The GOP’s evil plans for 'The Little Mermaid' and fascism have surfaced

Ron DeSantis has a problem. No matter how hard he tries to kill off The [“woke” Black] Little Mermaid by taking down the company that brought her to life, it’s not going to help him beat Donald Trump in the GOP primary.

Nobody in the Republican Party, in fact, can successfully “run to the right of Trump” because Trump is running as an open fascist. And the only thing to the right of an open fascist is a total dictator who has utterly shattered even the façade of fascist democracy (remember that Putin and many other modern autocrats were “elected” repeatedly).

Donald Trump is running to be something between Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin — what Orbán calls “illiberal democracy” and I’m calling “fascism” — and the only way to successfully beat him, to “run to the right of him,” would be to run as an absolute autocrat like Saudi Arabia’s MBS or China’s Xi.

Which, apparently, is of interest to a large portion of the GOP base, particularly Qanon followers and, more significantly, rightwing billionaires who — like German steel industrialist Fritz Thyssen (who wrote the book I Paid Hitler) — believe themselves to be immune from the GOP turning on them once a Republican strongman leader takes over.

This is why DeSantis has been so aggressive about destroying the voting and educational rights of minority groups in Florida while ruining the careers of government employees who’ve dared speak up against him.

It’s why he’s relentless — to the point of destroying tens of thousands of Florida jobs — in his war against Disney.

It’s why he’s launched a jeremiad against queer people and given every hater and bigot in the state the ability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Proving he can get away with such authoritarian behavior with impunity shows, he appears to believe, that he’s even more capable of being an authoritarian tyrant than Trump.

Because that’s what DeSantis and Trump are actually running for right now: both want to be America’s first fully fascist autocrat, an Americanized version of Mussolini or Putin.

DeSantis is doing his very best to prove he can defy the will of the people, as he just proved with his six-week abortion ban in Florida, and do it enthusiastically, because he’s running for the job of strongman despot rather than president. Democracy be damned.

It’s also why both he and Trump are behaving like they can say or do anything to get into the White House — because neither thinks, once he’s sworn in, that he’ll ever have to run for election again.

Like Putin in Russia, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Orbán in Hungary — with DeSantis’ early successes in Florida shutting down polling places, purging voter rolls, and arresting Black people who’ve voted; and with Trump’s embrace of open Nazis while marshaling an army of armed “election monitors” — both plan to rig our national electoral system so heavily that no future Republican will ever lose.

Just like the playbook used by Mussolini, Hitler, and Pinochet.

That’s what Trump and DeSantis are running for. They want to be Putin, or even Xi or MBS if they could pull it off. They both have all but said out loud they want to end the American experiment. (Trump actually did say it out loud, as The New York Times notes.)

And there’s a constituency for tyranny in America, one that’s large enough to swing Republican primary elections. At this point, it’s becoming clearer by the day that a Republican who still believes in democracy — a Mitt Romney type of figure — has absolutely no chance of becoming the GOP’s nominee for 2024.

Thus, the big question now and going forward toward that election is this:

“Is that authoritarian-embracing Republican constituency large enough to put a fascist like DeSantis or Trump into office in next year’s general election?”

After all, when the American people look for political leadership, they’re always looking for “The Real McCoy.” Pale imitations almost never work in US politics; in fact — as Ron DeSantis is learning — being the wishy-washy version of somebody else always works against candidates.

For example, way back in 1948 Democratic President Harry S. Truman was running for re-election (he inherited the office when FDR died) and experiencing total frustration with some in his own party who were supporting Republican policies, particularly the union-busting Taft-Hartley Act, which gave states the power to gut unions via so-called “Right to Work for Less” provisions.

When Truman vetoed the legislation in 1947, 106 Democrats in the House and 20 in the Senate voted with Republicans to override his veto; Taft-Hartley stood, and has since been the GOP’s main tool to destroy unions in Red state after Red state over the past 70+ years.

Which provoked Truman to issue his famous dictum:

“Given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will pick the Republican every time!”

Today’s version of Truman’s famous saying is true for both parties.

Phony progressives, like “moderates” in the so-called “Corporate Problem Solvers” caucus, are vulnerable to genuine progressives, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proved when she ran against corporate Democrat Joe Crowley.

And phony GOP fascists, like Tim Scott, Chris Christie, or Nikki Haley, will always get steamrolled by real fascists like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.

It’s why regardless of who enters the GOP primaries, the fascist-loving base is going to make sure their party’s nominee is someone running to be an American fascist in the style of Trump or DeSantis.

This highlights the biggest systemic problem the GOP is currently facing. White supremacists, antisemites, and women-hating men across the country were given a taste, albeit a small sample, of real “blood and soil” type Christo-fascism with the presidency of Donald Trump.

And now they desperately want more.

The crisis, therefore, for any Republican who wants to run against Trump is that they’ll have to run to the right of fascism. But what occupies that space? Pure, raw, genocidal dictatorship that completely ends America.

Consider how far we’ve already gone:

— Trump said that he’ll pardon the traitors who tried to overthrow our government, throwing down the gauntlet by openly embracing a treasonous attempt to assassinate the Vice President and overturn the Constitution.

DeSantis was thus forced to quickly echo the sentiment, adding that he’d even consider pardoning Trump himself if he’s convicted of violating the espionage act by selling America’s secrets to the Saudis or Putin.

— Trump wanted to create his own private police force answerable only to himself, much like Hitler’s SS or Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and for a while nearly did it, illegally sending out-of-uniform Border Patrol officers to Portland to kidnap and harass antifascist demonstrators.

DeSantis, however, actually did the job in Florida, creating a militia answerable exclusively to him, along with his own personal police force that was specifically designed to harass and arrest Black people who try to vote.

— Trump wanted to shut down the “fake news” reporters who kept pointing out his lies; he argued we should gut the First Amendment so news outlets and op-ed writers who offended him could be fired or vulnerable to lawsuits.

DeSantis one-upped him; he now blocks reporters from even covering many of his activities and supported a bill in the Florida legislature that would have given him and other Republicans the power to sue reporters who offended them. Killing the Florida media was too extreme even for his own legislature, but he tried, and promises as president he’ll succeed where Trump failed.

— Trump tore families apart at the southern border and almost a thousand children are still missing, having been trafficked into a shady “Christian” network of foster and adoption homes.

DeSantis outplayed him by imitating the White Citizens’ Council trick from the 1960s, when they offered Black families in the south free bus fare north with the phony promise of jobs and housing.

This is increasingly happening among Republicans running for the House and Senate, and in the states, too, as other Red state governors imitate DeSantis.

At the same time, members of state and federal legislatures and rightwing media are calling for everything from the “eradication” of queer people to using state money to fund all-white “Christian” academies and destroy public education.

There was a time in America when we would have said, “It can’t happen here.” It was a time we believed our country would never fall to cynical authoritarian hucksters.

When opponents of fascism were heralded as heroes, as the “greatest generation” winners of World War II, as role models for young people, instead of being vilified by fascist-leaning Republican-affiliated media as “Antifa.”

When, as historian Heather Cox Richardson brilliantly pointed out, the US government made movies and published pamphlets explaining what fascism was and how dangerous it would be if it ever infested our politics.

That time is gone. Now, it can happen here. And there’s a whole army of billionaires willing — enthusiastic, eager even! — to finance it.

They’re joined in this by a nationwide network of churches, organized during the Reagan administration and openly defying IRS rules, using your and my tax subsidies to encourage hate, bigotry, and intolerance across the country.

So, now America faces a series of very real choices. Do we maintain the American experiment with a democratic republic, or embrace Trump’s and DeSantis’ vision of a government that rigorously polices every aspect of business and our private lives?

— Will The Little Mermaid be the last multiracial movie Disney makes?

— Will the censorship of public school classes, intimidation of teachers and professors, and banning of books move from Red states to the entire nation?

— Will we join Uganda — marching to the tune of members of the American evangelical movement, pastors Scott Lively and Franklin Graham, and an activist group in Arizona — in making homosexuality punishable by death?

— Will our Supreme Court prevail in their assertion that billionaires buying politicians and judges is merely an exercise in “free speech” rather than naked bribery and corruption?

— Will we continue to allow Red state governors to purge tens of millions of Americans from voting rolls, shut down polling places, and intentionally create mile-long lines to vote in Democratic neighborhoods?

— Will American democracy — what’s left of it — survive this onslaught?

Nobody is riding in to save us, the way we saved the world in 1945. Neither the EU, NATO, nor the UN will intervene. Our closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, have already declared a hands-off policy toward US politics.

This time, the answer is entirely in our own hands.

