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Make America Great Again hat burns on the ground after a protest by Boston's far-right group Super Happy Fun America.

Nobly Fighting the Woke-ocracy, One Garbled, Delusional Outburst At A Time

As we await (please) the indictment of Orange Man Walking, he and his rabid, victimized forces are busy raving about abuses of power by an Evil Deep State of WOKE trains, banks, schools, D.A's, gay/ black/ radical left miscreants who "HAVE STOLLEN (sic) OUR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, AND WITH IT, THE HEART OF OUR OUR (sic) COUNTRY." But to defeat nefarious wokeness, they first must define it. Their latest effort: "So woke is...umm...sort of...like...the idea of..." SAD!

With a truck circling Mar-A-Golf quoting smirky Tucker's "I hate him passionately," new legal losses daily arriving, and new scathing hashtags gaily trending - #TrumpCrimeFamily and #GuiltyAsFuck - Trump and his "mayonnaise legions" continue to double down on the notion that any attack on him is an attack on our already crumbling Republic, never mind his lifetime of sordid grifts and crimes whose reckoning is long past due. In ceaseless, panicked posts, he's been painting a floridly dystopian portrait of a fictional nation "NOW THIRD WORLD & DYING, AMERICAN PATRIOTS ARE BEING ARRESTED & HELD IN CAPTIVITY LIKE ANIMALS, WHILE CRIMINALS & LEFTIST THUGS ARE ALLOWED TO ROAM THE STREETS, KILLING & BURNING WITH NO RETRIBUTION, MILLIONS ARE FLOODING THROUGH OUR OPEN BOARDERS (sic), MANY FROM PRISONS & MENTAL INSTITUTIONS. CRIME & INFLATION ARE DESTROYING OUR VERY WAY OF LIFE." Worst, here he is, the eternal victim and "FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," set upon by D.A. Alvin Bragg, a woke "Soros Racist in Reverse," and America must "PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!" he's being asked to play by the same rulebook as the rest of us, also please send money.

In his latest (literally) dark diatribe, the "fluorescent tangerine imbecile" went all Pol Pot, declaiming that if/when elected he'll form a "Truth & Reconciliation Commission to expose the hoaxes" of the Deep State"; he'll also prosecute government leakers and move 100,000 government jobs out of DC to "places filled with patriots who love America." His sycophants in power, victims just like him, have duly echoed his grievances: Talk of an indictment for what is in fact a gazillion crimes and misdemeanors is "unAmerican," "an outrageous abuse of power," sheer political vengeance that "follows the lead of Socialist dictators." Oversight head James Comer babbles that Bragg is "grossly overstepping his authority by two levels of government" and the House is coming for him. Rand Paul says Bragg should be "put in jail," and what obstruction of justice? Andy Biggs warns, “If they can come for Trump, they will come for you." On the MAGA forum "The Donald," frantic fans are promising "Civil War 2.0," complete with a "Patriot Moat" around Mar-A-Lago. But with Jan. 6 trials and convictions ongoing - and Trump's absence from that event and its consequences often bitterly noted - the response is a tad muted. From Ali Alexander, a key organizer of rallies to overturn the election, "Now I'm retired. I'll pray for him though!"

The GOP's desperate focus on the villainous Bragg, a "woke" Democrat they equate with being "weak on crime," is part of an overarching War on Woke that's become the incoherent cornerstone of all their political machinations - their pot/kettle House hearings on government's "weaponization," their multiple state laws to control books, kids, women in a life-or-death Culture War, their racist efforts to protect innocents from slavery-recognizing Woke Mobs - "Woke supremacy is as bad as white supremacy" - and their hopes to win elections through ugly, divisive, repeated use of a dog-whistle that means, "This is really about smearing black, gay and other marginalized people who live the inequity we don't want to acknowledge, but if I said that I'd be called a bigot." The fave-word--of-the-year rhetoric is everywhere. Ron Woke-ity-Woke DeSantis, its loudest purveyor, calls his state "the place where woke goes to die," daily pushes fascist legislation to prove it, and warns if he loses his war against "the woke mind-virus" and a vast segment of our population, "We're going to be living under an oppressive woke-ocracy." Pompeo rants about "the poisonous lie of equity wokeness and identity politics," Pence about "a pernicious woke agenda designed to control the American people," Trump about "woke tyranny." During March Madness, the Heritage Foundation can even steer you safely to the most un-woke teams.

