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“Largest Crowd I’ve Seen”: Hundreds Protest Kentucky’s Extreme Anti-Trans Bill Ahead of Veto Override

The Kentucky legislature is expected to push through one of the most extreme anti-trans bills in the country.

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Hundreds of people, primarily teenagers, gathered outside the Kentucky state Capitol Wednesday to protest against one of the most extreme anti-transgender rights bills in the country, which the Senate is expected to vote into law.

Governor Andy Beshear vetoed the bill last week, warning that it will cause an “increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth” if it becomes law. But the measure passed the state Senate by a veto-proof majority, and the chamber is expected to override Beshear’s veto on Wednesday or Thursday.

If it becomes law, Senate Bill 150 would ban all gender-affirming care for trans minors in Kentucky and would force doctors to detransition any minors in their care. It would prohibit discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools at any level, prevent trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and would allow teachers to refuse to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

Courier Journal reporter Olivia Krauth, who has covered S.B. 150 extensively, said Wednesday’s crowd may be the biggest she’s seen during the current legislative session.

Protesters chanted, “Trans rights are human rights,” as they waved signs and listened to Democratic state senators speak.

One senator, Karen Berg, told the protesters, “You are perfect the way God made you. Remember that every moment of your life.” The bill is particularly personal for Berg, whose trans son died by suicide last year.

Later, when the session began, Berg warned her colleagues, “This hate will not stop. We know from history this is how you destroy a democracy.”

The crowd continued to grow throughout the morning, as more people showed up to express support for trans Kentuckians.

The ACLU of Kentucky described the bill when it passed as “the worst anti-trans bill in the country.” Republicans rushed S.B. 150 through the House and Senate in a record daylong sprint.

Kentucky is just the latest state to have lawmakers try to curtail LGBTQ rights. Last week, Florida advanced an anti-trans bill so broad and extreme it could also prevent people from getting breast cancer treatment. Georgia, meanwhile, passed a law banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizing medical workers who provide that care.

Howard Schultz Was Asked Directly if He Threatened Starbucks Workers for Unionizing. He Didn’t Say No.

Senator Bernie Sanders asked the former Starbucks CEO point-blank if he has ever threatened, coerced, or intimidated an employee for supporting a union.

Howard Schultz smiles
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Howard Schultz, member of the Board of Directors and former CEO of the Starbucks Corporation

On Wednesday, as Howard Schultz testified in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the former Starbucks CEO couldn’t definitively say he did not threaten workers for unionizing.

“Have you ever threatened, coerced, or intimidated a worker for supporting a union?” Senator and committee Chair Bernie Sanders asked Schultz.

Schultz waffled, saying people could have “interpreted” just as much.

“I’ve had conversations that could’ve been interpreted in a different way than I intended,” Schultz said. “It’s up to the person who received the information that I spoke to them about.”

The former Starbucks executive’s curious answer comes amid a surge of Starbucks stores attempting to unionize—and many workers accusing the massive company of working to stifle such efforts. 

Even while Schultz is surrounded by a panel of Republicans grossly sympathetic to union-busting and allowing private enterprise to march unfettered by regulation, he can’t weasel out of the basic origin of the hearing itself: Starbucks’s pattern of union-busting and threatening workers.

Tennessee Gov. Says He Lost Two Friends in the Nashville Shooting, but Now Is Not the Time to Be Angry

Reminder that Bill Lee helped loosen gun laws in his state.

Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Bill Lee doesn’t have plans to change Tennessee’s gun laws anytime soon, despite the fact that earlier this week, a shooter killed three children and three adults, including some of the governor’s family friends.

A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Two of the adults killed were close friends of Lee and his wife, the governor said in a video posted on Twitter Tuesday. One of them had planned to go to the Lees’ house for dinner that night.

