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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Ohio officer kills 20-year-old Black man seconds after opening his bedroom door

Ohio officer kills 20-year-old Black man seconds after opening his bedroom door

"Donovan Lewis was pronounced dead at the hospital after Columbus police shot at him in his own bed

Close-up of a police officer's waist belt
The officer shot Donovan Lewis within a second of opening his bedroom door. Photograph: Jim West/Alamy

A police officer in Ohio fatally shot a Black man within a second of opening his bedroom door early Tuesday morning as the officer was attempting to serve him an arrest warrant.

The killing was captured on police body camera. The man was not armed and was identified by authorities as 20-year-old Donovan Lewis, who was killed by Ricky Anderson, a Columbus police officer with decades of experience.

According to court records reviewed by TV channel NBC4, Donovan was being served an arrest warrant on charges of improperly handling a firearm, assault and domestic violence.

In the body cam footage aired by NBC4, police officers were shown knocking on an apartment door for 8-10min before being met by a man who opened the door. Upon entering the apartment, officers found another man and detained them both.

The officers then released a police dog which trotted around into the kitchen then barked at a bedroom door. Anderson held the dog back before opening the door and then immediately fired his gun into the bedroom as Lewis sat up in bed.

In a frame-by-frame breakdown of the video, police chief Elaine Bryant said that Anderson fired the gun when Lewis appeared to raise his hand while holding onto something.

“There was, like, a vape pen that was found on the bed right next to him,” Bryant said.

Lewis was transported to a hospital after treatment on the scene and later pronounced dead.

“Donovan Lewis lost his life,” Bryant said in a press conference. “As a parent, I sympathize and grieve with his mother. As a community, I grieve with our community, but we’re going to allow this investigation to take place.”

She added: “We are committed to full transparency … and we’re committed to holding officers accountable if there was any wrongdoing. As the chief, it is my job to hold officers accountable, but it is also my job to offer them support … through the process.”

The investigation has been taken over by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation."

Ohio officer kills 20-year-old Black man seconds after opening his bedroom door 

Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them, Filing Suggests


Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them, Filing Suggests

"The filing by the Justice Department paints the clearest picture to date of its efforts to retrieve documents from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

The Justice Department included a photo of documents seized from former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home in its court filing.
Department of Justice

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sought a search warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s residence in Florida after obtaining evidence that highly classified documents were likely concealed and that Mr. Trump’s representatives had falsely claimed all sensitive material had been returned, according to a court filing by the department on Tuesday.

The filing came in response to Mr. Trump’s request for an independent review of materials seized from his home, Mar-a-Lago. But it went far beyond that, painting the clearest picture yet of the department’s efforts to retrieve the documents before taking the extraordinary step of searching a former president’s private property on Aug. 8.

Among the new disclosures in the 36-page filing was that the search yielded three classified documents in desks inside Mr. Trump’s office, with more than 100 documents in 13 boxes or containers with classification markings in the residence, including some at the most restrictive levels.

That was twice the number of classified documents the former president’s lawyers turned over voluntarily while swearing an oath that they had returned all the material demanded by the government.

The investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention of government documents began as a relatively straightforward attempt to recover materials that officials with the National Archives had spent much of 2021 trying to retrieve. The filing on Tuesday made clear that prosecutors are now unmistakably focused on the possibility that Mr. Trump and those around him took criminal steps to obstruct their investigation.

Investigators developed evidence that “government records were likely concealed and removed” from the storage room at Mar-a-Lago after the Justice Department sent Mr. Trump’s office a subpoena for any remaining documents with classified markings. That led prosecutors to conclude that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the government filing said.

Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them, Filing Suggests

The filing included one striking visual aid: a photograph of at least five yellow folders recovered from Mr. Trump’s resort and residence marked “Top Secret” and another red one labeled “Secret.”

But department officials are not expected to file charges imminently, if they ever do. And the specific contents of the materials the government recovered in the search remain unclear — as does what risk to national security Mr. Trump’s decision to retain the materials posed.