'My existence should not be an issue to you': Students blast Florida school board over right-wing policies

Parents, students, and teachers expressed their outrage at the Hernando County, Florida School Board meeting on Tuesday amid crackdowns on free speech, civil rights, and education curricula led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and GOP lawmakers.

On Thursday, The Recount posted videos of two students railing against DeSantis' policies and his attacks on LGBTQIA+ youth.

The first speaker referenced DeSantis' crusade against what right-wingers call "woke indoctrination" in schools:

I am extremely concerned for our future if these are the issues that the Florida state government focuses on, and you should be too. You ever wonder why you don't hear many teachers speaking out on this issue? It's because they're scared. Teacher vacancy has more than doubled since January of 2019, going from 2200 to numbers as high as 5,300. Could it be because students are getting worse? Maybe. Could it be due to the backlash of COVID? Maybe. Or could it be because they're scared to, they're scared to say anything that will get them fired — nonetheless scared to show a Disney movie in class and read a book with a gay character in it, most likely. How are we supposed to get an unbiased education when the teachers are walking on eggshells? To end my point, I'd like to leave you with this. Every person on the school board and the Florida state government most likely has children or grandchildren, and those kids are going to build our future alongside me. While they may build it, teachers are the ones who mold them to be an active member of society, and I am so scared for the future if our teachers, our mentors, are being silenced.

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis accuses teachers of 'forcing' students to pick pronouns

The second individual blasted the school board for ostracizing students.

"And before I begin, I'd like to ask every board member to please give me their full attention as I have not seen that. Good evening. My name is Robert Corden. I am a junior, soon-to-be senior," he excitedly began.

"Calm down," he was told.

Corden restarted:

I'm a junior soon-to-be senior at Nature Coast Technical High School, and I love my school. My school means a lot to me. This county means a lot to me. Over the years of my education here in Hernando County, I have seen a lot of change. Students have changed. School procedures have changed. And what it means to be a student has changed. Members like Member [Shannon] Rodriguez and Member [Mark] Johnson see an issue of teacherless classrooms and instead focus their energy on the LGBTQ community and other problems like getting Superintendent [John] Stratton removed.

READ MORE: Florida law targets education unions that Ron DeSantis says 'defied the state'

News Channel 8 reported on Wednesday that the school board voted 3-2 in favor to keep Stratton, whom conservatives demanded to step down because fifth-grade teacher Jenna Barbee showed Disney's Strange World to her class.

News Channel 8 noted that "the PG-rated movie includes the depiction of a gay teenager" and that "Barbee admitted she didn't receive the required approval before showing the film."

Corden alluded to the incident as he concluded his speech:

This is why teachers are leaving the profession because members like Member Rodriguez and Member Johnson don't listen to the people that they serve. When taking this position, you accepted the responsibility to represent every single student fairly and justly. I do not feel you have done that instead of representing me and other LGBTQ-plus students — cuz yes, we exist — you instead, you instead have alienated and made us feel as if our entire existence is an issue to you. My existence should not be an issue to you, but come next election season, my vote will be.

Watch the clips below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Bigotry and megalomania': Scientific American Editorial board warns of DeSantis’ 'antiscience agenda'

On student loan repayments, McCarthy didn’t get what he said he got

Now that the US House has passed legislation that lifts the debt ceiling, we can expect to emerge an array of narratives that rationalize votes for or against it. With respect to progressive Democrats, one of those narratives will almost certainly be this: It ends the pause of student-loan repayments? No thanks.

That narrative will be rooted not in what Joe Biden has said but in what the House speaker has said. “The pause is gone within 60 days of this being signed,” Kevin McCarthy said after a White House meeting. “So that is another victory because that brings in $5 billion each month to the American public.”

There was never a principled reason to balk at raising the debt ceiling. (The Republicans raised it for Donald Trump.) So McCarthy had to invent one – they were using the borrowing cap as a means of restraining federal expenditures. The three-year moratorium on student loan repayments was costing the government billions, McCarthy said. Ending the moratorium would cut costs.

READ MORE: 'Cruel and shortsighted': Progressives blast Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling deal

But even as McCarthy bragged about what he got, he knew he didn’t get it.

The Biden administration had paused repayments eight times since the beginning of the pandemic. The Supreme Court is likely to block a separate plan to forgive sizable chunks of student-loan debt. Pressure to resume repayments comes not only from Republicans but from Democrats, too. When asked, the US secretary of education seemed to suggest that the question wasn’t whether there will be a new pause but when repayments will restart.

“We are committed to making sure that once a decision [by the Supreme Court] is made that we are going to resume payments 60 days after. No later than June 30, we’re going to begin that process,” Miguel Cardona testified.

McCarthy said repayments will begin 60 days after the debt-ceiling legislation is signed into law by the president, but that’s not what the legislation says. It says what the Biden administration has been saying – that repayments will restart no later than June 30, meaning they will resume sometime in early fall.

READ MORE: 'Cruelty seems to be the point': James Clyburn hammers Republicans over student debt

The House speaker is claiming credit for having ended, through debt-ceiling negotiations, something the Biden administration was already feeling pressured to end, separate and apart from debt-ceiling negotiations. In other words, McCarthy is saying he won. Joe Biden is saying yeah, Kev. Sure, you did.

To be sure, the president reportedly surrendered the administration’s ability to continue pausing student loans as part of his deal with the House Republicans. This has some claiming that he gave up too much. But the likelihood of the Biden administration continuing to pause repayments was extremely low.

Biden would probably prefer not to bring attention to the complete facts of the matter, because, one way or another, they make him look bad. (McCarthy might have done him a favor. Biden can say, somewhat truthfully, that it wasn’t his choice to end the moratorium. He can say the Republicans forced him to.)

The same can’t be said of the House speaker. Though McCarthy didn’t really get what he bragged about getting, his bragging about having got it sailed across the political spectrum to the ears of Democratic progressives in the House who wanted Biden to continue pausing repayments, and who in turn decided that whatever’s good for the House speaker must be bad for them.

So ending the current pause on student loan repayments has emerged as one of the reasonsreasons why some Democratic progressives decided to vote against lifting the debt ceiling. Other reasonsreasons, according toCommon Dreams, include provisions in the bill “that would slash food assistance, require approval of a gas pipeline and end the federal moratorium on student loan payments — all while maintaining hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon spending and low taxes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”

What’s the moral to be drawn here? I can’t know that I know. What I do know, however, is that McCarthy didn’t get what he said he got. What I do know is that McCarthy seeming to get it became nearly the same as getting it. What I do know is that standing on the line between seeming to get and getting was enough for McCarthy’s adversaries to vote against what he didn’t really get.

READ MORE: House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

'I don’t want reality': Senate GOPer prefers 'Jesus loves me' taught instead of history of race

U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) exploded in a committee hearing on child care on Wednesday after he introduced a book designed to help children understand race, and declared he opposes socialism and wants schools to teach about Jesus Christ instead.

Sen. Mullin, a former U.S. Congressman who once told a House Democrat to “shut up,”began by explaining how expensive it is for private companies to set up child care – the topic of the hearing – but quickly transformed the hearing into one on race, socialism, and religion.

He wove a web that started with his concerns over “federalizing” education, which he declared is socialism. He then attacked the committee chairman, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), for being a “self-declared democratic socialist.” That led to his claim that the book he opposes, “Our Skin: A First Conversation on Race,” would be taught nationwide.

Sen. Mullin said he opposes the book because it teaches young children that the concept of race, especially the white race, was created by white people to place themselves above other people with different skin – which has been documented in numerous studies, reports, articles, and books.

READ MORE: DeSantis Kicks Off Presidential Campaign Tour With Claim Teachers Are ‘Forcing’ Students to Pick Pronouns

Senator Mullin, who supports a federal vigilante “Don’t Say Gay” bill, tried to get members of the panel to support his desire for schools to teach about Jesus instead.

“I have a book here in here in front of me called ‘Our Skin,'” Mullin told the committee, “and I’m going to read exactly what this book says. You guys might find it interesting. ‘A long time ago, way before you were born, a group of white people made up an idea called race. They sorted people by skin color and said that white people were better, smarter, prettier, and they deserved more than everybody else.’ This would be taught if we socialized our pre-K system, this would be taught.”

“How about we teach Jesus Loves Me?” Mullin demanded. “How about how about this? And teaching ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children.’ The lyrics go, ‘Red and yellow, black and white. They’re all precious in our sight.’ Now, which one would you think would be better? I’ll ask everybody on the panel, which is better to teach? This, that is a story that was made up to teach kids, three year olds who have no idea what race is.”

