass, Disney doesn’t need board approval for major construction projects, nor can the board use Disney branding. The clause lasts until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III”—meaning it could last for 100 years.

Well now, DeSantis has a new idea to one-up the House of Mouse: turn it into a big house.

DeSantis rhetorically wondered what to do with the land around Disney during a Monday press conference. “Someone even said, ‘Maybe you need another state prison.’ Who knows?” he said. “I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

It’s not entirely clear what DeSantis thinks he is achieving by taking on Disney. Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for LGBTQ rights organization Equality Florida, described the governor’s latest threat as “a truly unhinged display of ego.”

DeSantis is widely expected to announce he’s running for president in 2024, and many of his latest actions (or lack thereof) are clearly to set himself up for campaigning as an “anti-woke” champion. But he’s doing so at the cost of his current constituents.

Areas of southern Florida are still experiencing historic rainfall and flooding, and DeSantis has been noticeably absent from the state response.

The Catholic League Probably Should Have Thought Twice Before Chiming In on Budweiser

The organization got torn apart on social media by those who remember the church’s famous scandals: “Makes sense, I know you want to encourage people to bring their kids.”

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The Catholic League is drawing a line in the sand on sexual exploitation. The organization that aims to defend “the rights of Catholics—lay and clergy alike—to participate in public life without defamation or discrimination” (that is to say: not be investigated for rampant sexual abuse) has bravely come out to say that it will not serve Budweiser at its fiftieth-anniversary dinner.

The groundbreaking news came in a tweet for which the organization ended up having to hide the replies just as vigorously as the Catholic Church has covered up allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members. In what has become one of 2023’s most inane far-right culture wars, the Catholic League joins the most out-of-touch (and bearded) entities in America in whipping up outrage against Bud Light for having run a single ad that featured a transgender woman.

Outrage toward the ad stems from the rampant transphobia embodied by a very loud, very radical minority of society that looks to foment anti-trans anger whenever a chance arises. Factually untrue and simply discriminatory notions of some phantasmic “trans agenda” aiming to exploit children serves as the vessel for that bigotry.

Most of the people who’ve gone to performative lengths to own Budweiser on social media have merely shot weird videos of themselves pouring cans of beer they bought down the drain. The Catholic League has taken the bold boycott a step further by refusing to serve the beverage at a party commemorating the legacy of such a prominent institution.

After all, who better to stake moral claims on child exploitation than an organization dedicated to defending Catholic clergy members from “defamation”? The League’s own website boasts of particular members who speak praises on the organization’s work.

There’s the late Benedict Groeschel, who once said that “[priests accused of sexual abuse] are among the most penitent people I have met in my life. When you pick up the media, you don’t hear about the penitence,” and that “a lot of the cases, the youngster—14, 16, 18—is the seducer,” which is certainly a take. Then there’s Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley, whose Catholic Charities of Boston organization ended its adoption services after state law required that gay people be allowed to adopt children. And who can forget Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, who allegedly moved nearly $57 million into a trust fund that would keep the money away from victims of clergy sexual abuse demanding compensation?

The Catholic League’s own president, Bill Donohue, once said that “there is no ongoing crisis—it’s a total myth,” with regard to the rampant child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. “In fact, there is no institution, private or public, that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors today than the Catholic Church.” He said this while in the same breath adding that he figured that “only” … “maybe half” of some 300 accused priests were guilty.

Also on Monday, ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was charged with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old more than 45 years ago; McCarrick had been previously found to have sexually molested adults and children. Two weeks ago, the Maryland attorney general released a 463-page investigation detailing revelations of Baltimore Catholic Clergy members abusing hundreds of children and teenagers.

Anywho, while the Catholic League is not busy taking bold stands on grooming, it is promoting a movie called Buying Off Black America, which features eminent voices like Vivek Ramaswamy and Ben Carson, or complaining that the FBI keeps investigating it.

No Charges for Police Officers Who Shot Black Man Almost 50 Times

Cops fired more than 90 rounds at Jayland Walker, who was unarmed at the time.

Tayfun Coskun/Getty Images

A grand jury has decided not to bring state criminal charges against Ohio police officers who fatally shot a 25-year-old Black man during a car and foot chase last summer.

Police in Akron attempted to pull Jayland Walker over for an alleged traffic violation the night of June 27, 2022. Walker did not stop, and officers in pursuit allege that they saw a flash of light come from the driver’s side of the car, which they believed to be the muzzle flash of a gun, according to their accounts of the encounter. 