While the filing provided important new information about the timeline of the investigation, much of the information was mentioned, in less detail, in the affidavit used to obtain the warrant, which a federal magistrate judge unsealed last week.

Among the most crucial disclosures were those concerning the actions of Mr. Trump’s legal team and whether they had misled Justice Department officials and the F.B.I.

The Justice Department effort began in May, after the F.B.I. examined 15 boxes of documents the National Archives had previously retrieved from Mar-a-Lago after months of asking Mr. Trump’s representatives to return missing records. The bureau found 184 classified documents in that initial batch.

On May 11, department lawyers obtained a subpoena to retrieve all materials marked as classified that were not turned over by the former president.

On June 3, his team presented F.B.I. agents with 38 additional documents with classified markings, including 17 labeled top secret.

But one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers present during that visit “explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained,” the filing said. 

Mr. Trump’s team also provided the department’s national security division with a written statement on behalf of his office by one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers who was serving as the formal “custodian” of the files. While that person’s name has been redacted in government filings, multiple people have identified her as Christina Bobb.

Ms. Bobb’s statement was attached to the department’s filing on Tuesday. In it, the lawyer wrote that “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” there had been a “diligent” search and all documents responsive to the subpoena were being returned.

But law enforcement officials soon developed evidence that statement was untrue.

The F.B.I. “uncovered multiple sources of evidence indicating that the response to the May 11 grand jury subpoena was incomplete and that classified documents remained at the premises, notwithstanding the sworn certification made to the government on June 3,” the Justice Department filing said. “In particular, the government developed evidence that a search limited to the storage room would not have uncovered all the classified documents at the premises.”

The Justice Department obtained at least one more subpoena, for security camera footage from inside Mar-a-Lago, and the search warrant affidavit revealed that it had been working with multiple civilian witnesses. The result was the search warrant carried out on Aug. 8.

The filing noted that “the F.B.I., in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform,” a fact that it said “calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”

Since the search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump has claimed he had declassified all of the documents there, and his request for the appointment of an independent arbiter known as a special master to review the trove of materials seized by the F.B.I. centered on a claim that some of the documents were protected by executive privilege. But prosecutors rejected that argument and said Mr. Trump’s lawyers “never asserted that the former president had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege.”

Tuesday’s filing, which was released minutes before a midnight deadline imposed by a federal judge, accompanied a sealed list of the documents, many of them highly classified, that Mr. Trump retained at Mar-a-Lago. That inventory, filed earlier in the day, is likely to be far more detailed than the brief list included in the search warrant unsealed at the request of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

The department, inundated by a torrent of misinformation and vitriol unleashed on federal law enforcement officials by Mr. Trump and his supporters, has been using legal filings, rather than social media or public comments, to disclose the evidence and legal reasoning behind its actions. On Monday, prosecutors sought permission to extend the length of their response beyond the limit normally set by the federal court, a request that was quickly granted.

Mr. Trump’s legal team, which has at times been slow to respond to the government’s actions since the search, waited weeks to even file its request for a special master, which was intended to halt the examination of the documents. The delay allowed the government to complete its initial assessment of the material — potentially rendering the request moot.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department argued that a special master was “unnecessary and would significantly harm important governmental interests, including national security interests.”

It also argued that the judge lacked jurisdiction over the matter and that Mr. Trump “lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight as to presidential records because those records do not belong to him.”

Over the years, Mr. Trump has frequently taken legal steps simply to delay and disrupt efforts by opponents. If the court in this case were to temporarily block investigators’ access to the evidence taken in the search, it could hinder the separate effort to determine the national security risks posed by his possession of the documents, though it would not affect the assessment of the documents that Mr. Trump turned over in January and June.

The Trump appointee hearing the request, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, has signaled that she was inclined to appoint a special master but wanted to first hear from the Justice Department.