In the most ludicrous manifestation of Woke lunacy, the right chose to blame excessive wokeness for last month's collapse of Silicon Valley Bank - did tellers wear Black Banks Matter t-shirts? - because we all know the gilded halls of capitalist finance have long been rife with radical, probably gay Trotskyites and it definitely had nothing to do with a 2018 banking deregulation law signed by Trump and lobbied for by bank president Gary Becker - a white man like the vast majority of Wall Street executives, investment bankers and other overlords of financial power. Still, an inane deluge charged the bank failed because they acknowledged diversity issues. Fox' Jesse Watters: "This stupid bank (is) a woke Biden bank...They were holding seminars (on) National Pride Month." James Comer: "We see it now coming out they were one of the most woke banks." DeSantis: "They were so concerned with DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) and all kinds of stuff (that) diverted from them focusing on their core mission." Wall Street Journal op-ed: "They had 1 Black, 1 LGBTQ+ and 2 Veterans on the board...The company may have been distracted by diversity demands." The crazed conclusion: "This is cultural and economic Marxism, there is no other way of putting it. This is where we are - this long march of Socialism through our institutions."

"Long march of Socialism?" Try long distortion of language to co-opt and re-purpose terms - "elite," "freedom," "pro-life," "radical," "equity," "Critical Race Theory" - to obscure their own bigotry. The right's attempt to lay the burden of a bank's failure, an innate, common, often cruel hazard of capitalism, on marginalized people follows a historically familiar playbook for faux populists famously perfected by the Nazis: Blame the powerless, who are secretly powerful. In their conflation of efforts to render society kinder, fairer and more empathetic with perfidy, writes Aaron Rupar, they prove the GOP remains "the party of hate," intent on maintaining white patriarchal rule at any cost. Evidence of GOP efforts to "cancel" black, brown, poor, gay, trans etc home rule is overwhelming, from ID laws to redistricting to MAGA-izing school boards to literally erasing policies they don't like in Dem cities of color. The House voted to undo the D.C. City Council's re-write of its own criminal laws. State officials in Texas just announced they're taking over Houston's school system - 62% Latino, 22% Black, 8th largest in the country - to fight “woke education.” A new "Jim Crow bill” will take some judicial and police power from black-majority Jackson, Miss. city officials and give it to GOP state legislators in a move Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba blasts as “plantation politics.” Etc etc.

Still, words do matter. Before the right twisted it into a weapon to bludgeon Legos with disabilities and The Little Mermaid, “woke” had an actual meaning. It originated as Black vernacular for “alert to racial discrimination”; to “stay woke” was to be "aware of the deceptions and tactics used to enforce racism.” Today, a majority of Americans can muster the brain-power to define woke as being "informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices," which for us is kinda the same as being informed, educated on, and aware of living on Planet Earth. For the right, woke has become "MAGA-ese for non-white," but they're caught in a pesky Catch-22: Because even they know they're not supposed to say that out loud, they struggle mightily to define what it is they hate. On Fox, it's murky: "It could be a feeling, it could be a sense." (Twitter: "It could be a land shark, a trans werewolf, a smell, whatever scares you.") It's Pence on Trump: "Nobody is above the law, but nobody is beneath the law either." It's the guy asked by The Good Liars what CRT is: "I dunno, but it definitely shouldn't be taught in schools." It's right-wing sage Bethany Mandel, author of a book about woke indoctrination, asked what woke is: " So, umm..." And it's Trump, asked to request a prayer on a Pastors For Trump National Prayer Call, coming up blank, then claiming "the radical left" broke the phone connection. God works in mysterious ways. We hope She's working on an indictment next.

Oblivious people in Florida, including kids of color, hold signs decrying Critical Race Theory to bolster Ron DeSantis.Propaganda 101: Ron DeSantis gets (hires?) unknowing kids of color to support his fascist agenda for the cameras.Getty Image

Climate activists participate in a national day of action on March 21, 2023.