Body camera footage shows officers pursuing Walker as he drove away from the scene; he  eventually jumped out of his car and ran. While he attempted to flee on foot, the eight officers on the scene said they thought he was moving to draw a gun. They subsequently fired a total of 94 bullets at him. 

Walker suffered 46 gunshot wounds and died on the scene. He was unarmed, although a gun was found in his car. The officers involved were put on paid leave during the investigation into the shooting but were ultimately brought back for administrative duty during a staffing shortage. The grand jury was seated last week to determine whether to indict any of the officers.

“The grand jury just a little while ago issued what is called a no bill, meaning that there will be no state criminal action, no charges at the state level,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told a press conference Monday.

Akron has been bracing for the grand jury’s decision, after Walker’s death sparked citywide protests last summer. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Akron Police Department headquarters and arrested about 50 people (most of those charges were dropped).

But many Ohio residents are furious—and not without cause: The barrage of stories of Black people, particularly young Black men, being killed feels relentless. And few of those victims seem to get justice. Just last week, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice in the head when he went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. Yarl survived. Authorities have released the shooter, sparking widespread criticism. 

“We’ve seen it too many times. A routine traffic [stop] ends in death, and a family and community mourns the loss of a son,” Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, who represents the district Akron is in, said in a statement. “As this country and community reckons with another tragic death, we find ourselves yearning for a justice system that protects us all.”

Sykes said she will ask the Department of Justice to investigate the Akron Police Department’s practices. “The safety and security of our neighborhoods requires trust between the community and the law enforcement officers who have taken an oath to protect and serve, but this trust has been violated and must be rebuilt.”

Trump’s Plans for the Federal Workforce: Weird Tests and Mass Firings

America’s top civics knower also promises to pile on more corporate deregulation—even after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the derailment in East Palestine.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump, who brings to the federal government two impeachments and a criminal indictment, is making reelection commitments, threatening further cuts to regulations—the sort that might allow corporations to get away with even more chaos beyond disasters like the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment and collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. He also plans to impose some sort of mandatory test on federal employees.

On Friday, Trump made the remarks on a video posted on Twitter. “I will require every federal employee to pass a new civil service test,” Trump began, saying the test will cover all facets of Trump’s vision of a “constitutional, limited government,” including due process, equal protection, free speech, religious liberty, federalism, and—in a matter that both figuratively and literally hits close to home—Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

“I know all about that at Mar-a-Lago, don’t I?” Trump posed, insinuating that criminal investigations into his potential illegal seizing of classified documents—no less any of the other inquiries he faces—are somehow unconstitutional.

Perhaps Trump is right: If they can go after him for taking classified documents, conducting various shady financial and tax-evading schemes, trying to pay hush money to someone he had an affair with, and attempting to overthrow an election, they can go after you too. (This could also be what laws are for.)

“We will put unelected bureaucrats back in their place,” Trump asserted, alluding to his plan to administer a test to the federal workforce to determine whether they will keep their jobs. The idea builds off calls he made last year promising to make “every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States.”

Beyond his desire to impose a political test on every government employee, Trump promised to restore the spirit of his previous administration, one that held “for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated”—and that he will ask Congress to permanently enshrine this rubric into law.

The legacy of such an administration has been all the more observable as of late. With regard to the more than 1,000 train derailments occurring every year, including the East Palestine disaster, Trump himself deregulated the railroad industry and weakened environmental protection agencies. Contrary to any promises of new jobs, the rail industry’s enabled-by-deregulation pursuit of precision-scheduled railroading has cut jobs and made trains less safe, all in service of corporate profits. In terms of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Trump himself opened the doors to its failure by leading a successful campaign to roll back Obama-era Dodd-Frank regulations.

If nothing else, it’s nice for Trump to be honest about what America can expect if he’s reelected: more train derailments, more risk for economic crash, and more authoritarian measures to seize control over the government.

Tennessee House Speaker Faces Growing Calls to Resign

How it started, how’s it going: Cameron Sexton, who led the charge against the “Tennessee Three,” is suddenly in a spot of bother himself.

Laura Thompson/Shutterstock
Cameron Sexton, the speaker of the Tennessee house

Tennessee’s Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton is facing growing calls to resign amid reports he has lied to his constituents.

The Tennessee state legislature has been under increased national scrutiny since a school shooting in Nashville three weeks ago, when a shooter killed three children and three adults. Republicans, who have a supermajority trifecta in the state House, Senate, and governor’s office, have repeatedly rejected attempts to increase gun control measures.