On Monday, the government said it had set aside materials that could potentially be covered by attorney-client privilege, although Mr. Trump’s lawsuit had raised executive privilege, a different issue. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The department’s decision to use a court filing as a vehicle to provide a more extensive explanation of the government’s actions — and to counter Mr. Trump’s legal claims — evolved over the last few days, and lawyers wrangled over small details until moments before it was filed, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Garland, they said, remains deeply wary of speaking too much, cautioned by the example of James B. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I. whose high-profile pronouncements during investigations into Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton were regarded as an egregious violation of departmental policy norms.

But after the Mar-a-Lago search, the department’s senior leaders quickly realized that Mr. Trump would otherwise seize on their silence with distorted claims.

So they have chosen the traditional path, using public filings to make their case — leavening the dense legal passages with explanations aimed at being more accessible to the public, officials said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Garland took another step geared at emphasizing his impartiality and fairness, imposing new restrictions on partisan activity by political appointees at the Justice Department, a policy change that comes before the midterm elections. The new rules prohibit employees who are appointed to serve for the duration of a presidential administration from attending rallies for candidates or fund-raising events, even as passive observers.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has dismissed concerns about the performance of his legal team, and told associates that he will ultimately prevail, just as he “won” by avoiding conviction in his two impeachment trials and in avoiding being charged in the investigation into his ties with Russia conducted by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

On Tuesday, hours before the government filed its paperwork, Mr. Trump added a member to his legal team to focus on the trouble brewing in Florida, Christopher M. Kise, the state’s former solicitor general and an associate of Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to two people familiar with the situation."

Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them, Filing Suggests

U.S. Life Expectancy Falls Again in ‘Historic’ Setback


U.S. Life Expectancy Falls Again in ‘Historic’ Setback

"The decline during the pandemic is the sharpest in nearly 100 years, hitting Native American and Alaska Native communities particularly hard.

A patient who died of Covid was removed from an I.C.U. in Cleveland, Ohio.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The average life expectancy of Americans fell precipitously in 2020 and 2021, the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years and a stark reminder of the toll exacted on the nation by the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, the average American could expect to live until the age of 76, federal health researchers reported on Wednesday. The figure represents a loss of almost three years since 2019, when Americans could expect to live, on average, nearly 79 years.

The reduction has been particularly steep among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. Average life expectancy in those groups was shortened by four years in 2020 alone.

The cumulative decline since the pandemic started, more than six and a half years on average, has brought life expectancy to 65 among Native Americans and Alaska Natives — on par with the figure for all Americans in 1944.

U.S. Life Expectancy by Race

In 2021, the shortening of life span was more pronounced among white Americans than among Black Americans, who saw greater reductions in the first year of the pandemic.

While the pandemic has driven most of the decline in life expectancy, a rise in accidental deaths and drug overdoses also contributed, as did deaths from heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, the new report found.

Until now, experts have been accustomed to measuring life expectancy changes in increments of months, not years.

“Even small declines in life expectancy of a tenth or two-tenths of a year mean that on a population level, a lot more people are dying prematurely than they really should be,” said Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the N.C.H.S.

“This signals a huge impact on the population in terms of increased mortality,” he added.

Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, characterized the diminution of life expectancy in the United States as “historic.”

While other high-income countries were also hard hit in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, most had begun to recover by last year, he said.

“None of them experienced a continuing fall in life expectancy like the U.S. did, and a good number of them saw life expectancy start inching back to normal,” Dr. Woolf said.

Those countries had more successful vaccination campaigns and populations that were more willing to take behavioral measures to prevent infections, such as wearing masks, he said, adding: “The U.S. is clearly an outlier.”

A candle vigil held last year in Gilbert, Ariz., for people who died of overdoses.
Alberto Mariani/Cronkite News, via Associated Press

But the coronavirus was not solely to blame. Longstanding health problems — rooted in poverty, discrimination and poor access to health care — left Native Americans and Alaska Natives particularly vulnerable to the virus, said Dr. Ann Bullock, former director of diabetes treatment and prevention at the federal Indian Health Service agency and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

One in seven Native Americans and Alaska Natives has diabetes, the highest rate among racial or ethnic groups in the United States, and many struggle with obesity or excess weight. Both conditions make people more susceptible to severe Covid-19, and crowded multigenerational housing adds to the risk.

