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Republicans Push Dangerous Anti-Trans Rhetoric After Nashville School Shooting

This is vile.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Senator JD Vance

Republicans have decided that the most important thing about the mass shooting in Nashville is not that six people died, but that the attacker was reportedly transgender.

A shooter opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Hale, a former student at the Covenant School. Officials believe that Hale was trans, Police Chief John Drake told NBC News, but they don’t know if that played a role in the shooting.

“There’s some belief that there was some resentment for having to go to that school,” Drake said while clarifying that law enforcement is investigating all potential leads.

Conservatives have latched onto the report about Hale’s identity—and their reactions have been truly vile.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and rightwing activist Charlie Kirk both insisted that the U.S. doesn’t need to regulate guns, it needs to ban gender-affirming care.

“Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” Greene concluded.

Senator J.D. Vance said there needs to be “a lot of soul searching on the extreme left” for “giving in to these ideas” of gender identity and empowering people to live authentically. Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said if a person is trans, then it means something else “is badly wrong in their life,” essentially calling for anti-trans conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Republicans have refused to increase infrastructure for social welfare and mental health counseling.

Kingsley Cortes, a former aide on Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, suggested prohibiting trans people or anyone receiving gender-affirming care from buying guns, seemingly the only gun control proposal put forth by Republicans after the school shooting.

Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren suggested that news media would bury the story or try to blame Christians and anti-trans activists for driving the shooter to action. The story is front-page news for most major news outlets, and police have already said that the school’s ideology may have played a role in Hale’s motivation.

Podcaster Matt Walsh called trans people “violent” and “dangerous” and said, “Trans activists believe that those who oppose them should die.”

Donald Trump Jr. went the farthest, tweeting an outright lie: “Given the incredible rise of trans/non-binary mass shooters in the last few years…by far the largest group committing as a percentage of population…maybe, rather than talking about guns we should be talking about lunatics pushing their gender affirming bullshit on our kids?” he said.

This is blatantly not true. The vast majority of mass shootings are carried out by cisgender white men.

Tennessee Made Gun Laws Looser, Focused Mainly on Attacking Gay People Before Nashville School Shooting

GOP Governor Bill Lee, who signed those bills into law, would now like to offer his thoughts and prayers.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee speaks while seated
Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

After every mass shooting, it’s inevitable. Republican lawmakers share hollow “thoughts and prayers,” while they refuse to offer much more, often buoyed by thousands of dollars in dirty gun lobby money. They call for mental services they themselves won’t fund. And they blame anything but the guns themselves (even doors!).

Monday’s mass shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, was no different.

Following the shooting in his state, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee appealed to “please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community,” offering no idea, for instance, of how to achieve a reality where constant prayer and hollow thoughts are no longer needed.

His uselessness is unsurprising, given the large role he has played in making it easier for mass shooters in his state to access guns. In 2021, Lee signed a bill that allowed people to openly carry handguns without permits; the policy was at the forefront of his legislative agenda for the year. He proudly thanked the National Rifle Association “for helping get this done.”

Specifically, the bill allowed people 21 and older to carry handguns, openly or concealed without a permit, and allowed the same for members of the military between the ages of 18 to 20.

When the bill first passed the state House, Republican Majority Leader William Lamberth said it was “not the end of the journey” for expanding gun rights in Tennessee.

And he was right. Just last month, Tennessee Republicans embarked on another push to allow all 18- and 19-year-old residents to carry handguns without permits. The House version of the bill changes the policy to include any firearm, not just handguns—and yes, this would include weapons the likes of AR-15 rifles and shotguns. The bill would also have Tennessee recognize any out of state permit as valid “as if it is a firearm carry permit issued in this state.”

As of 2020, Tennessee was among the top 10 deadliest states in the country from firearms.

Meanwhile, as Tennessee Republicans have dedicated any gun-related thoughts toward making it easier for people to be mowed down, they’ve had their hands full elsewhere too. Lee, who has worn drag himself, signed a radical law making Tennessee the first state to ban drag performances. The Tennessee state House passed another radical bill allowing government employees to reject marriage licenses of same-sex, interfaith, or interracial couples. Concurrently, Tennessee state Senate Republicans passed a bill that would prevent trans people from being able to have their state-issued IDs reflect their identities. If Tennessee passes the bill, it could lose almost $1.3 billion in federal education funding; that they’re seemingly ready to pass the bill anyway shows how viciously eager they are to continue attacking trans people.

Tennessee Republicans have made existence more distressing by virtue of their inaction on gun regulation and in fact making gun access even easier; this sad excuse of governance is paired with their hyperfocus on further policing and punishing marginalized people for existing at all.