Senior Climate Activists Rally Across US to 'Stop Dirty Banks'

Thousands of seniors outraged at big banks for continuing to underwrite the expansion of coal, oil, and gas projects took to the streets in cities across the United States on Tuesday to demand that financial institutions "stop funding climate chaos."

Held 24 hours after United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres—citing the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—called for an end to fossil fuel financing, the "Stop Dirty Banks" national day of action was organized by Third Act, an alliance of activists over the age of 60 co-founded by veteran campaigner Bill McKibben, and more than 50 other progressive advocacy groups.

The first elderly-led mass climate demonstration in U.S. history, which featured more than 100 rallies around the country, aimed to pressure financial institutions to stop bankrolling the planet-heating pollution that scientists have linked to worsening extreme weather.

Despite pledging to put themselves and their clients on a path to "net-zero" greenhouse gas emissions, the world's 60 largest private banks dumped $4.6 trillion into coal, oil, and gas projects from 2016 to 2021. Just four U.S. financial giants—JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America—are responsible for a quarter of all fossil fuel financing identified since the Paris agreement entered into force.

"We must break the big banks' addiction to Big Oil."

“Today is a major drive to take the cash out of carbon," McKibben said Tuesday in a statement. "We want JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America to hear the voices of the older generation which has the money and structural power to face down their empty, weasel words on climate. We will not go to our graves quietly knowing that the financial institutions in our own communities continue to fund the climate crisis."

"We're going to hit the streets and banks today in a wave of gray power," McKibben continued. "We will be colorful and noisy but our message is serious: We want the banks to move out of fossil fuels. The lives and livelihoods of our children and grandchildren depend on a drastic change and banks are the key to this."

In Washington, D.C., participants continued a 24-hour "rocking chair rebellion" that began Monday.

On Tuesday, people in D.C. also staged a die-in to draw attention to the lethal consequences of fossil fuel lending.

Sierra Club executive director Ben Jealous warned that "the big banks feel beholden to an industry literally driving us toward human extinction."

"What we're asking these banks to do," said Jealous, "is to have the moral clarity to say to their clients, 'You cannot keep expanding into the Arctic, you cannot keep expanding into the Gulf, you cannot keep drilling in Africa and throughout the globe. Because what you're doing is putting our communities, our future, and the climate at risk.'"

Closing out the rally in the nation's capital, Jealous declared, "We must break the big banks' addiction to Big Oil."

In New York City, protesters of all ages shut down traffic.

They also used giant mock scissors to "cut up" a cardboard credit card.

In addition to symbolically destroying a fake credit card, many people cut up real cards taken from their wallets.

"Third Act has gathered 17,000 pledges from bank customers to close their accounts and cut up their credit cards if the banks continue to fund fossil fuels," the group said. "These pledges were sent in recent weeks to the bank CEOs and in-person at bank branches from Burlington to Cleveland, from Oakland to New York."

"By continuing to finance fossil fuel expansion, Wall Street banks undermine our ability to meet our climate goals, and contradict their own climate pledges," said Ben Cushing, director of the Sierra Club's Fossil-Free Finance campaign. "These demonstrations are only the beginning of what each of us can do to hold big banks accountable for their role in the climate crisis."

"This spring, we'll also be engaging with the banks' biggest shareholders in the lead-up to their annual meetings to support key climate votes," Cushing added. "It's a critical moment to push the banks to stop the flow of money to new fossil fuel expansion, to stop greenwashing their emissions targets, and to end the burden of dirty energy on frontline communities."

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers opening remarks during a hearing with Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on March 22, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Bernie Sanders Targets Moderna Greed in Covid-19 Vaccine Hearing

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday denounced Moderna's proposal to more than quadruple the price of the Covid-19 vaccine it co-developed with billions of dollars in public funding—along with mRNA technology co-invented by government scientists—as an example of Big Pharma's "unacceptable corporate greed."

At a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), the Vermont Independent reiterated his widely shared belief that the purpose of medical advancements should be to save as many lives as possible, not make executives "obscenely rich."

Sanders, who chairs the panel, invited Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to testify at a hearing titled "Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the Covid Vaccine?"

In his opening statement, Sanders stressed that scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies "worked with Moderna to research, develop, and distribute the Covid vaccine that so many of our people have effectively used."