“There is no doubt Covid was a contributor to the increase in mortality during the last couple of years, but it didn’t start these problems — it made everything that much worse,” Dr. Bullock said.

Average life expectancy in these populations is now “lower than that of every country in the Americas except Haiti, which is astounding,” said Noreen Goldman, professor of demography and public affairs at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

The continued plunge was all the more upsetting because it occurred after a successful vaccination campaign, she said, adding: “The Native American population did quite well in the vaccination efforts, and that made us feel that 2021 would not be as devastating as 2020.”

“That was wrong, and it’s pretty hard to swallow,” she added.

White Americans saw the second-largest decline in average life expectancy in 2021, a drop of one year, to 76.4 in 2021 from 77.4 in 2020. The decline was steeper than that among Black Americans, at seven-tenths of a year. That was followed by Hispanic Americans, whose life expectancy dropped only two-tenths of a year in 2021.

But both Black and Hispanic Americans were hit hard in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Average life expectancy for Hispanic Americans fell by four years, to 77.9 from 81.9 in 2019. The figure for Black Americans declined almost as much, by more than three years to 71.5 years in 2020.

White Americans experienced the smallest decline during the first year of the pandemic, a drop of 1.4 years to 77.4 from 78.8. For white and Black Americans, life expectancy is now the lowest it has been since 1995, federal researchers said.

Asian Americans held the highest life expectancy among racial and ethnic groups included in the new analysis: 83.5 years, on average. The figure fell only slightly last year, from 83.6 in 2020.

It was the largest reduction in life expectancy in the United States over the course of a two-year period since the early 1920s, when life expectancy fell to 57.2 in 1923. That drop-off may have been related to high unemployment and suicide rates during an earlier recession, as well as a steep increase in mortality among nonwhite men and women.

Although the U.S. health care system is among the best in the world, Americans suffer from what experts have called “the U.S. health disadvantage,” an amalgam of influences that erode well-being, Dr. Woolf said.

These include a fragmented, profit-driven health care system; poor diet and a lack of physical activity; and pervasive risk factors such as smoking, widespread access to guns, poverty and pollution. The problems are compounded for marginalized groups by racism and segregation, he added.

The result is a high disease burden among Americans, and shorter life expectancy compared with that in comparable high-income nations over the last two decades, Dr. Woolf said.

Over a million Americans have died of Covid-19, and more died in 2021 than in 2020 despite the availability of vaccines. To date, only two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated, and only one-third have had a booster shot.

“The white population did worse in 2021 than communities of color, besides Native American and Alaska Natives,” Dr. Woolf said. “I think that’s very telling: It reflects the greater efforts by Black and Hispanics to get vaccinated, to wear masks and take other measures to protect themselves, and the greater tendency in white populations to push back on those behaviors.”

The longevity gap between men and women also grew by a couple of months in 2021. American women can now expect to live 79.1 years, almost six years longer than men, whose average life expectancy was 73.2 last year, according to the new data.

The longevity gap between the sexes has been increasing for more than a decade, after narrowing between 2000 and 2010 to about five years."

U.S. Life Expectancy Falls Again in ‘Historic’ Setback

The First A.P. African American Studies Class Is Coming This Fall

The First A.P. African American Studies Class Is Coming This Fall

“The new course will undergo a pilot program in 60 schools, as the debate over how to teach history becomes ever more divisive.

The new A.P. course in African-American studies will include the civil rights movement.  Here,  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leads marchers at the start of a five-day voting-rights march to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.
Associated Press

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The College Board is jumping into the fray over how to teach the history of race in the United States with a new Advanced Placement course and exam on African American studies that will be tried out in about 60 high schools this fall.

The course is multidisciplinary, addressing not just history but civil rights, politics, literature, the arts, even geography. If the pilot program pans out, it will be the first course in African American studies for high school students that is considered rigorous enough to allow students to receive credit and advanced placement at many colleges across the country.