“Aren’t You Guys Tired of Covering This?”: Mom Interrupts Fox News Segment on Nashville School Shooting

A woman who survived one mass shooting and went on vacation to Nashville found herself at the site of another one.

Screenshot/Fox News

A woman who had survived a previous mass shooting interrupted a Fox News live report Monday to demand more gun control legislation, after a shooter opened fire on a school in Nashville.

At least three children and three adults were killed in the attack on a private Christian elementary school, and several others wounded. As reporters gathered for a press conference, one woman ran up to the microphones, cutting off a Fox News reporter before he could begin his live shot.

“Aren’t you guys tired of covering this? Aren’t you guys tired of being here and having to cover all of these mass shootings?” she asked, explaining that she lives in Highland Park, Illinois. The suburb of Chicago was rocked last summer after a man opened fire on the Fourth of July parade.

“How is this still happening?” the woman, who told CNN her name is Ashbey Beasley, demanded, explaining she has been lobbying in Washington, D.C., for increased gun control since the shooting in her hometown.

“How are our children still dying, and why are we failing them? Gun violence is the number one killer of children and teens.”

On Fox News, the clip suddenly cut out as Beasley discussed the lack of proper gun storage laws.

Beasley told CNN that she had come to Nashville with her son to visit friends and family, only to find themselves right next to a second mass shooting.

“It’s only in America can somebody survive a mass shooting and then go on vacation …and find themselves near another mass shooting,” Beasley said.

Beasley noted “how preventable these incidences are,” calling out politicians who refuse to pass gun control legislation.

The attack at the Covenant School was the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There have been 89 days in 2023 so far.

The Internet Won’t Let Nashville Rep. Andy Ogles Forget His Family Christmas Card After School Shooting

Ogles offered his constituents “thoughts and prayers” after a school shooting in his district.

Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock
Representative Andy Ogles

Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles was put on blast Monday for old posts on social media, as people called out his hypocrisy in light of a school shooting in his district earlier in the day.

A shooter opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Ogles, who represents the district that the Covenant School is located in, was quick to offer a bland, anodyne statement in response.

“We are sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those lost. As a father of three, I am utterly heartbroken by this senseless act of violence. I am closely monitoring the situation and working with local officials,” he tweeted.

People did not hold back in the comments, dragging him for using the standard Republican “thoughts and prayers” line. Many were also quick to share an old family photo of his.

In the photo from the 2021 Ogles family Christmas card, the representative, his wife, and their three children pose in front of a Christmas tree. They’re all holding automatic rifles, except the youngest, who apparently is too young for a gun just yet and so has to hold the “Merry Christmas” sign.

Another user shared one of Ogles’s old tweets. “Last time I checked ‘rights’ don’t include killing innocent babies,” he said in January.

Ogles’s tweet was referring to abortion access, but neither it nor his Christmas card have aged well, given Monday’s events.

The attack at the Covenant School was the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. We are only on day 86 of 2023.

Ogles, a freshman representative, also was elected to Congress after fabricating large parts of his résumé.

Republicans Introduce Reckless Resolution to Stop Biden From Helping 43 Million Americans With Student Debt

A new resolution from Republican senators seeks to overturn Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Senators Bill Cassidy and John Cornyn

While the fate of 43 million people’s financial lives are in limbo as President Biden’s student debt relief plan faces a challenge in the Supreme Court, Republicans are proceeding to add another direct challenge. On Monday, 39 Senate Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

The challenge comes after the Government Accountability Office deemed Biden’s relief plan a “rule” and therefore eligible to be overturned through a Congressional Review Act resolution.

“Where is the relief for the man who skipped college but is paying off his work truck, or the woman who paid off her loans and is now struggling to afford her mortgage?” Senator and resolution leader Bill Cassidy said, as if the 43 million people who would be helped by the policy are all somehow part of the 1 percent (read: This is mathematically impossible).

“This resolution prevents these Americans, whose debts look different from the favored group the Biden administration has selected, from picking up the bill for this irresponsible and unfair policy,” Cassidy continued, as if the government did not just throw a buoy to Silicon Valley Bank, which benefited from conservative deregulation.

Republican Representative Bob Good introduced a companion House resolution as well.

The Congressional Review Act opens a pathway to overturn agency rules through a simple majority; the act is not subject to a Senate filibuster. Republicans maintain their slim majority in the House while Democrats hold an ostensible 51–49 majority in the Senate (ostensible, given Kyrsten Sinema’s status as an independent, or really, aspiring Republican).