"While Moderna may wish to rewrite history," Sanders continued, "this vaccine would not exist without NIH's partnership and expertise and the substantial investment of the taxpayers of this country. As a matter of public record, U.S. taxpayers spent $12 billion on the research, development, and procurement of the NIH-Moderna Covid vaccine."

"For that huge investment," added the progressive lawmaker, Moderna is "thanking the taxpayers of America by proposing to quadruple the price of the Covid vaccine to as much as $130 once the government stockpile runs out—at a time when it costs just $2.85 to manufacture that vaccine."

"Moderna has already made $21 billion in profits off of the Covid vaccine during the pandemic and four of Moderna's executives and investors collectively became more than $10 billion wealthier as a result of the massive taxpayer investment into that corporation," said Sanders. "Mr. Bancel literally became a billionaire overnight and is now worth $4.7 billion."

"Do we not need to change the current culture of greed into a culture which understands that science and medical breakthroughs should work for ordinary people, and not just enrich large corporations and CEOs?"

In the words of the senator, "This type of profiteering and excessive CEO compensation is exactly what the American people are sick and tired of."

In response to a letter Sanders sent to Bancel following Moderna's January announcement of its planned price hike, the corporation vowed to make Covid-19 vaccines and boosters "available at no cost for the vast majority of people in the United States." Last month, after Bancel agreed to testify at Wednesday's hearing, Moderna said that when the federal government's public health emergency declaration expires in May, "Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost for insured people," while the company's patient assistance program "will provide Covid-19 vaccines at no cost" to uninsured or underinsured people.

"That is good news," Sanders said Wednesday. "The bad news is that most patient assistance programs are poorly designed and are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for patients to access," he added, urging Moderna "to reconsider their decision to quadruple the price of this vaccine and not raise the price at all."

"Our committee looks forward to working with Moderna to develop a program that allows every American to continue to receive the Covid vaccine for free without the need to file complicated forms or paperwork, answer personal questions, or wait for hours on end at the pharmacy," said Sanders. "In other words, let us truly make this vaccine available for free to all Americans."

But when asked by Sanders if Moderna will charge the U.S. government less for the NIH-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, Bancel refused to commit, citing so-called "complexity."

"You have money for stock buybacks by the billions, and you guys became billionaires," Sanders responded. "That doesn't seem too complex to me."

In a video shared Tuesday, Senate HELP Committee senior health counsel Zain Rizvi further detailed how Moderna has tried to suppress evidence of the U.S. public's massive contributions to the NIH-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine while refusing to share the recipe with South African scientists who are working with the World Health Organization to boost global supply.

The refusal of Moderna and other pharmaceutical corporations to transfer publicly funded technology to qualified generic manufacturers has contributed to global Covid-19 vaccine apartheid, needlessly prolonging and worsening the pandemic.

Although Covid-19 jabs have been credited with preventing roughly 20 million deaths worldwide in 2021 alone, researchers estimate that 1.3 million additional lives could have been saved in the first year of the vaccine rollout had shots been distributed equitably. As a result of unequal access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines—made worse by corporate-friendly trade rules that protect Big Pharma's intellectual property monopolies and lead to artificial scarcity—one person suffered an avoidable death from the disease every 24 seconds in 2021.

"Moderna has taken a publicly funded vaccine, built on decades of publicly funded research, and used it to maximize their own profits at the expense of public health," Julia Kosgei, policy co-lead for the People's Vaccine Alliance, said Wednesday in a statement. "It's long past time for Stéphane Bancel to be held to account."

"Today's hearing must be the beginning of a conversation about how governments can place public health needs before private profit. That means requiring companies that profit from publicly funded research to share new technologies with the world."

Citing the corporation's latest earnings report, Kosgei noted that "Moderna is spending as much on buybacks and dividends as it is on research and development." She called it "plainly ludicrous to suggest that this is the best way to ensure everyone has access to effective vaccines and medicines."

"This should be a moment of reckoning for Big Pharma," said Kosgei. "Today's hearing must be the beginning of a conversation about how governments can place public health needs before private profit. That means requiring companies that profit from publicly funded research to share new technologies with the world."