But Lee insisted that now is not the time for change. “I understand that there is pain; I understand the desperation to have answers, to place blame, to argue about a solution that could prevent this horrible tragedy.… There will come a time to discuss and debate policy. But this is not a time for hate or rage. That will not resolve or heal,” he said

He praised school and law enforcement policies that help prepare students and staff for mass shootings—but did not point out that he helped Tennessee loosen its gun laws in the past few years, making it easier for mass shootings to happen in the first place.

Lee concluded by paraphrasing a Bible passage: “The battle is not against flesh and blood. It’s not against people. The struggle is against evil itself,” he said.

Except, he left something out. As Kentucky youth pastor Steven Levebvre noted, Lee skipped over that the battle is also against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world.”

Lee and other Tennessee Republicans are burying their heads in the sand, insisting there was nothing they could have done to stop the shooting and that there is little they can do to prevent another one. In fact, they are skating around their own culpability in helping create the circumstances that allowed the shooting to happen.

Lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag law that would have prevented Monday’s shooter from legally acquiring seven guns, three of which were used in the attack. In the past few years, they loosened gun restrictions and focused their energy on attacking LGBTQ rights.

Lee lost two friends, whom he said he has known for decades, in the shooting—and he still doesn’t feel spurred to action.

GOP Rep. Byron Donalds Tells People to Stop Being Emotional After Nashville Mass Shooting

The Florida representative apparently does not think the aftermath of a mass shooting is the proper time to talk about gun control.

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Representative Byron Donalds

Republican Representative Byron Donalds—the far right’s momentary preferred House speaker choice and onetime candidate for GOP conference chair—believes discussing gun control after yet another mass shooting is getting too “into emotion.”

Donalds made the claim after a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, in which three children and three adults were senselessly killed.

“Let’s not get into emotion, because emotion feels good, but emotion doesn’t solve problems,” Donalds told CNN’s Manu Raju.

Volumes could be written about an elected member of Congress chiding people for getting too emotional about six people being shot to death at a school (and the deep impacts that will last for the school, community, and victims’ families and friends).

“People are allowed to possess firearms. Need is in the eye of the beholder,” Donalds said. “I don’t question why you need a blue suit, but you got one. And I know we’re talking about something very, very different, but the Second Amendment allows American citizens to possess firearms,” Donalds continued, advancing the ludicrous analogy anyway.

Note, of course, on the basic level of what one chooses to wear, nudity and public decency laws still place reasonable regulations on how people dress in public. Even in Donalds’s wild analogy, the logic doesn’t hold; and if you were to take into account the levels of scale between apparel choice and possession of machines meant for killing, one would imagine that proportional regulation would severely limit firearm use.

Raju picked up on Donalds’s curious logic, asking the Republican why he wouldn’t support at least limiting access to weapons like the AR-15.

“If you’re gonna talk about the AR-15, you’re talking politics now,” Donalds responded.

It is unclear where the line between “political” and “not political” is in Donalds’s head. Moreover, it’s simply bizarre to make the distinction at all—everything a politician does is definitionally political. Donalds choosing to have no answer about how to stop kids from being shot in schools is just as “political” as him having even the ounce of integrity needed to admit there’s a problem at all.

This leads to the most fundamental point: that politics itself is in fact a good thing. Politics is the exercise of channeling popular will and enacting policy with respect to it. The reason that conservatives so often decry “politics” as a bad thing is because they do not operate in accordance with the democratic will. From seeking to overturn an election in which their preferred candidate lost by seven million popular votes—an effort Donalds was involved in, by the way—to not enacting gun laws supported by upward of 80 percent of Americans, Republicans are not shy about their disdain for doing anything that most people in this country want to happen.

In any other job, such behavior would get you fired; it’s beyond time the same standard is applied here.

Tennessee Shut Down a Red Flag Law That Could Have Stopped the Nashville School Shooting

Law enforcement said there are no laws in the state that would’ve allowed police to take weapons away from the shooter.

A child leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for victims by the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tennessee lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag gun law that could have stopped the shooter who attacked a grade school in Nashville.

A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Hale, whom they said was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder.