“Now all of a sudden being taught that white people said this as a truth, someone pointed me that this being a truth, that white people developed race, that white people develop that. That all of a sudden that was our word that we developed. By the way, I’m Cherokee, Native American. I think we have experienced a little bit of racism before in my life,” Mullen said.

READ MORE: ‘Will Make a Great Trial Witness’: Experts Thrilled Jack Smith Is Investigating Trump’s Firing of Election Security Expert

“So I ask everybody on the panel, which one is better to teach? This,” referring to the book he had brought, “or the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ lyrics? Ma’am. I’ll start on here.”

“I think it’s important to teach that all children are seen and valued for who they are,” one panelist told Sen. Mullin. He was not pleased.

Another panelist who appeared to agree with Sen. Mullin on teaching Jesus responded, “It is important that we teach Jesus. Jesus is what we teach. But the reality is –” she said before being interrupted by Mullin.

“I don’t want reality,” Mullin proclaimed, which evoked immediate laughter.

“Got it on tape,” one person announced.

“I misspoke,” Mullin claimed.

Watch portions of Mullin’s remarks below or at this link.

Ron DeSantis accuses teachers of 'forcing' students to pick pronouns

Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his official presidential campaign tour on Tuesday, traveling to Iowa after announcing last week he was launching a White House run. On Wednesday, the Republican bragged to GOP voters that in Florida he recently signed a bill into law banning teachers from forcing children to pick pronouns, insisting it is happening in other states.

“It is wrong for a teacher to tell a student that they may have been born in the wrong body, or that their gender is a choice,” DeSantis announced.

“We don’t allow this in the state of Florida, and we actually just signed legislation protecting students from having teachers force them to pick pronouns, which they are doing in some parts of this country, at [a] very, very young age. We’re not competing in the ‘pronoun sweepstakes.’ We’re going to have school just like school’s been, from time in memoriam [sic], we’re not going to do all this other stuff,” he declared.

READ MORE: ‘Will Make a Great Trial Witness’: Experts Thrilled Jack Smith Is Investigating Trump’s Firing of Election Security Expert

While DeSantis is insistent that teachers are forcing very young students to pick pronouns, NCRM found no news reports supporting that claim.

We did find several news reports of teachers suing for not wanting to use a child’s preferred pronoun, which are issues for the courts.

We did find one report of a teacher who allegedly insisted on calling a 9-year-old girl who identifies as a girl a boy, and the parents are suing.

News12 on Long Island, New York in March reported, “the lawyer representing the girl’s family…says the student was bullied and had suicidal feelings.”

“She says the teacher told the student to ‘try being gay.’ The teacher is also accused of calling the girl a male name.
‘The teacher had some kind of agenda to have these students have alternate sexual preferences or gender identities they may or may not have had,'” the attorney said.

READ MORE: ‘It Has to Be Done’: These Are the House Republicans Open to Firing Kevin McCarthy as Speaker

In April, Colorado’s KRDO reported, “During the last Colorado Springs School District 11’s board meeting, officials tabled a controversial pronoun policy that would prevent educators from asking students their preferred pronouns. While the policy isn’t in effect, some teachers are concerned about how it would hinder them inside the classroom.”

Watch DeSantis below or at this link.

Iowa GOP Governor passes bill 'loosening child labor laws' after banning LGBTQ+ books from schools

Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds passed legislation loosening child labor laws in the state this week.

Those against the new legislation, per CNN, say "it could not only endanger the safety of children but would also target teens from lower-income and minority backgrounds."

This comes after the governor also just passed legislation banning teachers "from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students through grade six," NBC reports, which includes removing "books depicting sex acts" from school bookshelves.

READ MORE: Facing labor shortages the GOP solution is to rip up child labor protections

LGBTQ equality group One Iowa Director of Policy and Advocacy Keenan Crow, said of the bill, "Like many other pieces of her agenda, this legislation punches down on a vulnerable group of kids, and it benefits no one."

Regarding the child labor legislation, CNN reports:

Under the newly signed law, 14- and 15-year-olds are allowed to work two additional hours per day when school is in session, from four to six hours. They are also able to work until 9 p.m. during most of the year and until 11 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day, two hours later than previously allowed. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are now permitted to work the same hours as an adult.

The Des Moines Register reports "In practice, that means factory jobs, farm jobs, jobs requiring heavy lifting or other roles that ban child labor due to dangers inherent in the job will be open to 14 year olds and up, so long as somebody involved can call it job 'training.'"

Additionally, the bill "gives authority to the directors of the education and workforce development departments to provide an exception to the work hours and some of the prohibited work activities to teens 16 and older who are enrolled in a qualified work-based learning program."

READ MORE: Republicans are trying to flood the labor market with cheap child labor

Reynolds said in a statement, "With this legislation Iowa joins 20 other states in providing tailored, common sense labor provisions that allow young adults to develop their skills in the workforce."

The Washington Post reports "the loosening of child labor laws" will have a major impact on workplace safety.

Referring to a similar law recently passed in Arkansas that removes "the need for work permits for children younger than 16," University of Arkansas School of Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic Director Annie B. Smith told The Washington Post, "Not knowing where young kids are working makes it harder for [state departments] to do proactive investigations and visit workplaces where they know that employment is happening to make sure that kids are safe."

READ MORE: 'Heartbreaking and unconscionable': Biden admin ignored migrant child labor warnings

CNN's full report is available at this link. NBC's report is here.

'Wait til he meets Trump Sr.' Twitter blasts Tuberville for blatant racism against 'inner-city' teachers

United States Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), spewed racist comments Thursday during an appearance on Donald Trump Jr.'s podcast, Triggered.

Earlier this month, the GOP leader declared white nationalists are simply "Americans," and later referred to them as "Trump Republicans."

Former GOP prosecutor Ron Filipkowski shared a clip of the pair's conversation via Twitter, writing, Tommy Tuberville: "How bad our teachers are in the inner city. I don't know how they got degrees. I don't know whether they can read and write. They want a raise and less time to work, less time in school. We ruined work ethic in this country."

READ MORE: 'Not even patriots': Doug Jones slams 'cowards' Tommy Tuberville and white supremacist marchers

"The COVID really brought it out about how bad our schools are," Tuberville insisted.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Brookings Institution reports:

Teachers had to adapt to unexpected conditions, teaching in unprecedented ways, using synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while also being challenged to establish connections with students, families, and colleagues. Health concerns added to the mix as some teachers went back to in-person education during the height of the pandemic. As a result, teachers' levels of stress and burnout have been high throughout these unusual pandemic times, raising concerns about a potential increase in teacher turnover and future teacher shortages.

Trump Jr. replied to the senator's comments, saying, "But they're the experts that want to make sure that parents have no say. 'How dare you decide what to do with your children?'"

Annika Dukes, a middle school teacher in Vancouver, Washington, told The Washington Post last year, "We love your kids. We love our jobs (even though we're exhausted). And the only things we are activists about is your child’s academic and emotional growth. The constant anger and vitriol we see about book bans, and [critical race theory] are seriously taking a toll on us. We're not indoctrinating anyone. We're just trying to teach your kids."

Furthermore, regarding Tuberville's comments about the educational backgrounds of "inner-city" educators, In 2020, the senator, according to USA Today, "misidentified the three branches of government," saying, "Our government wasn't set up for one group to have all three branches of government — wasn't set up that way. You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive."

READ MORE: Abortion, the military and white nationalism have put Tommy Tuberville in the hot seat

The three branches of U.S. government are actually the legislative, the executive and the judicial.

The Center for American Progress reports, "According to the Economic Policy Institute, public school teachers are paid less than other comparable workers in every state, and they earn 11 percent less on average, when accounting for nonwage benefits," adding, "As of the 2015-16 school year, 18 percent of U.S. teachers worked second jobs outside the school system," and "Teachers are about 30 percent more likely than nonteachers to work a second job."

Additionally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, "The percentage of public school teachers who held a postbaccalaureate degree (i.e., a master's, education specialist, or doctor's degree)" increased by nearly 20 percent from 1999-2000 to the 2017-2018 school year.

In 2017, The Atlantic reported:

Research suggests that the number of truly bad schools is much smaller than imagined. Even much-lambasted city schools are nurturing engaged thinkers who value learning. Many are expanding the way young people see the world. Many are cultivating engaged citizens and fostering creativity.

Additionally, The Atlantic noted:

Believing that they are fleeing bad schools, or securing spots in good ones, middle-class parents have inadvertently exacerbated segregation. And that has had a very real impact on urban schools. Demographically integrated schools have been shown to foster a culture of success that can change a child’s sense of academic self-efficacy and plans for the future.