Like Kosgei, Rizvi stressed that Moderna's behavior is not unique and called for far-reaching action "to put an end to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry."

That's also precisely what Sanders did during his opening remarks:

In the pharmaceutical industry today we are looking at an unprecedented level of corporate greed—and that is certainly true with Moderna. Today, while 37% of the American people could not afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe, 10 major pharmaceutical companies made over $100 billion dollars in profits in 2021—a 137% increase from the previous year. In these corporations, the 50 top executives made over $1.9 billion in total compensation in 2021 and are in line to receive billions more in golden parachutes once they leave their companies. In other words, Americans die because they cannot afford the outrageous cost of prescription drugs, while the drug companies make huge profits.

Further, while many Americans don't know this, the taxpayers of this country have spent many tens of billions of dollars over the past decade to research and develop life-saving medicine. Yet, despite that huge investment, and the vitally important work done by NIH scientists, the citizens of the United States pay far more for prescription drugs than do the people of any other country, in some cases, as much as 10 times more. Unbelievably, there are important drugs on the market today that literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"What does a lifesaving drug mean for a person who cannot afford to buy that drug?" Sanders asked. "Should people in America and around the world be allowed to get sicker and sometimes die because they cannot afford the outrageous and arbitrary prices that the pharmaceutical industry demands?"

"Do we not need to change the current culture of greed into a culture which understands that science and medical breakthroughs should work for ordinary people, and not just enrich large corporations and CEOs?" he continued.

Sanders urged people "to remember the contributions of great scientists like Dr. Jonas Salk who, in the 1950s, invented the vaccine for polio. Salk's work saved millions of lives and prevented millions more from being paralyzed."

According to the progressive lawmaker: "It has been estimated that if Dr. Salk had chosen to patent the polio vaccine he would have made billions of dollars. But he did not. When asked who owns the patent to this vaccine Dr. Salk said: 'Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?' What Dr. Salk understood was that the purpose of the vaccine he invented was to save lives, not to make himself obscenely rich."

Salk was not alone, as Sanders explained:

In 1928, Alexander Fleming, a scientist from Scotland, discovered penicillin at St. Mary's hospital in London. Fleming's discovery of penicillin changed the medical world and saved millions of lives.

When Fleming was asked about his role, he did not talk about the outrageous fortune he could have made through his discovery. Instead, he said: "I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident." He refused to make obscene profits from his discovery.

In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting along with two other scientists at the University of Toronto invented insulin—an issue we're hearing a lot about today. When Dr. Banting was asked why he wouldn't patent insulin and why he sold the rights to insulin for just $1 he replied: “Insulin does not belong to me. It belongs to the world.”

It has been estimated that Dr. Banting's invention saved some 300 million lives. Once again, a great scientist made it clear that his purpose in life was to ease suffering and save human lives, not to make billions for himself.

"In this moment of excessive corporate greed," said Sanders, "the moral vision of these great scientists is something that we might learn from."

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers opening remarks during a hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2023.​

Sanders Introduces Bill to Ban Bank Execs From Fed Boards

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced the Federal Reserve Independence Act to prevent bank executives from serving on regional Fed boards that are responsible for regulating their institutions.

The bill—which would also bar the U.S. central bank's board members and employees from owning any stock or investing in any company that is regulated by the Federal Reserve—comes as Fed leadership is under fire for recent interest rate hikes and regulatory rollbacks that preceded the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank failures.

"The Fed has got to become a more democratic institution that is responsive to the needs of working people and the middle class."

"I think it would come as a shock to most Americans to find out that Gregory Becker, the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, who successfully lobbied for the deregulation of his financial institution was allowed to serve as a director of the same body in charge of regulating his bank: the San Francisco Federal Reserve," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement.

"It is clear to me and to the American people, that the CEOs of the largest banks in America should not be allowed to serve as directors of the main agency we have in this country in charge of regulating those very same financial institutions," he asserted. "The Fed has got to become a more democratic institution that is responsive to the needs of working people and the middle class, not just CEOs of some of the largest financial institutions in America."

In a letter to his congressional colleagues about the bill, Sanders highlighted:

Gregory Becker may be the poster child for why we need this legislation, but he is not alone. Incredibly, two-thirds of the directors of these boards are hand-picked by the same bankers that the Federal Reserve is in charge of regulating.