Things took a turn for the worse when the House voted to expel two Democrats, both Black men, for allegedly violating chamber rules when they joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the Capitol building. One white Democrat who also joined the demonstration was not expelled. Both of the two expelled, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were ultimately reinstated by their district councils.

In the week since their reappointment, Sexton has come under fire after reporter Judd Legum learned the speaker secretly purchased a $600,000 house in Nashville, where he and his family live year-round. Nashville is not in the district Sexton represents.

But Sexton claims to live in a condo in Crossville, a city two hours from the state capital and within the boundaries of his district. And as Legum reported in his newsletter, Popular Information, Sexton has for years claimed daily reimbursements of about $313, which are paid by taxpayers and intended to pay for lodging for state representatives who reside 50 miles or more from Nashville.

Since then, calls for Sexton to step down have mounted rapidly. Thousands of people have signed an online petition for Sexton to resign. The petition, which was started by the Christian social justice group Faithful America, had nearly 19,000 signatures at the time of this writing. “Democracy, racial justice, and gun safety are under joint assault in Tennessee,” the petition said. “We call on Speaker Sexton to resign for his shameful and unlawful power grab.”

Officials from the Cumberland County and Putnam County Democratic Parties, both in the speaker’s district, have also called for him to resign. “Even if it’s determined Sexton merely violated the ‘spirit’ of the residency requirement, his absence from the district means he and his family don’t experience the consequences of his actions,” said Anna Quillen, chair of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, in a statement issued Friday.

She pointed out that schools in her county already receive some of the lowest state funding per student and are likely to receive even less due to a measure that Sexton backed. Sexton’s daughter reportedly goes to private school in Nashville, meaning that his family will never experience the effects of that legislation.

Over the weekend, Jones cited reports on MSNBC when calling out Sexton and other Republican legislators “who are not doing the people’s work, particularly when it comes to poor people and rural people.”

Ron DeSantis’s Director Is Literally Cheering on LGBTQ Parents Fleeing Florida

The Florida governor’s aide-de-camp is attacking hardworking everyday Floridians on Twitter.

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Christina Pushaw, rapid response director for Ron DeSantis

Team Ron DeSantis continues to demonize everyday Americans, this time targeting his own state’s residents. On Saturday, Christina Pushaw, rapid response director for the Florida governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate, celebrated the idea of people fleeing Florida and the measures DeSantis has supported with the explicit goal of making their lives worse.

In response to a headline that a majority of Florida LGBTQ parents are considering leaving the state in response to the repressive “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the DeSantis right hand had one simple reaction: Bye!

The actual study Pushaw was smugly responding to found that nearly one-quarter of LGBTQ Florida parents feared harassment, with parents of school-age children in public schools expressing the greatest concern for their safety. Over half of the parents surveyed have considered moving out of Florida, while 17 percent have already taken steps to do so.

Such a reaction illustrates why some donors have recently started to sour on Ron DeSantis’s political prospects. In tacking further and further right by pursuing repressive policy after repressive policy—and surrounding himself with people of the same persuasions—he displays how shockingly little he cares for millions of Americans. In pretending to be the more “reasonable” Trump, he appeals neither to actual Trump supporters, who would have no reason to vote for the second-rate version, nor to the rest of potential voters who are simply not interested in such radical, out-of-touch politics that treat millions of hardworking Americans like pawns at best and garbage at worst.

The Ivy League elitist and former Guantánamo Bay torture adviser has tried to prove his salt-of-the-earth bona fides by pursuing outrageous policies—like loosening gun safety regulation; leading crusades against students, teachers, and school libraries; banning people from hanging out with undocumented people (of whom there are nearly one million in Florida); and passing an extremist abortion ban. In doing so, DeSantis has in fact smeared millions of Americans and Floridians who disagree with and are even directly impacted by such radical policies.

And in Desantis’s continued employment of and allyship with fellow radicals like Pushaw, he shows no sign of any interest in representing most of America. As NBC News reported at the end of March, Republican kingmakers have started to cool on DeSantis, with some suggesting that he might actually want to sit out the election rather than potentially lose to Trump. According to that report, conservative donors have cited a range of reasons for their emerging belief that the Florida governor isn’t quite ready for prime time, including “bold stands” that haven’t paid off, the fumbling of big moments, and a team that’s been deemed to be “far behind the eight ball.”

Expert Witness Throws Jim Jordan’s Latest Troll Job Into Hilarious Disarray

The Judiciary Committee chairman brought his traveling road show to New York City to fearmonger about crime, only to be told: “Now do Ohio.”