READ MORE: 'Destructive spectacle': Chuck Schumer admonishes Tommy Tuberville’s defense of white nationalists

Twitter users slammed the senator for his racist remarks.

@JMahoffer: "Wait til he meets Trump, Sr."

SnarkTank: "So does Don Jr. basically just do infomercials for racism now?"

Dave #VoteBlue: "Not the Inner City: Texas high school delays its graduation, after only a handful met diploma requirements"

Mark Jacob: "When white supremacist Tommy Tuberville talks about the 'inner city,' he means people of color. And he doesn't know shit about whether the teachers there are bad or good. It’s pure dog whistle."

@TrumpsTaxes: "Tommy Tuberville - who once identified the three branches of government as 'the House, the Senate and the executive' - thinks teachers are stupid."

Al Cappuccino: "These two geniuses."

She Bearpaws: "Hypocrisy."

@RonaldTooTall: "Teachers aren't slaves. 'Inner City' is code meaning black or minority. Teachers often work multiple gigs to make enough money to survive, and sometimes to help their students who need help."

@AlabamaScribe56: 'Wait, this clown couldn't name the three branches of government and he is questioning the intelligence of others?"

READ MORE: 'I look at a white nationalist as a Trump Republican': GOP senator under fire doubles down

Watch the video below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'White grievance and straight-up racism' survey speaks volumes about MAGA attitudes: conservative

Brookings full report is available at this link. The Washington Post's report is here. USA Today's report is here. The National Center for Education Statistics is here. The Center for American Progress's report is here. The Atlantic's report is here.

Texas GOP accused of 'coordinated effort to force state-sponsored religion into our public schools'

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature has passed a bill to allow public schools to replace professional counselors with uncertified religious chaplains.

GOP lawmakers in the state House approved Senate Bill 763 on Wednesday, one day after their counterparts in the state Senate passed the legislation. The measure, which permits school districts "to employ or accept as volunteers chaplains to provide support, services, and programs for students," now heads to the desk of far-right Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.

In addition to undermining religious freedom, the legislation also advances the American Legislative Exchange Council's longstanding goalof weakening occupational licensing requirements, thus threatening both the secular foundations and quality of public education in the Lone Star State. The right-wing Christian lawmakers backing S.B. 763 and related bills have called the separation of church and state a "false doctrine."

Senate Bill 1515, which would have required teachers to display an edited version of the Ten Commandments in every classroom in Texas, was approved by Senate Republicans last month, but the proposal died in the House because the chamber didn't vote on it before midnight Tuesday.

"The purpose of these bills is clear: The same lawmakers trying to control what students think by banning books and censoring curricula now want to dictate what students worship."

S.B. 1515 "was an unconstitutional attack on our core liberties that threatened the freedom of and from religion we hold dear as Texans. It should never have gotten this close to passage," ACLU of Texas attorney David Donatti said in a statement. "Whether trying to place the Ten Commandments in every classroom or replacing school counselors with unlicensed chaplains, certain Texas lawmakers have launched a coordinated effort to force state-sponsored religion into our public schools."

"We cannot overlook their attempts to push legislation that would sanction religious discrimination and bullying," said Donatti. "The First Amendment guarantees families and faith communities—not politicians or the government—the right to instill religious beliefs in their children."

S.B. 763 and S.B. 1515 "came in a session of aggressive legislative measures in Texas and several other states aiming to weaken decades of distinction between religion and government," The Washington Post observed. "Supporters say they believe the [U.S.] Supreme Court's rulinglast summer in Kennedy v. Bremerton, in favor of a high school football coach who prayed with players, essentially removed any guardrails between them."

Texas Senate Republicans "also passed a bill to allow districts to require schools to set aside time for staff and students to pray and read religious texts, and a second bill to allow public employees to 'engage in religious prayer and speech'—modeled after the coach ruling," the newspaper reported. "Those two bills failed to make it out of House committees Wednesday and were not considered likely to resurface this session."

Carisa Lopez, senior political director for the progressive Texas Freedom Network, denounced GOP lawmakers for approving S.B. 763.

"This bill violates the religious freedom of all faiths and Texans of non-faith by placing chaplains in our schools who are not required to be certified educators or omit their personal religious beliefs when working with students," Lopez said in a statement. "Chaplains, unlike counselors, are not given the professional training required to care for the mental health of all students, and we cannot be reasonably certain that every chaplain hired or allowed to volunteer would give unbiased and adequate support to an LGBTQIA+ student, someone grappling with reproductive health decisions, or a student who may struggle with suicidal ideation or self-harm."

"I find it egregious—especially on the one-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde—that lawmakers would pass a bill allowing chaplains to be compensated with funding meant to address school safety," said Lopez.

"Yet again, our elected officials have squandered their opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that would keep kids safe, like commonsense gun reform or bills addressing the school counselor and teacher shortage," she added. "We will never stop fighting the religious right's agenda to inject their personal beliefs into our schools, and we urge Texans to hold these lawmakers accountable at the ballot box."

Rev. Erin Walter, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Texas, also condemned the state's GOP lawmakers for pushing theocratic legislation that violates the U.S. Constitution and, in the case of S.B. 763, could harm the well-being of students by leaving them in the care of unqualified chaplains rather than licensed counselors who have completed the requisite training.

"As a religious leader, I'm disgusted by this assault on religious freedom and the right of all religious communities to conduct their own religious education," said Walter. "As a mother, I'm angry that these politicians believe they know how to raise Texas children better than their own parents do."

"As a former public school teacher, I'm appalled by this erosion of public education as a means of preparing young people to thrive in our diverse state," Walter continued. "And as a fourth-generation Texan, I refuse to accept this government intrusion into our private lives."

Earlier this month, Rep. Cole Hefner (R-5), the House sponsor of S.B. 763, insisted during a floor debate that the legislation doesn't seek to promote religion.

"We have to give schools all the tools; with all we're experiencing, with mental health problems, other crises, this is just another tool," said Hefner.

But as The Texas Tribune reported, "opponents fear the bill is a 'Trojan horse' for evangelizing kids and will worsen the state's mental health crisis through disproven counseling approaches."

"Our elected officials have squandered their opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that would keep kids safe, like commonsense gun reform or bills addressing the school counselor and teacher shortage."

Critics of S.B. 763, including some religious groups and Christian Democrats, worry it could allow "religious activists to recruit in schools and would exacerbate tensions at local school boards, which would have the final say on whether to allow chaplains in schools," the Tribunenoted. "Worse, opponents say, the bill could deepen the state's youth mental health crisis by providing students with unproven, lightly supervised, and nonscientific counseling that treats common childhood problems, such as anxiety, as 'sins' or issues that can merely be prayed away."

According to the newspaper, "The head of the National School Chaplain Association—a key supporter of the chaplains bill—has led another group for decades that touted its ability to use school chaplains for evangelizing to kids."

During debate on the House floor, "a half-dozen Democratic lawmakers rose to ask Hefner to amend the bill, saying it didn't provide protection for a diversity of religions, among other things," the Post reported. "Hefner and the majority rejected almost all amendments, including one requiring parental consent and another requiring chaplains to serve students of all faiths and not proselytize."

"Groups that watch church-state issues say efforts nationwide to fund and empower religion—and, more specifically, a particular type of Christianity—are more plentiful and forceful than they have been in years," the newspaper noted. "Americans United for Separation of Church and Statesays it is watching 1,600 bills around the country in states such as Louisiana and Missouri. Earlier this year, Idaho and Kentucky signed into law measures that could allow teachers and public school employees to pray in front of and with students while on duty." However, the group "said it knows of no other bills that replace guidance counselors with chaplains."

In a blog post published earlier this week by the ACLU of Texas, Walter argued that "the purpose of these bills is clear: The same lawmakers trying to control what students think by banning books and censoring curricula now want to dictate what students worship."

'Cruelty seems to be the point': James Clyburn hammers Republicans over student debt

United States Representative and Assistant House Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina tore into Republican lawmakers on Wednesday for tirelessly working to kill President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness initiative and saddle borrowers with even greater debt.

CNN noted that Biden will veto the bill should it make it through the Democratically-controlled Senate, where "nearly all of the 49 Republican senators have signed on as sponsors."

Shortly before the vote on House Joint Resolution 45, condemned right-wing efforts to keep people indebted.

READ MORE: House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

"I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time. Mr. Speaker, I rise today because my colleagues across the aisle are once again seeking to put politics over people and inflict undue economic harm this time by denying much-needed student loan debt relief. President Biden's targeted student loan debt relief plan is designed to help low and middle-income burials with ninety percent of the relief going to those earning less than $75,000 per year. In my home state of South Carolina, over 680,000 borrowers are eligible, of which over sixty-seven percent are Pell Grant recipients. Over 48,000 borrows in my district alone have been fully approved for relief," Clyburn said.