Today, five top executives of financial institutions with over $150 billion in assets currently serve as directors of Federal Reserve banks. For example, the CEO of State Street (a financial institution with nearly $300 billion in assets) currently serves as a director of the Boston Federal Reserve. The CEO of M&T Bank (a financial institution with over $200 billion in assets) currently serves as a director of the New York Fed. The CFO of Ally Bank which has assets of over $180 billion is currently a director of the Richmond Fed. And the CEO of Northern Trust with assets of more than $150 billion currently serves on the Chicago Fed.

Sanders also pointed to a 2011 Government Accountability Office study which "found that allowing members of the banking industry to both elect and serve on the Federal Reserve's board of directors creates 'an appearance of a conflict of interest' and poses 'reputational risks' to the Federal Reserve System."

The senator provided examples involving Stephen Friedman, a former chairman of the New York Federal Reserve board as well as a Goldman Sachs board member and stockholder, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank got $391 billion in assistance while he sat on that same regional Fed board.

Along with seeking support for his bill—which is backed by Americans for Financial Reform, Demos, Revolving Door Project, Public Citizen, Working Families Party, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA—Sanders is urging Congress to take other action in the wake of the SVB and Signature collapses.

Specifically, the senator is calling for:

  • Repealing Title IV of the 2018 bank deregulation legislation;
  • Enacting stronger regulations "to ensure the safety and soundness" of the nation's financial system;
  • A U.S. Justice Department probe into whether insider trading laws were broken by SVB executives who sold bank stock;
  • Clawing back bonuses given to SVB executives just before the collapse; and
  • Breaking up banks that are too big to fail to prevent another financial crisis like 2008.

As Sanders put it earlier this month: "We cannot continue down the road of more socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else. Let us have the courage to stand up to Wall Street, repeal the disastrous 2018 bank deregulation law, break up too big to fail banks, and address the needs of working families not the risky bets of vulture capitalists."

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference on January 18, 2023 in Daytona Shores.

Critics Say DeSantis Move to Expand 'Don't Say Gay' Exposes Law's True Intentions

Florida's Republican governor and presumed 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is moving to expand his state's prohibition on classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity to all grades.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday denounced DeSantis' effort to broaden what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" law, describing it as "completely, utterly wrong."

Passed last year by Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature, the law forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3. The DeSantis administration's proposed rule change, first reported Tuesday by The Orlando Sentinel, would extend the ban on such lessons to grades 4-12, except when they are required by state standards or as part of a reproductive health course from which parents can choose to exclude their children.

The proposal, introduced by DeSantis' Department of Education, goes even further than right-wing Florida lawmakers' current push to expand the law through grade 8 and does not require legislative approval. The state Board of Education—controlled by appointees of DeSantis and his predecessor, U.S. Sen Rick Scott (R-Fla.)—is set to vote on the measure at its April 19 meeting.

"Everything he does is about what can further his own career ambitions," Brandon Wolf of Equality Florida toldThe Associated Press on Wednesday, referring to DeSantis. "And it's clear he sees the anti-LGBTQ movement as his vehicle to get him where he wants to go."

Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law has been widely condemned since it was first introduced last year. Opponents—including President Joe Biden, who called the measure "hateful"—contend that it marginalizes LGBTQ+ people.

"Everything he does is about what can further his own career ambitions. And it's clear he sees the anti-LGBTQ movement as his vehicle to get him where he wants to go."

DeSantis' proposed expansion has confirmed critics' warnings that the law was never intended to "protect kids," as proponents claimed, but rather to undermine support for LGBTQ+ rights and sow mistrust in public education to facilitate privatization.

"It was never about 'protecting children,'" Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, wrote Wednesday on social media. "It was always about eliminating LGBTQ people from public life and making it illegal to even discuss our existence."

That message was echoed by former Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49), who tweeted: "It was never, ever, ever, ever about kindergarten through third grade. It was always about demonizing us and censoring LGBTQ people out of existence in our schools."

During her Wednesday press briefing, Jean-Pierre alluded to growing attacks on LGBTQ+ people and said that DeSantis' proposal reflects "a disturbing and dangerous trend that we're seeing across the country."