Hale was known to be suicidal and had reached out to a former classmate, Averianna Patton, with a suicide note before the attack. Patton tried to contact the police and was told to call the nonemergency number. By the time she got through, it was too late.

Hale also owned seven guns, all purchased legally before the attack, police Chief John Drake said. Three of those guns were used in the school shooting on Monday.

“There’s not a law for” reporting cases like Hale, Drake told a press conference. Had the police known about Hale, “then we would have tried to get those weapons. But as it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was or if (Hale) even existed.”

But there could have been a law: A Democratic state senator introduced what’s known as a red flag law in January 2020. The bill would have let family members, household members, intimate partners, or law enforcement officers petition a court to ban an individual who “poses an imminent risk of harm to the person or others” from possessing firearms.

If a judge granted the petition and issued an emergency order, the individual would have 48 hours to hand over any guns they already owned, and they would be prohibited from purchasing more until the order is terminated. But first, they would have to prove in a hearing they are no longer a threat to themselves or others.

Republicans held a supermajority in both the state House and Senate at the time (as they do now), and the bill never made it out of committees. In the years since, they have focused more on trying to curb LGBTQ rights than gun safety.

Following Monday’s tragedy, Tennessee Republicans have decided that there’s simply nothing they could have done differently to prevent the attack.

Josh Hawley, Only Senator to Vote Against Anti-Hate Crimes Bill, Wants to Call Nashville Shooting Hate Crime

Stunning hypocrisy from the Missouri senator.

Senator Josh Hawley speaks in a hearing (his nameplate is before him)
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Senator Josh Hawley

In the spring of 2021, Congress passed a bill to support hate crime victims and better prevent and investigate hate crimes. It passed the Senate 94–1; Josh Hawley was the only senator to vote no. Now, he wants to investigate the Nashville mass shooting as a hate crime.

Hawley on Tuesday called the Nashville school shooting a “hate crime” on the basis that it “specifically targeted … the members of this Christian community.” Hawley cited federal law that “prohibits the targeting of violence against any American on the basis of religious affiliation or religious practice or religious belief.”

In other words, Hawley referred to the kind of hate crime guidance that he stood proudly alone in voting against just two years ago.

The difference, of course, is that the 2021 hate crimes bill Hawley voted against focused on the rise in anti-Asian hate since the Covid-19 pandemic. Hawley has similarly not seemed interested in hate crimes when it comes to other communities.  He did not, for instance, make similar calls for hate crime investigations after the May 2022 shooting in Buffalo, New York. That attack was carried out by a white 18-year-old who left behind a manifesto that explicitly laid out the motivations behind his decision to kill 10 Black people at a grocery store.

In the manifesto, the shooter described himself as an ethno-nationalist and white supremacist, voicing support for the vicious “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that peddles nonsense about a “white genocide.”

After the Buffalo shooting, members of Congress began pushing for a Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which sought to establish offices to focus on neo-Nazi and white supremacist terror threats. Hawley stood in full opposition to the bill, calling it the “Patriot Act for American citizens.” (The Patriot Act, a vestige of 9/11, already was policing American citizens, but perhaps Hawley didn’t reflexively think of them as such since they were largely brown men.) And while it’s fair to be hesitant about increasing American policing power, Hawley did not offer any meaningful alternatives to confront white supremacy (nor has he been a critic of law enforcement overreach when it comes to marginalized people anyhow).

No mass shooting should happen, no matter the perpetrator. But instead of aiming to address actual causes of such tragedies, Hawley is, in full view, showing how troublingly inconsistent he is on the issue of hate crimes and violence.

Federal Judge Orders Mike Pence to Testify on January 6 Conversations He Had With Donald Trump

Pence will have to testify in the special counsel case.

Mike Pence
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to testify in the special counsel investigation into Donald Trump.

Jack Smith was appointed in November as the special counsel to investigate Trump’s role in the January 6 attack and his keeping hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Pence, who has previously said he will refuse to testify, can decline to answer questions about his actions during the January 6 insurrection, NBC news reported. He can also appeal the ruling.