"If enacted, House Joint Resolution 45 will rescind life-changing relief for hardworking borrowers, reneg on payment pause by forcing them to pay several months of installations of installments with interest, and claw back earned credit from public service toward the public service law and forgiveness program. For a minute, this will mean thousands of dollars in payments be below to no notice," Clyburn continued. "Cruelty seems to be the point. Mr. Speaker, President Biden's Student Loan Debt Relief Plan will help alleviate the yoke of student loan debt for millions of Americans. Challenges to the program both in court and posed by those in Congress are meritless. Higher education shouldn't be a luxury for a privileged few. Borrows deserve our 'Yep,' and I urge my colleagues to vote down this resolution."

HJR 45 passed with the support of a unanimous GOP caucus and two Democrats — Congresspersons Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington.

Watch Clyburn below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Categorically false': New report dismantles Republicans’ argument against student debt relief

House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

Advocates of student debt relief on Wednesday blasted Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a resolution that critics said showcases "their contempt for workers and families" who are burdened by loans taken out to access higher education.

H.J. Res. 45 is a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which U.S. lawmakers can use to overturn federal regulations. The measure passed the House in a 218-203 vote mostly along party lines; Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) were the only members of their party to join Republicans in supporting it.

The resolution is unlikely to go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and even if it did, the White House has already made clear that President Joe Biden would veto it. The GOP measure—a clear message to voters ahead of the 2024 elections—would block Biden's pending student debt cancellation plan and reverse already-delivered relief.

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, the American Federation of Teachers and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released a report detailing the "ruinous impact" the resolution would have on millions of borrowers.

"The record is clear: The damage caused by this cruel and reckless legislation will hurt working people, including millions of its right-wing supporters' own constituents," SBPC executive director Mike Pierce declared after the vote.

Pierce noted that "right-wing proponents have gone to great lengths to mislead their own colleagues and deny the truth—this effort would push hundreds of thousands of public service workers back into debt and require the government to charge tens of millions [of] borrowers for interest that has already been canceled."

"Should this become law, it will cause irreparable damage to the student loan system and undermine Americans' trust in their government," he warned. "This is exactly what extreme conservative lawmakers want, they are just afraid to say it."

SBPC and 260 other groups also criticized the resolution's supporters in a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month, charging that "policymakers now seeking to reverse such critical relief through the CRA are ignoring the economic needs of their own constituents and threatening our nation's financial security."

"Congress should be acting to improve the circumstances of the American people," the coalition argued, "not attempting to thwart the president's efforts to ease the financial pressure that so many are feeling."

Another letter signatory, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), called out the GOP-led effort just ahead of the vote Wednesday.

"This is yet another political stunt from some members of Congress to prevent tens of millions of borrowers, including low-wealth individuals, service members, public service workers, women, and people of color from receiving relief ahead of the Supreme Court's decision regarding the fate of student debt cancellation, said Jaylon Herbin, CRL's director of federal campaigns.

Herbin warned that "resuming the payment pause without student loan forgiveness, let alone requiring students to retroactively pay months' worth of student loan payments, will add thousands of dollars into the average borrower's loan balance, lead millions into forbearance and default, and contribute to a widening racial wealth gap.”

"These actions are not only irresponsible but demonstrate a genuine lack of concern for the nation's overall economic health and the financial well-being of millions of U.S. individuals and families," he added.

The House vote came not only as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of right-wing challenges to Biden's debt relief plan, but also as congressional Republicans threaten to blow up the economy by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Democratic lawmakers and the president agree to spending cuts that would harm working people.

School district’s book ban under investigation for potential civil rights violations

A U.S. Dept. of Education investigation into how a Georgia school district chose to remove almost a dozen books, mostly with Black and LGBTQ characters, finds it created a hostile environment for students and may have violated their civil rights. The DOE’s Office of Civil Rights says the effects of the book removals were so “harsh” they led at least several students to be afraid to go to school.

The Washington Post calls the investigation’s conclusion “a move that could affect how schools handle book challenges.” The Forsyth County, Georgia school district has “agreed to offer ‘supportive measures’ to students affected by the book removals and to administer a school climate survey,” according to a letter from the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The extensive and detailed letter notes that the district weighed multiple methods to handle parents’ complaints about several books, and took steps, albeit insufficient, to attempt fairness. But it also makes clear extremist parents’ demands played a role in its decision to remove certain books. The letter also includes comments from students.

READ MORE: Moms for Liberty Leader Says Biden Behind High-Level, Coordinated Effort to Make Kids LGBTQ (Video)

In March of 2022, a local CBS affiliate in Georgia ran a news report detailing the remarks of some parents. That report largely focused on parents who were demanding books be banned. It did not include any students. It also alleged the books were inappropriate: “A slew of inappropriate books in Forsyth County school libraries is causing outrage amongst some parents,” the video’s written statement on YouTube reads.

“During a February 15 District school board meeting, which the District’s Superintendent attended, multiple parents and students spoke about the District’s removal of books,” the Office of Civil Rights’ letter reads, referring to an earlier meeting. “Many parents called for the removal of additional books, with most of their comments focused on sexually explicit content; however, some comments focused on removing books for reasons related to gender identity or sexual orientation. Also, some parents made negative comments about diversity and inclusion or critical race theory.”

“The students’ comments at the board meeting focused on the gender identity, sexual orientation, and race or color of authors or characters in the books. Some students also raised concern about the impact of removing the books. One student stated that the book ban immediately made the environment more harsh for students; people like him who are not in the closet are watching their safe spaces disappear, and he is sick of being fearful at school,” OCR states. “A student who identified herself as Asian said it is hard for her to find books with main characters who are of her race; she knows that people of other minority backgrounds have the same struggle and banning books written with diversity silences mainly minority voices. A third student — who characterized the District’s actions as singling out books by authors who are gay, supporters of the LGBTQI+ community, women and people of color — expressed the belief that the District does not care about diversity.”

In its letter, the Office of Civil Rights sys it “has a concern the District received notice that its media center book screening process may have created a hostile environment for students, yet the District’s responsive steps related to the book screening process were not designed to, and were insufficient to, ameliorate any resultant racially and sexually hostile environment.”

READ MORE: Chris Hayes Decimates DeSantis’ ‘Dystopian’ Hypocrisy of Taking Away Rights of Parents to Decide Trans Kids’ Health Care

It also “recognizes the District Media Committee rejected suggestions to handle challenged books in ways that it believed would target certain groups of students and that the District posted a statement on media centers’ websites that they ‘provide resources that reflect all students within each school community’ and that ‘If you come across a book that does not match your family’s values and/or beliefs, and you would prefer that your child does not check that book out, please discuss it with your child.’ OCR also recognizes the District limited its book screening process to sexually explicit material.”

But OCR makes clear the district’s attempts were insufficient, noting that “communications at [school] board meetings conveyed the impression that books were being screened to exclude diverse authors and characters, including people who are LGBTQI+ and authors who are not white, leading to increased fears and possibly harassment.”

“District witnesses reported to OCR that the District has not taken steps to address with students the impact of the book removals. In light of these communications and actions, OCR is concerned a hostile environment may have arisen that the District needed to ameliorate.”

Watch the video above or at this link.

'Openly hostile toward African Americans': NAACP issues 'formal travel advisory' for Florida

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a "formal travel advisory" on Saturday for individuals sojourning to the Sunshine State "in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis' aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools."

The alert stated that "Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color."

It also included a call to action, urging "Florida residents to join this effort to defeat the regressive policies of this Governor and this state legislature."

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis claims he banned teaching Black history because it includes 'indoctrination' on 'queer theory'

As CNN noted, the organization's warning followed a cautionary edict published on Wednesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) over DeSantis' recently adopted draconian immigration laws. Similarly, Equality Florida declared on April 11th that Florida is no longer "safe" for LGBTQIA+ people.

"LULAC exposes the extensive impact of Governor DeSantis' sweeping anti-immigrant, anti-Christian family rampage, harming the Florida economy and further marginalizing immigrant communities. Bill 1718 goes into effect July 1, 2023," the group wrote.

"Under the new enforcement orders, Florida's construction, restaurant, and agriculture industries are set to be economically devastated," LULAC continued. "These businesses heavily rely on immigrant workers, and the enforcement measures will disrupt their workforce, leading to significant economic losses. Furthermore, healthcare facilities in Florida will now be obligated to track and turn away any patient who cannot provide proof of legal status in the United States. This policy places an unjust ethical burden on providers administering necessary medical care and perpetuates discrimination based on immigration status."