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House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan

On Monday, Jim Jordan brought held a Judiciary Committee hearing in Manhattan, where he and his fellow House Republicans attempted to paint New York City as a crime-ridden disaster.* However, they instead managed to remind Americans that loose gun laws and Republican leadership have led to high crime rates and unlawful schemes that ship guns from red states to blue ones.

Jordan’s New York City field trip was part of a larger effort among House Republicans to try to discredit Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who added a new historical footnote to the twice-impeached former President Donald Trump’s checkered record by making him the first president ever to be criminally indicted. Republicans on the select committee hoped their hearings would undercut Bragg by highlighting what they characterized as a supposed crime crisis happening on his watch. Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, staged this “field hearing” just steps away from Bragg’s office.

But not everything went off according to plan. During the hearing, Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at the centrist think tank Third Way, testified about how safe New York City actually is, versus the safety of the home bases of some of the House Republicans leading the Bragg and New York smear campaign.

“New York City is safer than most of the states of the members sitting on the dais on the majority side. In 2020, for example, New York City’s murder rate was 18% below the national average for the entire United States,” Kessler began. “Mr. Chairman, Ohio’s murder rate was 59% higher than New York City’s.” He continued, listing other places with high crime rates relative to New York City—including Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Arizona, and Alabama.

“A hearing about the ravages of crime could be in Alabama with its towering homicide rate and a mass killing that just happened yesterday, or Louisville, where five people were murdered in the blink of an eye at a downtown bank,” Kessler continued, referring to the weekend mass shooting at a sweet 16 birthday party and the Louisville, Kentucky, mass shooting last week. “Or the murder capital of California, which is not Los Angeles or San Francisco or Oakland, but in Speaker McCarthy’s district of Kern County with its county seat of Bakersfield. And it has been the murder capital of California for six years running.”

Kessler went on to mention the so-called “iron pipeline—the trafficking of guns from states with looser gun regulations like Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to places like New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, which often have tighter gun laws. “Wouldn’t it be great if this hearing was about how illicit guns are trafficked to places like New York City, New York, Boston, Philly, Chicago and on and on, and how those guns terrorize the innocent people living in those places and elsewhere?” Kessler posed. “That’s the sort of thing Congress would do if it really cared about what was happening with regard to crime in New York City.”

“There are eight and a half million people living in New York City on this tiny plot of land. Bad things happen here, no doubt,” Kessler said. “But the miracle of New York City is how well this enormous chunk of humanity mostly gets along and suffers less crime than much of the nation.”

Kessler was later questioned in the hearing further about New York City’s relative safety versus places across the country, from Mississippi and Wyoming to Missouri and Ohio. Representative David Cicilline decided to be clever.

“In light of the testimony we just heard, what is the mechanism for the committee to transfer this hearing to Ohio, where the crime rate is significantly greater than here in New York?”

He added, “How do we move the venue so we can have a hearing in a city or state that has a serious crime, the state of Ohio?”

Jordan quickly dismissed the quip, saying it was not a proper “parliamentary inquiry.”

Further illustrating how much of a joke the whole charade is, Representative Matt Gaetz chimed in during his time to address these high crime rates in places beyond New York City. “To the extent that there is an impact on crime rates in major cities, I would suggest that that is exactly what you get with the ‘Soros-ization’ of the United States Justice system,” the Florida Republican said, echoing the sort of sweeping antisemitism even Republican leadership has embraced. (Remember folks: It’s only antisemitism if it’s Ilhan Omar talking about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians; it’s not if we’re saying rich Jewish people control society.)

* This post originally misstated the committee organizing the hearing.

Louisiana Republicans Want to Ban Colleges From Teaching About Racism

Critical race theory fearmongering is working its way into every level of education.

Watchara Phomicinda/Getty Images
A student in California demonstrates against a critical race theory ban. Republicans have advanced such measures across the country, and have targeted colleges and universities as well.

The Louisiana state Republican Party thinks that diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, programs on college campuses are too “divisive” and should be banned.

The Republican State Central Committee, or RSCC, the state GOP’s governing body, unanimously passed a resolution Saturday asking the state legislature to ban DEI offices at all Louisiana colleges and universities, both public and private.

The resolution refers to DEI offices as “bureaucracies” that “operate as divisive ideological commissariats” and are “a threat to academic freedom and academic integrity.” It calls for the state legislature to pass bills that will remove DEI departments from all higher education institutions in Louisiana.

The resolution passed the majority-white body by a voice vote “with no discernible dissent,” according to The RSCC membership, which includes multiple state senators and representatives, voted on the measure during the state party’s quarterly meeting in Baton Rouge.