The judge’s order, which is still sealed, is a major win for Smith, who has been slowly closing in on Trump and the former president’s inner circle. Smith subpoenaed Pence in early February, which makes sense considering Pence is a key witness to both the events of January 6, 2021, and Trump’s state leading up to them.

But Pence argued that he is protected from testifying by the Constitution’s “speech or debate clause.” That clause’s purpose is to protect members of Congress from having things they say during legislative activities be used against them in lawsuits. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled Pence does have some limited protections but is not immune from testifying.

Pence has yet to indicate whether he will cooperate with the judge’s order, but he has repeatedly refused to testify in previous January 6 investigations—despite the fact that the rioters wanted to hang him, which Trump reportedly felt was deserved.

The former vice president is reportedly considering running for the top job in 2024, so he has been hesitant to alienate Trump’s base. Testifying against Trump would surely do so.

Trump has also claimed executive privilege in the investigation, but so far, his efforts to shield himself have not been going well.

This story has been updated.

Migrants Fearing Deportation Set Mattresses on Fire, Starting Fire That Killed 38 People

The tragedy at a detention center on the U.S.–Mexico border comes weeks after the White House revived a Trump-era asylum ban.

Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Emergency workers and members of the Mexican Army surround body bags of migrants killed following a fire at the National Migration Institute in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 27.

A fire at an immigration detention center on the U.S.–Mexico border on Tuesday seems to have started after migrants at the facility lit mattresses on fire in protest as they feared imminent deportation. The fire grew out of control and left at least 38 people* dead and 29 injured.

The tragedy follows a right-wing escalation in immigration policies coming from the White House. Last month, President Biden announced a proposal to ban certain migrants from receiving U.S. asylum access and to empower the government to deport those migrants more quickly.

Tuesday’s deadly fire took place at a facility in Ciudad Juarez, which stands across the border from El Paso, Texas. According to the National Immigration Institute, 68 men from Central and South America were being held in the facility at the time of the fire. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also said the fire was started by migrants protesting after they learned they would be deported. “They never imagined that this would cause this terrible misfortune,” he said.

Biden’s asylum proposal would bar migrants from asylum if they attempted to cross the U.S. border without first seeking refuge in other countries on their way. Migrants unable to prove that they are not in violation of the policy could be quickly deported—without even a chance to appear in front of an immigration judge. U.S. law currently grants the right to anyone physically present in the country to seek asylum regardless of one’s status.

Biden’s proposal is very similar to a Trump-era asylum ban that Democrats (including Biden) rightfully denounced before it was struck down in federal court. The Biden administration sees its new proposed asylum ban as a way to maintain deterrence after Title 42, a Trump-era program that has expelled migrants under the guise of public health, ends.

In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, the atmosphere has only heightened paranoia and anxiety among migrants and advocates. The Associated Press reported that more than 30 migrant shelters and other advocacy organizations published an open letter earlier this month that complained of a criminalization of migrants and asylum-seekers in the city. The letter accused authorities of abuse and excessive force while rounding up migrants, even questioning people in the street about their immigration status without any cause.

The 29 injured are at the hospital, with many facing serious injuries. The Guatemalan Institute of Migration has said that at least 28 of those dead have been identified as Guatemalan nationals. At least 853 migrants died just while crossing the border in the 2022 fiscal year.

The death toll in this post was updated.

Kevin McCarthy’s Big Plan to Avoid the Debt Ceiling Doesn’t Really Have a Lot of Details

The House speaker’s list of recommendations doesn’t seem like it’ll save a lot of money.

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sent President Joe Biden a letter on Tuesday suggesting how to reign in government spending, but his ideas are ambiguous and unlikely to actually solve anything.

McCarthy also included several proposals from the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right wing of House Republicans, which exercises outsize influence in the chamber after establishing itself as McCarthy’s main obstacle to the speakership.