The plan for an Advanced Placement course is a significant step in acknowledging the field of African American studies, more than 50 years after what has been credited as the first Black studies department was started after a student strike at San Francisco State College in 1968, said Henry Louis Gates Jr., a former chair of Harvard’s department of African and African American studies and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

“In the history of any field, in the history of any discipline in the academy, there are always milestones indicating the degree of institutionalization,” said Dr. Gates, who is a consultant to the project along with a colleague, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. “These are milestones which signify the acceptance of a field as being quote-unquote ‘academic’ and quote-unquote ‘legitimate.’”

He likened it to the publication of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, in 1997, and of the African American National Biography, first published in 2008.

The College Board declined to release a sample syllabus or other content for the course, or to name the 60 schools or say what states they were located in.

But Marlon Williams-Clark, a social studies teacher in Florida who is part of the pilot program, said that among the subjects were how African American studies became a field of study at the college level in the 1960s, the strength of early African kingdoms and cultures, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the lives of enslaved people and what they did to resist, and moving toward the Harlem Renaissance, Black power and Black pride, the civil rights movement, Black feminism and intersectionality.

Students will take a pilot exam but will not receive scores or college credit, according to the College Board.

The course comes at a precarious time for the teaching of history, and in particular, Black history, and could clash with the political mood and even with laws in some states.

Across the country this year, 36 states have introduced 137 bills seeking to restrict teaching, mainly on race but also on gender and history, up from 22 states and 54 bills last year, according to a report by PEN America, a free speech group. Most of the bills have been driven by Republican legislators.

Many Republican politicians have made a piñata out of “critical race theory,” an academic theory that examines how racism is embedded in institutions but has become a vaguely defined buzzword among parents and political activists who say that students are being dictated to by teachers who do not share their values.

In Washington last year, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and more than three dozen Republican senators protested a proposed Biden administration rule promoting education programs that address how racism is embedded in society, calling it “divisive nonsense.”

“Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil,” the senators wrote in a letter to the education secretary. In Tennessee, education rules prohibit teaching a long list of “concepts,” including the notion that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”

Eric Welch, a Republican board of education member in Williamson County, Tenn., said that depending on the content, which has not been released, he could have qualms about the proposed AP course. “It would bother me as a school board member to have any course material that was agenda-driven,” he said. He added, “We’re trying to educate, not indoctrinate.”

He said that he didn’t like the state law either, not because of the content, but because it was micromanaging how local schools should teach.

The College Board, which also administers the SAT, said in a statement that the course had been in the works for a decade.

With the caveat that the course is still in development, and that he only plays an advisory role in determining its content, Dr. Gates said that he was “sincerely hoping” that the course would not ignore teaching about controversial subjects, like critical race theory or the 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project, developed by The New York Times, sought to reframe the country’s history by putting the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative. Dr. Gates said that rather than being part of the theoretical framework of the course itself, those topics could be part of a unit “teaching different theories of the African American experience.”

There could, for example, “be a course on Marxist approaches to race,” Dr. Gates said, adding, “and most certainly I would imagine something on critical race theory and maybe something on the 1619 Project.”

He said: “This hypothetical unit would discuss the controversies over different interpretive frameworks used to analyze the history of race in America. I am certainly not advocating employing those theories as interpretive frameworks for the course itself. That’s a big difference.”

If all goes well, the full A.P. course will be available to all high schools that want it in the 2024-25 school year.

Mr. Williams-Clark, the Florida social studies teacher, works in a state that prohibits schools from teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project.

Mr. Williams-Clark, who teaches at Florida State University Schools, a laboratory charter, said he sticks to state standards for history and literature and was not worried about falling afoul of laws that aim to restrict education about race.

“I think people need to understand that critical race theory is not an element of this course,” Mr. Williams-Clark said. “As far as the 1619 Project, this course is not that either. There might be elements that cross over. But this course is a comprehensive, mainstream course about the African American experience.”

As for recent events like the killing of George Floyd by the police and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, he said that while they might not explicitly be in the curriculum, he anticipated that they would come up as students made connections between the past and the present.