DeSantis is expected to formally announce his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination this upcoming week.

READ MORE: 'Discriminatory intention': DeSantis secretly allocated $12 million for immigrant relocation

Republicans want to defund our libraries

Claiming to protect children, Republicans are going after libraries and librarians instead of the police, gun manufacturers, and actual child sexual abusers.

Missouri Republicans in early April voted to cut all public funding for libraries as part of their state budget proposal.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Leading the move was Cody Smith, a top Republican lawmaker and chair of the state’s budget committee, who made no attempt to hide the fact that he was retaliating against librarians because they dared to join the ACLU in suing the state over a Republican-led book ban. Smith said, “I don’t think we should subsidize the attempts to overturn laws that we also created,” even though the ACLU is entirely funding the lawsuit.

Indeed, Republicans forced Missouri’s librarians into suing their state in what appears to be yet another flashpoint in the GOP’s increasingly desperate culture wars. In 2022 the GOP passed SB 775, criminalizing librarians for providing “sexually explicit” material to minors. They face a $2,000 fine or up to a year in jail if found in violation of the bizarre law.

Thankfully, the state Senate Appropriations Committee moved quickly to restore public library funding, with Senate Republican Lincoln Hough admitting, “I think it was kind of a punitive cut that the House made.”

But the threat still remains after Missouri’s Republican State Secretary Jay Ashcroft pushed through an administrative rule that threatens funding if libraries violate the book ban. He did so in an explicitly undemocratic manner, saying, “I have to figure out how to do this, because by rule I can get it done much more quickly than if I wait on the legislature.”

“Defund the Library” could be the GOP’s new slogan, succinctly encompassing a free-market agenda to destroy public funding of institutions that enlighten and educate, all under the disingenuous banner of “protecting children.”

Missouri’s library debacle isn’t an isolated incident. Patmos Library in Jamestown, Michigan, lost its public funding last November after it refused to ban books that conservative voters deemed objectionable.

Louisiana Republicans are also advancing a state bill that threatens library funding over material deemed objectionable.

And Texas Republicans voted to cut library funding in retaliation for “drag queen story hour” readings, again claiming to do so in order to protect children from being exposed to men and gender-nonconforming individuals wearing makeup and dresses with pride.

A Vox analysis of libraries under attack explained the disturbing trend: “Usually, lawmakers start with book bans. If the bans aren’t as effective as they’d hope, they escalate to threatening to defund local libraries.”

U.S. libraries have long been institutions embodying freedom: the freedom to learn, and to do so anonymously, without regard to one’s financial status. When Congress rushed through the USA PATRIOT Act in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, librarians were among the first to counter the anti-democratic law, refusing to spy on their users for the government. They stood up to the federal government and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation. One Connecticut librarian named Peter Chase, who was bound by a government gag order over a requirement to turn over records, said, “As a librarian, I believe it is my duty and responsibility to speak out about any infringement to the intellectual freedom of library patrons.”

Libraries offer free use of computers and free internet service, an especially important service for people living in low-income neighborhoods, rural areas, and tribal communities. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns forced children out of classrooms, many libraries created community hot spots and enabled Wi-Fi access in their parking lots so that kids without home internet could connect remotely with their classrooms.

Libraries do so much more than lend books. They offer passport services, help with job applications and school research, and provide low-cost or free spaces for community events. They promote local authors and participate in city-wide reading programs and book clubs. A 2021 California report on libraries in the state concluded that “Through digital labs, makerspaces, career centers and business resources, memory labs, public programs, community partnerships, and online resources, public libraries help communities explore, learn, connect, and have fun beyond their traditional ‘library’ brand.”

When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ran for president in the 2016 election, he cited public funding of libraries as an example of democratic socialism in action, and libraries as “socialist institutions.”

Indeed, these socialist institutions are hugely popular. A Gallup poll of leisure activities conducted every 10 years found in 2019 that going to the library was “the most common cultural activity Americans engage in,” even more so than going to the movie theater. Libraries were far more popular among women than men, and low-income residents were far more likely to use their local library’s services than their higher-income neighbors.

In Michigan, where several libraries are dealing with book bans and where Patmos Library in Jamestown faced defunding, a March 2023 poll found broad support among the public, across party lines and political affiliations, to support libraries and the free dissemination of information.

These days it seems as though any public institution that actually helps and protects Americans is ripe for Republican-led destruction. It’s no wonder that conservatives are taking aim at this pillar of American democracy, deeming libraries “bastions of Marxism,” and “woke” purveyors of material that encourages racial justice and questions sexual orthodoxy. Not only have hundreds of books been banned across the country, but Republicans, like the ones in Missouri, are threatening librarians across the nation with fines and imprisonment. The Washington Post in a May 2023 analysis found that “[a]t least seven states have passed such laws in the last two years.”

Unlike police, who routinely kill and maim Americans, and who rightfully deserve to be targeted with defunding, and unlike gun manufacturers whose weapons continue to wreak constant violence and death across the country, librarians are the ones protecting and serving the public and its right to access information freely. But the GOP prefers to protect police and weapons makers while attacking librarians.

One New Jersey high school librarian named Martha Hickson was shocked to face unfounded accusations from a conservative of being “a pedophile, a pornographer, and a groomer of children,” during a heated debate over a book ban.

It turns out that not only do Republicans have a deep disdain for librarians, but also for children, the purported focus of their vociferous concerns.

Setting aside the GOP’s failure to protect children from mass shooters, Republican lawmakers have often shielded sexual predators. Pennsylvania Republicans refused to hold the church accountable for years of sexual abuse of children. Dozens of House Republicans refused to vote for the Respect for Child Survivors Act, a bill that would have protected child victims of sexual abuse. And Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert even praised a pastor friend and read his sermon on the House floor—a pastor who was a convicted child sexual abuser.

In fact, Daily Kos has a forum where readers submit news reports of “Republican Sexual Predators, Abusers, and Enablers.” The list is shockingly long.

Indeed, we should not be surprised to find out then that a Kansas City right-wing activist named Ryan Utterback, who pushed for Missouri’s book ban on the basis of protecting kids from LGBT-themed books, turned out to be an accused sexual predator. Utterback faces a felony charge of second-degree child sexual molestation.

In the battle over who really protects our children—librarians or Republicans—librarians are the ones who belong in our good books.

Author Bio: Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

Moms of Liberty says it knows liberal groups are spying because it has its own moles: report

The Colorado Moms for Liberty organization has complained about liberal activists "infiltrating" its private group, and has reportedly said it learned about the clandestine activities via its own moles.

Claims of spies infiltrating political groups are bubbling to the surface for the Moms for Liberty group, which launched to focus on fightingmask mandates in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic before growing to oppose LGBTQ-inclusive policies in schools and other diversity initiatives. In Colorado, opponents are starting to take actions to fight the group's influence, according to CNN.

"'I just got back from forcibly re-closeting myself for 90 minutes to infiltrate a Moms for Liberty meeting. … I got so much juice!' a TikTok user who goes by Morgan Howls said in a video," the news network reported. "The video is one of many on social media made by parents who say they’ve 'infiltrated' the group and give details of its strategy to others who do not support its politics."

CNN said it experienced this activity first hand when it covered a local event, and a Moms for Liberty leader admitted to finding out about spies through its own spies.

"When CNN traveled to Colorado earlier this month to observe a lunch meeting held by the El Paso County chapter of Moms for Liberty, chapter chair Darcy Schoening cautioned that some opponents might show up. It had happened before. Schoening knew there were liberal parents lurking in her chapter’s private Facebook group, because her group had some moles in the liberals’ Facebook group," CNN reported.

"We all know what’s going on. I don’t even know why we keep stuff private," Schoening said, according to CNN.

The network said that, while it was covering a meeting, one of the opponents of Moms for Liberty reached out.

"As CNN filmed the meeting, a woman sitting in the back passed the crew a handwritten note: 'We have the other side of this story. This is a hate group.' This time, the opponents were being covert, not overt," the report says.

You can read it here.

New analysis explains how school gun violence is plaguing America’s youth

A new analysis is highlighting how school gun violence is impacting America's younger generations. The analysis, published by Axios, sheds light on statistics from the K-12 School Shooting Database.

"The stunning rise in gun violence on school property is reshaping the daily lives of America's youngest generation, putting children at the center of a previously unthinkable number of life-or-death moments," the report emphasizes.