The California Republican accused Biden of “putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy by insisting upon your extreme position on the debt limit.”

“It’s time to drop partisanship, roll up our sleeves, & find common ground,” McCarthy tweeted.

His letter puts forward four key steps.

He proposes imposing work requirements for people to qualify for Medicaid, a policy that has been proven to be ineffective, as well as recouping any unspent federal Covid-19 funds.

McCarthy also suggests scaling back non-defense federal spending to “pre-inflationary levels.” He does not propose changing the massive defense budget, nor does he explain how to get federal spending down with inflation still at a record high.

The final proposal is to implement “policies to grow our economy and keep Americans safe, including measures to lower energy costs, make America energy independent, and secure our border from the flow of deadly fentanyl that is killing 300 Americans per day.” McCarthy does not explain how to lower energy costs if the government does not subsidize them, nor how he plans to wean the U.S. off of foreign fossil fuels. His plan includes no mention of how to actually secure the border, or what this has to do with lowering the debt, and is instead just another dig at Biden for the influx of immigrants.

Republicans have shot down previous legislative attempts to jumpstart the economy and create more jobs, such as Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. They refuse to consider energy-saving measures such as investing in green energy, and they have also rejected the idea of a billionaire tax.

McCarthy’s plan does not explicitly mention cutting Medicaid or Social Security, a major sticking point in the increasingly heated budget debate, though Medicaid work requirements would effectively cut down the number of people on the program. The GOP has made clear they are willing to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to cut costs in the federal budget.

Democrats are refusing to compromise on the debt ceiling, setting up a drawn-out battle. If the debate goes on too long, the United States could be in serious trouble. The government already hit the debt ceiling in January, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has previously warned the U.S. could default on its debt by the summer if the cap isn’t raised.

“It’s simply a recipe for economic and financial catastrophe to think we can pay some of our bills and not all of them,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee two weeks ago.

“We’re Not Gonna Fix” School Shootings Says GOP Tennessee Congressman

Tim Burchett does not seem to think the government has a role to play in stopping mass shootings.

Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett gives a thumbs up
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett

“We’re not gonna fix it.” This is what Tennessee Republican Representative Tim Burchett said Monday in the aftermath of three children and three adults being shot dead at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, and the remainder of the school’s some 200 students, staff, and families, being left traumatized for the rest of their lives.

“Three precious little kids lost their lives, and I believe three adults, I believe, and the shooter of course, lost their life too. So, it’s a horrible, horrible situation. And, we’re not gonna fix it,” Burchett told reporters Monday, in an incredibly bold-faced assertion about what a member of our government believes government is even for: nothing.

“Criminals are gonna be criminals,” Burchett continued, making the incredibly cynical claim that people are immovable, unchangeable beings. “And my daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese, and he told me, he said, ‘Buddy,’ he said, ‘if somebody wants to take you out, and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it,’” seemingly comparing mass shooters to foot soldiers in the world’s deadliest war.

“I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up, honestly, because of the situation,” Burchett proceeded, not really clarifying what the “situation” was that is preventing lawmakers from taking action on gun control. “Like I said, I don’t think a criminal is going to stop from guns, you know, you can print them out on the computer now, 3-D printing, and, there’s really, I don’t think you’re going to stop the gun violence.”

“I think you got to change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church, and I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a revival in this country,” he continued, as if his version of Christianity is the answer to the school shooting in his state or the 128 other mass shootings that took place before it.

Despite Burchett’s cynicism, there are a number of actual government policies that would decrease gun violence, like enhanced background checks. The Tennessee representative, however, voted against a bill expanding background checks on gun sales in 2021.

On his supposed Christian values, Burchett was one of 62 Republicans who found a way to vote against a bill that aimed to support hate crime victims. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act that helps prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  Not to be mistaken as someone who actually cares about achieving national harmony, Burchett did support efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Burchett was also asked what else ought to be done to protect kids like his daughter.

“Well, we homeschool her,” Burchett said with a shrug.

There you have it, folks.