Even if the measure passes, Biden would be able to veto it, which would require a two-thirds congressional majority to override.

While Republicans continue to frame the student debt relief plan as a favor to the rich, the White House estimates that 87 percent of the relief would go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, while none would go to those earning more than $125,000. Ninety-five percent of the total benefits from the plan would go toward households making less than $150,000.

“Republicans are showing us just how callous and uncaring they can be to families trying to make ends meet,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted last week, as Republicans announced their plans to target the debt relief plan. “We will continue to fight this cruel Republican attempt to end student debt relief with everything we have.”

Three Children Dead After Mass Shooting at Nashville Christian Elementary School

The attack marks the 129th mass shooting of the year.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/Twitter

At least three children and three adults were killed, and several others wounded, after a shooter opened fire at a private Christian grade school in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday morning.

The shooting occurred at the Covenant School, a Presbyterian school that hosts about 200 students from preschool to sixth grade. The school had reportedly run an active shooter training program as recently as last year, according to local outlet WTVF.

“The shooter was engaged by M.N.P.D. and is dead,” the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said on Twitter. Police have since said the shooter was a 28-year-old Nashville woman armed with at least two assault rifles and a handgun. Police said she had entered the school through a side door, and was apprehended on the second floor.

Police also said they believe the woman was a former student of the school herself.

The attack marks the 129th mass shooting of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It’s the 86th day of 2023.

The conditions of other potential victims are not yet clear.
A reunification area has been established by the Nashville Fire Department at nearby Woodmont Baptist Church.

This post has been updated.

Florida School Bans Ruby Bridges Movie After Complaint From a Single Parent

The movie, which is shown in the district every Black History Month, is about the first Black student to integrate her elementary school in New Orleans.

Bettmann/Getty Images
Ruby Nell Bridges, at age 6, was the first African American child to attend William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans after federal courts ordered the desegregation of public schools.

A Florida elementary school has banned the film Ruby Bridges after just one parent complained she didn’t like how it depicted race relations in 1960s America.

The 1998 Disney film is about the true story of Ruby Bridges, who at age 6 became the first Black student to integrate her elementary school in New Orleans. White opposition to her attending was so intense that federal marshals had to escort her in and out of the school every day. 

The movie has been a staple in the Pinellas County Black History Month curriculum for years. But in a complaint from March 6, a mother at North Shore Elementary said she felt that “the use of racial slurs and scenes of white people threatening Ruby as she entered a school might result in students learning that white people hate Black people,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The school district responded by banning the film at North Shore Elementary “until a review committee can assess it.” Many advocates for the film pointed out that it seems ridiculous and dangerous that it only takes one parent complaining to get material banned. It’s also counterintuitive to ban a movie about race relations during a month dedicated to Black history.

“Many from historically marginalized communities are asking whether this so-called integrated education system in Pinellas County can even serve the diverse community fairly and equitably,” Ric Davis, president of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students, wrote in an open letter.

He pointed out, as the Tampa Bay Times said, “that the truth will not change because someone doesn’t like it.”

Davis argued that one person, no matter their race, should not prompt such a drastic reaction from district officials.

Florida is increasingly restricting what can be taught in schools at all levels. Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war on “wokeism” and has promised to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on college campuses. He has backed the Stop Woke Act, which restricts teaching about race in colleges, and announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses. His administration was also in close contact with the College Board as it gutted the A.P. African American Studies course.

In public schools, one school district has banned 23 different books from school libraries. Teachers in other school districts have been told to hide their classroom book collections until all the books have been vetted and approved. But the vetting process is opaque, and there is no policy clarifying how long a complaint review process should take. As a result, books and films are withheld from students for months on end.

The Ruby Bridges fiasco comes about after Pinellas County school officials earlier this year banned high school students from reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison—again after just one parent complained.

Former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor Goliath Davis condemned the film’s banning. “Black history, Native-American history and Hispanic history, though not always glamorous, are American history and cannot be denied. Additionally, it should not be discarded because a governor and his constituents allege its teaching adversely impacts white students,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Weekly Challenger.

“Why is it permissible to teach white scholars Black folks were enslaved but not permissible to teach them about African American contributions to America and the world and the struggles they encountered and continue to experience as citizens of the United States of America, where the creed is ‘liberty and justice for all’?”

The Israeli Protests Show the Political Power of Unions

A historic strike from unions across the country made the Israel prime minister delay his plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary system.

Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance/Getty Images
Israeli protesters take to the streets after Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the dismissal of Defence Minister Yoav Galant, March 26.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is relenting, for now, on his planned judicial overhaul. After months of mass protest culminating in a general strike on Monday, the far-right plans to seize the nation’s judicial system will be tabled until the next legislative session. In an unlikely collaboration between big business and labor, Israel’s people have shown the power of protest—and the potential for what more they could accomplish, if they so chose to.

Hundreds of thousands of people had already been protesting for weeks against what has become an even more authoritarian Israeli government. The opposition has centered around Netanyahu’s push to give the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) more power over the judiciary. Such changes would grant the ruling party the power to influence how judges are appointed and even overturn court decisions. Netanyahu himself may be aiming to use such powers to weasel out of his own corruption charges. One poll suggests nearly 1.5 million people may have participated in the ongoing protests against Netanyahu’s attempts to seize and cripple the judiciary.

The tensions came to a new peak on Sunday, after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who, one day earlier, called for the government to stop its plan to overhaul the judicial system. Gallant argued that the plan had begun to create rifts in society and within the Israel Defense Forces that could risk Israel’s stability and national security. He was the first member of Netanyahu’s Cabinet to oppose the judicial overhaul.

After his firing, the already active protests ballooned into one of the largest mass actions in Israel’s history. Massive, spontaneous protests took place throughout Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, with people blocking the main highway as well as several streets and bridges. And in unprecedented fashion, Israel’s unions, in accordance with the business community, launched a general strike on Monday. The strike was initiated by a massive umbrella group that represents over 700,000 workers in health care, transit, and banking. An array of universities—not just students but the schools themselves—joined the call as well.

Israeli embassies from Dublin to Washington, D.C., shuttered their doors on Monday in tandem with government workers protesting within Israel. Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir, also resigned. Zamir called Netanyahu’s firing of Gallant a “dangerous decision” in his resignation letter, adding that he had “become increasingly concerned with the policies of the new government.”

The protests have become so ubiquitous that even Israeli President Isaac Herzog has called on Netanyahu to suspend the judicial overhaul. “The eyes of all the people of Israel are on you. The eyes of all the Jewish people are on you,” Herzog said in a Facebook post Monday. “The eyes of the whole world are on you. For the sake of the unity of Israelis, for the sake of committed responsibility I call on you to halt the legislative procedure immediately.”

Of course, as the snowballing protests are part of a larger movement that has stood for weeks and months against Netanyahu’s increasingly extremist governance, they also serve as a reminder that calls for “protecting democracy” have not been as loud when it has come to the occupation of Palestine. What’s unfortunate about this otherwise exciting popular rise against extremism is that the movement would do well to actively include Palestinian participation in standing against not just Netanyahu but the apartheid system that has led to such a moment. But some Israeli activists have not been allowed to bring even a Palestinian flag to demonstrations. Some officials involved in the increasingly large protest coalition have also refused to appear on stage alongside people sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

So while Israeli officials frame this mass protest as an effort to preserve Israel’s democracy, it would be prudent to note how short it still is from actually being one, even if the masses can stop Netanyahu; just as well, how readily they could become a true democracy, if they really want to.

Free Speech Absolutist Elon Musk Gets Shown Up by a Free Speech Enthusiast

An internet user named "FreeSpeechEnthusiast" leaked parts of Twitter’s closely guarded source code online.

Elon Musk walks out of a building, as a bodyguard stands nearby
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Self-described “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk has been shown up by an internet user named FreeSpeechEnthusiast, who leaked some of Twitter’s closely guarded source code online.

Parts of Twitter’s source code, the computer code that runs the platform, had been leaked on the online software developer collaboration platform GitHub. It’s unclear how long the code was up, but The New York Times said it appeared to have been publicly available for at least several months. GitHub complied Friday with a request from Twitter to take the code down.

Musk appeared unbothered on Twitter as the leaked code debacle went down, alternating between sharing pseudo-intellectual musings and weird memes, and begging people to sign up for Twitter Blue, the platform’s paid subscription plan. But internally, he admitted there are serious issues. In an email sent to Twitter employees on Friday, Musk said the company is now worth $20 billion, less than half of what he paid for it in October.

Companies guard their source code jealously to prevent potential hackers or competitors from getting insight into how a platform operates. According to the Times, Twitter has begun investigating who might have leaked the code and suspect it was someone who left the company last year, citing two people familiar with the probe.

Even though the code has been removed from GitHub, it isn’t really gone. Remember when your parents told you that what you put on the internet stays there forever?  Well, “once this is leaked, it cannot be put back in the bottle entirely,” cybersecurity researcher and consultant Lukasz Olejnik told The Washington Post, pointing out it’s impossible to know how many people accessed the code before it was taken down.