The move comes amid a growing push by Republicans to ban “woke ideology” (a.k.a. freedom of thought) in schools. The GOP has spent the past few years working to transform critical race theory, or CRT, into a political boogeyman. CRT is a framework for understanding the legal underpinnings of systemic racism in U.S. society and politics; Republicans have framed an advanced academic field of study as something that’s being used in elementary schools to indoctrinate young children. Slowly but surely, the same rhetoric is being applied to education at all levels.

One of the prime offenders of late has been Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has vowed to defund all DEI programs at state universities. He also banned high schools from teaching an A.P. African American studies class, deeming it “woke indoctrination,” and pressured the College Board to gut the course syllabus.

In Texas, the state Senate approved a bill last week that would bar college and university professors from “compelling” students to adopt certain political beliefs. The bill’s sponsor insisted his measure would not censor any topics of discussion, but critics warn the legislation is too vaguely worded and could actually curb difficult, nuanced conversations about issues such as race and gender.

Montana Anti-Drag Bill Would Ban Dolly Parton and Glam Rock

What a way to make a living!

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images
Country singer Dolly Parton

Montana Republicans are working 9 to 5 to prohibit minors from attending drag shows, but a recent amendment to an anti-drag bill could ban more than they perhaps intended.

House Bill 359 has passed both the state House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee. It still needs to be voted on by the entire Senate. If it passes, it will ban minors from attending drag performances and ban publicly funded organizations from hosting drag shows. The bill specifically targets Drag Story Hour, an event where drag queens read stories to children.

But the bill was amended Friday to change the definition of what constitutes drag. Under the changes, a drag performance is “an obscene performance that features drag queens, topless dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, or similar entertainers who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest,” meaning of a sexual nature.

A drag queen is “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic feminine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup.” The amendment removes the mention of dressing differently from “the performer’s gender assigned at birth.”

As journalist and transgender rights activist Erin Reed pointed out, this means that the bill could affect glam rock, wrestling, and performances by Dolly Parton. Queen Dolly herself has said she has exaggerated her appearance to be “flashy” and “flamboyant.”

If it becomes law, Montana’s drag ban would categorize any business that serves alcohol and hosts a drag show as a “sexually oriented business.” They could face a fine of up to $10,000 and even lose their liquor license if they repeatedly violate the law.

The measure also bans public schools or publicly funded institutions such as museums and libraries from hosting drag performances, specifically Drag Story Hour. The institution would be fined $5,000 for hosting a show, and the staff member who approved it could lose their teaching or librarian certification.

Critics of Montana’s bill have previously pointed out that the measure would affect theater productions of Mrs. Doubtfire, Rent, or several Shakespeare plays. It could even target Halloween costumes.

Montana is the latest state to advance a (vaguely worded, extreme) measure attacking drag performances, which have become a particular target for the right wing in recent years. In March, Tennessee became the first state to pass a law banning drag performances, but the measure was blocked by a judge before it could go into effect on the grounds that it was overly broad and violated free speech rights.

C-SPAN Cameras Embarrass Kristi Noem After She Says NRA Is More Than Old White Guys

Is this … woke?

Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Friday, scores of Republicans, including every 2024 hopeful, descended upon Indianapolis to chum it up with NRA members in the aftermath of two devastating mass shootings in Kentucky and Tennessee. And the results have been as appallingly wild as one could imagine.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem insisted that, contrary to the deluded media’s narratives, the NRA is much more diverse than is given credit. That, indeed, the attendees of the convention represent a mass movement of people of all stripes ready to go to battle to defend their right to own killing machines.

As to the validity of her proposition, well, take a look:

Beyond trying to score woke points about how diverse and inclusive the NRA is, Noem also glowingly discussed how her almost-2-year-old granddaughter apparently “already has a shotgun, and she already has a rifle.”

“Soon, [she’ll] need them,” Noem said about the toddler.

Noem also signed an executive order on stage, one that “blocks state agencies from contracting with large banks that discriminate against firearm-related industries.”

The performance of it all was laughable for a moment, but plainly demoralizing in sum. In the immediate wake of two horrific shootings—among over 150 that have swept the nation already this year—Republicans like Noem put on their shiniest holster belts and did their jig. All to impress one of the entities most responsible for a culture that’s so violently obsessed with guns it cannot fathom another reality.

Republicans may earn an A+ from the NRA; but on the matters of protecting children, of maintaining the sanctity of life, of guaranteeing people the assured liberty to live a healthy and safe life, they are not even on the grading scale.