READ MORE: 'It's worth it': Charlie Kirk calls school shootings 'a prudent deal' to protect the Second Amendment

Speaking to Axios, Sarah Burd-Sharps — a senior research director at Everytown — explained the severity of American gun violence involving children.

"The threat of gun violence has become a constant in children's lives in this country and we're seeing the impact of it," she said.

Per the news outlet, "273 people were killed or wounded on school grounds from 303 gun-related incidents last year alone — both record highs, according to the database."

The report also discusses safety measures in place in schools across the country. Approximately 98% of schools have reported conducting safety drills for lockdowns while 96% conduct drills in the event of an active shooter.

READ MORE: 'How is this still happening?' Mass shooting survivor hijacks news conference to plea for gun control

While research shows these measures are effective preventative measures, Burds-Sharps explained how they may be slightly counterproductive as they could interrupt classtime.

"At nine o'clock [students] have to hide in the bathroom for long periods of time and be silent and then at 10 o'clock, they need to learn math," she said. "It's not a recipe for America's schoolchildren to learn and to achieve in school and to be able to focus and to concentrate."

READ MORE: 'Kids are still in body bags': students protest Tennessee House GOP for refusing to address gun violence

Axios' full report is available at this link.

'I am so thrilled': University of California advances 'controversial' plan to employ undocumented students

The University of California regents voted Thursday to work towards establishing a plan toward an employment program for undocumented students, Politico reports.

Per Los Angeles Times, the public university system's intent is to "challenge a 1986 federal law" — which bans "the hiring of immigrants without legal status" — under the argument "that it does not apply to states."

The plan, according to the publication, is to coordinate a "working group to examine that legal issue, along with practical considerations about how to roll out what is sure to be a controversial policy."

READ MORE: Senate votes to end President Biden resolution making it harder for immigrants 'to obtain legal status'


The prestigious university system of nearly 295,000 students already provides legal advice, financial aid and counseling to undocumented students. California’s Democratic-led Legislature has passed a series of laws since 2001 extending in-state tuition to more undocumented students and making it easier for them to apply for state financial aid, in sharp contrast to Republican-led states.The latest move by a higher education system with international visibility could be emulated by other universities that market themselves as immigration sanctuaries.

Regent José Hernández said the regents leadership "identifies UC as a progressive leader in the higher education system," adding it is his "hope that other states, other education entities will soon follow with us."

Board Chair Richard Leib added, "I want to do the best we can for our students, but I also realized that it does take time. We have to go through and analyze and talk to everybody, and make sure we're doing this the right way, so we have the best case forward."

LA Timesreports:

The groundbreaking move would reshape the lives of thousands of young people who were brought to the country without papers as children and have lived precariously without legal access to jobs, research positions and career opportunities. California is home to about 1 in 5 of the nation's college students without legal authorization.

READ MORE: Neither 'compassion' nor 'leadership': Greg Abbott blasted for calling shooting victims 'illegal immigrants'

"This is a historic win for the immigrant rights movement that UC has agreed that undocumented students should have equal access, that we should have a seat at the table," UCLA public policy graduate student, Karely Amaya, toldLA Times, which noted she was "brought illegally from Mexico at age 2," and "lost out on a campus job that would have given her financial stability and research opportunities because of her status."

Amaya added, "I am so thrilled."

According to LA Times, the regents expect the working group's proposal tol be finalized by November.

READ MORE: Texas border Republican accuses GOP of using immigration crisis for political gain

Politico's full report is available at this link. Los Angeles Times' report is here (subscription required).

'A very frightening period': MAGA Republicans threaten librarians with prison time

In the Netherlands and other European democracies, comprehensive sex education starts at an early age. Dutch officials reason that the more youths know about sex, the more likely they are to avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

But in the United States, the Religious Right has a radically different viewpoint. Far-right white evangelical Christians who oppose abortion often oppose any time of sex education.

According to the Washington Post's Hannah Natanson, MAGA Republicans in state legislatures have been pushing bills threatening librarians with either heavy fines or prison time if they give minors a book they consider "obscene." And material doesn't have to be explicit to fit the Religious Right's definition of obscenity.

READ MORE: 'Flag-waving' liberal Norman Lear, now 100, warns against the 'threat of authoritarianism' America faces

In an article published on May 18, Natanson reports that "at least seven states" in the U.S. have, in the "last two years," passed laws that "permit criminal prosecution of school and library personnel" for "providing sexually explicit, obscene or 'harmful' books to children."

According to Natanson, "Another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills this year, half of which are likely to come up again in 2024, The Post found. Some of the laws impose severe penalties on librarians, who until now, were exempted in almost every state from prosecution over obscene material — a carve-out meant to permit accurate lessons in topics such as sex education. All but one of the new laws target schools, while some also target the staff of public libraries and one affects book vendors."

The Religious Right movement, led by far-right evangelicals like the Rev. Pat Robertson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr., has been a major influence in the GOP since President Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign. But Keith Gambill, a teachers union president in Indiana, believes that Religious Right-inspired bills and laws of the last few years have been especially bad.

Gambill told the Post, "This is my 37th year in education. I've never seen anything like this.… We are entering a very frightening period."

READ MORE: Principal orders librarian to take down Holocaust survivor’s famous quote

Natanson notes that school librarians in Indiana have "begun removing books that deal with LGBTQ issues, sex, race and violence" in order to avoid legal problems.

"All 50 states maintain obscenity laws, which typically prohibit the distribution of obscene material to minors and impose heavy fines and prison sentences for violations," the reporter explains. "But the vast majority adopted exemptions for schools, public libraries and museums in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to ensure educators could provide full information to children on topics such as biology, health and sex education without facing expensive litigation, according to a research report from the advocacy group EveryLibrary."

John Chrastka, EveryLibrary's executive director, told the Post, "We are, as a country, at a very broken place right now. We have a fundamental break in trust between some groups of society and the educational system."

READ MORE: Missouri Dem. lawmaker blasts state GOP for 'dystopian future' proposal to defund public libraries

The Washington Post's full report is availableat this link (subscription required).

Right-wing hosts call teachers 'groomers' for showing kids a 'diverse collection' of books and movies

Conservative podcast hosts are lambasting teachers across the nation for their efforts to expose students to diverse and inclusive educational resources.

Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire and Steven Crowder of Louder with Crowder on Wednesday both called educators who allow their students to explore an array of books — some of which include LGBTQ+ characters — "groomers."

According to TODAY, veteran Illinois middle school teacher Sarah Bonner was hit with police report against her "for child endangerment," after hosting a "book tasting" for her students in March.

READ MORE: 'Assault on freedom': Critics blast expansion of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law

The "diverse collection of books" Bonner shared with the middle schoolers included "This Book is Gay." by Juno Dawson, a bestselling nonfiction book "that's billed by its publisher as an entertaining and informative 'instruction manual' for anyone coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans."

Bonner told TODAY, "I wanted to give them a smattering of fiction and nonfiction to choose from on a day that we call 'Reading Monday,' adding, "We just read and celebrate books."

Conservative Daily Wire host Matt Walsh took to The Matt Walsh Showto lambaste Bonner, calling her a "groomer" for exposing her students to a diverse array of books.

"So, according to this groomer teacher, the only way to treat the LGBTQ community equally is to sexualize and groom children. But you notice something else, that there is no heterosexual person demanding this sort of thing on the other side. Okay? We're not asking for classrooms to provide graphic descriptions of straight sex or how-to manuals on the subject. We're not asking for that," Walsh said.

READ MORE: Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill author facing up to 35 years in prison

Walsh continued, "LGBT activists claim that exposing children to pornographic content is the only way to ensure inclusion and equality. But inclusion in what? Equal in what way?" the conservative host asked.

"What we want is for all sexual instruction to be removed from the classroom completely. Kids do not go to government educational facilities to learn how to have sex. Or, at least, that's not why they should be there. Human reproduction should be covered in biology class at the appropriate age. But aside from that, none of this stuff should come up. As I've said before, I don't even want abstinence taught in the schools. I'm not advocating for an abstinence only sex ed education because -- now, that would certainly be much better, that'd be a much better alternative to the left's preferred strategy of instructing children on the fine details of every sort of depraved fetish. But it still would not be ideal, because the most ideal scenario is that the schools teach neither how to have sex or how to not have it. Okay? I don't want any of the how to's. These are not appropriate or relevant conversations for adults to be having with rooms full of children."