“Whether an exploitable vulnerability can be spotted and utilized is difficult to gauge immediately.”

The code was shared by a user named FreeSpeechEnthusiast, who joined GitHub on January 3. That same day, FreeSpeechEnthusiast made their only contribution to the platform (presumably Twitter’s code). Their username is an obvious and excellent troll of Musk, who has described himself as a “free speech absolutist”—which apparently means letting Nazis and the Taliban run rampant on Twitter.

Ironically, Musk had announced plans earlier this month to make parts of Twitter’s code public. The goal was to essentially make it open for peer review, so people could check for and report flaws. Clearly, FreeSpeechEnthusiast beat him to the punch.

Since taking the reins, Musk has embarked on a ruthless cost-cutting mission, firing almost 75 percent of Twitter’s staff, auctioning off everything in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and just not paying rent. But with advertisers leaving the platform in droves due to his lax content moderation policies, it’s clearly not enough.

Workers of Color Made Up 100% of Union Growth in 2022

Another reminder that “kitchen table issues” and “social” issues are one and the same.

Los Angeles public school support staff, teachers, and supporters rally outside of the school district headquarters on the first day of a three-day strike on March 21.

As thousands of workers went on strike this week, evidence continues to build that the labor movement is back on an upswing in America. But how we engage with the details of this development will determine whether the swing remains a momentary uptick, or becomes part of something larger.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of unionized workers in the United States increased by 200,000 from 2021 to 2022. And that growth came entirely from workers of color. There was an increase in 231,000 unionized workers of color last year, while white unionized workers actually decreased by 31,000. Further, of all racial and ethnic groups, Black workers have continued leading unionization rates, at 12.8 percent, higher than the figure of total unionized workers.

While the total share of workers represented by a union still floats at just above 11 percent—much less than where things stood decades ago—union election petitions last year increased by 53 percent, the highest amount since 2016.

According to BLS data, industries that saw the largest increases in unionization were state government; durable goods manufacturing; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and transportation and warehousing. And states with the largest increases in unionization? California, Texas, Ohio, Maryland, and Alabama.

All this to say, monolithic conventions on who constitutes the “working class” need a final upending.

Indeed, the diversity in the movement can be seen in the nature of labor action these past few months. This week, workers at over 100 Starbucks locations nationwide went on strike to protest the company’s alleged union-busting schemes. Another union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school staff workers—including custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, special education assistants, and more—conducted a three-day strike, and the 35,000-strong United Teachers Los Angeles union joined in solidarity. At the beginning of the year, 7,000 nurses went on strike in New York City, protesting poor pay and working conditions brought on by chronic understaffing. All this does not include the some 100,000 rail workers nationwide who almost went on strike last year, until the government itself imposed a contract upon them.

Conservatives—both Republican and Democrat alike—often opine on the need to focus on “kitchen table issues” instead of getting wrapped up in “social” ones. The latter, of course, being another way to say issues surrounding identity and race (much like the term “woke,” but perhaps less likely to incite outrage). But the union data reveals once more that issues of identity and workers’ rights are deeply intertwined. After all, unionization and labor struggles are direct mechanisms to better accomplish racial and social equality; the ability for people to afford to live happy and dignified lives is inherently tied to their ability to enjoy fundamental social and civil rights within those lives, too.

On moral grounds, every politician and journalist should recognize these facts. And for any politico concerned solely with electability, the good news is the results follow the morals anyhow.

In November, several Democrats who refused to pin the economic against the social, even in battleground states, went on to win. That includes people like Governor Josh Shapiro and Senator John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. And for examples of how these political successes turn to policy successes, look no further than the sacred and often pontificated on Midwest.

In 2018, Governor Whitmer promised to repeal the anti-worker “right-to-work” law. And after voters re-elected her with wide margins—and delivered her majorities in both state chambers for the first time in decades—she delivered on Friday, signing a bill to repeal the anti-union legislation. Just a week earlier, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill that guaranteed free breakfast and lunch for all public school students, geared especially for food insecure families, many of whom are marginalized and people of color (perhaps a more direct connection between social and so-called “kitchen table” issues).

As more people become better acquainted with the contradictions of capitalism—from noxious train derailments, to immediately aided collapsing financial institutions (all of which is borne from corporate-bought deregulation)—we may be at another moment in the long history of labor for which a resurgence is possible. But such a moment will not be helped by a media and political apparatus that seeks to flatten the labor movement, rather than embrace it for the vast and diverse coalition it actually is.