Mr. Williams-Clark said he was “surprised and not surprised” that it had taken such a long time after the rise of African American studies departments to establish this course.

“The way I look at it is that often history is told from the perspective of the winner,” he said. “We’re getting to a point in our country’s history where diverse voices are being valued, and that’s what this course does.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.“

Maybe US mainstream media should begin using the term ‘fascism’ | Robert Reich | The Guardian

Maybe US mainstream media should begin using the term ‘fascism’ | Robert Reich

"I’ve been watching the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, for some time. Last Tuesday I tweeted: “Just wondering if ‘DeSantis’ is now officially a synonym for ‘fascist’.”

I was surprised at the outrage my little tweet provoked in rightwing media.

The Washington Examiner, for example, called me an “ultra-leftwing elitist” who wrote an “insulting slur”, which is “what leftwing ideologues do when they discuss Republican politicians who pose any threat to the existence of their political ideology … Anyone the Democrats don’t like or disagree with is a fascist.”

This was among the kindest responses.

After a half-century in and around politics, I’ve got a thick skin. But the size of the blowback on my little tweet makes me think I struck a nerve.

DeSantis is the most likely rival to Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024. The Harvard and Yale educated DeSantis (what do they teach at Harvard and Yale?) has been called “Trump with a brain”.

DeSantis is the nation’s consummate culture warrior. Lately he has been campaigning on behalf of Republican election-deniers around the country, including gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and US Senate candidate JD Vance in Ohio.

In Florida, discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity are now barred in schools. Math textbooks have been rejected for what officials call “indoctrination”. Claiming tenured professors in Florida’s public universities were “indoctrinating” students, DeSantis spearheaded a law requiring them to be reviewed every five years.

Teachers are limited in what they can teach about racism and other tragic aspects of American history. DeSantis has got personally involved in local school board races, endorsing and campaigning for 30 board candidates who agree with him (so far, 20 have won outright, five are going to runoffs).

Abortions are banned after 15 weeks. (DeSantis recently suspended an elected prosecutor who said he would refuse to enforce the anti-abortion law.)

A new state office has been created to investigate “election crimes”.

Florida’s Medicaid regulator is considering denying state-subsidized treatments to transgender people. Its medical board may ban gender-affirming medical treatment for youths.

Disney (Florida’s largest employer) has been stripped of the ability to govern itself in retaliation for the company’s opposition to the crackdown on LGBTQ+ conversations with schoolchildren.

Florida’s congressional map has been redrawn to give Republicans an even bigger advantage.

DeSantis also spews culture-war rhetoric. “We are not going to surrender to woke,” he said last Tuesday. “Florida is the state where woke goes to die.”

He describes an America under assault by leftwing elites, who “want to delegitimize our founding institutions”.

He calls the state of Florida a “citadel of freedom” and says his job as governor is to fight critical race theory, “Faucian dystopia”, uncontrolled immigration, big tech, “leftwing oligarchs”, “Soros-funded prosecutors”, transgender athletes and the “corporate media”.

He charges – using a standard racist dog whistle – that “we’re not letting Florida cities burn down … In Florida, you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist. You are getting the inside of a jail cell.”

So, is it useful to characterize DeSantis’s combination of homophobia, transphobia, racism and misogyny, along with his efforts to control the public schools and universities and to intimidate the private sector (eg, Disney), as redolent of fascism?

America’s mainstream media is by now comfortable talking and writing about “authoritarianism”. Maybe it should also begin using the term “fascism”, where appropriate.

Even Joe Biden, never known as a rhetorical bomb-thrower, last Thursday accused the Republican party of “semi-fascism”.

Authoritarianism implies the absence of democracy, a dictatorship. Fascism – from the Latin fasces, denoting a tightly bound bundle of wooden rods typically including a protruding axe blade, adopted by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s to symbolize his total power – is different.

Fascism also includes hatred of “them” (people considered different by race or religion, or outside the mainstream, or who were born abroad), control over what people learn and what books they are allowed to read, control over what had been independent government units (school boards, medical boards, universities and so on), control over women and the most intimate and difficult decisions they’ll ever make, and demands that the private sector support the regime.