Similarly to Walsh, Crowder accused some teachers of being "groomers," saying, "Look, I get that people have different sexual proclivities. Okay? Some people like the sexy sexy flight attendant outfit, some people like the sexy nurse outfit. It's fine, different flavors. But not when it is an irrefutably damaging, perverted sexual activity that does not need to be implanted into young kids' minds. Let me tell you why, I'm gonna tell you exactly why they do that, because they go to fisting, then anything else is backed off a little bit. That's called grooming. And by the way, you are not alone in being furious about this, but more importantly, these teachers are not alone. Many Democrats believe that your kids -- this is the fundamental underlying issue -- your own children are not yours."

READ MORE: 'Culture war issues' are human rights matters worth defending

He continued, "This is grooming children. This is hyper-sexualizing a -- someone doesn't need to be an active child rapist to be grooming children. They just have to believe two things - number one, that they know better than you, and number two, you have no rights to your own children when they are not in your presence for that period of time. And number three, that these hyper-sexualized issues should be introduced to children, whether they're engaging in them or not."

Regarding Walsh and Crowder's shared opinion, The Washington Postreports:

The argument draws on previous tactics adopted by the right to oppose the erosion of traditional gender roles at moments of societal transition, experts say. They point out that, while groomer rhetoric seems designed to appeal to fringe partisans, it is part of a conservative effort to foster a moral panic that will help limit how and what educators teach — by restricting history lessons, banning books, and curbing discussions of systemic racism and LGBTQ issues.

Additionally, CNN reports, this week Florida fifth grade teacher Jenna Barbee recently showed the Disney movie "Strange World" — which includes a gay character — to her students, not realizing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' restrictive Don't Say Gay bill applied to her class.

Per CNN, Shannon Rodriguez, a parent and member of the Hernando County School District Board reported Barbee to school administration saying the teacher "should have gotten the specific movie approved by school administration and said the teacher is 'playing the victim.'"

READ MORE: 'It’s baffling': Anti-LGBTQ Oklahoma GOP governor's veto of bill will snatch PBS’ funding

Similarly, Rodriguez said at a school board meeting earlier this month, "It is not a teacher's job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms."

However, Barbee told CNN, "These students are talking about things way beyond this (movie). "This door that she's talking about, it's been open. These are common conversations that I have to tell my students, 'Woah there. We're getting a little too much here.'"

Furthermore, according to The Post, "learning about what it means to be gay or transgender can help children understand how to treat those different from them, curtailing bullying down the road," as "lesbian, gay and bisexual teens reported being bullied at twice the rate of their straight peers and were three times as likely to contemplate suicide, according to a 2019 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Christine Soyong Harley, president and chief executive of SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, told the publication, "We can introduce the fact that there are families that look like theirs, and there's families that don't look like theirs. It just gives them the ability to understand difference of families."

READ MORE: 'It was Russia first': GOP 'Don't Say Gay' laws plucked straight out of Vladimir Putin's 'playbook'

Watch the videos below via Media Mattersfor America or at this link.

TODAY's report is here. CNN's report is here. The Washington Post's report is available at this link (subscription required).

'How is this more appropriate?' Parent baffled after school assigns 'Hunger Games' to fifth-grader

Many of the heated debates over reading material for K-12 schools have occurred in red states, where MAGA Republicans have raged against "critical race theory" and books they consider "woke" — which could be anything from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" to Alice Walker's "The Color Purple."

But in Solona Beach, California, a different type of parent/teacher debate recently took place: one involving Stephen King's 1981 horror novel "Cujo" and Suzanne Collins' series of dystopian novels "The Hunger Games."

Solona Beach parent Kaia Alexander's 11-year-old son Atticus is a student at Skyline Elementary School, where a teacher objected when he brought a copy of "Cujo." The teacher was disturbed by a description of "Cujo" as a book that "depicts pretty graphic violence, and has fairly explicit sexual acts."

READ MORE: 'Fear is not freedom': Centenarian shreds Florida book bans as Nazi behavior

Kaia Alexander, according to an article published by the Daily Beast published on May 17, had asked her son not to bring "Cujo" to school and suspended his phone privileges for disobeying her. But she found it bizarre that his teacher chose "The Hunger Games" as a replacement.

The mother told the Daily Beast, "(Atticus) said: Look! She took away 'Cujo' and gave me 'Hunger Games.' He couldn’t believe it. He was laughing…. How is this more appropriate? This is a book about children murdering children."

After tweeting about the incident, Kaia Alexander found that King had a lot of admirers on social media.

Atticus' mother, who named her son after the Atticus Finch character in the 1960 novel/1962 movie "To Kill a Mockingbird," told the Beast, "Obviously, Stephen King is a national treasure. I'm thrilled my son discovered his books and the love of reading at this age. And I'll proudly continue to provide Atticus with any books he wants to read, and we'll discuss the themes and situations from the pages together. I think there's no better place to learn about adult issues and what it is to be human than from books."

READ MORE: How a right-wing scholar is firing up the GOP's anti-CRT obsession: report

Find The Daily Beast's entire report at this link (subscription required).

Food insecurity now affects almost one-third of US college students: report

U.S. consumers were complaining about the high cost of groceries long before the COVID-19 pandemic and the inflation that came with it, especially when it came to healthier foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables that help people live longer, activists argued, shouldn't be cost-prohibitive.

But the inflation of 2021 and 2022 made groceries even more expensive — so expensive that, according to The Guardian's Jessica Fu, almost one-third of U.S.-based college students are now facing food insecurity.

That figure comes from the Hope Center at Temple University in Philadelphia. The Center surveyed more than 195,000 college students in the United States and found that almost one-third of them had experienced food insecurity. Among students at two-year colleges, according to Hope, the number was as high as 40 percent.

READ MORE: Big food raking in massive profits from price hikes while Americans go hungry

Food pantries, Fu reports, have become an "increasingly popular resource" among college students. A May 2022 report by the Trellis Company found that the number of campus food pantries in the U.S. has grown to around 800.

One of the students using a food pantry is Anthony Meng, a senior at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"I don't think I can afford groceries," Meng told The Guardian. "Which is difficult to say at times, but it's the reality of the situation."

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson began tackling food insecurity in the early 1960s with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While technology has undoubtedly changed since then, the idea remains the same: relief from food insecurity and hunger.

READ MORE: 'Pro-life but not pro-kids-deserve-food': Minnesota Republican excoriated for denying that hunger exists

Wu notes, however, that "despite high rates of hunger," U.S. students "face an uphill battle when trying to access" SNAP benefits."Since the 1980s," according to Wu, "people who attend school on a more than part-time basis have been largely excluded from SNAP, out of concern that students from well-to-do backgrounds would draw public resources instead of assistance from their families. So, instead of qualifying for SNAP based on asset and income requirements — as the majority of Americans do — college students also need to work at least 20 hours a week, a requirement that anti-hunger advocates say is onerous and unreasonable for someone who is attending classes and doing school work every day."

READ MORE: How it feels to be hungry and why food should be a basic right

The Guardian's report is available in its entirety at this link.

'How employable are you?' Ron DeSantis insults students eyeing 'niche subjects' he wants to ban

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is touting his support for legislation that was proposed in February which Higher Ed Dive explained at the time "would upend some of the longest standing conventions of American higher education and introduce an unprecedented degree of state control, like forcing institutions to abandon gender studies programs."

House Bill 999 would "ban state colleges and universities from using funds to 'promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that espouse diversity, equity, or inclusion [DEI] or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.' The bill would also give the state's board of governors the ability to remove 'any major or minor that is based on or otherwise utilizes pedagogical methodology associated with Critical Theory,'" CBS News added.

In a speech after he signed the bill on Monday, DeSantis urged prospective college students to leave the Sunshine State to pursue the degrees that he abhors and then warned them that if they do, they will struggle to find a job.

READ MORE: 'Pretty big crowd': DeSantis out-stumps Trump in Iowa

"If you want to do things like gender ideology go to Berkeley. Go to some of these other places. That's fine. It's fine," DeSantis said to cheers.

"And there's nothing — if that's what you wanna do there's, there's nothing wrong with that, uh, per se — but for us, with our tax dollars, we wanna focus on the classical mission of what a university is supposed to be. We don't want to be diverted into a lot of these niche subjects that are heavily politicized," DeSantis continued.

"We want to focus on the basics and I think what you've seen as these types of majors and courses. First of all, how, how employable are you with some of these majors? I mean, really it's, um, it's not a good, uh, academic, uh, uh, choice in terms of being able to be employable," DeSantis declared. "That's one of the reasons I think this whole student loan thing, universities should be on the hook for the student loans. If that were the case, they would make sure that their curriculum was really fit to be productive for the students when they graduate."

Watch DeSantis below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Ron DeSantis offers white nationalism for the country club crowd': former GOP congressman

Higher Ed Dive's report continues here. CBS News' is here.

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