Last month, PEN America revealed that GOP officials across the United States unveiled 84 educational gag orders during the first six weeks of 2023.

As the free speech organization previously documented, Republican lawmakers introduced 190 bills designed to restrict the ability of educators and students to discuss the production of and resistance to myriad inequalities throughout U.S. history—including several proposals to create so-called "tip lines" that would enable parents to punish school districts or individual teachers—in dozens of states in 2021 and 2022. Over the past two years, 19 laws limiting the teaching of gender, sexuality, and racism were enacted in more than a dozen GOP-controlled states, plus eight measures imposed without legislation.

This year alone, Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law has spawned at least 27 copycat bills in more than a dozen states, including several measures that would, as DeSantis is now proposing, censor instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity at all grade levels.

Opponents of Florida's law argue that "its language—'classroom instruction,' 'age appropriate,' and 'developmentally appropriate'—is overly broad and subject to interpretation," AP reported. "Consequently, teachers might opt to avoid the subjects entirely for fear of being sued, they say."

In an opinion piece published last year, Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent argued that the nationwide surge in restrictive education legislation has "an obvious purpose: to make teachers feel perpetually on thin ice, so they shy away from difficult discussions about our national past rather than risk breaking laws in ways they cannot themselves anticipate."

"But there's another, more pernicious goal driving these bills that might well succeed politically precisely because it remains largely unstated," Sargent continued. "The darker underlying premise here is that these bills are needed in the first place, because subversive elements lurk around every corner in schools, looking to pervert, indoctrinate, or psychologically torture your kids."

The "combination of... vagueness and punitive mechanisms such as rights of action and tip lines" is intentionally designed to promote self-censorship, wrote Sargent. "Precisely because teachers might fear that they can't anticipate how they might run afoul of the law—while also fearing punishment for such transgressions—they might skirt difficult subjects altogether."

He added that "calls for maximal parental choice and control in schools have been used by the right for decades as a smoke screen to sow fears and doubts about public education at its ideological foundations."

National Education Association president Becky Pringle similarly argued last month that DeSantis' attack on a new high school Advanced Placement African-American studies course is part of the far-right's wider anti-democratic assault on public schools and other institutions aimed at improving the common good.

"For DeSantis, blocking AP African-American studies is part of a cheap, cynical, and dangerous political ploy to drive division and chaos into public education debates," Pringle wrote.

"He seeks to distract communities from his real agenda, which is to first whitewash and then dumb down public education as an excuse to privatize it," she added. "His ultimate goal? The destruction of public education, the very foundation of our democracy."

Vladimir Putin Maria Lvova-Belova

ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Putin Over Alleged War Crimes in Ukraine

The International Criminal Court on Friday issued international arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova for allegedly abducting Ukrainian children and transporting them to Russia.

The Hague-based ICC said that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that Putin and Lvova-Belova bear "individual criminal responsibility" for "the war crime of unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children "from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation."

ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański said in a video statement announcing the warrant that "it is forbidden by international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in to other territories. Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention."

Ukrainian officials accuse Russian forces of taking around 14,000 children from Ukraine to Russia since Putin launched the invasion in February 2022.

"They change their citizenship, give them up for adoption under guardianship, commit sexual violence and other crimes," Daria Herasymchuk, the commissioner for children's rights and rehabilitation for Ukraine, toldEuronews.

According to an Associated Pressinvestigation published last month:

Russian law prohibits the adoption of foreign children without consent of the home country, which Ukraine has not given. But in May, Putin signed a decree making it easier for Russia to adopt and give citizenship to Ukrainian children without parental care—and harder for Ukraine and surviving relatives to win them back.

Russia also has prepared a register of suitable Russian families for Ukrainian children, and pays them for each child who gets citizenship—up to $1,000 for those with disabilities. It holds summer camps for Ukrainian orphans, offers "patriotic education" classes, and even runs a hotline to pair Russian families with children from Donbas.

Lvova-Belova has defended the deportations as "saving" lost or orphaned children.

The ICC warrants came one day after the United Nations' Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine published a report detailing Russian war crimes against Ukrainians including "willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of children."