Perhaps my “just wondering” tweet about DeSantis hit the nerve of the fascism now taking root in the Republican party?

Or is DeSantis’s own nascent presidential campaign behind the outsized reaction to my tweet?

After all, if you’re seeking a presidential nomination in today’s GOP, there’s nothing like an accusation of fascism to rally Trump supporters. It might be a particularly useful strategy if your primary opponent in 2024 will be Trump.

Maybe US mainstream media should begin using the term ‘fascism’ | Robert Reich | The Guardian

Opinion | Biden and the Democrats are wasting a chance to rethink U.S. policing - The Washington Post

Opinion Democrats are wasting an opportunity to rethink American policing

President Biden speaks on the campus of Wilkes University on Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
"President Biden speaks on the campus of Wilkes University on Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden and much of the Democratic Party are reembracing a “tough on crime” posture, seeming to believe it’s both good policy and smart electoral politics. But in reality both the electoral and substantive arguments behind it are weak.

Democrats aren’t returning fully to 1990s-style centrism on criminal justice issues, but they are moving in that direction. Over the past year, Biden has both urged cities and states to use American Rescue Plan funding to hire more police officers and repeatedly denounced calls to defund the police, most notably in hisState of the Union address. In Philadelphia on Tuesday, the president touted his new proposal to hire 100,000 additional police officers over the next five years and once again attacked the defund movement.

Meanwhile, centrist House Democrats Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.) are pressing the party to hold votes before November on their bills to increase funding to local police departments. New York Mayor Eric Adamsand new San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins are among the numerous figures in the party pushing for a rollback of bail reforms and other more lenient criminal justice policies. Many Democratic leaders in Minneapolis last year strongly opposed a ballot initiative that would have replaced the city’s police force with a comprehensive public safety department. In San Francisco, prominent Democrats cheered on the recall of reform-minded prosecutor Chesa Boudin.

There are three reasons for this shift.  2020 and 2021 saw big spikes in murders, and the homicide rate in many cities remains higher than before the covid-19 pandemic began. Second, many Democrats, including Biden and Spanberger, have argued that the party didn’t win by as much as it could have in 2020 because it was too closely associated with the defund-the-police rhetoric. Third, criminal justice reforms have been a particular focus of the party’s left wing, so centrist Democrats find that attacking these reforms and their advocates is a useful way to win intraparty power.

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Taking the last reason first: Harming the criminal justice movement to gain advantage in intraparty feuds is petty and counterproductive. But that’s what happening, even if centrist Democrats don’t admit it. The campaign and mayoral tenure of Adams, the recall of Boudin and other political fights in Democratic-dominated cities have featured the same dynamics: centrist Democrats exaggerating the increase in crime, blaming not only the crime surge but also long-standing problems like homelessness and drug abuse on progressive reforms, and implying their left-wing opponents want to immediately and drastically reduce police spending with no plan to keep people safe. It’s fine for centrist Democrats to want to defeat the left. But they should use a strategy that doesn’t involve a misleading portrayal of criminal justice reforms that will end up weakening a much-needed movement.

What if, however, Democrats are moving rightward on criminal justice to win elections and prevent Trumpian Republicans from taking power? That would be morally defensible. But the case for that electoral strategy is thin. Democrats lost the 1994 congressional elections right after passing a major anti-crime bill that included funding for 100,000 more police officers. Democrats won the House, Senate and presidency in 2020 after some of the largest and most police-skeptical protests in U.S. history — protests that were, by the way, a massive mobilizer of younger Americans who then turned out at unusually high numbers in the 2020 presidential election.

And despite what you may have heard, no 2020 Democratic candidate lost by running on defunding the police because the few who invoked that slogan campaigned in heavily liberal areas. The idea that significant numbers of voters who would have backed Democratic candidates in 2020 did not do so because they believed those candidates would defund local police departments has always been far-fetched — especially since Biden and the overwhelming majority of other Democratic politicians explicitly rejected defunding.

Biden and Spanberger might sincerely believe this theory. But it’s also possible what we are seeing is motivated reasoning. Biden, Spanberger and other Democrats who think the party should have done better in 2020 can either blame themselves for their underperformance or they can blame unnamed activists. It’s disappointing but not surprising that they have chosen activist-bashing over self-reflection.

Since 2020, Democrats have spent much of their time emphasizing their centrist stands on issues such as policing and infrastructure in an effort to appeal to moderate and conservative White voters. This is nothing new for the party, which for decades has employed a political strategy of distancing itself from activists and avoiding issues of race and identity for supposed electoral benefits that often don’t materialize. And the past few months have further illustrated why this strategy is misguided. Democrats’ electoral fortunes improved markedly once they started aggressively attacking Republicans on abortion and democracy issues in particular, instead of emphasizing bipartisanship and centrist stands.

The most defensible reason for Democrats’ new posture on crime is the murder-rate increase. It’s possible, at least in the short term, that adding officers in some cities will help. But Biden and other Democrats aren’t simply calling for more cops in a few places as a quick, targeted fix. In using “fund them” rhetoric, Biden and other Democrats are venerating police and rebuking those calling for reform. These Democrats are also pumping new resources into local and state police departments across the country with little oversight or accountability. It’s almost as if everything that was unearthed about police abuses over the past decade has been forgotten by Democrats.

It’s not that all or even most police officers act improperly. But as a group, the police still kill more than 1,000 civilians a year, often without justification. They still oppose and subvert virtually all accountability measures. They still disproportionately stop Black people. And politically, police officers, and particularly their unions, are increasingly tied to former president Donald Trump and his style of politics, while being wary of Democrats and actively hostile to Black Lives Matter activists.

That means Biden is not only attacking a group of people (BLM protesters) who largely voted for him to appease those who didn’t (the police). He’s also empowering a group of people (the police) who in many cases physically assaulted their critics (the protesters) in 2020.

Biden and Democrats are also squandering the opportunity that the 2020 protests created for a much-needed rethinking of how America can permanently reduce its crime rate and reimagine its approaches to public safety.

A true campaign to reduce the nation’s number of murders from more than 20,000 last year to close to zero would mean addressing some of the root causes of crime: poverty, deprivation, drug addiction, mental illness. High murder rates are concentrated in communities with low incomes and little social mobility. America needs to work to revive those areas with social services, jobs, great schools and community-connecting institutions. We know more cops and police spending aren’t the ultimate answer. America incarcerates a higher percentage of people than any other country but is nowhere close to having the lowest murder rates.

And one reason to be skeptical of Biden’s seriousness about crime is that conspicuously round number, 100,000. Then-President Bill Clinton included funding for 100,000 more officers in his 1994 anti-crime legislation, which was pushed through the Senate by then-Judiciary Chair Joe Biden. Even if adding police is a great way to reduce crime (and that is very contested), it is hard to imagine that the right number of new officers is exactly the same as it was 28 years ago. I suspect a better explanation for the figure can be found in the fact that the president and many of his aides worked on the 1994 bill.

“It’s political pandering, welfare for law enforcement and a sop to the police as a political constituency,” said Alex S. Vitale, a policing expert and professor at Brooklyn College, of Biden’s plan to fund more officers. “It’s not evidence-based.”

Biden and other Democrats haven’t completely walked back their 2020 posture on policing. The party tried last year to pass a police-reform measure, but it was blocked by congressional Republicans. Biden instead issued an executive order that includes limits on no-knock warrants. The Justice Department is once again launching investigations of local police departments, a policy that had been stalled during the Trump presidency.

And while Biden and many Democratic mayors want more police funding, they are also putting more money (although not nearly enough) into expanding mental health services and other non-police crime-reduction strategies.

But Democrats are moving in the wrong direction overall. 2020 was just two years ago. They need to honor the promises they made then to overhaul a criminal justice system that they know remains racist, classist, overly punitive and often ineffective in reducing crime."

Opinion | Biden and the Democrats are wasting a chance to rethink U.S. policing - The Washington Post